Nomad Life,  Recent,  Turkey

The Ultimate Digital Nomad Guide To Antalya Province, Turkey, In Winter

Turkey recently launched a Digital Nomad Visa allowing stays of 1 year, with the possibility of extension. Whilst Turkey is a well-loved destination for it’s five month summer season, visitor numbers are much lower in the winter months. We spent the January – March in Turkey working remotely. Here’s what we found…

Contents

General Country Information

Entry to Turkey and Visa Options for Digital Nomads

As of 2024, Turkey allows visa-free entry for 96 countries (usually 90 days) and visa on arrival for a further 22 (passport index data). Turkey has now also launched a Digital Nomad Visa.

We entered via Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) directly from Tangier, after three months of travelling Morocco. The airport is very modern. Entering the country was fast and efficient. A metro line runs directly from SAW airport but we arrived after midnight, when it had stopped running for the day. An airport taxi from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Istanbul centre takes an hour and cost 1400 Turkish Lira or 41 Euro (January 2024 prices). You might think that getting a taxi at midnight means there would be less traffic but Istanbul is a busy city at all times and it felt like rush hour in the city centre.

Istanbul has another airport (New Istanbul Airport IST) which is a similar distance from the city.

From Istanbul, we flew to Antalya, which is the easiest option. Our original plan was to get the high speed train from Istanbul to Konya (around 5 hours) and then take a bus from Konya to Antalya (5 hrs 30 minutes). Unfortunately, you need to book the train several days in advance. When I looked two days beforehand, the tickets were sold out!

The flight from Istanbul to Antalya cost us about 50 Euros per person last minute. The train and bus combination would have worked out at the same price.

Culture, History and Stuff

Ancient Anatolia, present-day Turkey, was home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations, including the Hittites, Assyrians, and the Lycians.

The region was under the influence of many different major empires including the first Persian Empire, the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. The various ancient sites in Antalya are all show evidence of these from the remains of Hellenic amphitheaters to Ottoman fortresses.

The 20th century saw the rise of the Republic of Turkey under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. His changes made Turkey more modern and laid the foundation for a secular state. Whilst today’s Turkey has no state religion, the vast majority of the population are Muslim. Some regions are noticeably more conservative than others.

The crumbling remains of an arched ceiling inside a Byzantine era Church are covered with religious paintings in the Orthodox style.
A cliff is honeycombed with ancient tombs carved into the rock from the Lycian era

Weather and Climate in Antalya in Winter

The climate varies greatly across Turkey – even in the Antalya province, as we discovered! On the coast, you can expect up to 20-22 C during winter on a sunny day. During the daytime, it’s not uncommon to see people swimming and sunbathing but the weather can be cool in the evenings and cold (snowy) at altitude. The region is mountainous and we found it easily dropped 10 degrees from Kalkan on the coast to Saribelen, where we we staying. Driving another 45 minutes inland, you reach snow.

Generally the weather for us was dry and bright, although there were a couple of huge storms whilst we were there.

Saribelen and Our Accommodation in Turkey

Saribelen is a peaceful village in the scenic Antalyan countryside. We spent in a month in Villa Labor, a charming, family-owned property. The beautiful natural stone villa is tastefully decorated on the inside and offers all the essentials for a longer stay. Fatma and her family did everything possible to make us feel at home, bringing us traditional food and even installing a stove to make sure we were warm!

The nearby area has plenty of restaurants and things to do. In winter, there is a reduced offering as many places shut up shop. However, we certainly didn’t struggle to find good places to eat and drink.

WIFI and mobile data, power issues

We found in general that WIFI and mobile data were quite hit and miss in this part of Turkey. Turkey has three main mobile providers: Turkcell, TurkTelecom and Vodafone. If you’re staying a more remote area, it’s worth checking on website like Nperf to see the connectivity in the area. We were using Vodafone but the signal wasn’t good. In Saribelen, Turkcell would be better.

Another thing to note is that mobile data is relatively expensive in Turkey. Providers have a special rate for tourists.

Important Information for Stays of Over 120 Days in Turkey

You can only use a mobile phone for 120 days in Turkey. This would be OK if you’re on a tourist visa, which is 90 days, but not if you are wanting to stay for a full year on the Digital Nomad Visa. Residents have to register their mobile phone to keep using it (which is very expensive ~ 1000 EUR). You can only register a mobile phone once every three years.

Turkish Cuisine and Dining Out

Turkey quickly rocketed to the top of my list of favourite cuisines. Food is enormously important in Turkish culture and, as a guest in the country, you will not be allowed to go hungry. We were once chased down the street by an old lady who wanted to give us some fruit as we were walking by her house.

Local dishes vary of course by region and Turkey is an enormous country. You can however expect to find döner (kebab) and pide (Turkish pizza) wherever you go.

Turkish Breakfast

A traditional Turkish breakfast is an essential part of a trip to Turkey. Be warned: they are ENORMOUS. Turkish breakfast is served like tapas. Typically, you can expect:

  • Eggs cooked in various ways
  • A cheese plate
  • Breads
  • Sujuk – Turkish sausage
  • Tahini, jams, honey from the comb
  • Kajmak – similar to clotted cream
  • Salad, fruit and nuts
  • Different types of olives
A typical Turkish breakfast consists of many small, colourful dishes with different foods and condiments, artfully arranged.

We had the most exceptional Turkish breakfast from the beautiful and tiny Şahika Bahçe Restaurant in the village of Bezirgan. Each dish was beautifully presented, including many delicious local or homemade products. The owners create a truly magical and unique experience, which naturally came with a price tag. It’s definitely a ‘special occasion’ restaurant – which is why we back the following weekend (and for dinner during the week!!).

Traditional Drinks in Turkey

In addition to food, Turkey also has lots of interesting options for drinks. As a predominantly Muslim country, there is a huge array of non-alcoholic things to try. My favourite is ayran, a yoghurt-based drink which is very hydrating in hot weather. Other things you will come across are:

  • Salep – popular in winter, salep is a drink made of orchid root flour. It’s served very hot, sweet and often with cinnamon on top.
  • Çay – Turkish tea is drunk round the clock. It’s served black with sugar on the side.
  • Turkish coffee – strong, thick and black. We love Turkish coffee but it’s very strong compared to a latte.
  • Şalgam is a drink made of fermented black carrot juice (although people will tell you it’s turnip juice!). It comes in a spicy or a non-spicy version and is a bit salty. I personally love it but it’s probably not for everyone.
  • Boza is another fermented drink made of different grains. It’s quite thick, and sweet/sour.

Alcohol is widely available. The only places we didn’t see alcohol being sold frequently were in the more conservative, religious cities like Konya. Turkish Raki is very popular; it’s a strong, clear spirit which turns cloudy when you add water (which is the done thing). Turkish wine is excellent – particularly red. I can’t recommend specific varieties as the grapes were all totally unknown to me but we didn’t find a single bad bottle – you can’t go wrong.

Getting Around in Antalya Province

We stayed in a rural location in Antalya province and the only option to get around was via car. That being said, we got an incredible deal and paid only 300 Euro for the month for a brand new car! We used a company called Denizhan Rent a Car. It was necessary to shop around a bit though – we tried multiple companies and got some crazy quotes like 700 Euro. Other companies were very complicated about where you could drive the car etc. Driving is straightforward in Turkey and the roads are good.

In the summer, there are options like tour buses to reach attractions however they mostly don’t run in winter. We met a Welsh guy who didn’t have a driving licence. He paid a taxi driver for a private tour to visit some attractions.

Getting to larger towns and cities in Turkey is pretty straightforward. We used the train (make sure you book in advance) and numerous buses which were very comfortable. Flixbus has good coverage in Turkey but in the far East of Turkey, we used a Turkish company called Obilet. They also have a simple-to-use booking website.

Things to do in Antalya Province in Winter

Ancient Sites

Turkey is a history-lover’s paradise. In Antalya Province alone, there are remains of 20 ancient cities, plus many other important historical sites. Driving around, it’s common to see niches carved into rocks, which are usually ancient Lycian rock tombs.

Patara is one of the more reconstructed sites that we visited; this makes it incredibly impressive – you can really put yourself in the footsteps of the ancient inhabitants – but also pricey in comparison to other sites in the region.

The site offers beautiful views of Patara beach; one of the longest beaches in Turkey.

Essential Information for Visiting Patara Ancient City

Entry Price: 15 Euros

Location: Patara Ancient City is located near the village of Gelemiş, about 25 minutes from Kalkan, 50 minutes from Kaş and 1 hour from Fethiye.

Visit duration: at least 1 hour- 1.5 hours.

Xanthos, also written Ksanthos, is another ancient city, inland from Patara. This site, along with neighbouring Letoon (which we didn’t visit) was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in Turkey:

“This site, which was the capital of Lycia, illustrates the blending of Lycian traditions and Hellenic influence, especially in its funerary art. The epigraphic inscriptions are crucial for our understanding of the history of the Lycian people and their Indo-European language.”

UNESCO Website

Unfortunately, despite it’s UNESCO status, the site is not in the best of shape; there aren’t clearly marked footpaths and some areas are totally overgrown. Close to the amphitheatre, there is a tall Lycian tomb with an imitation carving. The original was “removed” by the British in the 1800s and remains in the British Museum to this day.

Possibly the most impressive part of the site is the most difficult to find. The Lycian necropolis (pictured above) is on the hillside above the car park. There’s a signpost but not a real footpath, so it takes a bit of finding.

Essential Information for Visiting Xanthos Ancient City

Entry Price: 70 TL per person (January 2024) about 2 Euros.

Location: Xanthos overlooks the modern day village of Karaköy. It’s about 20 minutes inland from Patara.

Visit duration: 1.5 hours (including getting lost)

Tlos wins the prize for the most impressive acropolis of the sites we visited! Perched high up on a mountain, it commands a view of the surrounding area. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the Romans sure knew how to pick a site for a city!

This ancient city also has a hidden secret, for those who know how to look for it! Check out my article on Tlos and Saklikent Canyon for details.

Myra is a spectacular site. The remains are in astonishingly good condition and include hundreds of incredible carvings. The site mainly comprises of the ancient Lycian rock tombs and an amphitheater. However, in contrast to other sites, the supporting buildings around the amphitheater are still standing and they are HUGE. You can walk through the original entrance hallway – it’s propped up with some supports but the structure and stairs are all there. It’s very remarkable.

The Lycian rock tombs on this site are beautiful and there are many of them. They’re mostly inaccessible but you have admire from a distance.

Around the site can be found many piles of stonework that have been recovered and you can walk through them and see the carvings.

Myra is quite small though – it’s doesn’t take long to walk around. If you want a longer walk, there’s an Ottoman castle on the hill which you can walk to but we didn’t have time.

Essential Information for Visiting Myra Ancient City

Entry Price: 13 EUR

Location: North of the village of Demre

Visit duration: 30 minutes – 1 hour

If you’re fed of ruins from early antiquity, then Kayaköy is an intriguing alternative. Kayaköy is an abandoned village in the mountains close to Fethiye. But why was it abandoned? We headed there with no idea about the place and accidentally entered via the mountain, not the visitor entrance. We spent a long time wondering what could have happened here. The houses didn’t look ancient – maybe it was an earthquake…

Actually, it’s a pretty dark story. Following WWI, there was a war between Greece and Turkey. After it ended, it was agreed that there would be a swap of people, the Greeks living in Turkey for the Muslims in Greece.

This was a Greek village but no one wanted to live in it because they said it was haunted. It was then further destroyed by an earthquake at a later date (good decision not to live there really!).

Inside the buildings you can still see blue paint that the Greeks used.

Hiking in Antalya Province in Winter

The Lycian Way is a famous long-distance hiking route from Fethiye to Antalya, around 600km in total. To complete the whole route (of which there are variations) takes around one month. The Lycian Way gets it’s name as the trail leads through the ancient region of Lycia and gives hikers the opportunity to witness many archeological sites.

We completed an 8.5km section of the Lycian Way from Kalkan to Delikkemer Aqueduct. It’s a technically challenging route involving a fair bit of scrambling but the views are worth it! The halfway point brings you to the extraordinary Delikkemer Aqueduct, an outstanding piece of civil engineering of which huge segments are still standing 2000 years after construction. The aqueduct brought water all the way to Patara City, 22.5km away. The route follows the path of the aqueduct for a while, allowing you to fully appreciate Roman ingenuity! You can even see some of the original pipes.

Advice for Hiking to Delikkemer Aqueduct from Kalkan

Wear long clothing – if you value your skin! There are a lot of spikey bushes. It’s also relatively exposed so a sunburn risk in summer. The rocks are also sharp, so bringing gloves would also be a good idea if you have sensitive hands.

Don’t be tempted to take a shortcut back. The routes in the middle are totally overgrows with spikey bushes and are not passable.

Bring lots of water and food. There are are no facilities on the route.

We saw evidence of wild boar on the loop back towards Kalkan. Be wary if hiking at dawn or dusk when they are most active.

Should You Visit Antalya in Winter?

Visiting Turkey in winter has some big bonuses! The popular tourist attractions, which are very crowded in the summer months, are mostly empty. If you’re planning any walking or hiking, it’s a much better temperature for physical activity. For those coming from the more northern regions, the weather will be much more pleasant, even in January. Financially, it pays off hugely to travel in the off-season. Our car hire was only 300 Euro and we were able to negotiate better deals on accommodation.

On the flipside, if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere with lots of other visitors, winter probably isn’t the time to visit. Additionally, many restaurants and bars are closed or have limited opening times. Activities on offer may be limited as well.


Looking For More Turkey Inspiration?

Take a look at my other posts for more travels through Anatolia in Winter.


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