Historic Sites Of The Turkish Aegean
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The Turkish Aegean Coast is most widely known to tourists for its inviting blue waters, sandy beaches, and large resort hotels. But the area is more than a modern-day paradise under the sun: along the coast, you will find many historic sites from ancient and classical times! Long before it was part of what is now Turkey, the region belonged to the Aeolians, Lydians, and Ionians and was even conquered by the Romans and Greek. It is not surprising that those cultures have left their mark on the land. Those marks, previously mere legends, have since been excavated and many of the archaeological sites are open to the public today. Fans and newcomers to ancient history alike will want to visit at least one of these towns when traveling to the Aegean Coast of Turkey.

Good to Know

  • With great weather all year round, there's no bad time to visit the region. Nevertheless, it is best to visit in early summer, when temperatures have not reached their peak yet, as the towns bloom in a rainbow of flowers and tourist attractions are in the early season. 
  • Renting a car can be advantageous, but all destinations on this list are accessible by public transport as well!
  • Consider buying the Turkish Museum Pass! Most state-operated in- and outdoor museums can be accessed for free through it. A pass costs 315 TL (30€) and is valid for 15 days. 
  • Prepare some Turkish! While many people understand at least a little English, navigating public transport and daily life is easiest when you at least know the basics.
  • Most places on this list can comfortably be visited on a day trip from İzmir. There are multiple tours to take you to the sites, but public transport will get you there as well. Base your trips out of İzmir or move along the coast, if you'd like more time to explore each place!
  • Check out the guide to İzmir and the guide to the best beach-side towns in the area here, for all the information you could need on your trip!


Port of Smyrna:

The first important settlement around the Gulf of İzmir came about in the 11th century BC at the foot of Mount Yamanlar, this settlement is known as "Old Smyrna" today. Its most prosperous time was in the 8th to 7th century BC, when it was the home of the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" author Homer. In the 4th century BC, the settlement was moved further south, to the area surrounding Mount Pagos, not far from the city center, which is the site of Kadifekale castle. The "New Smyrna" came to be known in the ancient and classical world as a major port along the Silk Road. Visit the castle for a great view over the modern-day metropolis and stroll through the 2,300-year-old ruins. The main archaeological site regarding Smyrna's history is İzmir Agorası. To get there, simply walk up the steep residential streets just behind Kemeraltı bazaar in İzmir's city center. Constructed in the 4th century BC, the Greco-roman market square was the center of ancient Smyrna. Excavation of the site began in 1933 and, while it is ongoing, visitors can take a self-guided tour for a small fee and learn about the Agora with the help of extensive signage.


The small town at the southern end of the province of İzmir is a true historic hotspot. It is home to many Greco-roman, as well as biblical archaeological sites, and is a must-see on everybody's itinerary. Not far from the town lies the ancient city of Efes (Ephesus), an important historic site, which is among the best-preserved classical cities in the Mediterranean. With much of it being intact (well, as intact as 2000 to 3000-year-old ruins can be!), walking down the Marble Road of Efes evokes the feeling of having traveled back in time. Along the 1.5 km (1 mile) long main road, you'll see many structures of historical significance, such as the intricately decorated arch of the Temple of Hadrian (constructed in 118 AD) and the two-story-tall ruins of the Celsus Library. The library was the third-largest library of the Roman world and had a holding capacity of around 12,000 scrolls. Let the stunning columned facade of the library tower over you, while you examine the marble statues lining the entrance. But nothing encapsulates the sheer magnitude Efes held in ancient times as well as the large theater at the foot of the hillside. Constructed in 270 BC, the 38 m (124 ft) tall theater offers enough seating for 24,000 people! For a small additional fee, visitors can enter the Terrace houses, excavated residential buildings, which housed the rich between the 1st century BC and the 7th century AD. To get to Efes, take a short Dolmuş (mini-bus) ride from Selçuk to either the lower (for those who don't mind an uphill walk) or upper entry points of the site. The entry fee is 100 TL (11€) but you can also book a tour guide for the day. While a guided tour is definitely worth the extra money, it is also possible to guide yourself around as Efes has extensive signage relaying information about each sight. Just a short walk from Selçuk bus station are the ruins of the Temple of Artemis. While only a few remains have survived earthquakes, fires and looting may not suggest it, the temple is among the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, and no wonder, why! The Hellenistic building was constructed in the 6th century BC under King Croesus and counted 127 columns on a 115 m by 46 m (377 ft by 151 ft) area. Visiting the ruins is free of charge. Other noteworthy destinations in and around Selçuk are the House of the Virgin Mary, which can be visited for a 60 TL (6€) entrance fee, where Mary, the mother of Jesus, is said to have lived until her death and the town of Şirince, an idyllic Turkish-greek hillside town known for its culinary experience. Şirince is also a great place to stay if you're planning on a multi-day trip to Selçuk.


The southernmost stop on this trip is Didim, located just across from Bodrum. Not far outside the modern-day town lay the ruins of Miletus. While not very well known, the ancient city of Miletus was comparable in size and importance to Ephesus. A major trade hub since archaic Greece, Miletus was an important maritime access point to the region. It is the birthplace of early scientists and philosophers such as Thales of Milet or the architect Hippodamus. Back in Didim lies its namesake, the sanctuary of Didyma. The main attraction is the ruins of a temple dedicated to Apollo, famous in its time for its oracle and its size, with only the Temple of Artemis in Efes and the Temple of Hera on Samos larger than it.


While today, the city of Bergama counts about 100,000 residents, its ancient predecessor Pergamon, counted 50,000 more: Unsurprisingly, Pergamon was an important city in its time. During the Hellenistic era, it was the political and cultural capital of the Attalid Dynasty and a major hub for parchment production, which received its name from the city. The main ruins of Pergamon sit atop the 300 m (984 ft) tall acropolis in Bergama and can be accessed for 25 TL (2,50 €) for a self-guided tour, however, guided tours are available and can be booked in advance and i. A cable car will take you to the top for around 20 TL (2€). Built into the side of the acropolis are the steep seating rows of Pergamon's amphitheater, spacious enough for 10,000 spectators. Take a seat and enjoy the view over Bergama! Among the many ruins here is the pedestal of the Pergamon Altar. The Altar itself, erected in honor of the Greek gods Zeus and Athena but known in the Bible as the "Seat of Satan", can be viewed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. After you have explored the Acropolis, you can either walk or take the cable car back down to the city. Among the many cultures that have left a mark on Bergama, were the Egyptians. The Red Basilica was constructed in the 2nd century AD as a place of worship dedicated to Isis and Serapsis. 3 centuries later it was converted to a Christian basilica by the Byzantines. It is located just underneath the acropolis and can be visited for a fee of 10 TL (1€). The last must-see historic place in Bergama is the Asklepieion. Dedicated to the God of Medicine, Asklepios, the large complex was comprised of baths, temples, and a holy well, and was visited by people from all across the Aegean in hopes of healing their ailments. Take a 1-2 hour self-guided tour around the site, for an entry fee of 20 TL (2€).


The Trojan War, a story of forethought and deception, as featured in Homer's "Iliad", is among the most infamous legends the ancient world has to offer. The legend is set on the northern edge of the Turkish Aegean, some 25 km (16 miles) south of Çanakkale, in the city of Troy. The excavation site chronicles Troy's 4,000-year-long history and the beginnings of contact between Anatolia and the Mediterranean World. Visit the ruins of ancient Troy for a fee of 50 TL (5€) and later in the day the Troya Museum just down the road of the excavations in the town of Tevfikiye.


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