Known for its beaches and festive ambiance, the Turkish resort town of Kuşadasi is also a popular destination for archaeology enthusiasts, thanks to its proximity to a number of impressive ancient sites. From UNESCO World Heritage Sites to millennia-old ruins, here are the top archaeological sites to explore in Kuşadasi and the surrounding region.
While Kuşadasi is most often seen as a jumping-off point for Ephesus and other top-ticket archaeological sites, the lively coastal city has its own historical draws. Its highlight is the Byzantine-era Kuşadasi Castle, which occupies the petite Pigeon Island and was recently restored to its former glory.
Hierapolis and Pamukkale
Together a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient city of Hierapolis and the Pamukkale hot springs are two of Turkey’s most distinctive attractions. A busy spa center established in the 2nd century BC, Hierapolis is renowned for its enormous necropolis and sizeable theater. Just adjacent is Pamukkale, an extraordinary area where calcite-laden spring waters have created natural terraced basins and travertine formations. The site still hosts public springs today.
Notable for the enormity of its scale, UNESCO-listed Ephesus is a must-see for history buffs. Among the largest and most complete ancient cities in Asia, this sprawling archaeological complex includes dozens of highlights. The site’s Temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and its ruins can still be seen today. Other essential stops include the Fountain of Trajan, the Temple of Hadrian, and the Library of Celsus.
House of the Virgin Mary
Just adjacent to Ephesus, the House of the Virgin Mary is a popular destination in its own right, particularly as a pilgrimage site. Said to be the former residence of the Virgin Mary, the small stone chapel has been visited by several popes. The Basilica of St. John, part of Ephesus, is another popular stop for Christian pilgrims.
The Lydian capital of Sardis offers a bevy of striking ruins. A major attraction of the ancient city, known for having had a large Jewish community, is the Sardis Synagogue, among the largest ancient synagogues ever excavated. The painstakingly restored Marble Court of Sardis and the Temple of Artemis are also impressive to behold.