Visit the Roman theatre of Aspendos

Turkey’s rich history is visible through the ancient ruins that have been unearthed all over the country. But one of the country’s most famous sites didn’t need to be uncovered; the Roman theatre of Aspendos dates back to around 160-180 AD, and its impressive construction has allowed it to stand the test of time. Today, it remains a spectacular sight and almost 400,000 people flock to see this ancient marvel every year.

Antalya may be well known for its yacht-filled Old Harbour, sandy beaches and turquoise waters. But right on its doorstep, this 2,000-year-old wonder is ready and waiting for you to explore. You’ll find it in the nearby village of Belkis, and it’s considered to be the best-preserved Roman theatre of the ancient world.

The theatre is believed to have been built in the 2nd century, during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, as a gift for two rich brothers. Even after all this time, it’s still standing tall at around 22 metres high and is in beautiful condition.

Make your way up the stairs and you’ll see the huge arena in all its glory; up to 7,600 people would have once taken a seat here to watch the entertainment. Carry on right to the top of the stairs and step through the intricate, hand-carved archways and you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the glorious Turkish countryside.

Experience the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival

As well as being a popular tourist attraction, this ancient amphitheatre also plays host to the internationally acclaimed Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival every year. It’s held in September, and you can expect a truly unique atmosphere unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced. The acoustics are incredible so even if you’re sat right at the back you’ll hear every note. The historical setting and breathtaking performances make this one of the best places in the world to hear opera and watch ballet.

This event has been organised by the Turkish State Opera and Ballet since 1994. It runs for a three to four-week period, and thousands of people attend a series of performances every year. Accepted as a member of the European Festivals Association in 2003, it’s also earned its prestigious place among other festivals in the world.

Originally, the main aim behind the festival was to remove the barriers of religion, language and race by bringing people together with art, music and dance. Today, performers come from across the globe to perform in this unique setting, so it’s safe to say the goal’s been achieved.

What’s on offer?

You can expect a mix of popular and experimental opera, ballet, and classical concerts on the programme. This includes iconic productions like Madame Butterfly, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Whether it’s the Moscow State Ballet, Istanbul State Opera and Ballet, or Antalya State Opera and Ballet on stage, every performance is guaranteed to be a breathtaking experience, and the spectacular setting of the theatre makes it even more stunning.

You can also expect the stage design and costumes to match the high standard of the performers. Watch the performance in comfort and bring some cushions, food and drink (make sure you’re not rustling those wrappers while they’re performing), and pack an umbrella in case of rain.

Where can I get tickets?

You can buy tickets for the festival in advance online, and from the theatre’s ticket office on the night. Tickets are also available from travel agents in Antalya or Side, so pop in and ask if you’re interested. Ticket prices vary, depending on where and when you buy them, but they’re usually pretty good value for an evening of world-class music.

Can’t make it to the official Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival, but still want to see a show? Shows take place all year round at the modern Aspendos Arena; it’s not far from away from the amphitheatre.

How to get there

There are lots of tours available that will take you from Antalya or Side to the theatre. Alternatively, you can take public transport; just hop aboard a city bus to Serik and transfer to Aspendos from there. Or you could book yourself a private taxi if it’s more convenient for you.