6 Top Historical Sites in South West Turkey

Turkey itself is an ancient country, previously inhabited by the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Hittites, Lycians and Carians, to list just some of the early settlers. So naturally the land has been fought over, raided and exchanged at many points throughout history with each civilizations leaving behind a little of memory of their time. The southwestern region of Turkey hosts countless ruined cities, burial sites, and artifacts scattered across the indescribably beautiful landscape.

A Capital of the Roman Empire: Ephesus

Within an hour of the glistening Aegean sea lies the once prosperous port town of Ephesus. Home to one of the best preserved amphitheaters in the country, Ephesus Tours​ take you through the extensive history of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

6 Top Historical Sites in South West Turkey

Walk beneath the grand marble pillars and original mosaics to the ancient library, which is perhaps the most impressive building on site. Nearby is the 5th century house of the Virgin Mary, the maiden apparently lived out her last days in this stone chapel and the Temple of Artemis, although not much remains, was once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple was destroyed by raids and religious conflict and many of the old stones were used in the construction of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Natural Wonder and Unique Spa: Pamukkale and Hierapolis

Located in the Denizli province in western Turkey, Pamukkale’s ‘Cotton Castle’ clings to the mountainside with its hot springs forming natural pools in the calcium-rich rock terraces. Tourists flock to this site all year round to bathe in the mineral waters that are said to make you look 10 years younger. The panoramic view from Pamukkale with certainly make it the best bath you’ve ever had.

The ancient Greeks and Romans took advantage of this region's thermal waters and made their spa city beside the brilliant white castle. Hierapolis dates back to the 2nd century BC, built for the Kings of Pergamon, it later fell to the Roman Empire in 133 BC and is now the home of a museum bearing an impressive display of Greco-Roman artifacts, as well as an ancient theatre, burial tombs and Sacred Pools.

Hidden in the Hills: Termessos

Deep in the mountainous slopes behind the modern coastal city of Antalya lies an ancient fortress that was once so strong that Alexander the Great and his armies failed to break though it’s defensive walls. These days entering the historic city is not so difficult to entre and, at only 30 kilometres from Antalya, it’s an ideal day trip. Termessos is within the boundaries of the Mount Gulluk National Park, a thickly forested area, alive with vibrant plants, pine and conifer trees, plus a fair amount of wildlife. Trekking through the three partially overgrown sections that make up this Pisidian city will feel a little like walking through a Jurassic Park movie.

Cut into the Rocks: Kaunas

Set high in the cliff face above the Dalyan Delta, Kaunos is one of the lesser known of the Southwest’s ruined cities although certainly no less impressive. The legend of Kaunos says that the city was founded by the son of the Carian king Malletos. One of two children, it is said that the young prince fell in love with his twin sister, Byblis but when their first child was born and their father discovered the relationship Caunos was banished.

The exiled prince built himself strong and prosperous but stories say that the heartbroken princess secretly wrote to her brother, begging to become his wife but Caunos repeatedly rejected his sister's pleas. The princess wept and wept and eventually threw herself from a great hill, according to legends her body and tears became the water of Dylan's canals and as she cried the level of the river would rise, flooding the city and destroying their crops.

Today you can see the cities elaborate burial tombs carved into the rock above the reeds, and visit the ancient theatre and two harbours. The best part of a visit it Kaunos is taking a small boat along the emerald green river through thick flora and diverse fauna.

Below the Water: The Sunken City of Kekova

Within the Specially protected area of Kekova, situated between the popular port town of Kas and the tomato growing town of Demre, is the stunning Gokkaya Bay. With breathtakingly clear waters that reflect the lush hue of the surrounding hills. Gokkaya Bay is home to a particularly unique Lycian City which lies beneath the transparent waters. Dating back the 4th/5th century the city of Kekova was one of the smaller Lycian settlements, after frequent raids it was almost completely abandoned and regional earthquakes caused the already derelict city to sink into the Mediterranean Sea.

Rediscovered in the 1900’s, The Sunken City lies in the same bay as Kalekoy, Castle Village, and the Simena ruins. It is a popular day trip destination and stopping point on the legendary Blue Cruise. Sail above what was once a real city and look out for the sarcophagi semi-submerged in the sea.

6 Top Historical Sites in South West Turkey

From the Ancient Greeks: Pergamon

Recently made a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ancient city of Pergamon host the ruins of buildings and artifacts dating back to 197- 153 BC. It’s majestic Hellenistic theatre is perched on the edge of a steep valley overlooking the modern city of Bergama. Just a short drive from some of the best beached on the Aegean Sea you can easily combine a  Historical Pergamon Tour​ with a relaxing seaside vacation.

The ruined city is also home to the Sanctuary of Trajan and an extensive Acropolis containing one of the best libraries in Greek civilisation. Nearby is the Asclepion of Pergamon, an ancient healing centre founded by the renowned 4th century BC physician, Galen.

When the city was under the rule of the Roman Empire, this famed temple became the hospital of the Asian Minor and many of the surrounding buildings were made as gifts from ex-patients, including the Emperor Caracalla.

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