Taurus Mountains in Turkey: 21 Most Beautiful Excursions
Here I have first collected the 21 most beautiful excursion destinations in the mountainous province of Antalya.
Additionally, I have gathered up all my tips about the central and eastern Taurus Mountains in Southeast Anatolia.
The mountain range is 1,500km long. The mountains begin in the west in the province of Antalya at the Esen Cayi River. From there, the Taurus runs along the Mediterranean Sea into the Mesopotamian lowlands in south-eastern Anatolia.
That’s why I highlight which holiday locations you can reach, they are explained as individual sights on my list.
1. Jeep safari through the Turkish Riviera mountains
Off-road jeep safaris are a classic adventure in all the Turkish south coast holiday resorts. The program is similar in all locations. You drive through the Taurus Mountains in an off-road jeep, visit small villages and eat local specialties in remote, usually family-owned restaurants.
This includes a light-hearted water fight in summer and a meal break in a typical Turkish river restaurant. Additional sights during the excursion depends on the location of your vacation spot. These include, for example, ancient ruins, gorges or very old mosques.
You will find jeep safaris descriptions in all seaside resorts, including a guest rating and pictures with Get your guide.
2. Mountain village of Ormana
A few years ago, Ormana in the Side region was still an insider tip. In the meantime, the village with its 300-year-old Ottoman houses, wild horses, caves, nature parks, flowers and good food is one of the most popular excursion destinations in both Side and Belek.
3. River restaurants, for example in Dimcay and Ulupinar
You can find typical Turkish river restaurants in most holiday resorts along the Turkish Riviera. The seats are built on a platform which extend over the rivers. It’s delightful to feel the refreshing river spray and in summer, it’s the perfect cooling off place on hot days.
The most beautiful river restaurants are in the Dimcay valley in Alanya, Ulupinar near Cirali and in Adrasan.
4. Rafting in the Köprülü Canyon and in Alara
The Köprülü Canyon just north of Belek is the rafting hot spot in Turkey. You drive from the Köprülü Canyon National Park to the river’s mouth along the sea. You will pass the ruins of the ancient city of Aspendos and an ancient Roman bridge.
It is only possible to go river rafting in the Alara Valley (in the Alanya district), during spring.
5. Caves: Karain Cave to Damlatas Cave on Cleopatra Beach
The Taurus Mountains are criss-crossed by ordinary caves as well as caves filled with stalactite. Most of them can be found along the Turkish Riviera in the Alanya district. There, you can see the Damlatas cave just under the castle hill directly facing the sea. While you are in Alanya, the Dimcay cave and the dwarf cave in Sapadere are also interesting.
The first traces of human life in the Karain Cave in Antalya can be traced back to 40,000 years ago. The Altinbesik cave near Ormana is more than 5.5 km long, and it contains the third largest cave lake in the world. Visitors are allowed to take a dinghy on the first lake inside the cave.
6. Gorges: Dimcay to Saklikent
The Taurus Mountains on the Turkish Riviera are criss-crossed with rivers, gorges and canyons. Some of them are the most popular destinations in the seaside resorts. I have already mentioned the Köprülü Canyon for rafting. A hike to the end of the Sapadere Canyon in Alanya or a visit to a river restaurant in the Dimcay Valley is more leisurely and very enjoyable.
7. Ancient ruins: Termessos to Syedra
I mentioned Termessos in my own post, the Machu Picchu of Turkey. That description fits perfectly. It was once the city of the mountain barbarians at 1,500m above sea level, which Homer has mentioned in his story of Troy.
Not even Alexander the Great was able to take the city at the foot of Mount Solymos. Local tour operators in the city of Antalya, Lara Beach and Beldibi offer day trips to the ruins of Termessos.
You can find more ancient ruins along the entire Turkish Riviera up to the Cilician gate in the south-eastern part of Anatolia. In the province of Antalya, you will stumble across ruins of an ancient city every 10km. These ancient settlements include Aspendos, Perge, Antalya’s old town, the old town of Side, Seleukia, the ruins of Phaselis and the town of Korakesion on the castle hill of Alanya.
Typical excursion destinations also include the ruins of Myra (home of Saint Nicholas of Myra) as well as the ruins of UNESCO World Heritage Site Xanthos on the Lycian coast.
8. Paragliding in Alanya and Kemer
Paragliding back to the sea is one of the most unforgettable highlights among the possible experiences in the Taurus Mountains. The mountain station houses the Olympus cable car in Kemer which extends 2,366m. There is also a paragliding option in Alanya where you can “fly” from the mountains back to Cleopatra Beach.
The famous Babadag in Ölüdeniz no longer belongs to the Taurus Mountains.
9. Long-distance hiking trails in the Taurus Mountains
Lycian Way: hike through the mountains along the Lycian coast 500km from Fethiye to Antalya. Of course, you can also hike just short stretches of the Lycian Way as you choose. My tip, for example, is a trip to the flames of the Chimaira in Cirali, which have been burning for more than 2,700 years.
Paulus-Weg: Compared to the Lycian Way, the Paulaus-Weg is a real insider tip. It leads over a distance of 500km from Antalya to Antioch in Southeast Anatolia.
10. Animals: silkworms, wild horses, goats, cats and turtles …
The Taurus Mountains are criss-crossed with national parks. There are more than ten of them in the province of Antalya alone (Olympus Beydaglari, Güllük Dagi-Termessos, Dimcay, Altinbesik, …).
In Ormana, you will be amazed to see herds of wild horses roaming free.
You will notice tortoises roaming all over the ruins on the Turkish Riviera (please do not bring them to the sea). Carretta Caretta turtles lay their eggs on Olympus Beach in Cirali, Side and Alanya. If you are very lucky, you will see monk seals in Gazipasa or Cape Anamur.
Dolphins sometimes swim alongside the excursion boats.
You can see real silkworms in the village of Sapadere and in the house of culture on the castle hill of Alanya.
11. Olympus cable car to the Tahtali Dagi
Travel by cable car affords you the most beautiful view. Catch a ride from the mountain station of the Olympos cable car on the Tahtali Dagi in the Taurus Mountains. Sea to Sky is the motto of the cable car which takes you 2,366 m high to the mountain on the coast of Kemer.
On days with low humidity, the view from the summit to Side, 100km away, is sufficient. You can always see the city of Antalya (70km away), Olympus Beach and all the surrounding mountains from above.
The Saklikent ski area is only an hour’s drive northwest of Antalya with five ski lifts.
12. Pamukkale: Thermal springs and ancient ruins
The site of natural limestone terraces in Pamukkale, formed from thermal water, is the most popular excursion destination on the Turkish south coast. Daily excursion buses arrive from all the seaside resorts throughout the Taurus Mountains to these impeccable limestone terraces.
Ruins of the Roman city of Hierapolis are easily accessible from Pamukkale. . The ruins include the largest necropolis in Anatolia, the tomb of the apostle Philip and the Cleopatra pool.
13. Fishing in Alara, caravanserai and castle
Alara is a narrow valley north of Okurcalar in the Alanya district. In the time of the Silk Road, a route along the used to lead from here to the south coast. That’s why you’ll see the ruins of an old caravanserai and the Alara Castle in the valley. Right next to the caravanserai, there is a small restaurant with a fish pond .
There, you can catch your fish yourself. The chefs in the restaurant will grill them for you. This excursion can be booked in the hotels in the Alanya district seaside resorts. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen them available online. Here are more tips for a customised trip to Alara.
14. Göynük Canyon (+ canyoning)
The Göynük Canyon in the Kemer district combines a beach holiday with hiking and canyoning. You can walk from the beginning of the canyon to the end of the valley in around an hour. The very brave can swim in a lake filled with fresh spring water. Canyoning is possible with organised excursions. There is also a small restaurant with an open grill and a climbing garden.
15. Quad safari through the Taurus Mountains
Quad safaris are possible from all seaside resorts in the province of Antalya. You drive along the coast, through the mountains and begin to venture off-road. The program includes sights selected by the seaside resort, small villages and beautiful viewpoints in the mountains.
For me, the waterfalls in Antalya and Manavgat are also part of the Taurus Mountains excursions. Best known are the 50m high Düden waterfall on the cliffs of Antalya, the Upper Düden waterfall, the Kursunlu waterfall and the Manavgat waterfall.
The waterfalls in Turkey always feature small restaurants with its own barbecue area . Either you order the food directly or grill your own dishes. Organized excursions are also possible to the Düden waterfall in Antalya.
A combined excursion to the Manavgat waterfall, along with a tour of the old town of Side and the ruins of Aspendos, is one of the most frequently booked excursions on the Turkish Riviera.
17. Climbing the Taurus Mountains
International clubs, mountain rescue organisations and climbers with various levels of experience all flock to the mountains around Cirali in the Olympos National Park is. Together with its own climbing school, Kadir’s Tree House organises tours in the mountains and along the coastal cliffs.
18. Dams, Green Canyon and Lakes
Oymapinar is one of the largest reservoirs in Turkey. The Green Canyon is a nice destination on the hottest days in summer. You ride a boat through the canyon and swim in the cold water. Food and drink are usually included onboard the boats.
Salda Lake, Burdur Lake, Egirdir Lake and Beysehir Lake are also part of the Taurus Mountains. Lake Salda is one of the hot insider tips on the Turkish Riviera. It is nicknamed the Maldives of Turkey. This is due to its snow-white beach and the bright, turquoise-blue water.
19. Yanartas Chimaira
The first fire of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece is said to come from the natural gas flames that have been burning in Cirali for at least 2,700 years. The short hike to the Yanartas-Chimaira starts near Olympos Beach and takes you to the first flames in around 30 minutes.
More natural gas flames can be found further up the mountain. Organised excursions to the Yanartas Chimaira are possible from the district of Kemer, Antalya and sometimes also from Belek and Side.
20. Hiking in the western Taurus Mountains
There are many marked hiking routes in Kemer and Alanya. In the cities below, you’ll find hiking maps and other tourist information. Rest assured, these routes are constantly being maintained. One route, for example, leads from downtown Alanya along the sea to the ruins of Syedra.
The tour takes around 3 hours in one direction. In Kemer there is a hike from Göynük Canyon to the alpine pastures of Göynük. The local tourist information can provide you with the latest hiking maps, ideas and tips.
21. Xanthos – UNESCO World Heritage Site
Xanthos is the last sight on my list for the western Taurus Mountains. Why? Because the western Taurus Mountains begin on the Esen Cayi River on the edge of the ruins of Xanthos. Organised excursions to the ruins and the sanctuary of Letoon are available from the seaside resorts of Kas and Kalkan.
Taurus Mountains in Cilicia and Southeast Anatolia
So far, I have described the excursion destinations for seaside resorts in the province of Antalya in the Taurus Mountains. Now, we will come to the less touristy areas of Turkey. For me, it all starts east of Alanya from Gazipasa.
Then, we comes to the province of Mersin, Adana and then Gaziantep as an entry point to Southeast Anatolia, where the mountains end and we enter into the Mesopotamian lowlands.
One of the special sights in the Euprat valley of eastern Taurus is the 2,000 year old burial sanctuary on the Nemrut Dagi.
Estimated to be 12,000 years old, Göbekli Tepe is the oldest temple in human history. It stands high on a hill in in Sanliurfa in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains.
The highest mountains in the Taurus are towards the east. These towering witnesses to ancient history include the Cilo Dagi (4,116 m) and Uludoruk (4,135 m). Only Mount Ararat in Turkey is higher with 5,137m.
Interesting cities to visit in the Taurus Mountains are Mersin, Adana and Tarsus. Some still consider Konya in Central Anatolia to be a part of the Taurus Mountains.
I will definitely write another post about the sights of Southeast Anatolia.
A few last words about the excursion destinations in the Taurus:
Almost all holidaymakers ask themselves what the surrounding mountains are called when they land in Antalya. This is due to their prominent location directly on the coast. This is especially true for the seaside districts of Alanya and Kemer.
I especially like the green mountains in summer because they are a welcome change from the 35 ° on the beach.
If you have any questions or your own tips about the mountains, just write to me in the comment section below.
Have fun in Turkey!