As the third biggest city of the Turkish Republic, Izmir, the most important door of the Anatolia opening to the Aegean Sea has a history tracing back to, at least, 8.000 years ago. A city acquiring such a long history since the paleolithic years is inevitable to harbour countless civilisations, from empires (Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires) to small ones (Hittite Empire) throughout the history. The Artemis Temple, the 7th biggest historical artifact in the world's brilliants list, is at Izmir. 3 of the 7 churches named within the Bible are within the borders of this city.
Backed by mountains and facing the sea, this site offers a fine appearance, both with its natural panorama and its modern and orderly view. Lovely palm trees decorate the promenades and avenues, where new and impressive buildings stand.
Walking around this charming city, one can see a lot, ranging from the oldest remains, to the most recent establishments scattered around.
The clocktower stands in Konak Square as a symbol of the city while nearby the Archelogical Museum houses many finds from the early western Anatolian civilizations. In the city center, there is the Kultur Park (Culture Park) where the famous annual International Fair is held.
Filled with pretty restaurants, cafes, shops and bars, Kordonboyu is a long promenade, which provides a restful atmosphere and the typical elegant scenery of the city. Kemeralti Bazaar is a smart place with limitless shopping opportunities for here you will find almost anything you want, at the most appropriate prices.
Karsiyaka is another attractive district on the opposite side of the bay, where the Olaf Palme Park exists near the open-air museum, which houses many interesting statues.
Known as "Smyrna" in ancient times, the province of Izmir has a long history, dating back to the 3rd- millenium BC when it was one of the most advanced cultural center in Western Anatolia. Legendary Homer lived here in the lonian period, which was the most splendid age of the city, dating to the 1st-millenium BC. Today some beautiful examples from this long past can be found inside the city. Here is the Kadifekale (the Velvet Fortress) located on Mount Pagos, overlooking the area. A marvellous view of the Gulf of Izmir is provided from this castle built in the 3rd-century BC, and later restored at various times. Another important sight is the Roman agora, constructed during one of the most brilliant periods of the province. The seven churches mentioned by St. John in the Book of Revelation are also in Turkey and are spread around Izmir, which are Izmir (Smyrna), Efes (Ephesus), Eskihisar (Laodicea), Alasehir (Philadelphia), Sart (Sardis), Akhisar (Thyatira), and Bergama (Pergamum).
Today, Izmir has an important port, as well as a lovely holiday resort with numerous sandy beaches stretching over its towns and environs. In addition to famous sites like Efes, Kusadasi or Cesme, Izmir possesses Balcova, one of the important thermal centres in Turkey, which is known as the "Agamemnon Baths". They offer modern facilities to visitors, in the midst of wonderful surroundings.
Pergamum, (105 kms north of Izmir) is one of the major sites antiquity in Turkey, having been a great center of culture and civilization throughout history. The site has remarkable remains from the Roman and Byzantine periods. The Asclepion to the southwest of the lower city, was built to pay homage to the God of Health, Asclepios, and it was the most celebrated in the world. The temples of Trajan and Dionysus, majestic Altar of Zeus, the temple of Demeter, inspiring theatre, the gymnasium, the arsenals, the lower agora and the famous library form the Acropolis. In addition, you may see the finds from Pergamum and the surrounding area. In the Archaeological and Ethnographical Museum. The temple of Serapis, also called the "Red Courtyard" due to its red tiles, is today located within the town of Bergama. It was built as a sanctuary dedicated to Serapis and was then converted into a basilica by the Byzantines. Bergama is the homeland of many philosophers and scientists. Among them is Krates who invented and produced the "parchment paper" (Pergamene Kaste) here.
Dikili is a harbor town close to Bergama, visited by cruise liners bringing visitors to Pergamum. Dikili is an ideal place to relax after a Pergamum excursion. A walk along the Rordan promenade is a pleasure. Between Dikili and Izmir do not forget to visit the port of Candaril which is crowned with one of the best preserved Genoese fortresses .
THE CESME PENINSULA
Cesme is a little town at the tip of the peninsula that forms the Gulf of Izmir. The meaning of "Cesme" is "fountain" or "spring" due to the curative springs and thermal baths around especially in Ilica. Cesme and Ilica are resorts that should be visited for a while because of the vast white beaches and azure waters with seasonal accommodation facilities. Ilica is located at the center of several touristic sites. Thermal resorts of Sifne Pasa Limani, Buyuk Liman, Alacati, and the Bay of Boyalik. You may enjoy almost every kind of water sport in Cesme, including underwater diving. If you are lucky enough you may encounter the seals, off the shore. In this town, there are excellent accommodation facilities and an attractive night life. Cesme Castle now houses the International Cesme Sea and Music Festival. The Cesme Peninsula has many seaside resorts. At the northeast of Cesme lies lidin which was the important port of Erythrai, founded after the War of Troy, and it has a good view from the acropolis, overlooking the bay and the islands.
Urla (Clazomenae) is a peaceful place to visit and to taste the delicious fish at a local seaside restaurant. The view from the Guvendik Hill is always relaxing.
The road between Izmir and Cesme is dotted with lovely little fishing villages such as Mordogan which takes its name from the particular purple color of the sunrise at that spot and Karaburun an unspoiled village nestled between the mountains and picturesque bays Balikliova.
On the southern part of the Peninsula is Seferihisar an important yachting center surrounded by Geneose remains. From here you may visit the ancient city of Teos to see the impressive Temple of Dionysus, or to lose yourself to the warm sandy beaches of Altnkum.
Gumuldur will also tempt you with its beautiful beaches full of tranquil bays, which you may consider as your own, with excellent accommodation, discos and restaurants.
The colossal statute of Apollo in the Temple of Apollon at Ahmetbeyli (Claros), should not be missed as it is an amazing piece of art.
An attractive site with a mysterious nature is Foça, a legendary place interesting sights. Here is the fascinating Siren Rock Island, where the action of the soft wind blowing through the rocks make sounds resembling a woman's cries. These unearthly sounds, once allegedly spell bound sailors to stay on this land until their death.
Foça is the ancient Phocaea of the lonians, and is supposed to have taken its name from the "fok" which are the Mediterranean seals that inhabited this distinctly peculiar rocky ground.
Reflecting the bright history of the region, several monuments exist, including a tomb of a Persian King, and another called "Seytan Hamami" (Devil's Baths) at the foot of the Candede Hill. Here, the natural beauty is combined with these historical assets, making Foça a charming touristic site.
Today, the town is a lovely holiday village with green covered land meeting the clear blue sea. The numerous modern facilities established around the clean beaches offer visitors a wonderful vacation. A special event for divers, is the Underwater Sports Festival held in the region.
Ephesus proudly houses one of the seven ancient wonders of the world; the Temple of Artemis. The city is dedicated to her and has many fascinating buildings. The precise date of the city's foundation is not known but legend said that the first Efes was founded by Women Warriors of the Amazon in the 14th century BC and later inhabited by lonians in the 11th century BC after the first settlement of the Anatolian's natives, the Lelegians. In a short time the city became very important. After 133 BC it became a Roman province and during the reign of Augustus it became the trade center of Asia.
With all these civilizations passing through Ephesus, the remains take one or two days to visit fully. The city still retains its importance, but this time as the most important archaeological and historical city in Turkey. One of the very amazing ruins in Efes is the huge amphitheatre with a 24,000 seat capacity and superb acoustic effects. Seljuk is close to Efes and is crowned with a Byzantine citadel and the basilica of St. John. Next to the basilica is the Seljuk Isa Bey Mosque. The Seven Sleepers' Cave is another historical place near Efes. The archaeological museum is significant with its striking collection of items gathered from the excavations in Ephesus. Every May there is an International Festival in Efes.
On Bulbuldagi (Mt. Nightingale) one can find the small house built for the Virgin Mary (9 kms from Seljuk) when St. John brought her to Ephesus after Christ's death. She spent her last days in that house. Today it is a place of Pilgrimage for Christians and also visited by Muslims, and is officially sanctioned by the Vatican. Every year on August the 15th, a commemoration ceremony is held there.