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Things to Do in Kusadasi

With its popular beaches and European-style shops and restaurants along the waterfront, Kusadasi is primarily regarded as a resort town frequented by cruise ships and populated by European holiday-goers. But this city on the west coast of Turkey offers the seasoned global traveler plenty to love, including a stunning example of 17th century Ottoman architecture at Okuz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai. Apart from the attractions, however, the city’s most enticing appeal is its prime location with easy access to some of Turkey’s most popular historic and natural attractions. Take a short ferry ride to the Greek island of Samos, home to Pythagoras and Epicurus, or spend the day lounging aboard the deck of a boat on the Mediterranean Sea. The large set of Aegean ruins at Ephesus—including the House of Virgin Mary, Basilica of St. John, and Temple of Artemis—lures travelers away from the city, as do the smaller but equally important sites at Priene, Didyma, and Miletus. With so many tours geared to please the cruise passengers coming and going from Izmir Port, finding a streamlined shore excursion to any of these attractions is a breeze. Private tours offer customizable itineraries best suited to your interests, while group tours save money on the most popular attractions.
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Ephesus (Efes)
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Ephesus (Efes) is one of the greatest ancient sites in the Mediterranean. During its heyday in the first century BC, it was the second-largest city in the world, with only Rome commanding more power. Many reconstructed structures and ruins, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, can be seen here.

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Kusadasi Castle
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Built and extended between the 14th and 18th centuries, picturesque Kusadasi Castle sits on Pigeon Island (Guvercin Adasa), an islet connected to Kusadasi via a causeway. Originally constructed as a military base, the fortress is composed of outer walls that enclose its gardens and an inner castle with a tiny museum.

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Temple of Artemis (Artemision)
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The Temple of Artemis, or Artemision, was a Greek temple in present-day Turkey dedicated to the goddess Artemis. It was one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. It was built not far from Ephesus just outside the present-day town of Selcuk. The temple was completely rebuilt several times throughout history after being destroyed on multiple occasions by both nature and human factors. Little remains of the temple in its original location today since archeologists brought much of the ruins to the British Museum.

The Temple of Artemis is only a couple of miles from Ephesus, making it an easy attraction to visit. Visitors can still see one tall column and a handful of marble pieces from the foundations of the structure, and the historical location is fascinating. From the site, you can also see the ruins of St. John's Basilica, located on a hill in Selcuk.

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House of the Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Evi)
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A holy shrine to the supposed death place of St. Mary, the House of the Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Evi) in Ephesus is a standing testament to the home of the beloved mother of Jesus (Meryem Ana or Meryemana in Turkish). Many believe that the house was indeed the place where she spent her final days, and today you can visit the restored stone house, which now serves as a chapel.

Serving as sacred territory for Christians and Muslims alike, the Virgin Mary's House has called hundreds of thousands of visitors and pilgrims since its discovery in the 19th-century. Remnants of the chapel date as far back as the 6th-century, and serves as the place where its caretakers, the Lazarist Fathers, conduct mass every day. Despite the altar placed within, the house still contains a bedroom and kitchen, decorated with pictures of Mary and candles.

Many believe that the spring that runs beneath St. Mary's House is blessed and possesses the power to heal, and once you enter the house, you can see left behind crutches and other apparatus’ that were apparently left behind amid miracles.

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Miletus (Miletos)
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The ancient Greek city of Miletus (Miletos) in modern-day Turkey was once an important port city. When the river’s location changed, the city was eventually abandoned.

The settlement at Miletus dates back to 1400 B.C.E., and the city grew to be one of Greece’s wealthiest cities - thanks in large part to its position at the mouth of the Maeander River. Over the centuries, the river changed course, leaving Miletus behind. The city was later destroyed by the Persians in 499 B.C.E. and then rebuilt on a new grid plan that was to become the model for Roman cities. Excavations at the site began in the late 1800s, and today you can see the remains of a theater, a stadium, a Temple to Apollo, a Byzantine-era castle and church, and Roman baths.

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Priene
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The ancient Greek city of Priene is in modern-day Turkey, but its Greek roots are clearly visible in the excavations you can visit. The remains of the city of Priene we can see today date back to the 4th century B.C.E., but it’s widely known among archaeologists that the original Priene settlement is much older. How much older, they can’t say - those remains are likely still buried - but it’s possible the original city was established before 1000 B.C.E.

One of the main attractions at Priene is the Temple to Athena, situated at the highest point of the old city. Other sights in the excavations include a theater, the agora, a city council building called a “bouleuterion,” a gymnasium with Roman baths, and a Temple of Demeter.

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Sardis (Sart)
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Pre-Roman ancient ruins are just a day trip from Kusadasi in the ruined city of Sardis, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia from the 7th to 6th centuries BC.

For a time Sardis (Sart, today) was renowned throughout classical antiquity as the richest city on the planet, known for its legendary supply of gold washed down from the Tumulus Mountains. The term ‘rich as Croesus’ refers to that gold and the last Lydian ruler, King Croesus, who is thought to have invented gold coins.

In fact, settlement here dates back to Paleolithic times, but most of that history lies underground, destroyed by millennia of earthquake activity. Nowadays, the site is famous for its impressive Roman ruins, built hundreds of years after the city’s initial burst of fame, in around the 2nd century AD.

On a visit to the site you’ll see a grand double-story framework of columns and architraves outlining the extent of the Roman-era gymnasium. The baths here date from the 3rd century AD, and shops once lined the nearby street of marble stone. Fine capitals carved with acanthus leaves and classical curlicues have survived, along with mosaic tiled floors and statues.

You’ll also see the Synagogue with its marble court and mosaics, the acropolis and the celebrated Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Don’t miss the example of the Romans’ communal toilets, with a shared row of seating suspended over a latrine. The town’s arena was destroyed by an earthquake nearly 2,000 years ago, and there are more recent ruins dating from the Byzantine period.

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Adaland Aquapark
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Adaland Aquapark is a water park in Kusadasi, Turkey on the country's west coast. In the past it has been named one of the best water parks in the world. The park has a wide variety of water slides including a head first slide, a freefall slide, loop slides, body slides, tube slides, speedy slides, slope slides, dark tunnel slides, and the world's longest family slide with tubes for two to six people. There's also a big fountain with water shooting out of the ground set to music in an area called Rain Dance where you can dance and enjoy the water. The water park has an elliptical shaped track for rafting and is the only place in Kusadasi where you can go rafting.

Adaland Aquapark also has a jacuzzi with warm bubbly water, a lazy river, a wave pool, and a pool for children. There's an activity pool where you can go swimming or sunbathing. When you're ready to take a break, there are several restaurants and bars offering hamburgers, pizza, Turkish food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and more.

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Public Latrine at Ephesus
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The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ephasus are located in Selcuk, Turkey. The city was the second most important city in the Roman empire during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. One of the popular sections of the ruins is the Public Latrine, next to the Hadrian Temple and the Bordello. The public latrines were the city's public toilets, and they were built in the 1st century AD as part of the Scholastica Baths. These baths were built to provide the city with the modern conveniences of public works, including 36 marble toilets.

Visitors can still see, but not use, the toilets that are lined up along the walls. There was an uncovered pool with columns surrounding it which supported a wooden ceiling. Underneath the latrines was a drainage system. There was also a trough with relatively clean water near where your feet would be. People who wanted to use the toilets had to pay an entrance fee.

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Basilica of St. John
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A visit to St. John’s Basilica allows a glimpse into the history of this ancient site, built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. It is believed that the church sits on the burial grounds of John the Apostle and was designed in the shape of a cross. At its completion, it was covered by six domes, with many of the walls presumably once covered in frescoes.

As nearby Ephesus began to lose significance, the Basilica of St. John was converted into a mosque, hit by an earthquake and completely destroyed by a Mongol army in 1402. All that remains today are various bricks and stones alongside the marble columns that once held up the structure, but recent restoration gives visitors the context to visualize and understand its former status and significance.

Many combine their visit with a walk to the nearby Ayasuluk Fortress atop Ayasuluk Hill, where St. John is said to have written his gospel. A climb up offers great views of the surrounding area.

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More Things to Do in Kusadasi

Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus

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The Library of Celsus is the most famous part of the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. It was built between 110 and 135 AD by Gaius Julius Aquila in honor of his father, Celsus Polemaeanus. Unfortunately his father died before the Celsus Library was completed, and his tomb was placed in a special room beneath the ground level of the building. A statue of Athena was placed at the entrance to the tomb because Athena was the goddess of wisdom.

The Library of Celsus was two stories high and had three entrances in the front. The entrances were designed with exaggerated height in order to give the building the overall appearance of being bigger than it was. The building faces east which allowed plenty of morning light to shine into the reading rooms. The Celsus Library was once the third largest library in the ancient world, after Alexandra and Pergamum, and could hold more than 12,000 scrolls.

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Temple of Hadrian at Ephesus

Temple of Hadrian at Ephesus

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The Temple of Hadrian at Ephesus is one of the highlights of the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. It was built around 118 AD and is actually more of a monument to Hadrian, Artemis, and the people of Ephesus. Hadrian's temple is small, but there is a beautiful arch on the outside, a porch, and a small main hall. The porch is supported by pillars and Corinthian columns. A statue of Hadrian once stood on a podium in the temple, but it has been lost. On the front of the porch are bases with the names of Galerius, Maximianus, Diocletianus, and Constantius Chlorus inscribed on them, indicating that the bases might have once held statues of these emperors.

Panel reliefs on the inside depict Medusa warding off the bad spirits, the mythological foundation of Ephesus, and various religious scenes. The reliefs seen today are plaster replicas, while the originals are protected in the Ephesus Museum.

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Dilek National Park (Dilek Milli Parki)

Dilek National Park (Dilek Milli Parki)

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Covering 87 square miles (227 square kilometers), the Dilek Peninsula-Buyuk Menderes Delta National Park occupies a peninsula south of Kusadasi on Turkey’s Aegean coast. Natural wonders abound here, from pebble beaches and wildlife to footpaths, ancient ruins, and a canyon hiking trail.

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Sirince

Sirince

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Şirince, a small village of just 600 inhabitants, has a long history that is intrinsically linked to Ephesus; indeed, rumor has it that it was founded by freed Greek slaves who named it “ugly” in Turkish to deter others from following them after the fall of Ephesus. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the name was changed to Şirince, which means ‘pleasant.’ Nowadays the mountainous village is mainly known for its many preserved whitewashed stucco homes, bucolic and lush setting, as well as its fruit-based wineries and olive groves. The Church of St John the Baptist, although neglected by Turkish authorities, still houses fantastic Byzantine frescoes. Most tourists tend to visit for one day as part of excursions to nearby Selçuk, but there’s a handful of guesthouses and cafés for overnight guests as well. Visitors should be aware that Sirince gets very crowded on the weekend.

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Baths of Varius

Baths of Varius

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The Baths of Varius was a bathhouse built in the 2nd century AD in Ephesus in present-day Turkey. The north and east walls of the original building were carved from natural outcroppings of rock. Several renovations over a few centuries gave the building a unique look, including the addition of a hallway that was 130 feet long and covered in mosaics from the 5th century. The baths covered a large area and had several different rooms, including separate rooms for cold, warm, and hot water. There were also private rooms for a few wealthy citizens of Ephesus. It is believed one section functioned as a gymnasium.

The Romans place a high value on personal cleanliness, so the Baths of Varius would have been an important building in ancient Ephesus. Most but not all sections of the baths have been excavated, and no restoration work has been done yet. Some sections are in decent shape, but it might take some creativity to imagine what other sections once looked like.

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Didyma

Didyma

Located 48 miles (78 kilometers) south of Kusadasi in Turkey, Didyma is a sanctuary centered on the 2nd-century-BC Temple of Apollo, once among the largest in the ancient Greek world. Now reduced to giant broken columns and chambers, the temple once drew thousands of pilgrims who came to worship Apollo and consult its prophesy-giving oracle.

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Kusadasi Caravanserai (Öküz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai)

Kusadasi Caravanserai (Öküz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai)

The centuries roll back when you step inside Kuşadası Caravanserai (Öküz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai), rich with Ottoman and Seljuk architectural details.

With its Venetian-style swallow-tail battlements and red stone walls, the Ottoman castle dates back to 1618 and the days of Vizier Öküz Mehmed Pasha (also written Okus Mehmet Pasa or Okuz Mehmed Pasha). In the Ottoman era, the castle acted as a trading house and meeting place for merchants, and was fortified to protect the valuable goods stored there.

Entering the Caravanserai, you walk through a marble arched gateway into a double-story courtyard filled with lush palm trees, Turkish rugs (for sale), marble pools and fountains.

These days the former stronghold is a welcoming boutique hotel with a well-known restaurant. The hotel combines Ottoman history and modern-day conveniences, with bathrooms and fireplaces providing plenty of 21st-century comforts.

The Kusadasi Caravanserai is a popular entertainment venue. Traditional Turkish cuisine and entertainment fill the courtyard on ‘Turkish Nights’, when folk music and belly dancing are performed under the stars.

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Kusadasi Cruise Port

Kusadasi Cruise Port

One of the most popular resort towns along Turkey’s Aegean Coast and the gateway to the UNESCO-listed wonders of Ephesus, the Kusadasi Cruise Port welcomes some 200,000 cruise passengers each year. It’s also a jumping-off point for regular ferry service to the surrounding Greek Islands.

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