Heart of banana country Population: 36,000
Anamur is a small Eastern Mediterrean town just inland from the coast. It has a coastal extension down by the beach which, unsurprisingly. is called İskele (Harbour). This is where most of the hotels can be found although few are especially exciting.
İskele has grown into a popular small Turkish family resort which means lots of tea gardens and rock-bottom prices in the restaurants. There's a strip of sandy beach which is fairly quiet as there's no main road running behind it.
Anamur itself has nothing more than a couple of old stone-built houses with tiled roofs to remind it of its past; most visitors will have no need to go near it except to use the bus station.
Heading west a turning leads down to the seaside ruins of Anamurium, a Roman and then Byzantine town that grew up on Phoenician foundations. As you pass along the main road you won't be able to miss the massed rows of plastic greenhouses with banana plants literally bursting out of them. In between are polytunnels full of strawberries and peppers. In between them are stands of maize. Peanuts also grow in profusion here.
The best choice of accommodation is in İskele although there are a couple of hotels in Anamur Town. Most of the İskele hotels are housed in uninspiring high-rise apartment blocks. My advice? Stay instead at a pension in Bozdoğan to the east or at a hotel in Bozyazı, a little further to the east.
I stayed at the Grand Hotel Hermes which has a pool and spacious rooms but there was no hot water and the toilet seat in my bathroom was completely broken. The Internet was only available in the uninspiring lobby. A taxi driver said that the Hotel Meltem was better.
İskele's newest and finest right on the beach but 5km west of the centre of things. Has its own pool and restaurant. Tel: 0324-248 2719
Unusually for Turkey, this hotel has been designed to meet the needs of those in wheelchairs. Its inland location amid high-rise apartment blocks is not the most appealing but the rooms are spacious and spotless, and there's a van to run guests to and from the beach. Most guests are German.
Tel: 0324-814 4978
In summer there are daily buses from Alanya and Silifke to Anamur Town; those from Silifke pass straight by Mamure Castle. To get to Anamurium without your own car you must take a dolmuş from Anamur to Ören and walk two and a half kilometres down from the main road; turn off when you see the ugly high-rise TOKİ development and the brown sign. A group of visitors are better off paying for a taxi from Anamur bus station or from İskele.
Day trip destinations
Mamure Kalesi (Bozdoğan)
This article first appeared in Sunday's Zaman on
ANAMURYUM AND MAMURE CASTLE
In spring the abandoned ruins of the Byzantine city of Anamuryum stand ankle-deep in wild flowers. Crumbling walls surround the site but through the gaps you’ll glimpse the azure sea, as lovely here as further west on the Turkish Riviera. Few places could be more alluring but because the site lies east of the bright lights of Alanya chances are that you’ll have the ruins to yourself.
Anamuryum has a history that long precedes the Byzantines. It is believed to have been founded by the Phoenicians, those hardy Tunisians who roamed the Mediterranean in search of trade as long ago as the fourth century BC. However, it wasn’t until the Romans took the site over that the colony grew into a real city, and much of what remains today dates from the years after the Roman Empire split into two parts. In the 7th century Arab invaders descended on Anamuryum and drove out its residents. For some reason they never chose to return. The site was only briefly resettled in the 12th and 13th centuries, which means that today the ruins languish in splendid isolation.
As you approach the site you’ll see the remains of two aqueducts which used to supply the city with water. Much more striking is the fact that the hillside is encrusted with hundreds of free-standing tombs which make up a necropolis bigger than the remains of the city itself. The most elaborate tombs have two chambers: one for the body, the other for prayers and feasting in celebration of the deceased. Some still retain mosaic floors and frescoes but the best are locked up to protect them. In theory the custodian should be able to unlock the gates in return for a tip but first you will have to track him down.
Near the necropolis stand the remains of three Byzantine churches, but within the site of the city itself the most obvious structure left to explore is the 3rd-century bath-house which still retains traces of wall paintings and mosaic floors. No Byzantine archaeological site would be worth its salt without the remains of a theatre and, sure enough, there is one at Anamuryum as well as a stadium and traces of ancient shops and houses, some with their roofs intact which makes it easier to imagine what they would have been like in their heyday. Some of the houses had mosaic ‘carpets’ but these are now covered with sand to protect them.
Once you’ve finished exploring the ruins it will be hard to resist the siren call of the deserted beach. However, if you have the energy it’s worth struggling up onto the headland, not so much to view the scant remains of the ancient acropolis as to gaze out across the sea to Northern Cyprus, here a mere 80 kilometers south of Turkey.
Sixteen kilometers east of Anamuryum it’s impossible to miss the massive remains of Mamure Kalesi, a mirror image of the more visited Kızkalesi (Maiden’s Castle) even further east. The castle sits right on the beach opposite some small fish restaurants on a site first fortified by the Byzantines and then reused by the Armenians and Crusaders. However, what you see now is the castle rebuilt on the site in the 13th century by the Selçuk ruler Alaeddin Keykubad, as commemorated by the inscription over the main gate. A castle so sturdy could hardly have escaped the attentions of the Ottomans and it continued in use right into the 19th century. These days its crenellated walls and many towers serve as the backdrop for Turkish films whose scripts demand a suitably ‘medieval’ looking castle. There’s not much left to look at inside.
Midway between these two attractions sits Anamur town, a sleepy, forgettable inland settlement. For those who fancy staying locally, the place to head for is the separate beach settlement of İskele where the eponymous harbour has turned into a sprawling mini resort, more popular with holidaying Turks than foreign tourists. Don’t expect anything too picturesque or historic and you won’t come away disappointed.