Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

Exploring Ukraine: The Pearl of the Black Sea, Odessa

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Sunrise fishing 

Ukraine isn’t a particularly popular tourist destination, although it has a plenty of wonderful sights- like the Black Sea coast with sandy beaches and great local wineries, and the Carpathian Mountains with their striking natural scenery and beautiful small villages.

Odessa, a beautiful city in the south west part of Ukraine, is a longtime favorite spot for a getaway. It has very distinct culture and its inhabitants even have a region specific accent. It is very different from any other Ukrainian city, yet as welcoming as the others.

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Passing Vorontsov Lighthouse on a boat

Port

First and foremost, Odessa is a seaport. It started as a port and it still holds it’s privilege of a free port and free economic zone. During the 19th century, it was the fourth largest city in Imperial Russia, after Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Warsaw.

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Port of Odessa

It’s port (locally known as Morskoy Vokzal) is a great place to get oriented with the city. From impressive hotel buildings reaching towards the skies to fast and elegant motor boats in Yacht Club, it offers quite a few photo ops.

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Yacht Club

Once you are at the port, don’t miss a chance to go further – by a scheduled or private boat tour. The prices start as lows as $4 for a group option, and from $30 for a private hire. It is also the only way to see the 27 meter (88 foot) red-and-white Vorontsov Lighthouse, one of port’s famous landmarks.

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Selfie on Board

The Port is also a good point to start a nice city walk. Go climb (or use funicular!)  the recently renovated Potemkin Stairs considered a formal entrance into the city from the direction of the sea. This giant staircase 142 meters long is the best known symbol of Odessa. As a bonus you get the greatest view of the harbor.

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Viewing machine at the top of Potemkin Stairs

Architecture

Odessa’s historical architecture has a style more Mediterranean than Russian, having been heavily influenced by French and Italian styles. Some buildings are built in a mixture of different styles, including Art Nouveau, Renaissance and Classicist.

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Inside the museum of Western and Eastern Art

If you’re dreaming to get away from the crowd, try going to museum instead of a beach, try Museum of Western and Eastern Art (entry fee $2). Not only it is located in a beautiful 19th century building, it also has a magnificent collection of paintings, sculptures, porcelain, furniture and more. The exhibitions include ancient, western European and eastern arts, and western European collection of exhibits.

 

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Keep walking towards second most famous symbol of Odessa it’s Opera Theater. Its neo-baroque building was constructed in 1887 by two Viennese architects, Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer. It was also the first building in Odessa to use electric illumination.

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Fountains Near Opera Theater

Beach

Although Odessa has a few public beaches, they become overcrowded in the summer. For a more pleasant experience I would advise to pick one of the numerous beach clubs. The entry is usually free, but you have to pay for a beach chair ($5-10/a day), towels or umbrellas, if you’re using any.

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Early morning at Bright On Beach

My choice was Bright On Beach club, for bright girlish design, reasonable prices and perfect peach sangria at the bar!

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Peach Sangria at Bright On Beach

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Oh, and don’t forget flamingos!

Food

Summer is the season of open terraces and cold coffee in Odessa, my all time favourite it a White Whale, where you can find the best cappuccino in city and  a variety of alternative brews. For a fancy cup with vegan options try order Coconut Latte at Moloko Bar. Their specialty is actually a trifle yogurt with a broad list of add-ons, so it’s a perfect place to indulge yourself with healthy and yummy breakfast before heading off to the beach.

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Trifle yogurt with blueberries and coconut latte at Moloko Bar

Eating local is a must at Odessa. And here it means you should try the seafood. I woulds advise you skip Forshmak (a combination of pickled herring and apples is not for everyone, or at least not for me), but local mussels are a dish of choice. While you can find mussels at almost every cafe in the city, I advise visiting the place that specializes in bivalve molluscs, like Kotelok Mussels Bar.

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Grilled mussels with cheese and tomato sauce at Kotelok

For a good dinner with live music head to Odessa City Food Market. The newly established local food hall is the one and only in Ukraine. With an open floor plan; fresh food prepared in front of your eyes; a post-industrial space, and good-looking people sharing communal tables or sitting on stools around countertops this place is a perfect pick for a night out.

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Oysters and Wine

Welcome the Sun

There is something special about sunset and sunrises at the seaside. Odessa is facing the East, so sunsets are quite boring here, yet seeing the sun rising from the water is very special experience.

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Sunrise colors of Odessa Port

My favorite sunrise spot is Langeron beach. It is the closest beach to the city center, and has unobstructed views of the sun. On weekend mornings, you’ll always find here late party goers, fishermen, tourists, local park workers, all of them gathered with a single purpose: to witness the first light of the day. So why not join?:)

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Chasing the sun

Odessa International Airport (ODS) has daily direct connections from and to Kiev, Vienna, Istanbul, Ankara, Warsaw, Budapest, Minsk, Prague,Tel-Aviv. Several days a week there are also scheduled flights to Athens, Dubai, Milan, Sharm-El-Sheikh and Saloniki.

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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: a Stay at Travaasa Hana

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Pool and the Pacific at Travaasa

If you want to drive the Road to Hana at a more relaxed pace, and stay for a night (or three) in the Hana area, Travaasa Hana (formerly known as the Hotel Hana Maui) is the best bet for the luxury traveler. There are other options in town (including Airbnb properties), but if you want a full-service property, Travaasa is the way to go. Travaasa also offers a stay three nights and fly for free promotion that allows those who want to skip driving the Road to Hana altogether.

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One of the charming Ocean Bungalows at Travaasa Hana on Maui

Not all rooms at Travaasa are created equal. The Ocean Bungalows are located across the street from the main hotel complex, near the pool and fitness studio. They are more expensive than the Garden Junior Suites and worth every additional penny. Our first room was a Garden Junior Suite and only had a standing oscillating fan for cooling. It was tolerable but not pleasant.

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The Ocean Bungalows had lovely breezes coming off the water, and newly refurbished bathrooms. It was a much more pleasant environment overall. The ocean bungalow also had a spacious lanai (balcony) which was great for viewing the sunset or enjoying a drink.

Rainbow time lapse at the Hotel Travaasa Maui

I shot this time lapse of a rainbow appearing from my ocean bungalow at the Hotel Travaasa Maui.

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Rainbow views at the Hotel Travaasa Hana on Maui

While the Hotel Travaasa does not have it’s own beach, it’s a mere 10 minute walk from the property to Hana’s gorgeous Red Sand Beach (also known as Kaihalulu).

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Bed in an ocean bungalow

Hana is not a highly populated area and while all the hotel staff were very nice, service was uneven. The bellman who showed us to our room the first night (a Garden Junior Suite) did not point out where the hotel’s pool was located. When we ordered cocktails from room service, they failed to make note of our room number and we had to call back. The staff made up for the error by comping the round of drinks.

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Lovely renovated bathroom in the Ocean Bungalow

Tennis courts and a rec room are some of the other facilities on the Travaasa Hana property .

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Another view of the bedroom of an Ocean Bungalow at Travaasa

Travaasa rates can be all-inclusive or priced a la carte. We opted for a la carte and think it was the right choice. While there isn’t a wide selection of full service restaurants in the area, there are several food trunks that served tasty tacos and bbq that are perfect for lunch or a quick snack.

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The living room of the Ocean Bungalow at Travaasa Hana

All rooms come stocked with coffee makers and banana bread, a local specialty.

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The ocean bungalows at Travaasa

Travaasa also offers a schedule of cultural, culinary, and adventure experiences as well as fitness classes. Some are free, others are offered for an additional fee. There is also a spa on the property. I can’t vouch for any of the classes or spa services since we used Travaasa as a home base for Hana and spent most of our time off the property exploring the area. The spa and fitness class space did however look lovely.

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Sunshine on the Ocean Bungalows

I really enjoyed Hana and would happily stay at Travaasa Hana again. But I’d be sure to book an Ocean Bungalow and I’d want to have my car with me so I could continue to explore the area and not be isolated on the property.

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Entrance to Travaasa Hana

The restaurant on property was fine but not exceptional, and service is more laid back than you will find in the other resort areas of Maui like Wailea or Kaanapali.

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Breakfast at Travaasa Hana

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A view of the Ocean Bungalows at Travaasa Hana

Travaasa isn’t cheap but I’d happily stay here again. It’s not the place for you if you require five star service or strong A.C., but it’s a lovely place to use as a base to explore the Road to Hana and the Kīpahulu District of Haleakala National Park.

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Rocks along the walk to the Red Sand Beach

If you are staying at Travaasa, please keep in mind driving the Road to Hana after dark is dangerous and plan your driving time so that you arrive before dark. Hana doesn’t have a buzzing night scene but it a good night’s sleep can help you beat the crowds at some of the best attractions in the area by getting on the road early after a good night’s sleep.

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Maui’s Red Sand beach is a 10 minute walk from Travaasa

The vibe in Hana is chill and relaxed, so you just kind of go with it and enjoy the island vibe. It’s fantastic.

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Pink clouds at Travaasa Hana on Maui

Travaasa Hana Maui

5031 Hana Hwy
Hana, Hi 96713

Tel: 808-248-8211

Room rates start at $450

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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: Ho’okipa Beach, Paia and Mama’s Fish House

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The beach outside of Mama’s Fish House

If you’re looking for something different from the mega resorts on Maui, I’d highly advise spending a day exploring Ho’okipa Beach Park and the charming town of Paia.  Ho’okipa is one of the best windsurfing spots on the island if not the planet. It’s also a favorite of surfers and people who just want to watch them while enjoying a day at the beach.

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Summer day at Ho’okipa Beach Park

I am particularly fond of the mix of locals and tourists at Ho’okipa Beach. There are even a few interesting food trucks if you need a quick bite to eat.

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Food trucks at Ho’okipa Beach 

Drink a coconut or grab a nibble, but don’t spoil your appetite. You’ll want it later.

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Another view of Ho’okipa Beach 

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Left: Getting ready to surf at Ho’okipa Right: Surfing rush hour

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Windsurfing at Ho’okipa Beach

Ho’okipa is located close to Paia, which a charming spot to browse, go shopping, or grab a shave ice.

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Sun’s out/buns out at Ho’okipa Beach

Bathing suits are cheeky this season. If you’re doing the sun’s out/buns out thing, don’t forget your sunscreen!

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Kampachi Ceviche at Mama’s Fish House

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After you’ve worked up an appetite at the beach, head to nearby Mama’s Fish House for a meal. Be sure to book ahead… there is a reason Mama’s is so popular!

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Left: Blue Hawaiian at Mama’s Fish House Right: the cute pineapple I found blended right in with the Hawaiian decor

While fresh fish is the specialty at Mama’s they also serve excellent short ribs as well as some island specialities like fresh poi and kalua wild boar.

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Grilled shrimp at Mama’s

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img_9419Left: Ahi poke Right: Fresh poi comes complimentary at Mama’s

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Mahi mahi and ahi Panang curry

This is great place to try a tropical cocktail. Mama’s version of the Mai Tai isn’t too sweet. The Blue Hawaiian is probably more photogenic than it is my taste.

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Tiki pineapple goodness at Mama’s Fish House

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Mama’s menu + pineapple = art

After a mai tai or two, I got creative and noticed my pineapple felt like part of the menu art at Mama’s Fish House.

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View from a table at Mama’s Fish House

Mama’s Fish House also has The Inn at Mama’s right next door, should you wish to stay in this charming part of the island. I plan on doing so on my next visit to the island.

Ho’okipa Beach Park

Located at Mile #9 on Hâna Highway (36).

Mama’s Fish House

799 Poho Place,
Paia, HI 96779
TEL (808) 579-8488
FAX (808) 579-8594

OPEN DAILY from 11am to 9pm

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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: A Sunset Sail on the Alli’i Nui

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Sailing at sunset on Maui

On my recent girls trip to Maui, I decided to take a sunset cruise to check out the scenery by boat. After reading many reviews, I booked on the Royal Feast Dinner Sail aboard the Alii Nui.

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Bare feet aboard the Alii Nui

This two 1/2 hour adults-only cruise provided transportation to and from our hotel (the Andaz Maui at Wailea), and I liked that the luxury sailing catamaran was capacity controlled so that guests plenty of space. The $189.00 all-inclusive price included unlimited cocktails as well as dinner and transportation (gratuity is not included).

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Up go the sails on the Alii Nui

The dinner menu included appetizers such as local vegetable crudités, caprese skewers, cheese and crackers and wide array of selections for dinner. Prime rib, Kiawe smoked baby back ribs, sushi, and crab cakes were very popular. Everything I tried was good but food was not the main focus of this sunset cruise. The full bar with cocktails, beer and wine were also included. There was even a selection of Scotch and after dinner liquors.

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Magic hour aboard the Alii Nui

The crew of the Alii Nui made us feel taken care of before we even got to Maalaea Harbor. They were great about confirming pickup time at the hotel via text and our transportation arrived promptly. Guests were looped in on the plan for the evening, and the high staff to guest ratio was nice. Everyone was ready to have a good time before we took off our shoes once we boarded the 65′ sailing catamaran for this barefoot sunset dinner cruise.

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Pineapple over the Pacific

While the cruise was not a tour, the crew was available to answer questions and made sure everyone got enough cocktails and food. They even offered to take pictures of the guests, which was a nice touch. The music selection was nice and played at a non-intrusive volume.

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Blue hour aboard the Alii Nui

I must confess that boats are not my favorite mode of transportation. But sea sickness wasn’t an issue for anyone during this smooth sail.

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Sundowner aboard the Alii Nui

Alcohol brands were premium and cocktails did not seem especially strong, but everyone was having a great time. There were also plenty of non alcoholic beverages as well as coffee and tea. Guests seemed fond of the signature Slip 56 signature cocktail and the Alii Nui Mai Tais.

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Obligatory sailing selfie with Zan Aufderheide

The other guests were friendly and the boat offered enough space above and below deck for guests to spread out. Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of taking in the blue Pacific waters and the gorgeous sunset and West Maui views.

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Sailboats, sunset and windmills and moody clouds

The Alii Nui crew had service down to a science and the separate bathroom facilities for men and women were appreciated.

A little video of the Royal Feast Sunset Cruise on the Alii Nui

I started to think that Christopher Cross might be onto something with this sailing stuff!

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Happy customers aboard the Alii Nui

I was impressed with the value for money of the Royal Feast Dinner Cruise on the Ali’i Nui. The Alii Nui offers a wide variety of other charters including whale watching, snorkeling trips to Molokini and Turtle Point, and other speciality cruises. Our experience was so positive we hope to take one of their snorkeling trips on a future trip to Maui.

Alii Nui Sailing Charters
Toll Free (US only): 1- 800-542-3483 Ext. 1 Local: 1-808-875-0333
info@aliinuimaui.com

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Exploring Turkey: Lycian, Greek and Roman cities of Anatolia

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Sundown on the main street of Phaselis

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh is the social media manager for My Life’s a Trip. She recently traveled to Anatolia, Turkey and agreed to do this guest post for the blog. I learned a lot about the fascinating history of Turkey’s southern coast and now I’m really curious to visit Anatolia. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did. – Jen Pollack Bianco

I used to think of Turkey as a larger version of Istanbul. With its wonderful mix of European and Asian cultures, an overwhelming Grand Bazaar, high minarets, strong coffee and wonderful Turkish delights being sold at every corner. But there are some places in this huge country that were inhabited long before Ottoman, Byzantine, or even Roman Empire existed.

The south coast of Turkey was once a home to Lycia, an ancient federation of city-states that existed at the same time as ancient Egypt.

Sunken City 

The best part of visiting was getting there is by the sea. Many boats run trips from Kas and Cayagzi, the harbor of Demre.

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Sailing to Kekova

The sea-trading city of Simena located on Kekova Island was once a part of Lycia. Simena was destroyed by an earthquake during the 2nd century and partially sank beneath the waves.

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Clear waters in Protected area near Sunken city

It is still possible to see the city ruins above the shoreline and below the clear waters of the Mediterranean. The island, where the ruins are located, is now uninhabited. In 1990 the Turkish government declared it to be a Protected Area, and all kinds of water activities (diving, swimming, snorkeling) are now forbidden without a special permit in the area around the sunken city.

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The ruins of Simena with staircase leading underwater

Limyra

From Antalya take the main road 400 in the direction of Kumluca and further to Demre/Kale. Near Finike the ruins can be easily spotted on both sides of the road.

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Lycian Cliff Tombs

Limyra was one of the oldest cities in Lycia and even once was proclaimed a capital of the lycian league. The city was conquered by Cyrus the Great and would stay under Persian control until the very end of its days, when it was conquered by Alexander the Great, in the second century BC it eventually became a part of Roman Empire.

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A theatre from the Roman age, with seating capacity for 8,000 spectators

Among the ruins of Limyra the most impressive are those of Roman amphitheatre and distinctive rock-cut Lycian tombs Lycia in the sides of cliffs. Lycians believed that their dead will be transported to the afterworld by a siren-like creature, so often placed their tombs along the coast or in the cliffs for an easier access from the air.

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A part of bath system built near theatre

Phaselis

About 12 km from Kemer, north of town Tekirova. The site is located within National Park, entrance fee is $6(20TRY).

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The small Baths

One of the most impressive archeological sites we visited was the remains of ancient Phaselis. The city was founded by Greek colonists, that most likely came from Rhodes. The unique location of the city, with it’s tree natural harbours, made it a prosperous port and important trading center. One of the harbours (called “Sun Harbour”) if still being used today, mostly for tourist boats.

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The Roman aqueduct is the first and most obvious landmark of the site.

In the 6th century BC, Phaselis was captured by the Persians, then it fell to Alexander The Great. It is said sometimes that he’s golden sarcophagus could be buried somewhere in the city, after it was brought from Alexandria to avoid its demolition.

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The ruins of Hadrianus Arch

The years of Roman rule were the year of constant growth and prosperity for the city. The city was even visited by an Emperor Hadrianus. A monumental arch at the beginning of the main street was built i his name. It’s remains can still be seen near South Harbour of the city.

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Ancient walls

Once again the city was great during Byzantine period, but then pirates and Arab invasions, along with earthquakes and growth of port activity in Alanya and Antalya, Phaselis ceased to exist.

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The Roman theater dates from the second century and could hold around 3000 people.

The most of the ruins are from Roman and Byzantine times. The Aqueduct and the theatre are well preserved. There were two temples in the area, one dedicated to Afina and the other one to Hermes and Hestia, but they are basically non-existant. A colonnaded paved ancient street is still leading from the central harbor to the remains of Hadrian Gate. You can see the ruins of bathhouse and some other public building along it. The necropolis is located to the north of the site.

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The closest airport for getting to know Lycian heritage is Antalya International Airport (AYT), numerous scheduled and charter flights go here from all over the Europe.

You can rent a car (from $25/day) for a self-drive trip, or book a tour to the main sites(group tours prices start at $10) in Antalya.

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