It is necessary to add the province of İzmir to Muğla’s neighbours of Aydın, Denizli and Antalya as it contains the important ancient sites of Selçuk and Bergama. During a holiday based on Muğla and the surrounding towns and districts one or a few days could be spared to visit these neighbouring ancient cities and holiday towns. The necessary notes on these towns have already been provided at end of the article on each region in the Muğla and environs pages but we also wanted to promote the ancient cities and holiday destinations in these other regions. It is up to you to decide on your itinerary.
Among the most important sites of early settlement in Anatolia are the ancient cities of Pergamon, Asklepion and Allionai. Before setting out to see the remains of these early settlements it is advisable to visit the Bergama Museum.
Pergamon: This city was the capital of the Hellenistic Kingdom of Pergamon. The remains of the ancient city are located at the centre of Bergama and on hill within the acropolis. In the city centre there is the Red Square with a temple and shrine dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Serapis. The remains at the acropolis are spread over a large area. Upon entering the ancient site, on the left there are the remains of the palaces of the God King Attalos and Hereon belonging to Emenos, further ahead are the shops of the Hellenistic era and behind are the city walls from the late Hellenistic era. Opposite the shops is the foundation of the Altar of Zeus, presently exhibited at the Berlin Museum; to the south is the city’s upper agora; further ahead is the sacred Athena square; the remains of the Temple to Athena on the theatre side; and the remains of the largest library of the time, which used to contain 200,000 manuscripts. Next there is a 10,000 seat theatre on the steep slopes of the hill; the standing columns of Temple of Trajan; to the side of the theatre the Temple of Dionysos; the remains of the centre of the city between the acropolis and Bergama; and the upper and mid city and the Temple of Demeter.
Asklepion: This site is two to three kilometres from Bergama. There are the remains of a medical centre dedicated to Asklepion the Goddess of Health. A walkway with columns, spa and mud bath pools, sleeping quarters make up the health centre, along with a 5,000 seat theatre.
Allionai: This ancient city is soon to be flooded by the waters of a dam, just as happened to the city of Zeugma in the south east of Turkey. Allionai is located 23 kilometres north east of the highway that links Bergama to İvrindi. This ancient city has two main thoroughfares and a double arched Roman bridge. It was the site of biggest baths yet found in Anatolia so far, a monumental fountain, shops, houses, wine making plants and a necropolis.
Aigai: Situated on the Bergama-İzmir highway 13 kilometres inland from Yeni Şakran on top of a hill 360 metres above sea level Aigai is a relatively unknown yet attractive ancient settlement area with remains from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras.
Twin storey stoned houses along the coast, hotels, restaurants, fishing boats in the cove, small islands up ahead, miniature narrow stone paved streets going into the town all sum up what a beautiful quaint little town old Foça is. Foça’s history goes back as far as 2000 years. In ancient times its name was Phokaia. Its people were seafarers and knew their trade well. After the invasion of the Persians the importance of the city dwindled and the Phokaians, escaping the invasion, set up cities around the Mediterranean, including Marseilles.
Excavations in the city centre are continuing. Among the attractions are the stone house seven kilometres to the centre, the castle walls in the centre of the city, monumental tombs, beautiful coves along the coast between old Foça and new Foça, boat tours to nearby coves and islands, the famous Siren cliffs, Orak and İncir Islands, the remains of ancient habitations on the islands and picnic and camping grounds.
Çandarlı: This is a small settlement on the cove of the same name. There is a small island opposite, a port for fishermen, holiday establishments, a 13th century Genovese castle and ceramic masterpieces found during excavations of ancient Pitane.
Dikili: This town does not have much historical significance, and has been inundated with second home or summer homeowners. There is a fine coastal beach and good hotels. One could stay overnight in Docile and tour around the region for day outings.
The town has been developing rapidly of late in both domestic and international tourism. Up until just a few years ago it was well known for its sea, sand, sun and history and more recently for the setting up of many fine tourism establishments, specifically in the thermal health spa sector. It has become a much sought after region. Do not miss out on going to Çeşme to rid oneself of stress and tiredness. Go to Çeşme, see the surrounding regions, take advantage of the thermal health facilities around and return fully rejuvenated.
Travel around Çeşme:
Çeşme: The historical city centre is around the castle. There are historical narrow streets with old houses and the promenade known as the Kordon. On the Kordon there are hotels, restaurants, and tea gardens. At the castle there is a Selçuk caravanserai (travellers inn) and a museum containing underwater maritime exhibits. Day tours to the Greek island of Samos leave from the wharf during the summer months.
Dalyan: Dalyan is ten minutes drive from the centre of Çeşme. It is the most popular place to be during those beautiful summer nights. Along the inlet there are seafood restaurants, meyhane’s (taverns) pensions and hotels. Along the Aya Yorgi cove there is a beach, restaurants and pensions.
Ilıca: This is the most popular resort area for Çeşme and İzmir. During the summer it is crowded and filled with fun. The waters of the long coastline are shallow, making it ideal for families with children. Hotels and restaurants dot the coastline of Ilıca, which gets its name from the spas of Şifne nearby. The Şifne spa is 1.5 kilometres from Ilıca and has a natural pool with water at 42 degrees celsius. It is a thermal bath and a centre providing a cure for many ailments. The water of the spa is used in the hotels and pensions nearby. A little further ahead is the Tanay camping and recreation area within the forest, a perfect place for picnics.
Ildırı: This is an old Greek village with the Erytrai ancient city ruins up on the hill. From here are the most magnificent views of the islands off Çeşme, especially at sunset. At the centre of the village of Ildırı are some great seafood restaurants and meyhanes, where the best regional dishes are presented, including meze (entrees) and seafood black-eyed pea, a speciality.
Çiftlikköy: This village is two kilometres from Çeşme on the tip of the peninsula. Opposite is the island of Sakız (Samos). Within the village there are the traditional stone houses, narrow streets, holiday house compounds nearby and new and beautiful hotels on the water.
Alaçatı: Considered to be one of the oldest residential areas of the Çeşme region, Alaçatı is on the left on the route to Çeşme. In the centre of the village there are the usual stone houses, narrow streets, new double storey holiday houses with gardens. The coast of Alaçatı is the best spot for windsurfing in Turkey, and has an international windsurfing school located there. The beach has golden yellow sand and the water is shallow. The weather of Alaçatı even in the midst of summer, is not too extreme at all. Alaçatı is a place where the wind works perfectly and the hotels and pensions are just fine.
Efes, Priene, Milet, Didyma, Heraklia and their environs
SEFERİHİSAR, SELÇUK-EFES, KUŞADASI, DİDİM
The nearest residential and holiday centres around ancient Ephesus are Seferihisar, Gümüldür-Özdere, Kuşadası, Güzelçamlı and Didim. One could organise a holiday here by being based in one of these centres and touring the others or spending a day at each of these locations.
Seferihisar: The detour to Seferihisar is halfway along the İzmir-Çeşme highway. Sığacık, the port of Seferihisar, though a small settlement is quite important. Just about all the houses are within the boundaries of the old castle walls, being on narrow streets, two storeys high and having the castle walls as their backdrop. Being a historical site of national significance Sığacık is a protected area. Along the shore of Sığacık Cove are small seafood restaurants facing the islands of Eşek, Kanlı and various smaller islets. The centre of the coast in Sığacık is not so suitable for swimming but a little ahead there is Akkum Beach, which is ideal. Here there is a forestry camping and recreation area. The ancient city of Teos is just two kilometres west of Sığacık. The Hellenistic city walls are among olive groves, while the stage part of the ancient theatre is still standing.
Gümüldür-Özdere: There are holiday housing compounds surrounding both sides of the Seferihisar-Kuşadası highway. The residential centres of Gümüldür and Özdere are under the threat of these holiday housing compounds. The environs of Özdere are very rich in natural plants and vegetation. The beaches and coves of Özdere are little less developed than other areas in the region. Along the road to Özdere are the ancient cities of Notion and Klaros.
Ephesus: This is the most spectacular ancient city in western Anatolia. The entrance to the ruins is on the Selçuk-Pamucak highway and the upper gate is at the Meryem Ana (Mother Mary) exit. When entering from the upper gate the eastern gymnasium, baths, palaestra (place for wrestling and physical training), the tomb of Saint Luke, a fountain, the state agora, and the odeon are the first series of sites before your eyes. Next comes the Baths of Varius, two temples in a square with three sides covered with columns, the Sacred Way that connects to the to Curetes Way, a monumental fountain, the Memmius monument, the avenue that links the Celsus library and the monument, the Fountain of Trajan on the avenue, the Fountain of Hadrian with the Scholastika baths right behind while opposite are ancient houses that can be entered by paying an extra fee.
There is the house of love on the intersection of Curetes and the Sacred Avenues; the Library of Celsus, considered to be the most beautiful structure in the city; the agora with the Temple of Serapis right behind it and which was converted into a church during the Byzantine era. On the left is the 24,000 seat ancient theatre of the city, and the Arcadian Avenue, which starts at the bottom of the theatre and continues down to the ancient harbour. There are pedestrian walkways made of mosaics along both sides of the avenue, sports facilities to the north of the avenue and the Meryem Ana Church (Church of the Virgin Mary).
The Selçuk Archaeology Museum in the centre of the modern city is one of the richest museums in the region. Selçuk castle, located on the top of Ayasuluk Hill within walking distance of the city centre, has the magnificent church of St John on its slopes, and was dedicated to one of apostles of Christianity. A little further ahead is the Isa Bey Mosque with some of the finest examples of Selçuk era stonework.
The remains of Temple of Artemis, once one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, are on the road between Selçuk and Kuşadası while the cave of the Yedi Uyuyanlar (Seven Sleepers) is on the slopes of Panayır Mountain on the way to Meryem Ana. From the upper Ephesus gate, seven kilometres away on Aladağ, is the house of Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Evi) and the chapel of the Virgin Mary, considered as sacred and a site of pilgrimage by Christians.
Pamucak: This area is the coastal strip between Selçuk and Kuşadası. The Büyük Menderes River has slowly brought sediment down from the hills and created the plain, silting up the harbour of ancient Ephesus, with the coast now being at Pamucak. This coast is fairly long, with one portion full of new and grand hotels and an aqua park while the other section is just about empty. Along the coves between Kuşadası and Pamucak there are various hotels and accommodation facilities.
Kuşadası: This town is the historic centre of the Aegean region. Up until the 1970s it was a cute little town surrounding the caravanserai and the castle. However, in the last 30 years just about the entire town’s vacant space has been taken up by tourism developments, therefore it has lost a lot of its old charm. For the past two to three years, local authorities have stopped giving permission for new buildings and work is being undertaken to return an element of order to city planning, the environment and roads. Restoration of the old shopping district and streets to salvage what remains is being carried out. The beachfront promenade has been reorganised and all the seafront except for the harbour is now a beach area for the use of tourists and the general public.
The symbol of Kuşadası – Güvencinada – is a little island connected to the mainland by a narrow walkway. The island of Güvencinada has restaurants and cafes. The beach of Kadınlar Plajı (Women’s Beach) is two kilometres from the centre of Kuşadası. It is a long beach with restaurants, entertainment venues and hotels along its backdrop.
Güzelçamlı-Davutlar: There is a long beach all the way to Güzelçamlı-Davutlar with a sizeable portion of this coast under the invasion of holiday establishments. The coast of Güzelçamlı-Davutlar National Park is the most beautiful part of Kuşadası. Within the national park there are various walking paths, protected beaches that are quite quiet during weekdays and beautiful coves with a large and vegetation life. After the national park there come the ancient city of Karine and the old Greek village of Doğanbey. From Doğanbey to the coast is a lake connected to the Aegean Sea by channels, and as its water has little salt it is bountiful in fish. Nearby there are cheap seafood restaurants to enjoy the fish from the lake. The area is a protected by law. In the area around Karakol Point the remains of the ancient city of Karine can be found.
Priene: This is one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the area, located five kilometres along the Söke-Bodrum highway near the village of Güllübahçe. At the entrance to the ancient city there is a map that can be used on your tour of the city. Priene is a masterpiece of architecture, designed by the most famous architect of the era, Hippodamos. The theatre is in good condition, with a Byzantine church at its side, a gymnasium to the south, the Temple of Demeter on the slopes of the acropolis, the Temple of Athena with some of its columns upright and the bouleuterion where the city officials used to meet.
The ancient city of Miletos between Söke and Didim
Miletos was a major port city of its time. When the Menderes River silted up the bay it lost its significance, just like Priene. It has a magnificent 15,000 seat theatre, the Faustina Baths spread over a large area nearby, a palaestra, and the Temple of Serapis behind the city walls. There is also the foundation structure of the agora of which the main parts are in the Berlin Pergamon Museum, the church of the archbishop near the northern gate of the agora, a 100 metre protocol path, shops along the path, the harbour avenue and two temples dedicated to the gods of prosperity Demeter and Kore.
The remains of the ancient city of Magnesia between Ortaklar and Aydın, five kilometres from Ortaklar spread over both sides of the road. And there is also Didyma, with the spectacular Didymaion Apollon temple at the entrance to Didim-Yenihisar. The sacred area of the ancient city of Miletos, this is the most sacred structure in the region after Ephesus and the island of Samos.
Altınkum is the coastal region of Didim. There is a large area of beaches, shallow seas and hotels lining the coast. Ten kilometres to the south of Didim is Akbük and the fishing village of Kazıklı, with tourist hotels and restaurants at the cove. Lake Bafa is spread over a large area between Didim and Milas. Along the shores of the lake there are various restaurants and one hotel. The village of Kapıkırı is nine kilometres along the road that turns left at end of the lake and a little ahead is the ancient city of Herakleia. The flat land where the school of the village stands today was the agora of the ancient city. The Temple of Athena is on the top of a cliff, the altar of Endymion is located towards the shores of the lake and the theatre is high up on the slopes. This city was established in 7th century BC. During its heyday it was a major port city but lost its connection to the sea with the Menderes River silted up the harbour.