Side was once a traditional Turkish Mediterranean village amid marble Roman ruins on 2 km of unspoiled beach just an hour east of Antalya.
Tourism arrived with a vengeance in the 1980s, however, and although Side is still nice, it is now crowded in warm weather.
Both Turks and foreigners come for the perfect white sand beaches, the seaside restaurants and bars, the variety of lodgings, and the impressive Hellenistic and Romanruins.
The best times to enjoy Side are late April, May, early June and October. If you must come in high summer, avoid weekends, when half of Ankara roars down to Side for a swim.
Car, bus and minibus are the ways to get here. Buses and minibuses come from Antalya and Alanya. The nearest airport is Antalya’s, 55 km west of Side.
Especially popular with British, Scandinavian and German homeowners, Side is often said to be an idyllic family friendly destination, ticking all the right boxes for a safe, charming beach resort without being too large and noisy.
It has a backdrop of the Taurus mountains, lovely beaches, an ancient harbour, cosy waterfront restaurants, cobbled streets lined with interesting shops, bundles of history, golf down the road at Belek and, to top it all off, it’s only a short 45-minute transfer from Antalya Airport, accessible via a bus service.
In the past decade, thanks to a forward-thinking mayor, the resort has benefited from some major infrastructure upgrades, including a new promenade that has significantly improved the appeal of the beach areas and shortened walking times between villages along the coast.
In the early days of tourism, particularly when the resort’s popularity began to grow in the 1980s, a number of buildings were constructed along its seafront, both poorly and illegally – the mayor has tidied this up and had them replaced, largely with smart new restaurants. At the same time, the green light has been given for more five-star hotels.
However, no new-builds can be over four storeys, so Side will never lose its welcoming, village-y appeal. As a guide, typical property available includes apartments and villas on small developments, either a short distance from the centre of the resort or in one of the villages on the edge of Side, such as Ilica (see below).
Side has two main beaches either side of the peninsula – one to the west, the other to the east, as well as a small sandy cove in the centre of the resort. The sandy west beach is fringed by hotel resorts, some of which have their own section of beach, and is more developed than the east. You will find most opportunities to take part in water sports, such as boat rental and tours, diving and para-sailing on the west beach.
By contrast, the east beach is not only stonier but is comparatively less busy, thanks to much of it being protected on account of the archaeological ruins that lie beneath the dunes there. Preferred by locals, the east beach is still open to the public – reachable by passing between Roman ruins – just without as many amenities as the west beach. There are also fine beaches at Sorgun, Kumkoy and Colakli, just a walk or short taxi ride away.
Leisure and shopping
As well as the beach based activities Side has to offer, families shouldn’t miss a visit to the exciting aquapark in Okurcalar, a few minutes east towards Alanya – there are shuttle buses there.
Golf is another popular activity for residents or visitors in Side. Half an hour west is Turkey’s golfing hub Belek, hometo a selection of PGA championship courses – it’s not unusual for families to stay in Side for the facilities, but visit Belek during a stay for a round or two of golf.
That said, there is a golf course even closer to Side – namely the Lykia Links club at Gundogdu, which combines an 18-hole course with a nine-hole academy course. Golfing in southern in Turkey is favoured not only for the exciting courses and affordability but also thanks to the balmy climate.
More adventurous people could consider going trekking or mountain-biking in the nearby Taurus mountains, rafting down the River Manavgat in the stunning Koprulu Canyon National Park, also home to the ancient city of Selge, or going horse-riding in the nearby Sorgun Forest. It’s even possible to ski in the nearby mountain resorts of Davraz and Saklikent – it is said you can ski in the morning and be sunbathing on the beach in Side in the afternoon at certain times of year!
Getting around Side and to other nearby towns is easy with public transport, primarily comprising the cheap ‘dolmus’ buses or taxis.
Ilica, Kumkoy, Colakli, Evrenseki, Manavgat
A number of neighbouring villages with easy access to Side make appealing alternatives to being in the centre of the resort.