Kusadasi might be renowned for being a seaside resort town, but there is so much more to see and do in the area. Whether you opt for an organized, guided tour or explore the region individually, you will be amazed by the cultural heritage sites, quaint small villages and beautiful nature.
1. Visit the ancient city Ephesus
A visit to Kusadasi would not be complete without visiting the ancient city Ephesus. Ephesus was in ancient times an ionic port city and trade center. Due to its strategic location it was extremely important. Nowadays it is a very popular and world renowned Unesco World Heritage site, located in Selcuk, 30 km north of Kusadasi.
The archaeological remains of the ancient city, dating back to the second century BC, showcase how great this civilization must have been. It is said that Ephesus was the fourth largest city in the eastern Roman Empire. Ephesus is most famous for the Artemesium and the Library of Celsus. The Artemesium (a temple dedicated to the fertility god Artemis) was one of the seven world wonders. Find out more here.
2. Wine tasting at vineyard 7 Sages, Yedi Bilgeler
Turkey may not be famed for its wine, but that doesn’t mean that there is any lack of it. In fact, Turkey is the world’s fourth-leading producer of grapes. Moreover, the Mediterranean climates along the Aegean coast and the diversity of Turkish landscapes and climates inland result in many vineyards and a variety of grapes and therefore wines.
A 20-minute drive north of Kusadasi you’ll find the family-owned winery Yedi Bilgeler or Seven Sages translated. Here you can get a winery tour and wine tasting in a gorgeous location. It is also a hotel and restaurant thus perfect for lunch or dinner. Find out more here.
3. Swim at Mili Park beach in Dilek National Park
Sure, Kusadasi has some beautiful beaches. But if you prefer a less touristy beach you should head to Dilek National Park. Here you’ll find pristine beaches with crystal clear water, green mountain slopes with hiking trails, and close encounters with wild pigs. The scenic road to Mili Park Beach is a must-see in itself. Dilek National Park is easy accessible by car or by Dolmus (small public transportation vans that pick up people until full).
4. Shop local products in Sirince village
Sirince village is a picturesque traditional village 600 meters in the mountains and 30 km north of Kusadasi. With less than 1000 inhabitants and its small artisan shops, it is a friendly and charming town to visit. Sirince is foremost known for its typical Greek-Turkish architecture. Before the war of independence the residents were Grecian which explains the architecture. Sirince offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards. It is especially renowned for its fruit wines, a must-try (and -buy) when visiting. The small cobbled streets are lined with traditional market stalls selling herbs, honey, home-made conserves, embroidered fabrics and other local products. Find out more here
5. Visit the Oleatrium + eat at Degirmen Restaurant
Always wanted to know how olive oil is made? In the Oleatrium – the museum of olive oil and olive press – you are led through an extensive exhibition of the olive oil production process from ancient times when it was all hand-operated until now as it is machine-driven. The museum shop offers canned olive oils, olive soaps, wines and other local delicacies. Adjacent to the museum is a splendid restaurant: Degirmen Restaurant. In a beautiful outdoor setting you can indulge in traditional Turkish dishes. The ambiance here is amazing and the food is fantastic. Do try the freshly pressed, bio pomegranate juice!
6. Go on a pilgrimage to Virgin Mary’s house
The house was discovered in the 19th century by following the descriptions in the reported visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774–1824), a Roman Catholic nun and visionary. It is the belief that Virgin Mary, was taken to this stone house by Saint John and lived there until her Assumption. The shrine is very small and modest. It is a very serene and peaceful place surrounded by a beautiful landscaped garden with birds and butterflies.
Outside the shrine is a “wishing wall” on which you can tie your personal wish on a piece of paper or fabric. A water fountain wall with three fountains is said to have miraculous powers of healing or fertility.
7. Eat fresh fish at a restaurant in the secluded Karina cove
A stonethrow away from the village Doganbey you’ll find the Karina cove. The cove is lined with waterfront restaurants serving traditional Turkish food. The fisherman bring their daily catch to the restaurants where they are grilled right before your eyes. While the water splashes against shore, and the local fisherman boats anchor, you can indulge in a fresh ‘homemade’ meal.
8. Visit the Museum of ancient Ephesus
Something not to miss is the Museum of Ephesus. This archaeological museum is said to be the best of Turkey. Be amazed by the statues of Artemis, or archaeological finds as small as hair pins and jewelry, or pottery. Most of the findings were discovered on the grounds of the Artemis temple, or the temple of Hadranius and Isis in Ephesus.
9. Discover Saint John’s Basilica
The ruins of Saint John’s Basilica are perching on a hill. It was built in the 6th century on the location where Apostle John supposedly was buried. The marble and brick stone remnants give a good idea of the immensity of the basilica. (130×65 meters) It was one of the largest ones of its decade. After the Turkish turned it into a mosque, an earthquake destroyed most of the building.
10. Roam the abandoned streets of Doganbey village
Get a feel of how the Greek lived in the 19th century by visiting the picturesque Doganbey village. It is an abandoned village on the north side of the Dilek Peninsula National Park. Cobbled stone streets and stone houses make this a picture perfect village. There’s also a quaint little restaurant with spectacular views.
Planning your excursions
By combining several excursions on one day, you get to tackle the otherwise time-consuming drives to the different places. On the map below you can see the exact location of the 10 things listed. Click on the coloured drops on the map to find out what it is. Don’t have a rental car? Book one of the many guided tours or make use of the public transportation vans known as Dolmus.
This blog post was created in collaboration with Visit Turkey via a sponsored trip. Regardless all opinions are my own.