The Aegean shores of Turkey are among the loveliest landscapes in the country. The magnificent coastline, lapped by the clear water of the Aegean Sea, abounds in vast and pristine beaches surrounded by olive groves, rocky crags and pine woods.
Whether you prefer idyllic fishing harbours, popular holiday villages or the remains of ancient civilizations attesting to more than 5,000 years of history, culture and mythology, this region offers a holiday with something for everyone nature lovers, sun worshippers, photographers, sports enthusiasts, sailors and archaeologists. Along the whole length of the coast, accommodation to suit every taste and price range can be found.
IZMIR - HOMETOWN OF HOMER
Known in Turkish as "Beautiful Izmir" the city lies at the head of a long and narrow gulf furrowed by ships and yachts. The climate is mild and in the summer the constant and refreshing sea breezes temper the sun's heat. Behind the palm-lined promenades and avenues which follow the shoreline, the city, in horizontal terraces, gently ascends the slopes of the surrounding mountains. Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey and its port is second only to Istanbul. A cosmopolitan and lively city all year round, Izmir bursts with an added vibrancy during the International Arts Festival (June-July) and the International Fair (August-Sept).
The original city was established in the third millennium B.C. (at present day Bayrakli), at which time it shared with Troy the most advanced culture in Western Anatolia. By 1500 B.C. it had fallen under the influence of the Central Anatolian Hittite Empire. In the first millennium B.C. Izmir, then known as Smyrna, ranked as one of the most important cities of the lonian Federation. During this period, one of the city's most brilliant, it is believed that Homer resided here. Lydian conquest of the city, around 600 B.C., brought this period to an end . Izmir remained little more than a village throughout the Lydian and subsequent sixth-century B.C. Persian rule. In the fourth century B.C., a new city was built on the reign of Alexander the Great. Izmir's Roman period, beginning in the first century, B.C., was its second great era. Byzantine rule followed in the fourth century and lasted until the Seljuk conquest in the 11th century. In 1415, under Sultan Mehmet Celebi, Izmir became part of the Ottoman Empire.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The Archaeological Museum, near Konak Square, houses a superb collection of antiquities including the statues of Poseidon and Demeter which, in ancient times, stood in the Agora. (Closed on Mondays)
Next to the Archaeology Museum, the Ethnography museum contains folkloric artifacts, which include a fine collection of Bergama and Gordes carpets, traditional costumes and camel bridles. (Closed on Mondays)
The Ataturk Museum is situated on Ataturk Caddesi in an old Izmir house used by the founder of the Turkish Republic. It exhibits photographs of the leader as well as some of his personal effects. (Closed on Mondays)
HISTORICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS
The excavations at Bayrakli have unearthed a temple dedicated to Athena and the wall of the lonian city which flourished there between the seventh and fifth centuries B.C. Pottery dating back to the third millennium B.C. has also been uncovered.
On Kadifekale (Mt. Pagos) stands the impressive ruins of a castle and its walls which were built by Lysimachus in the reign of Alexander the Great, and which still dominate Izmir today. The castle offers an excellent vantage point to enjoy a magnificent view of the Gulf of Izmir.
The Agora, or marketplace, in the Namazgah Quarter was originally constructed during the rule of Alexander the Great. What remains today, however, dates from the rebuilding under marcus Aurelius after a devastating earthquake in 178 A.D. The Sirinyer and Yesildere Aqueducts, two examples of Roman engineering spanning the Meles River, supplied Izmir's water throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman eras.
The Saint Polycarp Church is the oldest church in Izmir and symbolizes the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse. Saint Polycarp was martyred at age 86 in A.D. 155 at Kadifekale by the Romans. According to burn him at the stake the flames wouldn't touch him so they finally stabbed him to death. The church was reconstructed in 1620.
The Kizlaragasi Han (Inn), a fine example of 18th-century Ottoman architecture of the period, is being restored to its former glory.
The symbol of Izmir, the Saat Kulesi, or Clock Tower, stands in the heart of the city at Konak Square. It was a gift from Sultan Abdülhamid, and was built in 1901 in ari elaborately decorated late- Ottoman style. The old Asansor quarter, filled with old restored houses, is also known as the Jewish quarter. Dario Moreno Sokagi is the main pedestrian street to the Asansor itself, which is an elevator that was built in the 19th century. At fifty-one meters in height, it provides access between, the lower and upper streets. Situated on the upper side, the Asansor restaurant offers a beautiful view of Izmir.
If you find yourself on Havra Sokak Kemeralti, be sure to notice the old buildings and synagogues. Alsancak (Punta), with traditionally restored houses, has been converted into a pedestrian promenade with bars, cafes and restaurants. In the centre of Cumhuriyet Meydani, or Republic Square, is the Ataturk Monument, an impressive statue of Ataturk sitting on a horse and facing the sea. Erected in 1933, the monument commemorates the liberation of the city by Turkish forces.
The Flying Dolphins, in Karsiyaka, is a monument that symbolizes friendship and brotherhood.
Hisar Mosque is the largest and oldest in Izmir. Built in the 16 the century, and restored in the 19 the century, it has a delightful interior with an interesting mimber (pulpit) and mihrab (niche showing the direction to Mecca).
Other mosques in Izmir are Salepcioglu (20th-century), Sadirvan (17th-century with 19th-century restorations) an Kemeralti (17th-century).
All these are situated close to the Kemeralti Quarter.
PLACES OUTSIDE IZMIR
Balcova, on the road to Cesme, is one of Turkey's largest thermal spas, with excellent facilities for guests.
Camalati, 15 km west of Karsiyaka, is an area of coastal marshes and salt fields that is preserved as an important bird sancturary - the Izmir Bird Paradise. Enthusiasts can spot many species, including flamingos and pelicans.
The Yamanlar Camligi, a pine forest near the lovely Lake Karagol 40 km northeast of Karsiyaka, is a popular picnic spot that also has restaurants and a swimming pool.
A Hittite bas-relief is carved into the rock at Kemalpasa (20 km from Izmir) in the Karabel Pass.
Belkahve, the highest point above Izmir, overlooks the Gulf of Izmir and is a relaxing spot to enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee, Formerly a favourite haunt of Ataturk's, it is now the site of the largest statue in his honour. In he village of Birgi is the Cakir Aga Mansion, a fine example of traditional Turkish architecture.
The cities of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse, mentioned by St. John in the Book of Revelation, are all found in Turkey: Efes (Ephesus), Izmir (Smyrna), Bergama (Pergamum), Akhisar (Thyatira), Sart (Sardis), Alasehir (Philadelphia), an Eskihisar (Laodicea).
THE NORTH AEGEAN
Bergama (Pergamum or Pergamon), once a great centre of culture, survives as one of Turkey's finest archaeological sites. In the Acropolis, above the modern town, are the remains of the celebrated library, a steep and impressive theatre, the temples of Trajan and Dionysus, the monumental altar of Zeus, the sanctuary of Demeter, a gymnasium laid out on three terraces and the Agora. The Asclepion, located to the southwest of the lower city, was a sanctuary dedicated to the god of health, Asclepios. In town is the Archaeological and Ethnographical Museum and nearby is the site of a temple dedicated to Serapis, the god of the lower world who was also worshiped in Egypt as Osiris. The temple was subsequently converted by the Byzantines into a basilica.
The Gulf of Edremit, also known as the Olive Riviera, has a number of charming seaside resorts: Kucukkuyu, Altinoluk, Akcay (a thermal centre with numerous springs). Edremit and Oren. All have beautiful beaches, together ringing the Gulf of Edremit and offering visitors a wide choice of hotels and guest houses with views of the sea. Here also is situated the beautiful Kaz Dagi National Park, with magnificent landscapes, restful green areas and several hot springs. According to mythology it was in this area that the world's first beauty contest was held. Under the shadow of Kaz Dagi (Mt. Ida, 1774 meters) in Pinarbasi, west of Akcay, Paris gave the golden apple to Aphrodite in the famous "Judgement of Paris."
Assos, the famous teaching centre of antiquity is 87 km south of Canakkale in Ayvacik County. Aristotle, Plato's most famous student, was invited to Assos and spent over three years living and teaching there. He married the niece of Hermeia, founded a school of philosophy and conducted his early exploratory work in zoology, biology and botany.
The acropolis of Assos (Behramkale) is 238 meters above sea level. The Temple of Athena was constructed on this site in the 6th century B.C. This Doric temple is being restored to its former glory and role as guardian of the Biga Peninsula and Gulf of Edremit. Linger to see the moonlight scattered through the temple ruins, or rise early for the gently awakening dawn over the acropolis. From the top you can take in the magnificent vista of the Gulf of Edremit and appreciate why this heavenly location was chose. On the terraces descending to the sea are agoras, a gymnasium and a theatre. From the northern corner of the acropolis, you can see a mosque, a bridge and a fortress, all built in the 14th century by the Ottoman Sultan Murat I. Down below lies a tiny and idyllic ancient harbour. Assos has gained the reputation of being the centre of the Turkish art community with its lively, friendly and bohemian atmosphere. This may be the holiday you will remember for years to come. Twenty-five km west of Behramkale, in the village of Gulpinar is the ancient city of Chryse where the 2nd- century B.C. temple of Apollon Smintheus is located. Babakale, a scenic village of houses terraced on a cliff which drops to the sea is 15 km west of Gulpinar on an unmarked road that follows the jagged coastline.
The city of Canakkale lies at the narrow, 1,200 meter entrance to the Canakkale Strait (the Dardanelles) that connects the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean. Passenger and car ferries run daily between Canakkale on the Asian side and Eceabat and Kilitbahir on the European side. Yachts navigating the straits stop at the well-equipped Canakkale Marina to allow tourists more time in the area. Hotels, restaurants and cafes along the promenade offer a place to enjoy the traffic in the harbour, as well as a view of the Kilitbahir Fortress and the Canakkale Archaeological Museum.
In 1451, Sultan Mehmet II, later the conqueror of Istanbul, built one fortress on the European side of the Canakkale Strait at Kilitbahir and one on the opposite shore at Cimenlik to control the passage of ships through the strait. Today the Cimenlik fortress serves as a military museum dedicated to the World War I Battle of Canakkale.
Gelibolu Peninsula Historical National Park was established to honour the 500.000 soldiers who gave their lives on Gelibolu, also known as Gallipoli. In 1915, Mustafa Kemal, commander of the Turkish army, led a successful campaign to drive out allied powers from the area. The park includes memorials, monuments, cemeteries, the natural beauty of the Ariburnu Cliffs and Tuz Golu (Salt Lake). The beauty of the green hills, sandy beaches and waters provides an honourable resting place for the soldiers who bravely fought and died in this historic battle. You cannot help but sense the heart of the Turkish nation in the patriotic spirit of the place.
Homer immortalized Truva (Troy) in histories of King Priam, Hector, Paris and the beautiful Helen. Archaeological excavations have revealed nine separate periods of settlement including ruins of city walls, house foundations, a temple and a theatre. A symbolic wooden Trojan horse commemorates the legendary war. The ancient harbour of Alexandria-Troas was built in the 3rd century B.C. St. Paul passed through twice, and then on his third missionary journey, he continued on to Assos.
The attractive Aegean city of Manisa preserves several splendid examples of Seljuk and Ottoman architecture. Endowed by Ayse Sultana, mother of Suleyman the Magnificent, the Sultan Mosque was built early in the 16th century. Every year in April, on the grounds of this mosque, a festival is held celebrating Mesir Macunu, a sticky elixir that reputedly cured the sultan's ailing mother. The 16th-century Muradiye Mosque was designed by the great architect Sinan. The adjacent medrese, or theological college, today houses the Archaeological Museum. The annual Harvest Festival begins in September when the fruits of the vineyards are brought in amid great celebration. The region's numerous vineyards produce grapes that are then dried for export. South of the city lies the Sipil Dagi National Park, home of the famous "crying rock" of Niobe. If you travel to the northeast you come to Gordes, a pleasant town particularly known for its fine carpets. The ruins of ancient Sart (Sardis), once the capital of the Lydian realm of Croesus, lie on the Sart Cayi (Pactole River) plain. The world's first coins were minted here. The Temple of Artemis and a restored gymnasium testify to the city's past splendour, as does the important third-century A.D. synagogue. On the south side of Sardis, Mt. Boz (ancient Mt. Tmolus) is good for hiking and other mountain sports.
Historically, Usak was important carpet weaving centre, a role it continues to play today Tourists find the Archaeology Museum informative and interesting. The Kaftanci House Museum, together with the Ataturk Ethnography Museum, display wonderful Usak carpets and kilims in Ataturk's former residence.
Kutahya is one of the oldest Turkish cities, with many old Turkish traditions still being practiced today. It is home to important Ottoman architectural monuments, including a castle, mosques, medreses, baths, complexes, mausoleums, and mansions. One of the finest mosques is the 14th-century Ulu Mosque. Kutahya Castle offers a wonderful, panoramic view of the old town on the western side of the city. The Kutahya Archaeology Museum was a medrese in the 14th century that now displays ethnography, Roman and Byzantine relics, and Iznik and Kutahya tiles from Ottoman times. Lajos Kossuth, the 19th-century Hungarian hero, lived with his family in what is now the Kossuth House museum where relics and documents related to Kossuth are now displayed.
The kilns of Kutahya produced exquisite ceramics in the 16th and 17th centuries, a craft which lives on today. You can visit the workshops where skilled artisans produce tiles, plates and bowls renowned for their cobalt blue patterns on a milky white background.
Southwest of Kutahya, is the Roman town of Cavdarhisar (Aizanoi) where a theatre, stadium and the Temple of Zeus remain. In the same direction, Murat Mountain offers camping facilities and hot springs amid delightful scenery. Near Dumlupinar are the Baskomutan National Park and the War of Independence memorials.
THE SOUTH AEGEAN
A visit to Efes (Ephesus), once the commercial centre of the ancient world, is a highlight of any visit to Turkey. The city, whose wealth and patronage supported its splendid architectural program, was dedicated to the goddess Artemis. Her enormous temple, once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and rebuilt several times, in its latest form dates from the third century B.C. The ruins also include a theatre, gymnasium, agora and baths, as well as the Library of Celsus.
The nearby town of Seljuk is dominated by a Byzantine citadel which stands close to the 6th-century basilica of St. John, supposedly built on the site of the apostle's tomb. The 14th-century Isa Bey Mosque, next to the basilica is accessed through its typical Seljuk portal. The Archaeological Museum houses an impressive collection of statues and other finds recovered during the excavations at Ephesus. The nearby Turkish Bath Museum, in a building from the 16th century, shows Turkish life at the hamam (bath). The Ephesus International Festival of Culture and Tourism is held annually in May.
Tradition has it that, after the death of Christ, John brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus where she is said to have spent her last days in a small house (Meryemana Evi) built for her on Bulbuldagi (Mt. Koressos). Now a place of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics and a popular touristic site for all, the house has received the official sanction of the Vatican, and a commemoration ceremony is held every year on August 15th. Near Seljuk is a TCDD Open-air Steam Locomotives Museum displaying historical train cars in Camlik. Sirince is 9 km east of Seljuk. It is known for its traditional 19th-century village houses, some of which have been convened into guest-houses. Wine is produced in this small hillside Turkish village, which itself resembles an open-air museum. Eighteen km from Seljuk are wine houses, for tasting the wines.
Kusadasi, or Bird Island, is a lovely port built along the shores of a glittering bay. Gullubahce (Priene) was one of the most active ports of the lonian Federation. The grid-like system of streets introduced in the fourth century B.C. by Hippodamos of Miletus is a superb and early example of town planning.
Milet (Miletus), like Priene, was a great Ionian port as well as the birthplace of several philosophers and sages. The theatre itself justifies a visit. Also be sure to see the well-preserved rums of the Faustina baths and the Archaeological Museum.
Although Didim (Didyma) can only boast of a single monument, it is nevertheless a marvellous site. The Temple of Apollo was one of antiquity's most sacred places. Many times looted and burned, the sanctuary still impresses with its elegant beauty. A double-colonnade portico surrounds the colossal temple. Not far from the archaeological site, the beautiful beach of Altinkum tempts visitors with its many guest houses. Akbuk is another holiday resort in the region with nice beach hotels.
Although the history of Geyre (Aphrodisias) stretches far back in time, the city, which was dedicated to Aprodite, goddess of love and fertility, only rose to prominence in the first century B.C. Some of the richest treasures of ancient times were uncovered in the excavation of this city. The public buildings are handsomely adorned with marble that was carved with astonishing skill, producing remarkable temples, monuments, baths, a theatre and a magnificent sadium. As the reputation of the city's craftsmen for the exquisite finesse of their statuary and marble sculpting spread through the civilized world. Aphrodisias became the centre of the greatest sculpting school of antiquity. Many of its marvellous works of art are now housed in the local museum. The theatre and bouleuterion are among the city's best-preserved ruins.
Nestled in the high mountains near the Buyuk Menderes (Meander) river is Denizli, Surrounded by the natural beauty of a verdant valley, the area is also rich in culture and history. The Luvians were the first inhabitants, followed centuries later by the Hittites. Throughout time the fertile plain nourished other civilizations. The Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and the Ottomans. Modern Denizli is a city of wide streets with parks and hotels. The Ataturk Ethnography Museum in the city centre displays folk art and ethnic artifacts. While shopping in the Kaleici Carsisi look for souvenirs of copper, jewellery, towels and silk blouses. You can choose among nearby Camlik, Incilipinar or Gokpinar Parks for a rest, a picnic, or simply a walk through the forest in the shade of pine trees. Fresh water springs and thermal baths attract many visitors. A magical and spectacular natural site, unique in the world, Pamukkale (Hierapolis) is a fairyland of dazzling white castles. Thermal spring waters laden with calcareous salts running off the plateau's edge heave created this fantastic formation of stalactites, cataracts and basins. The hot springs have been used since Roman times for their therapeutic powers. Both the thermal centre with its motels and thermal pools, as well as the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, are situated on the plateau.
Another thermal centre northwest of Pamukkale is Karahayit, known for its water's high iron content.
The province of Mugla includes the popular holiday cities o Bodrum, Marmaris, Datca, Koycegiz and Fethiye. Beautiful resorts, comfortable hotels and motels, cosy guest houses, impressive ruins of past civilizations and magnificent landscapes offer holiday-makers plenty of choice. Mugla, the province's capital, lies inland and is known for its traditional architecture. In the village of Ozluce, a veritable open-air museum east of Mugla ,is Turolian Park, where you can lind fossils that geologists claim are from 5-9 million years old.
An impressive medieval castle built by the Knights of Rhodes guards the entrance to the dazzling blue bay of Bodrum, where the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas meet. This charming town attracts a diverse population of vacationers who stroll along its long, palm-lined waterfront, while elegant yachts crowd the marina.
Ancient Marmaris, Physkos, was an important stage on the Anatolia-Rhodes-Egypt trade route. In the 16th century Suleyman the Magnificent had a citadel built on a hill, the remains of which can still be seen today. Swimmers should not miss Ataturk Park, to the east of Marmaris, where a shallow beach, extending to the bay leads to safe waters. The clear blue sea is warm enough for swimming from early May until late September. Marmaris also has horseback riding and tennis centres for the sports enthusiast. This is also one of the few places in the world where you can delight in the heady aroma of the frankincense tree. Weekly ferry lines run between Marmaris and Venice during the summer season.
Gokova whose houses seem to cascade down the Mt. Kiran mountainside. Restaurants built over bubbling, fresh-water streams that fall from the highlands create an unforgettable setting. The towering pines and cooling breezes of Gokova Park are often a welcome respite from the hot sun.
The Datca Peninsula provides a natural boundary between the Gulf of Gokova in the Aegean Sea to the north, and the Gulf of Hisaronu in the Mediterranean Sea to the south.
As you travel out of Datca, either by road or by boat, you will find unspoiled bays and golden sandy beaches. Kargi is one of the most popular.
At the end of the peninsula (38 km from Datca) stands the ancient Carian city of. Knidos, described by Strabo as "a city that was built for the most beautiful of goddesses, Aprodite, on the most beautiful of peninsulas". Famous as a centre of art and culture in the fourth century B.C. the city had two harbours: one on the Aegean and the other on the Aegean and the other on the Mediterranean. The remains of a circular temple dedicated to the goddess of love overlook the two harbours. The arcaded walkway was built of white marble in heart-shaped columns. Praxiteles' legendary statue, Aphrodite, one of the most beautiful sculptures of antiquity, once graced this temple.
The town of Koycegiz lies at the northern end of the lake by the same name and is joined to the Mediterranean by a natural channel. This unique environment is being preserved as a nature and wildlife sanctuary. A road shaded with aromatic frankincense trees leads to the tiny village of Dalyan on the inland waterway. The maze of channels is easily explored by boat as you immerse yourself in this tranquil dream world. The restaurants which line the waterways specialize in delicious fresh fish.
Magnificent tombs were carved into the rock high on the cliff face, at a bend in the river, above the fascinating ancient harbour city of Caunos. The Dalyan Delta, with the long, golden, sandy Iztuzu beach at its mouth, is a nature conservation area and refuge for sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and blue crabs.
The popular resort Fethiye, 135 km southeast of Marmaris, boasts an important marina at the head of a beautiful bay strewn with islands. A hill crowned by the ruins of the crusader fortress built by the Knights of Rhodes overlooks the little port. Above the town, (called Telmessos in antiquity), numerous Lycian rock tombs, reproducing the facades of ancient buildings, were cut into the cliff face. The Tomb of Amyntas, which probably dates from the fourth century B.C., is the most remarkable.
Swimmers head for the popular Calis Beach four kilometres west of town, or to Sovalye Island, opposite the harbour, which blazes with flowers in the spring.
The road to Belcegiz Bay takes you through the mountains where cosy guest houses cater to those seeking mountain scenery. Ocakkoy is a mountain village that is a must to see. Stay in one of the lovely guest houses and enjoy the numerous hiking possibilities. Hisaronu, also in the mountains, has very nice hotels. Kayakoy, 4 km from Hisaronu, is a picturesque ghost town of old houses and churches. Explore the by and the beautiful Blue Lagoon (Oludeniz) where the calm, crystal clear water is ideal for swimming and other water sports. The Blue Lagoon is one of the best places in the world to do absolutely nothing but soak up the sun amid stunning natural surroundings. From Mt. Baba (1,969 m), you can paraglide into the Blue Lagoon. For those seeking accommodation, Belcegiz beach is highly recommended. Intoxicating scenery surrounds the beach and shady park at Kidirak. On Gemilar Island (St. Nicholas Island), Byzantine ruins lie tucked amid the pines. South of Kidirak beach, Koturumsu Bay is reachable only by boat. Beyond the idyllic beach, a forest, waterfalls and a valley filled with hundreds of varieties of butterflies await the intrepid explorer. High in the mountains above Fethiye a rushing torrent cuts a narrow gorge through the mountains, creating Saklikent (Hidden City) Canyon 44 km south of Fethiye. A cool refuge on hot summer days, Saklikent is a favourite picnic spot, with rustic restaurants serving delectable fresh trout. Yakakoy (Tlos) 36 km south of Fethiye, is the oldest city in the Lycian region and the home of the Lycian Hero Bellerophon. Visitors can see the remains of a castle, the agora, the necropolis, the theatre, Roman baths and a good view of Esen Valley Two km east is Tlos Park, ideal for picnicking, Pinara, 49 km south of Fethiye, is another ancient mountain city. It is ideal for hiking and visitors can see the remains of a theatre, an agora, a rock tomb, and baths.
About 65 km southeast Fethiye, near Kinik, are the ruins of Xanthos, an important Lycian capital in a splendid natural setting. Nearby Letoon was formerly an important religious cult centre where temples dedicated to Leto, Artemis and Apollo stood in ancient times.