The Roman Daphne

harbiye1Nine kilometres south of Antakya in the Hatay, Harbiye, with its woods and waterfalls, was once a wealthy Roman town full of lovely villas whose mosaics now grace the Antakya Archaeological Museum.

According to Greek mythology, it was here that the nymph Daphne prayed to be changed into a laurel bush to protect her from the advances of Apollo.

Today it’s a popular place to come to dine on trout and künefe amid lush greenery with a constant backdrop of the sound of running water from several small waterfalls (şelale - che-lah-lay - and çağlayan - char-lie-an - are the words to watch for) and all the little rivulets that run through the restaurants. In some of the restaurants you can eat at tables set up right in the water, a real treat in summer. 

The restaurants and waterfalls are buried inside a green gorge at the end of the dolmuş run from central Antakya.

Laying a proper path down to them seems to be beyond the energies of the local authorities but as you wander down the mud track you'll notice a different stort of merchandise on sale in the stalls along the way. Harbiye is a largely Alevi settlement and much of what is on sale mimicks what you'll see at Hacıbektaş: images of the 12 imams, triptych images of Ataturk, carpets adorned with images of Alevi "martyrs" such as Deniz Geçmiş, the man always shown in a 1960s' style Parka jacket. On my most recent visit I even spotted a rug depicting President Bashar Assad of Syria, a nod perhaps towards the large new Syrian refugee population or perhaps towards some of the local Alawites. harbiye2


I dined on trout at the Çınaraltı Restaurant right at the bottom of the gorge with views of the largest waterfall. Afterwards I tried the künefe on sale at the Mosaic Restaurant, one of those wonderful places where someone with a magic touch has gathered together all sorts of bits and pieces to create a unique and lovely venue. I had trouble tearing myself away. 


There are several hotels overlooking the gorge and  some might find them an attractive alternative to the hotels in Antakya itself both for the fresh hill air and because of the easy access to the restaurants. 

Çağlayan Hotel. Tel: 0326-231 4269

Grand Boğaziçi Hotel. Tel: 0326-231 3131

Transport info

Frequent minibuses connect Kurtuluş Caddesi at the back of the market in Antakya with Harbiye.

Harbiye used to be on the road to Yayladağı where travellers to Latakia in Syria used to cross the border. Clearly, it would be unwise for anyone to attempt this now. 

harbiye3Remembering the events of 2013-14

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