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  • Overview

    The Aegean has some of the most significant of Turkey's archaeological sites with a rich cultural legacy from early Greek, Roman and Ottoman civilisations. The ancient cities of Ephesus and Troy are permeated with the past, where the well-worn street suggest offer up hints of history. It was here that St Paul laid the foundations for the beginnings of Christianity, and where the legendary Trojan War played out thousands of years ago.

    Besides historical attractions, the Aegean is known for its magnificent coastal scenery and long stretches of sandy beaches, where pine and olive clad hills surround popular resorts like Bodrum and Kusadasi. Inland, the calcium-rich mineral springs that surge over the edge of a mountain plateau at Pamukkale form Turkey's leading mineral spa and is one of the most celebrated natural attractions in the area. The city of Izmir, once famous for its figs, is today the modern capital of the region, and a major port and busy commercial centre, with good hotels and restaurants.

    Ephesus

    Ephesus is the biggest and best-preserved ancient city in Turkey and is one of the world's most spectacular historical sites. The city and its harbour were established on the mouth of the Cayster River and, in the 2nd century BC, became the most important port and commercial trading centre in Anatolia. Alexander the Great ruled over it during the Hellenistic period and it was once capital of Roman Asia under Augustus in 133 BC.

    Ephesus declined during the Byzantine era with the silting up of the harbour,and by 527 AD it was deserted. Ephesus is also important as the early seat of Christianity, visited by St Paul, whose letters to the Ephesians are recorded in the New Testament. The site needs little imagination to see what a functioning Roman city would have looked like, but guides are available and can offer a rich insight into the history and architecture of the ruins.

    Among the amphitheatres, murals and mosaics, baths, fountains, brothels, and columns, the chariot-worn streets lead to highlights like the enormous Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian, a row of public latrines, and the Grand Theatre where Paul preached to the Ephesians. The city was originally dedicated to the goddess Artemis and her once-magnificent temple was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

    Address: Efes Örenyeri, Selçuk/İzmir.
    Transport: Ephesus is a nine hour bus ride from Istanbul. Travellers should fly to Izmir Airport and take a shuttle from the airport to Selcuk - from there Ephesus is easily accessible.
    Opening time: Daily: 8am-6.30pm (in winter the site closes at 5pm).
    Ephesus Library Ephesus Library Adrienne Bassett
    Pamukkale

    Calcium-rich mineral springs surging over the edge of a mountain plateau for thousands of years have resulted in an intriguing natural masterpiece. The rock formations of Pamukkale ('Cotton Castle') are a series of natural shelves and ridges, terraces that have been turned white from the solidified chalky calcium deposits left behind as the thermal waters tumble into further basins clinging to the cliff edge below.

    From a distance it appears to be a dazzling, white, fairytale castle, with a formation of tiers rising from the ground containing warm water pools. The hot springs have been used since Roman times and are believed to cure certain ailments. Additionally, visitors should not miss the bubbling 'sacred pool of the ancients', the main source of the springs which created the white terraces; fortunately, its mineral waters are open for public bathing.

    Pamukkale is also the site of the ancient Roman spa-city of Hierapolis, and there are several ruins scattered about the area, including an impressive Roman theatre. It was considered a sacred site for its magic healing waters and was the holiday destination of kings and emperors of the Pergamum and Roman Empires.

    Transport: Pamukkale is a five-hour bus journey from Bodrum.
    Pamukkale Pamukkale josep salvia i bote
    Ancient Troy

    For about 3,000 years the legend the battle of Troy pervaded Western culture. The story, told by Homer in the Iliad, was regarded as just a myth, until the ruins of the city were found at Hisarlik, in western Turkey, in the mid-19th century.

    Today the romantic story draws tourists and archaeologists alike to the site, where not a great deal remains to be seen beyond the ancient walls and a replica of the famed Trojan horse which enabled the final conquering of the city by the ancient Greeks. The setting is also spectacular, offering views of the Dardanelles and the hills of Gallipoli. The Hollywood epic film, Troy, has revived interest in this piece of ancient history.

    Address: 340 km (211 miles) west of Istanbul on the highway to Izmir.
    Transport: Troy is best accessed from the town of Çanakkale on the western bank of the Dardanelles. Çanakkale can be reached by bus from Istanbul, and taxis are available for transport to the remains of Troy.
    Trojan Horse Trojan Horse Chris

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    Both the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have a typical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers. Temperatures here can often rise above 86ºF (30ºC) in July and August. Showers are unlikely in the summer months, but the rainfall is quite high in winter.

    Izmir Adnan Menderes International Airport
    Location: The airport is located 11 miles (18km) from Izmir.
    Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
    Getting to the city: The Havas airport shuttle bus to the centre of Izmir can be caught from the domestic terminal. Travel time is 50 minutes. Trains also service the airport and leave from the International terminal to the Basmane train station in the city, but these are usually only in the afternoons. Taxis are also available for around TL 20-30.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies include Avis, Hertz, National, Europcar, and Sixt, as well as some local car hire companies.
    Fascilities: Foreign exchange can be found in both Arrivals and Departures. Shops are available, including duty free, and cafes, restaurants, and bars exist throughout the terminal building. Other facilities include public telephones, a post office, ATM, hairdresser, tourist information, and hotel reservations. Facilities for those with special needs are good.
    Parking Parking at Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport is charged at TL 7.50 for the first hour, TL 10.50 for up to three hours, and TL 25.50 for 12-24 hours. Long-term parking rates are TL 55 for up to four days and TL 86 for a week.
    Bodrum Airport (Milas-Bodrum Airport)
    Location: The airport is situated 22 miles (36km) northeast of Bodrum, and 10 miles (16km) south of Milas.
    Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
    Transfer Between Terminals The new international terminal and the old terminal, now used only for domestic flights, are just over half a mile away from one another, a 15 minute walk across a field.
    Getting to the city: There is an airport shuttle bus which travels to and from Bodrum city centre, stopping at various points en route. The trip to the central bus station in Bodrum costs about TL10. Havas coaches operating from the domestic terminal are timed with Turkish Airlines flights to and from Istanbul. There are plenty of airport taxis available and their rates are fixed and generally quite fair.
    Car Rental: Hertz, Avis, and Europcar have rental desks at the airport.
    Airport Taxis: There is a rate board at the terminals which shows current fares to 44 cities and towns in the region. The fare to Bodrum is around TL100 and roughly TL235 to Kusadasi, a 2-hour journey away.
    Fascilities: Parking, currency exchange, cafeteria, shops, car rental, taxi service, ATM, and an information desk.
    Parking Ample short-term and long-term bays are available outside the main terminal.

    Useful Contacts:

    The best way to travel in and around the Turkish coastal resorts is in dolmuses, the local minibuses which can be hailed from the roadside. Moreover, there are good bus routes between the major towns, as well as organised tours to most of the attractions, though more independent travellers often prefer to rent a car.

    The Aegean is one of Turkey's most visited and most developed regions, for good reason: the area is home to some of Turkey's most captivating treasures, from gorgeous white-sand beaches to the ancient ruins of Ephesus. The Roman city of Ephesus is the big draw for sightseers, and rightfully so. Bodrum and its surrounding beach towns attract sun seekers from around the world.

    Visitors are spoilt with choice when it comes to sightseeing and activities on the Aegean coast with sophisticated hotels, a buzzing nightlife scene, and remarkably unspoiled historic sites. Even Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city and no stranger to concrete sprawl, will surprise travellers with an interesting collection of museums, bustling bazaars, and lively seaside promenades.

    There are also the fascinating places between these major stops: charming hill towns like Sirince; the otherworldly white cliffs and thermal springs at Pamukkale; the seaside charms of sleepy Gümüslük village, near well-heeled Bodrum; the ancient cities of Priene, Miletus, Didyma, and Laodicea; and the long, sandy beaches at Altinkum and elsewhere along the coast.

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