How to experience the best of Kusadasi, Turkey

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Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie

The balmy resort of Kusadasi* on Turkey's southern Aegean coast is an increasingly popular cruise ship port. Ticking all the boxes in sun-drenched, seriously welcoming style, there is a waterfront studded with beaches, an island topped with a castle and an old town and bazaar brimming with character.

Roam the ruins of ancient Ephesus © Nataliya Nazarova - Dreamstime.com
Roam the ruins of ancient Ephesus © Nataliya Nazarova - Dreamstime.com

What's more, beyond this spectacular setting, betwixt emerald mountain and sparkling sea is a swathe of historic sites that just beg to be explored, including one of the most remarkable ancient cities known to the modern world.

Getting to Kusadasi: as a bustling port, one of the best ways to get to Kusadasi is by ship. Check out the latest offers on itineraries to Turkey with Marella Cruises* and book your berth today.

Walk the waterfront

The Aegean Sea promenade has been given a stylish revamp in recent years, so stroll along taking in the sea breeze and pulse of this lively destination.

If you're arriving by cruise ship, they've gone to town on facilities with a web of trim shops and boutiques sprinkled around the cruise terminal. Gazing west, the waterfront is a great place to watch the sun sink into the Aegean Sea.

Hit the beach

It was Kusadasi's beaches that first brought cold northern Europeans flocking here in the 1960s and they are still a huge draw. There are some small beaches right in the resort, but you're better heading just outside to Ladies' Beach.

Relax on Ladies Beach © Ryhor Bruyeu - Dreamstime.com
Relax on Ladies Beach © Ryhor Bruyeu - Dreamstime.com

The name dates from Ottoman times when it was deemed off-limits to men. Today everyone is welcome and it is no tourist-only hideaway as locals head here too, especially on Sundays.

There's usually plenty of room on the sand for everyone, plus lashings of options for a drink or snack. Other stretches of sand to check out include Long Beach and Silver Sands Beach.

Get up high

Kusadasi enjoys a magical setting surrounded by vaulting hills and shimmering sea. Look up from the waterfront and you can make out a statue of the father of the modern Turkish state, Ataturk.

He enjoys the best views in town from Ataturk Hill, with the whole bay unfurling below. It's a fair heft to the top, especially on a hot day, so you may want to consider getting a taxi up the slopes.

Discover Pigeon Island

This postcard-pretty island stretches out in the heart of the city, easily reached across a causeway. The name comes from its renown as a haven for all manner of birds, not just pigeons.

Explore Pigeon Island © Grelafoto - Adobe Stock Image
Explore Pigeon Island © Grelafoto - Adobe Stock Image

Stroll the tree-shrouded island and visit the landmark castle, which has its roots in the 13th century and has been tarted up for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the modern Turkey*, which will be celebrated in 2023.

Stroll around the island and evoke the days when pirates hid away here and launched their raids from the island.

Delve into Kusadasi's old town

Much modern development has sprung up to serve the needs of tourism, but the older quarters still hold on to their rustic charm.

Check out the Kervansaray building, which played a crucial role in the old days of the caravanserai when the mule or camel-led caravan trains would arrive or set off from here.

The building, which dates back over 400 years, was commissioned by Okuz Mehmet Pasa in 1618, so it's well worth a visit.

Look out for the old southern gate, the only surviving stretch of the city walls and, also, the bazaar area with its history of serious retail action here dating back centuries.

Wonder at Ephesus

There really is nothing quite like this remarkable ancient city of Ephesus just a 20-minute drive inland. It is an utterly essential day trip, one of the wonders of the ancient world.

One of Europe's great cities, archaeological digs have peeled back its layers to offer a compelling insight into the Greek and Roman worlds. Marvel at the Temple of Hadrian built to mark the emperor's visit, see what a Roman brothel looked like, or just gawp at the intricate façade of the vaulting Library.

The theatre takes the breath away as it's easy to imagine thousands of citizens snapping up tickets to enjoy a big performance here just like we would today for a gig or big sports match.

Ephesus offers a window into the ancient world that no one should miss. Spend as much time as you can here, or take a guided excursion to really delve into the importance of the site.

See two historic sites in one

A superb excursion from Kusadasi is out to Miletus and Didyma.

Miletus is an ancient Greek city, whose ruins evoke its former grandeur. The Romans, Egyptians and Ottomans have all left their indelible imprints here.

Peeling back the various layers is all part of the fun; take in the ruins of a 2,000-year-old Roman theatre, which would once have held up to 15,000 spectators.

Interior of the massive Temple of Apollo at Didyma © Son of Groucho - Flickr Creative Commons
Interior of the massive Temple of Apollo at Didyma © Son of Groucho - Flickr Creative Commons

Didyma has a similar Greek heritage and is linked to the city of Miletus, acting as a sanctuary of Didyma, or Didymaion.

It sported impressive temples to twins Apollo and Artemis. The remains of the temple that houses the oracle of Apollo are particularly dramatic. Look out too for the remains of the Greek theatre.

Take a Turkish bath

After pounding the streets of historic sites set aside some time for a proper chill-out, Turkish style. A true Turkish bath is quite an experience.

You start by relaxing in a warm room to open up your pores before your skin gets the loofah treatment as you're polished up nicely. Then it's on to the actual massage, a deeply relaxing affair that eases travel-weary muscles. You'll float through the rest of the day.

Weather in Kusadasi

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The above shows the weather in Kusadasi. Find out more about conditions across the country in our complete guide to the weather in Turkey.

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Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie
Posted on Sunday 18th December 2022 in: City Culture Europe Marella Cruises Summer

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