This article has been previously published as a part of book Antalya, Side and Alanya: TAN Travel Guide by Izabela Miszczak
Several different places and objects are hidden under the name of Alara, which often appears in relation to sightseeing the region of Alanya. This text is devoted to the Seljuk caravanserai bearing this name, but keep in mind that Alara is also the name of the stream flowing close to this building, a nearby castle, and a waterfall, situated in a different location.
Alara Han caravanserai is referred to as the most famous and best preserved of all hans in Anatolia. In recognition of its beauty and historical significance, it was added to the World Heritage Tentative List of UNESCO in 2009.
Alara Han belongs to the category of so-called sultan caravanserais, which means that its construction was commissioned directly by the Sultan himself, in this case - the famous Alaaddin Keykubad, the conqueror of Alanya. The inscription, placed over the entrance to the caravanserai, gives the date of its construction - 1231, and the name of the Sultan along with his nickname - "the ruler of the lands and the seas," which also appears at the Red Tower in Alanya.
Alara Han is the second building of its kind on the road between Alanya and Antalya, after Şarapsa Han, and it served to travellers moving along the Mediterranean coast and further to the north, to the Seljuk capital of Konya. During its existence, the building served various functions - apart from the shelter to travellers it was used as a treasury and archives, and during the Ottoman period acted as the dervish lodge. In the mid-nineteenth century, it was abandoned and began to fall into disrepair. Only in 2001, the company from Ankara conducted a major renovation of this building. Since then it has been used as a cultural centre and a venue for "Turkish Nights".
The caravanserai was built of carefully hewn and connected limestone blocks, and the walls of the building are up to 2 meters thick. It is not the largest of the caravanserais, as its outer dimensions are just 35 to 45 meters. For comparison, Şarapsa Han is 62 meters long.
Alara Han is distinguished from other Seljuk caravanserais by the most complex architectural design, called a coaxial plan. It means that the building consists of a central courtyard surrounded by a double ring of rooms. It is understood that the premises belonging to the inner ring served as guest rooms and warehouses, and outer space was used as stables and workshops.
The problem of lighting inside the building was solved in an interesting way, by the installation of 79 lamps with tanks for oil in the shape of lion heads. The lion was a decorative motif often used in Seljuk architecture and was to symbolise the power of the state. In the case of Alara Han, there is even a legend connected to the carved lion heads. These heads make a sorrowful impression that was supposed to reflect a longing for home, often felt by travellers. Apparently, they smiled every time the wanderer arrived safely to his destination.
Alara Han caravanserai can be visited during the day without a fee. In the evenings, admission is limited to the attendants of the "Turkish Night" and other cultural and entertainment events. The on-site parking lot is free of charge.
By public transport: there are no public buses or minibuses to take you directly to the caravanserai. It is possible to get to the crossroads on the coastal D400 route and walk or hitch-hike the remaining 9 km.
By car: drive west from the centre of Alanya along D400 route in the direction of Antalya and Manavgat. After 30 km turn to the north in Okurcalar. The turn-off is clearly signposted. After driving for further 9 km you will reach Alara Han.