How to Independently Travel to Antalya’s Main Archeological Sites on a Budget

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Apart from Izmir, Antalya is probably one of the best places to capture a glimpse of the Hellenistic and Roman era world in Anatolia. With an impressive list of antiquity sites within two hours of the city, there is enough to keep even the most ardent archeological enthusiast busy for weeks. The best part is they can all be reached without resorting to pricey group tours!

Because the tourist landscape in Turkey has changed over the last few years, the below is offered as a guide for independent-minded budget travelers with updated information on what to expect and how to arrive to the region’s most important archeological sites near Antalya.

Before You Go

The sites of Perge, Side, and Sagalassos are well marked with plaques containing information on the cities and the main architectural points of interest. In the case of Aspendos, apart from the theatre, there is very little information available regarding the other ruins on the acropolis. The remaining sites have almost no information on site apart from brief historical overviews and a few markers indicating the main buildings. For these destinations, a guide book is recommended. There is an excellent professional field guide put out by Ankara University covering all the archeological sites of note in Turkey. It is available in the larger museum stores, including the Antalya Archeological Museum which is a must visit for those interested in antiquities. (TRY 30).

If you are based in Antalya and have limited time, I recommend prioritizing the sites as follows: Perge combined with Aspendos, followed by Termessos, Sagalassos, and Phaselis combined with Olympos, with Side only if you have time to spare. Given the distance, I also do not recommend trips from Antalya to Myra, Demre, and Kekova (the sunken city) unless you are interested in the story of St. Nicolas. The archeological ruins are not particularly impressive, and the sunken city is mostly a tourist gimmick.

All transportation prices listed below are for one way, except for total trip cost which includes return. Most buses leave from the Antalya regional bus station which is adjacent to the main bus station.

Perge

What to Expect

Perge is Antalya’s top archeological attraction and with good reason. The city has been extensively excavated and restored, allowing visitors to wander the main colonnades past monumental fountains, bathhouses, and other public works. In Perge, you can very much get the feeling of what it was like to live in a Roman-era Anatolian city.

Consequently, Perge can be packed with visitors, so unless you are traveling in the offseason, its best to get here when the park ticket office opens at 8:00. During the winter months, there are far fewer people with only the occasional tour bus showing up in the early afternoon.

Entrance Fee: TRY 35

Plan on spending two to three hours here

Getting to Perge

From Antalya, Perge is one of the easiest archeological sites to reach. Simply take the tramline towards Expo, exiting at Aksu 1 (TRY 2.6). From the center of Antalya, this takes less than an hour. From Asku 1, it’s an easy 20-minute walk to Perge.

Total Trip Cost: TRY 40.2

Aspendos

What to Expect

People come to Aspendos for one reason, its theatre. But the site also boasts an impressive, albeit poorly marked, acropolis. While the theatre has been restored, the remaining ruins have been left alone and make for an interesting stroll.

Even in low season, the theatre is crowded, but many tourists don’t venture uphill. Aspendos is best combined with a trip to Perge.

Entrance Fee: TRY 35

Plan on spending one to two hours here

Getting to Aspendos

Whether you are coming from Antalya or heading to Aspendos from Perge (highly recommended), you need to catch the minibus to Serik (TRY 7). The bus has frequent departures from the Antalya Otogar and runs down highway D400, so you can either take it from the bus station or hail it in route.

From Perge, walk back to the Asku 1 tram stop and cross the street to a bench that serves as the bus stop. It takes about 50 minutes to reach Serik from Antalya Otogar and about 20 to 30 minutes from Asku 1.

Once in Serik, you need to take bus 10 to Aspendos (TRY 2). The bus departs hourly at five minutes before the hour and is hailed at the bus stop along Belek road. It takes about 35 minutes to reach Aspendos. As the bus runs a circular route, to return to Serik merely wait by the Aspendos parking lot at the bend in the road at the bottom of the hour.

Total Trip Cost: TRY 53 (TRY 90.6 combined with Perge)

Termessos

What to Expect

Often overlooked despite its proximity to Antalya, Termessos is a highly interesting archeological site perched high on Mt. Solymos. Very little of the city has been excavated or restored leaving one to ponder the numerous monumental structures that make up the acropolis.

The size of the site and the steep climb from the car park means that even in summer you’re likely not to be overrun by major crowds. During the winter months, it’s entirely possible to be the only visitor.

Entrance Fee: TRY 6 

Plan on spending two to three hours here

Getting to Termessos

From the Antalya regional bus station, grab the minibus heading to Korkuteli and tell them you would like to get off at Termessos (TRY 5). They will leave you on the side of the road near the park entrance. From here it’s a further 9KM up a paved road to the ruins. Even during the winter, there is usually at least one taxi. The price to the top is negotiable, starting at TRY 45 but can be bargained down to approximately TRY 30 one way. Alternatively, you can walk to the ruins in about two hours. The gradient is not particularly steep, and you are more likely to spot some wildlife along the way.

Total Trip Cost: TRY 16 (~TRY 76 if you take a taxi)

Phaselis

What to Expect

Phaselis was a small but prosperous port town founded in the 7th Century BC. Most of the remains, however, date from the Roman period. Although the ruins are not nearly as impressive as Perge, the location on the Mediterranean Sea is idyllic. Excavations have centered on Phaselis’ main road, running between two harbors, which boast two baths, a theatre, and three separate agoras.

Phaselis draws tourists from Antalya as well as the coastal resort towns nearby. In winter, most visitors are locals who come here to picnic when the weather is good.

Entrance Fee: TRY 30

Plan on spending one to two hours here

Getting to Phaselis

Buses to Phaselis leave frequently from Antalya passing through the town of Kemer (TRY 11). You can catch them either at the Antalya regional station or at the Migros Mall near the aquarium. Some will enter the park and drop you off at the ticket booth. If they drop you off along the D400 highway, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the gate. From the gate, it’s another 10-minute walk to the ruins.

Total Trip Cost: TRY 52

Olympos

What to Expect

Like Phaselis, Olympos is an ancient port city. The archeological ruins are not as well preserved, and probably would not be worth a trip from Antalya if it were not for their proximity to Phaselis and the flaming stone of Chimaera (Yanartaş), located only a few kilometers away, both of which can be combined in a day trip.

Tours from Antalya often combine a trip to Phaselis with Olympos and Chimaera while the beach around the ruins is popular with backpackers, although, in the winter it’s mostly visited by local fishermen. During the summer, turtles come to shore to lay eggs, drawing even more tourists.

Entrance Fee: TRY 20 (Olympos) / TRY 7 (Chimaera)

Plan on spending one hour at Olympos and two hours hiking to Chimaera and back

Getting to Olympos

Frequent buses leave from Antalya’s regional bus station bound for Kaş and will drop you off at along the D400 highway exit at Çirali (TRY 15) – note that it’s quicker to reach the ruins from Çirali than from the village of Olympos proper. The trip takes about an hour and a half. Alternatively, it’s recommended to combine a trip to Olympos and Chimaera with a visit to Phaselis first. You can take the same minibus from the D400 highway exit at Phaselis to the Çirali exit (TRY 4). The ride is less than half an hour.

From the highway, it’s another 7KM to Çirali. During the summer there is usually a dolmuş waiting (TRY 5). However, there is no guarantee in winter. Luckily, you can generally bum a ride with a local to the city center where it’s about 1KM down the beach to the ruins. Be prepared though to cross a small stream; it can become rather swollen after heavy rains.

After you have finished with the archeological site, return to the city center and walk or hire a taxi for the remaining two kilometers to the Chimaera ticket booth. It’s another kilometer from the ticket booth up a fairly steep hill to reach the flames, which are best viewed after sunset (don’t forget a flashlight).

Total Trip Cost: TRY 67 (TRY 97 combined with Phaselis)

Sagalassos

What to Expect

Underappreciated Sagalassos is one of Turkey’s hidden archeological gems. A sprawling well excavated and reconstructed site (it even has working fountains), Sagalassos is in the same category as Ephesus and Perge. The ruins can also be combined with a trip to the Burdur Museum which houses many of the statues found at Sagalassos.  

Sagalassos receives scant visitors even during the high season. It’s one of the few places you can enjoy the ruins no matter the time of year without having to deal with busloads of tourists.

Entrance Fee: TRY 12 (Sagalassos Archeological Site), Burdur Museum (TRY 6) 

Plan on spending two to three hours here and one to two hours at the Burdur Museum

Getting to Sagalassos

Despite a travel time of less than two hours, there are few buses heading towards Sagalassos from Antalya. Minibuses depart from Antalya to in Ağlasun (near Sagalassos) three times daily at 11:00, 15:30, and 18:00 returning at 8:15, 10:30, and 15:30.  This option would likely mean spending the night.

Better is to take a bus from the Antalya main bus station to Isparta (two and a half hours). I recommend KamilKoc, which has hourly departures starting at 5:30 (TRY 18). From Isparta, you can catch a minibus to Ağlasun at the bottom of every hour (TRY 8). Once in Ağlasun, it’s a 6KM climb to the Saglasso car park. You can either walk it in about an hour and a half or take a taxi (~TRY 25). After visiting the ruins, you can either return to Isparta (last departures 17:30 and 21:30), take the direct bus back to Antalya at 15:30 (TRY 16), or, if you have time, catch a minibus to Burdur (TRY 8) to visit the museum, which closes at 17:30 during the winter months and 19:00 in the summer. From Burdur there are frequent buses back to Antalya (TRY 20).

Total Trip Cost: TRY 72 (~TRY 122 if you take a taxi)

Side

What to Expect

Side isn’t a pretty as Perge and lacks the quietness of Termessos or Sagalassos, but still boasts a nice theatre and temple. It’s a large, mostly unexcavated site and is probably only worth visiting if you are a hardcore fan of archeology or a Roman history buff (Side harbored the Roman fleet in the region). Side also has a small museum housed in the bath complex with finds from the city.

Side has become a popular seaside town, so expect a lot of visitors during the summer months. It’s much quieter during winter with most tourists congregating around the theatre and its adjoining agora.

Entrance Fee: Free, except for the theatre (TRY 30) and the museum (TRY 15). The theatre can be skipped if you have seen the ones at Perge and Aspendos.   

Plan on spending two hours here (one, if you only visit the museum and the theatre)

Getting to Side

Side is relatively easy to get to with frequent departures from Antalya regional bus station to Manavgat (TRY 11). The trip takes about an hour and a half, and the bus will drop you near the turnoff for Manavgat just off of the D400 highway. From here you will have to take a 20 minute trip in a dolmuş to the archeological site (TRY 2). The bus returning to Antalya is located along the D400 highway.

It is possible to combine Side with a trip to Perge and Aspendos, but this would require a morning departure of around 6AM to Side and then working your way back to Antalya for a very long and rushed day.

Total Trip Cost: TRY 71

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment!

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