In addition to gorgeous white-sand and pebble beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a variety of water sports and nightlife, the central and southern Aegean regions of Turkey have some of the country's most captivating historical sites, including the ruins of Ephesus, Aphrodisias, and the travertine cliffs of Pamukkale. You’ll never lack for delicious local food; the soil yields bumper crops of figs, peaches, olives, vegetables, and citrus fruits.
- İzmir and Çeşme. The port city of İzmir (ancient Smyrna) is the third-largest city in Turkey, with enough sights and glimpses into everyday Turkish life to keep you well occupied for a day or two. Nearby Çeşme, a dry peninsula at the western tip of the region, has some of the region's most pristine waters. Some of the best beaches are located in Altınkum and Pırlanta, southwest of Çeşme—the names literally mean "golden sand" and "sparkling." For the trendy beach clubs, head to Ayayorgi Bay and for nightlife, go to Alaçatı.
- Selçuk, Ephesus, and Şirince. Selçuk is the town nearest to the archaeological ruins at Ephesus and a charmer; it's also well worth the extra 15-minute drive to see the hill village of Şirince.
- Kuşadası and Environs. These days, Kuşadası’s claim to fame is as a cruise port, with passengers disembarking for day trips to Ephesus; unless you like bland and overdeveloped ports, give it a miss. Within driving distance, however, are several sites worth visiting: the ancient Roman city of Aphrodisias, the layered limestone-travertine terraces and hot springs of Pamukkale, and the ruins of Didyma, Miletus, and Priene are worthwhile stops as you work your way south toward Bodrum.
- Bodrum Peninsula. Throbbing resort life has descended upon the coves and bays of this stylish peninsula on the southern Aegean coast over the years, but each town still has its own charms: some have excellent water sports, some are great for relaxation, and others are all about the nightlife.
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