A visit to Efes (Ephesus), once the commercial center 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 theater, 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 16th century building, 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 attraction for everyone, 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 historic train cars in Camlik. Sirince is 9 km east of Seljuk, known for its traditional 19th-century homes, some of which have been converted 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.
The province's capital, called Aydin, enjoys a widespread reputation for its fine figs. Known as Tralleis in ancient times, it was at the center of a celebrated school of sculpture. Today's remains date from the second century A.D. After 1186 the town came under Seljuk rule. The local museum displays artifacts from the different periods of its history.
Back along the coast, Kusadasi or Bird island is a lovely port built along the shores of a glittering bay. The terraced town overlooks the most beautiful inlet of the Aegean, seemingly created purely for the delight of the holiday-maker. Be sure to visit the popular Kus shopping center in the Kaleici quarter, where there is also all nightly entertainment. A large, modern marina facilitates life for visiting yachters. The Tusan-Kustur Beach, north of Kusadasi is one of the cleanest beaches. twenty-three km south of Kusdasi is the charming resort town of Guzelcamli. West of Guzelcamli and 30 km from Kusadasi, is the Dilek Peninsula National Park, a must for those with the time. Here, amidst incredibly beautiful surroundings, are some of the most wonderful vistas and some of the rarest wild animals in Turkey, including the Anatolian cheetah and some of the last wild horses. The park is a wildlife preserve, a haven for many species of animals and birds.
The exquisite Menderes River valley, known in the West as the Meander, has been the cradle of many civilizations. Bordered by pine, olive and oleander trees, the magnificent Lake Camici (Bafa) is a lovely place for a stop. Tourists can choose between guest-houses or campsites. To the east of the lake rise the five peaks of the Besparmak Mountains (Latmos). The Iconoclastic priests who came here from Constantinople to live, built monasteries, churches, and chapels around the base of the mountains and on the lake's islands. The ruins of the ancient city of Heraklia lie close to the lake, while the remains of Alinda are found on the eastern slopes of the Besparmak Mountains. The valley has witnessed the rise and fall of several great cities, notably Priene, Miletus, Didyma, Aphrodisias, and Hierapolis. This peaceful national reserve is an excellent place for bird-watchers, hikers, nature-lovers and photographers.
Gullubahce (Priene) was one of the most active ports of the Ionian 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 theater itself justifies a visit. Also be sure to see the well-preserved ruins of the Faustina baths and the Archaeological Museum.
Although Didim (Didyma) can only boast of a single monument, it is a marvelous site. The Temple of Apollo was one of antiquity's most sacred places. Many times looted and burned, the colossal sanctuary still impresses with its elegant beauty, surrounded by a double colonnade portico. Not far from the archeological 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 Aphrodite, 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 theater and a magnificent stadium. As the reputation of the city's craftsmen for the exquisite finesse spread through the civilized world, Aphrodisias became the center of the greatest sculpting school of antiquity. Many of its marvelous works of art are now housed in the local museum. The theater and bouleuterion are among the city's best-preserved ruins.
About 35 kilometers east of Aydin lies Sultanhisar, host to an Art and Culture Festival every spring. Nearby, in quiet groves of olive trees, are the ruins of ancient Nysa, famous in the second century A.D. as an educational center. 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.
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 center features folk art and ethnic artifacts. While shopping in the Kaleici Carsisi look for souvenirs of copper, jewelry, towels and silk blouses. You can choose among nearby Camlik, Incilipinar or Gokpinar Parks for a rest, 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, spectacular natural site, unique in the world, Pamukkale (Hiecrapolis) is a fairyland of dazzling white castles. Thermal spring waters laden with calcareous salts running off the plateau's edge have 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 center with its motels and thermal pools, as well as the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, are situated on the plateau.
Another thermal center northwest of Pamukkale is Karahayit, known for its water's high iron content. Honaz Dagi National Park is 20 km east of Denizli, near the town of Honaz. Mt. Honaz is one of the most beautiful and highest peaks (2528 m) in the Aegean region, covered with a gorgeous alpine forest. The remains of ancient Colossae, a site of early Christian activity, can be seen on the northern slope.