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Charter-tour hotels crowding along this stretch of coast threaten to overshadow Side, but at its heart this city's delightful mix of ancient ruins and modern amenities is an underestimated jewel. Sandy beaches run along each side of town, and the area between the harbor and the ruins feels like a real town, not an industrial resort. Side, like Antalya or Alanya, has all sorts of options, from late-night dancing, shopping or kayaking in mountain canyons. It's also close to the major sites of Aspendos and Perge, and less than an hour from Antalya airport. Like its bigger Pamphylian sisters, it's best visited out of the heat of the high season July and August, but weekends can be crowded, too. With the right hotel, it's still possible to experience how Side felt in the 1960s, when the city was off the beaten track, and the likes of dancer Rudolph Nureyev and French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir were visitors.
Side offers plenty of opportunities for shopping. The main street to the harbor is flanked by fancy jewelry shops keen to take in tourist currency. All kinds of souvenir shops abound, as do suppliers of winter furs and leathers, popular with the Russian tourists.
A downside to the influx of tourisms is the spread of large resort complexes that operate on all-inclusive basis: they're killing the restaurants, bars, and nightlife in town.
Follow signs in from Route 400 for Antik Side and resist any sense of disappointment—it will dissipate when you suddenly find yourself driving onto the little peninsula through the delightful ruins of the Greco-Roman city. Through a last arch and past a colonnade behind the theater, park your car or, if staying in a hotel inside the town, ask to be let through the barricade that protects the harbor area from traffic. Ruins are all around: there's a lovely theater, with city and sea views from the top row, and 2nd-century- AD temples to Apollo and Athena a few blocks south, on the tip of the peninsula. The town was founded by early Greeks, minting coins from 500 BC, but Side only began to expand when Pompey cleared out the slave-trading pirates in 67 BC. Most of the ruins, laid bare by one of the only systematic excavations of a whole city, date from the prosperous Roman period. One notable feature of the site are the well-preserved Roman communal public latrines.
Side at a Glance
Elsewhere in The Turquoise Riviera
- Antakya (Antioch)
- Datça Peninsula
- Demre (Kale)
- Eski Datça and Reshadiye
- Finike and Arycanda
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