Nestled somewhere along the Turkish Aegean is the bustling resort town of Kusadasi. This dazzling holiday destination is high on every traveler’s list, charming visitors with many attractions and activities. There are countless restaurants with dreamy views of the sea, long sandy beaches where you’ll enjoy golden sunsets, and family water packs for some fun with the kids.
But even then, don’t get too carried away with the vibrancy of Kusadasi. All around it are dozens of magnificent attractions just waiting for you to visit. These include ancient temples, fallen cities, idyllic villages, stunning mosques, legendary caves, and so much more. So, if you’re visiting Kusadasi, it’s best if you spend a few days here and explore the following attractions:
The ancient city of Ephesus sits only 2.5 km, a 6-minute drive from Kusadasi. Established some 3,000 years ago, this vast and beautiful Greco-Roman city is one of Turkey’s most significant historical sites and the region’s biggest attraction. The city was home to around 250,000 people in its heyday and was an important trade center since it had a port.
It was also a great pilgrimage center throughout the Hellenistic and Roman eras thanks to the nearby Temple of Artemis, built in honor of the Greek goddess Artemis (Roman Diana). It enjoyed periods of prosperity spanning around 1300 years, even becoming a capital of Asia minor before its collapse in the Byzantine era.
Much of it may lie in ruin, but the ancient port city still holds enough to dazzle those curious enough to walk its colonnaded streets. It’s home to magnificent Greco-Roman structures, including a well-preserved 25,000 capacity theatre, Celsus Library, and the Temple of Hadrian.
2. Ephesus Archaeological Museum
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, archaeological discoveries from Ephesus and the surrounding areas were transported to the British Museum and the Ephesos Museum in Vienna. So, when the Turkish Government passed a law to prevent the loss of archaeological artifacts to foreign countries, the Ephesus Archeological Museum was born.
Today, the museum is home to thousands of artifacts and statues from the Ottoman to the Mycenaean civilizations. The items are stored in nine rooms, each holding a different category of artifacts or statues. Here, visitors enjoy exhibitions of ancient coins, monuments, statues, sculptures, Busts, household items, sarcophagi, vessels, and so much more.
3. Selcuk Town
Selcuk is a small town in Kusadasi beneath an ancient fortress at the foot of Ayasuluk hill. It makes a good base for exploring the surrounding areas and attractions, including all the attractions in this list and others like Priene, Miletus, and Didyma.
4. The House of Virgin Mary
Also known as Meryemana, the House of the Virgin Mary is a significant tourist attraction for Christians worldwide. It’s believed that after Jesus entrusted his mother, Mary, to the apostle John, the two moved to Ephesus. The story goes that Mary lived in this particular house on the outskirts of the ancient city. So how was the place discovered?
Well, Meryemana was discovered in 1891 based on the visions of a German nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824). A French priest found the ruins of a small church, approximately 2,000 years old. This is what we now know as the House of the Virgin Mary. There is a “Wishing Wall” where thousands of pilgrims have written their requests on strips of paper or fabric.
Three popes have also visited the shrine; John Paull II, Paul VI, and Benedict XVI.
5. The Temple of Artemis
Of all the Greek temples, none was as imposing or as breathtaking as the Temple of Artemis. Also known as the Artemision, this magnificent temple was built entirely of marble on a marshy patch of land on the outskirts of Ephesus. So massive in stature and stunning in beauty was it that it was one (and perhaps the most beautiful) of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Throughout its centuries-old history, the Temple of Artemis was rebuilt twice. The first time was after a mad man set it on fire, while the second restorations happened after an attack by the Goths. However, the temple was destroyed by a Christian mob towards the Byzantine era and was never rebuilt.
Only the foundation and one of its 127 marble columns remain to date. The rest of the temple was recycled as building materials by the local population. Some sources even claimed that a couple of its columns and marble slabs were used to build the Hagia Sophia. However, the area is still a fantastic place to visit.
Eight kilometers from Selcuk town center lies one of the most beautiful villages in the region, Sirince. Sitting squarely on the side of a hill and surrounded by lush green trees, the village is one of the numerous former Greek settlements in the country. There are even indicators that the area around Sirince was inhabited tens of centuries ago. These include remains of a couple of Roman-era aqueducts that supplied water to the ancient city of Ephesus.
Today, Sirince is characterized by charming Greek-style houses and cobblestone alleys cascading down the hillside. Visitors of the picture-picture perfect village enjoy peaceful strolls in an idyllic setting of whitewashed houses, walled gardens, vineyards, peach orchards, cypresses, and olive grooves. The top of Sirince also offers magnificent views of the area.
7. Grotto of the Seven Sleepers
Local legend says that in 250 CE, Emperor Decius prosecuted seven early Christians and sealed them in a cave approximately two kilometers from Ephesus. Two hundred years later, the seven walked out of the cave unscathed to find that Christianity was the Roman Empire’s official religion. Thus, they lived peacefully in Ephesus until their deaths, upon which they were buried in the cave.
The cave, thus, became Grotto of the Seven Sleepers, a famous pilgrimage center for Christians from all over the Roman and Byzantine world. You can even see some of the tombs in the cave.
Tire is a peaceful farming hamlet that sits 40 kilometers north of Selcuk. It’s a great place to enjoy Turkish rural life and treats its visitors with impressive displays of felt-making craftsmanship. Those who visit the village on Tuesdays, the market day, also sample delicious local foodstuffs.
There is a burial mound and a mausoleum similar to that of Halicarnassus in Bodrum on the way to Tire. These date back to the 5th century BCE and are a great stop for the history and archeology buffs visiting the Kusadasi town.
9. Pamucak Beach
If your Aegean dream is all about that wet and sandy experience, Pamucak beach should be at the top of your list. This seaside paradise is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Thus, it gets pretty busy during weekends and holidays, making weekdays the best time to enjoy sunbathing and swimming on the beach.
Flamingo viewing is also possible during late winter and early spring in a nearby estuary.
Kirazli village is one of the best-kept secrets of Kusadasi. With only 600 inhabitants, the village consists of a close-knit and friendly community, making it a good base for independent travelers looking to explore the area. Visitors to Kirazli also enjoy delicious local delicacies at the various traditional restaurants in the village, beautiful scenery of the surrounding flowering fields of figs, olives, cherry trees, and vines.
If you’re traveling with your family and want to start/continue your sightseeing experience with an adrenaline boost, Adaland is the place to be. This family-friendly resort park boasts outlandish attractions for the thrill-seekers, including the ‘world’s longest family slide’ at a whopping 406 meters (Water Coaster).
There are also two slides with a 360° loop, another with a 50-meter drop (Kamikaze), and a splashdown that launches revelers several meters into the air (Slide & Fly’s). All in all, you will enjoy rides in inflatable rafts, pools, and exhilarating slides for the kids.
12. The Basilica of Saint John
The Basilica of St. John lies two miles from the ruins of Ephesus, on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill. The citadel-like basilica, just like the Hagia Sophia, was commissioned by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It occupied the whole breadth of Ayasoluk Hill and was one of the largest churches in the Byzantine empire.
St. John Basilica was also well decorated, but its most considerable appeal was the belief that it was constructed on the grave of St. John. Many Christians believed that the apostle was merely sleeping, and thus, the church became a major pilgrim destination in the Byzantine world.
The church was constructed on a Latin-cross plan as a three-aisled basilica. It had a magnificent roof with six domes and was 130 meters long and 40 meters wide. In 1130 CE, the Seljuks captured Ephesus, and the church was converted into a mosque and momentarily served as a bazaar before an earthquake destroyed it, which was once great.
Only part of the basilica ruins have been restored to date, but just a glimpse of the church is enough to bring thousands of tourists to the location each month.
13. Isa Bey Mosque
Isa Bey Camii is a 14th-century project of the famous Seljuk-era architect Ali, son of Mushimish al-Damishki. This beautiful mosque has a richly decorated main entrance and an arcaded courtyard leading to its double-domed prayer hall. The structure is supported by large columns of black granite recycled from ancient Roman baths in the region.
Visitors can access the mosque’s stunning interior outside prayer times. However, all who enter the mosques must cover their shoulders and knees, with female visitors also required to wear a headscarf.
14. Dilek Peninsula
The Dilek Peninsula is a 27,500-hectare national park south of Kusadasi. Its topography consists of the Majestic Mount Mycale, which provides stunning views on the horizon from Kusadasi Long beach. The south of the park is a much wetter landscape thanks to the delta of the Buyuk Menderes River.
Being a national park, the peninsula’s biggest attraction is perhaps its incredible wealth of flora and fauna. Overall, it has 800 different plant species, and the woodlands are home to jackals, hyenas, and lynxes, while the delta is populated by species of pelicans, plovers, and egrets.
15. Kusadasi Long Beach
Also known as Uzun Plaj, this sandy beach of Kusadasi is 18 km long, starting around the headland from Ladies Beach to the town of Guzelcamli. It has tourist infrastructure throughout its length, beginning with the Tortuga Pirate Island Theme & Waterpark at the top end of the beach. To the south, revelers enjoy majestic views it once Dilek Peninsula. The bay here is entirely exposed to the Aegean Sea, but it shelves gently and has plenty of knee-high water for kids to have fun safely.
Book your Kusadasi tour today
Kusadasi is one of the best places to spend your Turkish vacation, whether you want to explore historical sites, enjoy scenic landscapes, or relax on a warm cozy beach. To make the most out of your trip to this magical land, book your Kusadasi trip with Made in Turkey Tours today. We have expert guides to keep you informed and engaged everywhere you go.