The Aegean Coast
The magnificent coast of ancient Ionia, a crucible of western civilisation, boasts fine beaches and many important historical sites. The attractive tourist towns of Ayvacik, Ayvalik and Behramkale are good places from which to visit the magnificent Temple of Athena at Assos. Further south lie the ruins of the great city of Pergamum (modern Bergama), famous in antiquity for its splendid library. It is here that you will find the Sanctuary of Asclepieion and two fine temples, the Acropolis and the red-brick Basilica.
Izmir, the birthplace of Homer, is Turkey’s third city and an important port. It is a modern metropolis set in a curving bay surrounded by terraced hillsides. As a result of earthquakes and a great fire, there are only a few reminders of old Smyrna – Kadifekale, the fourth-century fortress situated on top of Mount Pagos. The fortress affords a superb view of the city, and of the Gulf of Izmir, the Roman agora with some well-preserved porticos and Statues of Poseidon and Artemis. Çesme is one of the many popular resorts in the Izmir region. It has excellent beaches, thermal springs and a 15th-century fortress.
The port of Sigacik, the ruins of the ancient Ionian city of Teos and the sandy beach at Akkum are all between Izmir and Çesme. A short way inland is another fine Graeco-Roman city, Sardis (modern Sart), with a beautiful Marble Court, Temple of Artemis and a first-century AD synagogue. The remains of the Hellenistic and Roman city of Ephesus (modern Selçuk), rumoured to have been founded in the 13th century BC, lie at the foot of Mount Pion. Carefully restored and now one of the most spectacular ancient cities in the world, top sights within the huge archaeological area include the Grand Theatre, where St Paul preached to the Ephesians, the second-century Temple of Serapi, the elegant façades of the Temple of Hadrian and the Library of Celsus.
The site of Meryemana, reputed to be the house of the Virgin Mary, lies very close to Ephesus in the small vale of Mount Bulbul Dagi (Nightingale Mountain). It has become a world-famous shrine, attracting thousands of pilgrims each year. The nearby town of Selçuk is home to the Ephesus Museum and Basilica of St John, said to be the last home of John the Baptist. The ruins of Priene, Miletus and Didyma are also of great interest and, like Ephesus, are within easy reach of Kusadasi, an attractive resort surrounded by sandy bays. Inland are two more fine historic cities, the atmospheric Heraklea ad Latmos, and Aphrodisias.