Renowned for its reputation as a holiday hot spot for flocks of tourists, Kusadasi is arguably the most popular cruise ship port on the Turkish Aegean coastline. Replete with all the trappings of a beach town, Kusadasi boasts charming resorts, an active entertainment and shopping scene, and miles of beach and turquoise waters.
This former fishing village turned resort town—whose name means “Bird Island” because of the shape of the iconic Pigeon Island at the southern end of town—offers more than just sun and sand.
Just 11 miles northeast of Kusadasi is Ephesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its remarkably preserved ruins, particularly the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre. It is also where the Apostle Paul evangelized, and a major hub of world trade and commerce.
If you want to pack more history into your trip, then make the 25-mile journey south of Kusadasi to the Hellenistic port city of Priene. Encompassed by mountains, Priene experienced its peak of commerce between 300 BC and 45 BC. The city began to decline after the Meander River silted up, and by the 2nd century AD, it was abandoned. Check out the well-preserved Temple of Athena and its 6,500-seat theater.
Head even further south into Miletus, another prominent harbor city from the Hellenistic period, outlasting its neighbor, Priene, by centuries. Do not miss its 15,000-seat theater, as well as the Temple of Apollo and the Baths of Faustina.
Winding back northward, stop at the Dilek Peninsula for some panoramic mountain scenery overlooking the rugged coastline and clear waters of the Aegean. There are plenty of stops for sightseeing and/or swimming along the way.
If you are a feeling a bit peckish, stop off for a leisurely brunch in Kirazli Village. The road that leads into the village is lined with restaurants that specialize in Turkish breakfast spreads, snacks, and small meals, all of which are available throughout the day.
Be sure to explore Kusadasi’s Old Town and Pigeon Island, both within walking distance. Old Town’s bazaar area starts in front of the harbor dock. The main road through the town leads to narrow lanes lined with pristine 19th-century Ottoman homes and walls. Just off the harbor via a causeway, is Pigeon Island, prominently featuring the remnants of a 13-century Byzantine fortress. The island is a popular draw for sightseers. Stop by the island’s café for a nosh and to take in the breeze and spectacular views of the harbor.