Belek Tourism Center, 36km (22 miles) east of Antalya and just south of Serik on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast (map), is a planned seaside resort with beaches, luxury hotels, lush golf courses and other vacation-time amusements.
Golf is, in fact, one of Belek’s main reasons for existence. The plan was to attract avid golfers from around the world to a Mediterranean resort planned with golfers in mind, but also close to many other attractions.
Hundreds of villas large and small compete for road frontage and water sources with the large hotels. Like the large hotels, the villa compounds are gated communities open only to property owners or guests. This makes it particularly well adapted to the security requirements of important world meetings, such as the G-20 meeting of presidents and prime ministers that took place here on November 15-16, 2015.
Belek has a small town center with municipal buildings, a city hall, various services, and shopping streets. Modern replicas of ancient Roman aqueducts and arches are common decorations in the city (really town) center.
Transportation among resorts, and to and from the town center and nearby sights, may need some planning. The Tourism Center covers a large area, the roads can be confusing, and the signage, while helpful, is often inadequate.
If you’re driving your own car, allow some time for wrong turns, dead ends and asking directions. If you’re coming by taxi, expect the fare to reflect the relatively long distances covered.
The only problem with Belek? It could be anywhere: Turkey, Thailand, Mexico, Paraguay, Spain. There’s little that is Turkish about it except the many workers who construct all the villas, manicure the golf courses, and work in the hotels. It’s a gigantic development still under construction, a villa sales office, a shopping mall, a tangle of busy roads, and vast expanses of grass kept green and fresh, even in the withering Mediterranean sun, by rivers of fresh water and tons of chemical fertilizers.
Why anyone would want to make a beautiful pine-forested stretch of Mediterranean shoreline resemble the rainy downs of Scotland (where golf originated) I do not know.
If tourism is a business, then Belek, like Cancún, is its factory: resources and tourists go in one end, money comes out the other.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with money. We all need it, and all of the workers at Belek are undoubtedly happy to have their jobs so they can provide for their families. Turkey’s economy relies heavily on tourism for billions in foreign exchange, and tourism has helped many Turks to better their lives, their health, and their children’s promise for the future.
Belek is successful. Lots of people like it.
As for me, I think of my favorite boutique hotel in the historic center of Antalya, the Tuvana, with its charming atmosphere, personal service, friendly owner and manager, and I want no part of a huge gated golf-course hotel with a staff of hundreds.
I think of what lies just east and inland from Belek: the road to Köprülü Kanyon National Park. After my visit to Belek, I drove this road, a narrow two-lane in good condition that winds through farming country dotted with ancient aqueducts, up into the mountains, with spectacular views of the peaks and the emerald-green river that courses among them. This, for me, is Turkey: sun, beautiful countryside, farming villages, friendly people (they’ll take you rafting along the river if you like), and ancient Roman ruins (Selge, at the top of the valley.)
Belek? If you like it, it’s yours. Hope you enjoy it! I won’t crowd your space.
If you want to reach me, I’ll be in Turkey.
—by Tom Brosnahan
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