NORMALLY at Easter, I whisk my family off for a beach break in the Canaries, an eight-island archipelago that never disappoints.
This year, I decided instead to mix it up – following the advice of a number of friends – and check out the Turkish resort of Antalya and how it shapes up for a family holiday.
Getting down to the popular resort of Antalya from Scotland just got easier as easyJet has just joined SunExpress with a direct Edinburgh route but there are routes from other Scottish airports too. You don’t need to apply for a visa and the flight time is similar to the Canaries too at around four and a half hours.
Flying into this city of more than one million people, on one flank rose the hulking Taurus Mountains, on the other, the sparkling Mediterranean. Quite a setting, and all topped off with a rich necklace of beaches that runs all along the city and continues east and west too. Many of the hotels enjoy this beachfront, our base was a little back, but we’d picked it as we heard it was perfect for families.
The Land of Legends Kingdom Hotel (www.thelandoflegendsthemepark.com) instantly won over my kids with an array of sweets to scoop up in reception and bright, welcoming staff. The hotel is right next to the eponymous theme park. Think Disney with a Turkish slant and more genuine service.
A Roman theme rippled through our family-orientated hotel with a free amusement arcade downstairs, a restaurant geared towards wee ones and a bar open 24 hours for parents looking to relax.
Land of Legends verges on the indescribable. It’s part full-on theme park with rollercoasters and adrenaline-pumping rides, part massive water park and part glitzy shopping mall. Swirl in spectacular evening laser and fountain shows and it’s quite the captivating cocktail.
One huge plus for all-inclusive hotel guests – as well as easy access to the park – is the shuttle bus that zooms off to the Rixos Premium Belek, a lavish partner hotel.
We enjoyed one of the most eclectic and impressive hotel lunch buffets I’ve ever seen, before a dip in the Med and then a warmer swim in their heated Olympic-sized pool. Here waiters busied between sun loungers on rollerblades. If you’re in Antalya without kids, this is a great place to stay.
Another of this resort city’s key family attractions is Antalya Aquarium. Yes, it has a whirl of tanks alive with all manner of marine life and the world’s biggest tunnel aquarium, but the complex also sports the surreal Snow World and Ice Museum, with its real snow and sleigh rides.
The senses-tingling XD Cinema, with its simulated submarine ride, and the Face 2 Face Wax Museum, are on hand too. At the latter, I went toe to toe with Muhammad Ali and came face to face with Vladimir Putin.
Pushing on into the city itself, we explored Antalya’s Old Town (Kaleici). A warren of mosques and old buildings, we flitted around the streets slipping back through the centuries.
Dinner came at the spectacular Arma Restaurant, hanging out over the Mediterranean. We chose from the fresh seafood section – grilled squid, king prawns and sea bass, all caught locally. Utterly delicious, served with a burning sunset across the Mediterranean. We tried a crisp local wine too, which – like all the wines we checked out – was excellent. Turkish wines are seriously underrated.
Like every Turkish city, Antalya is blessed with rich layers of history. We also dug deeper in the nearby city of Side. Its Old Town echoed Antalya. We worked our way downhill to the waterfront. Here tour boats bobbed around ready for the tourist season to really kick in.
The past and the present were constant companions on this trip. Ambling by the shops, we came to the old town and Side’s Temple of Apollo, a vaulting time machine that catapults you back through centuries. Side’s Aphrodite Restaurant brought more fresh fish; this time prawns and a whopping turbot.
Those Taurus Mountains were a constant backdrop to our trip and used to prove an impenetrable barrier to man. Not today. We swished up the cable car to the top of the Tahtali Dagi mountain. We were up at 2366m, more than a kilometre higher than Ben Nevis. There was still snow on the ground and it was surreal throwing snowballs with the Mediterranean in the distance.
All of our five days in Antalya involved at least one visit to the Land of the Legends. The beauty of its size and diversity is there is always something else to check out. One time we just went for a chill in the wave pool, another to explore Digiverse, the “world’s biggest 360° immersive digital exhibition”.
As we curled up on the plane, leaving from Antalya Airport, my youngest, Emma, piped up: “We must come back.”
I asked her if she meant to Land of Legends.
“No, to Antalya. I like it as much as the Canaries,” she replied.
For more information on Turkey visit www.goturkiye.com