The Central and Southern Aegean Coast

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  • 1. Alaçatı Beach

    The sandy beach at Alaçatı, about 6 km (nearly 4 miles) south of town, is ideal for windsurfing, with strong winds and few waves. Unfortunately,...

    The sandy beach at Alaçatı, about 6 km (nearly 4 miles) south of town, is ideal for windsurfing, with strong winds and few waves. Unfortunately, there is only a small public beach here, but many of the comfortable private beach clubs and hotels with private beaches allow nonguests for a day rate. The water is cooler at Alaçatı than it is at other beaches, and stunningly blue over the pale, fine sand. In addition to windsurfing, water sports like waterskiing, banana boat rides, and kitesurfing are available here. Amenities: food and drink; toilets; showers; water sports. Best for: windsurfing.

    Alaçatı Plajı, Alaçati, Izmir, Turkey
  • 2. Aphrodisias

    Though most of what you see today dates from the 1st and 2nd century AD, archaeological evidence indicates that the local dedication to Aphrodite follows...

    Though most of what you see today dates from the 1st and 2nd century AD, archaeological evidence indicates that the local dedication to Aphrodite follows a long history of veneration of pre-Hellenic goddesses, such as the Anatolian mother goddess and the Babylonian god Ishtar. Only about half of the site has been excavated. It's much less crowded than Ephesus, and enough remains to conjure the ancient city. Once you reach the pretty, rural site, you'll take a short, bumpy ride on an open-air shuttle from the parking area to the main gate. The lovely Tetrapylon gateway has four rows of columns and some of the better remaining friezes. Behind it, the vast Temple of Aphrodite was built in the 1st century BC on the model of the great temples at Ephesus, and later transformed into a basilica church. Its gate and many of its columns are still standing. The impressive, well-preserved 1st century AD stadium could seat up to 30,000 spectators to watch footraces, boxing and wrestling matches. You'll also find the once-magnificent ruined residence, the fine Odeon (also known as the Bouleuterion, or Council House); an intimate, semicircular concert hall and public meeting room; towering public baths; and the sprawling agora. The 7,000 white-marble seats of the city's theater, built into the side of a small hill, are simply dazzling on a bright day. The adjacent School of Philosophy has a colonnaded courtyard with chambers lining both sides. In the museum, just before the ticket booth, Aphrodisias bursts back into life in vivid friezes and sculptures that seem almost about to draw breath. The museum's collection includes dozens of impressive statues and reliefs from the site, including Aphrodite herself, with excellent labeling (particularly in the grand display in the Sevgi Gönül Salonu) explaining their significance and symbolism.

    Geyre, Aydin, Turkey

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL40; audio guide TL20
  • 3. Bergama

    One of the Turkey's best preserved ancient cities, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and target of most cruises' disembarking passengers, Bergama, lies just 40 km (25...

    One of the Turkey's best preserved ancient cities, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and target of most cruises' disembarking passengers, Bergama, lies just 40 km (25 miles) east down a well-trodden tourist path. Known during Greek and Roman times as Pergamon, the city was renowned for its arts and medicine. Its lofty status is confirmed by a treasure trove of ruins including temples, palaces, shops, a library, and a 10,000-seat theater, the steepest of its age. In the center of the new town, many artifacts are on display at the archaeology museum.

    Bergama, Izmir, Turkey
    0232-631–0778-archaeology museum

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 25 TL, Apr.–Oct., daily 8–7; Nov.–Mar. 8–5
  • 4. Bodrum Castle and Museum of Underwater Archaeology

    Built in the early 15th century by the Knights Hospitaller (Knights of St. John), the Petronion, better known as Bodrum Castle or the Castle of...

    Built in the early 15th century by the Knights Hospitaller (Knights of St. John), the Petronion, better known as Bodrum Castle or the Castle of St. Peter, rises between Bodrum's twin harbors like an illustration from a fairy tale. With German knight-architect Heinrich Schlegelholt at the helm, the knightly builders plundered the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus for green volcanic stone, marble columns, and reliefs to create this showpiece of late-medieval architecture, whose walls are studded with 249 coats of arms, including the crests of the Plantagenets and d'Aubussons. The castle's towers and gardens are visible from many parts of town, and the name "Bodrum" itself likely derives from the word Petronion. Some of the castle's towers are named after the homelands of the knights who built them: France, Germany, Italy, and England (the English Tower, embellished with a relief of a lion, is known as the Lion Tower, and contains a replica of a medieval hall). The castle now houses the fascinating Museum of Underwater Archaeology, where displays include the world's oldest excavated shipwreck (Uluburun), the tomb of the so-called "Carian Princess," and the sunken cargoes of many ancient and medieval ships that sank off the treacherous Aegean coast.

    Kale Cad., Bodrum, Mugla, 48400, Turkey
    252-214–1261

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL90; audio guide TL30
  • 5. Çeşme Kalesi

    Constructed during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II (ruled 1481–1512) to defend the port, this castle is very picturesque, with its stone walls often lined...

    Constructed during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II (ruled 1481–1512) to defend the port, this castle is very picturesque, with its stone walls often lined with sun-basking lizards and tortoises. The keep is often deep in wildflowers. The castle houses a small Archaeology Museum, displaying weaponry from the glory days of the Ottoman Empire, cannons from 18th-century sea skirmishes with the Russians, and a modest collection of ancient artifacts. Clamber around the towers for sweeping views of the sea and the city; keep close watch on kids around the less-than-secure railings.

    Çesme, Izmir, 35930, Turkey

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL25
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  • 6. Dilek Yarımadası Milli Parkı

    If you're looking for beaches, either head north from Kuşadası to Pamucak or travel 33 km (20 miles) south to this lovely national park, which...

    If you're looking for beaches, either head north from Kuşadası to Pamucak or travel 33 km (20 miles) south to this lovely national park, which has good hiking trails through woods and canyons and several quiet stretches of sand. The İçmeler beach, closest to the entrance, is also the most crowded. Travel 15 minutes to Karaburun for a more low-key atmosphere. The beaches are clean, with nearby picnic tables, toilets, changing cabins, and outdoor showers, but you should bring your own food and drink. (Note that the park is only open to a limited number of private vehicles a day.) You can catch a Güzelçamlı-bound dolmuş/minibus from Kuşadaşı or nearby transport hub Söke that will take visitors into the park and make a circuit of some of the most popular beaches. The park also contains the so-called "Cave of Zeus," and an archaeological site from when the peninsula was known as Mycale.

    Güzelçamli, Aydin, Turkey
    256-646–1079

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL10; TL30 to enter with a car
  • 7. Ephesus Archaeological Site

    The ruin of Ephesus, once the most important Greco-Roman city of the eastern Mediterranean, is one of the best preserved ancient sites in the world....

    The ruin of Ephesus, once the most important Greco-Roman city of the eastern Mediterranean, is one of the best preserved ancient sites in the world. Today, modern travelers can trace the splendor and collapse of ancient civilizations in Ephesus's spectacular landscape of ruined temples, theaters, and colonnaded streets. There are two entrances to the site, which is on a hill: one at the top of the site (Üst Kapı, or Upper Gate) and one at the bottom (Alt Kapı, or Lower Gate—this is where to find the public dolmuş stop). The main avenue is about a mile long but there are a number of intriguing detours, so a minimum visit of two hours can easily stretch to four. Buy water and a light snack in Selçuk town before you head for Ephesus. In summer, when shade is at a premium, a hat is a very good idea. Highlights of the site include the spectacular theater, backed by the western slope of Mt. Pion, which once seated an estimated 25,000 to 40,000 spectators; the beautiful, two-story Library of Celsus; and the terrace houses, the multistoried houses of the nobility, with terraces and courtyards (which have a separate entrance fee). See the highlighted Ephesus feature in this chapter for more information.

    Selçuk, Izmir, Turkey
    232-892–6010-(Ephesus Museum; ask to be connected to the site)

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From TL120
  • 8. Ephesus Müzesi

    This small museum has one of the best collections of Roman and Greek artifacts found anywhere in Turkey. The well-displayed and labeled holdings date from...

    This small museum has one of the best collections of Roman and Greek artifacts found anywhere in Turkey. The well-displayed and labeled holdings date from the neolithic to Ottoman periods and include fine sculptures, friezes, mosaics, and reliefs. The elaborately carved white statues of Artemis are particularly notable, while the exhibit of jewelry, cosmetics, medical instruments, and housewares from Ephesus's terrace houses gives an intimate glimpse into day-to-day life in the ancient city.

    Uğur Mumcu Sevgi Yolu, Selçuk, Izmir, 35920, Turkey
    232-892–6010

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL30
  • 9. Kemeraltı

    Konak Meydanı marks the start of this energetic marketplace, encircled by Anafartalar Caddesi, that spills into a maze of tiny streets, filled with shops and...

    Konak Meydanı marks the start of this energetic marketplace, encircled by Anafartalar Caddesi, that spills into a maze of tiny streets, filled with shops and covered stalls. In the smaller side streets, you'll find tiny districts dedicated to musical instruments, leather, costume jewelry, and accessories, among other things. Begin at a restored Ottoman kervansaray, the Kızlarağası Hanı, completed around 1745. Downstairs, its vaulted shops mostly sell cheesy souvenirs, while the quieter upper floor, where some artisans still have their workshops, is a peaceful spot for a cup of tea or for poking through the antique dealers' old books and records. The nearby, late-16th-century Hisar Camii (one of the largest and oldest in İzmir) is worth a peek, and is surrounded by kebab joints shaded by large trees. Go farther into Kemeraltı and you'll wind up at Havra Sokağı, an outdoor market full of stalls selling spices, fruits, and other foodstuffs. Among this labyrinth of streets you'll also find the crumbling remains of numerous old synagogues, some of which are being restored.

    Konak, Izmir, 35000, Turkey
  • 10. Kordon

    The lively and pleasant waterfront promenade is the most popular section of town and is perfect for a summer stroll; many locals use the sea...

    The lively and pleasant waterfront promenade is the most popular section of town and is perfect for a summer stroll; many locals use the sea breeze to fly kites. It starts at the Pasaport ferry pier and stretches north to Alsancak. Along the grassy, waterfront strip are several excellent seafood restaurants and cafés, all with outdoor seating overlooking the Aegean sea. It's fun to tour the area by fayton (horse-drawn carriage); they are stationed in the Cumhuriyet Meydanı, steps from the beginning of the Kordon (be sure to agree to a fair price in advance).

    Izmir, Izmir, Turkey
  • 11. Pırlanta Beach

    The name means "brilliant" or "diamond" and this beach outside Çiftlikköy certainly has seawater that's as clear as glass, gentle and shallow (you can sit...

    The name means "brilliant" or "diamond" and this beach outside Çiftlikköy certainly has seawater that's as clear as glass, gentle and shallow (you can sit in the water and read a book!). The waters are warmer here than at nearby beaches such as Altınkum, and mercifully free of seaweed or sea urchins. The pale, fine sand is usually clean, the beach peaceful, and there are changing rooms. You can snorkel, but kitesurfing is prohibited. If you want shade, you'll have to rent a beach chair and umbrella from the snack shack. There are many motels and pensions near this area, as well as a campground. Amenities: food and drink; parking; toilets. Best for: sunbathing; swimming; walking.

    Pırlanta Plajı, Çesme, Izmir, Turkey
  • 12. St. Jean Anıtı

    Step through the impressive, pre-Justinianic marble portal (its huge blocks likely plundered from the nearby Temple of Artemis) to approach the basilica, which sits below...

    Step through the impressive, pre-Justinianic marble portal (its huge blocks likely plundered from the nearby Temple of Artemis) to approach the basilica, which sits below the crenellated walls of the Fortress of Ayasuluk, likely covering the site of the most ancient settlement in Selçuk. In the 6th century AD, after earthquakes destroyed the modest church believed to mark the grave of St. John the Evangelist, Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora commanded that a grand marble basilica be erected over the site on Ayasuluk Hill, its eleven domes grand enough to rival the imperial pair's other legendary building project, Hagia Sophia. The basilica's barrel-vaulted roof collapsed after another long-ago earthquake, but the ruined church is still an incredibly evocative sight, with its labyrinth of halls and marble courtyards, and occasional mosaic fragments. Both the basilica and the fortress, the work of Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman builders, provide stunning views of the Plain of Ephesus and the İsa Bey Mosque. Come by in the early morning or late afternoon when there are rarely crowds; if arriving later in the day, be sure to visit the fortress first---it closes earlier than the basilica area.

    Selçuk, Izmir, 35920, Turkey
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL30
  • 13. Alaçatı

    Known for its windmills, trendy cafés, boutiques, and gourmet restaurants, this pretty village has become wildly popular of late. On summer evenings, the main strip...

    Known for its windmills, trendy cafés, boutiques, and gourmet restaurants, this pretty village has become wildly popular of late. On summer evenings, the main strip of Alaçatı bustles with hip crowds; to avoid the hubbub come in the afternoon, when the crowd is mostly locals and store owners, although it can get very hot and many restaurants don't open until later in the day. Wander the backstreets to see picturesque Greek houses (many turned into boutique hotels) and the Greek church-turned-mosque (Pazaryeri Camii), where a curtain hides 19th-century Orthodox icons at prayer times. Tiny outdoor cafés selling tea, lemonade, plum juice (erik suyu), and mastic-infused Turkish coffee cluster under the windmills overlooking town, a popular spot for wedding photos.

    Alaçati, Izmir, Turkey
  • 14. Alsancak

    Stretching inland from the breezy Kordon waterfront, the trendy, upscale neighborhood now known as Alsancak ("red banner," a reference to the Turkish flag) was called...

    Stretching inland from the breezy Kordon waterfront, the trendy, upscale neighborhood now known as Alsancak ("red banner," a reference to the Turkish flag) was called Punta in the Ottoman era, when many Christians and Jews lived here. Look closely, and you'll notice there are still a number of synagogues and churches in the area. Pedestrianized main street Kibris Şehitler Caddesi is like a smaller version of Istanbul's İstiklal Caddesi, with lively bars, cafés, and restaurants filling its side streets. Though Alsancak is mostly slick and modern, pretty two- and three-story Levantine houses with bay windows are tucked away along some of the backstreets, which perk up at night with an influx of young İzmirians.

    Izmir, Izmir, Turkey
  • 15. Altınkum

    For a break after all the history, continue another 5 km (3 miles) from Didyma south to Altınkum, popular for its pale-sand beach. The sand...

    For a break after all the history, continue another 5 km (3 miles) from Didyma south to Altınkum, popular for its pale-sand beach. The sand stretches for a bit less than 1 km (½ mile) and is bordered by a row of bars, restaurants, and hotels, all facing the water. At peak times, a lifeguard watches over the 500-yard, Blue Flag–designated public beach (halk plajı), which quickly gets crowded in summertime. There are some Jet Skis and pedal boats for rent at either end of the halk plajı. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: swimming.

    Didim, Aydin, Turkey
  • 16. Altınkum Beach

    The name is Turkish for "golden sand," and this beach has crystal-clear and calm water lapping the silky sand. The area has yet to undergo...

    The name is Turkish for "golden sand," and this beach has crystal-clear and calm water lapping the silky sand. The area has yet to undergo a huge development boom and there are many private and public beaches to choose from, most with shallow waters. You can rent a beach chair and umbrella at many points along the beach for a very reasonable price compared to trendier beach clubs. Amenities: food and drink; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: swimming; walking.

    Şehit Mehmet Yolu, Çesme, Izmir, Turkey
  • 17. Antik Tiyatro

    Construction of the magnificent, 5,000-seat ancient theater began during the 4th century BC reign of King Mausolus, back when Bodrum was known as Halicarnassus of...

    Construction of the magnificent, 5,000-seat ancient theater began during the 4th century BC reign of King Mausolus, back when Bodrum was known as Halicarnassus of Caria. The Hellenistic theater was used and updated through the Roman era, and remains one of the ancient city's best-preserved monuments; it is still used for concerts and other performances. The view of Bodrum and the Aegean sea is breathtaking from this high, hillside vantage point, though the outlook is marred by the loud, busy highway that runs alongside the theater.

    Kıbrıs Şehitleri Cad., Bodrum, Mugla, 48400, Turkey

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 18. Arkas Sanat Merkezi

    This late-19th-century mansion has been beautifully restored into a small museum, featuring rotating exhibits of painting, glass and textile art, and the like, usually with...

    This late-19th-century mansion has been beautifully restored into a small museum, featuring rotating exhibits of painting, glass and textile art, and the like, usually with a historical bent.

    1380 Sok. 1, Izmir, Izmir, Turkey
    232-464–6600
  • 19. Arkeoloji Müzesi

    Though badly in need of refurbishing, İzmir's showplace for archaeology holds some notable treasures. Look over the railing in the lobby, down at what must...

    Though badly in need of refurbishing, İzmir's showplace for archaeology holds some notable treasures. Look over the railing in the lobby, down at what must have once been a spectacular classical mosaic of lions, peacocks, and other brightly colored creatures, then wander down haunting (but pitiably lit) halls of statuary, which include a front-row Hellenistic theater seat carved with griffins, and evocative Roman faces. Upstairs you'll find unusual painted ceramic sarcophagi (and the heartbreaking skeleton of a Byzantine newborn), and a Hellenistic bronze of a running athlete—and there's a neat view of the city. An English-language audio guide is included in the price of admission (though you'll need to present your passport or other ID to borrow the player and headset) and is highly recommended.

    Cumhuriyet Bul., Izmir, Izmir, 35000, Turkey
    232-489–0796

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL17.5
  • 20. Ayayorgi Bay

    The most sheltered water and trendiest spot for a dip is at this dazzling turquoise bay named after St. George, Turkey's legendary dragon-slayer. A quick...

    The most sheltered water and trendiest spot for a dip is at this dazzling turquoise bay named after St. George, Turkey's legendary dragon-slayer. A quick drive from Çeşme center, near Boyalık Bay, Ayayorgi Bay's beach clubs and restaurants are ever-popular with hip İzmirians and Istanbullus. There's no public beach, so plan to hang out at one of the swanky beach clubs (Paparazzi is a snazzy favorite, while Kafe Pi has a more youthful vibe), which metamorphose into beach bars as the sun goes down, often with live music. Amenities: food and drink; parking (fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; swimming.

    Off Ayayorgi Yolu, Çesme, Izmir, Turkey

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