Aside from hosting some of Turkey’s most stunning beaches, party towns and picturesque villages, the Aegean Coast boast countless historical and archeological sites, some of which are UNESCO accredited and listed as some of Turkey’s top holiday destination spots.
A 20th Century Battlefield: The Gallipoli Peninsula
Situated between the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelle Strait, the rolling hills of the Gallipoli Peninsula are home to memorials of the soldiers who lost their lives in the disastrous battle for Gallipoli in the year of 1915. The ANZAC forces first arrived on April 25th, to a small bay now known as Anzac Cove. A sunken warship can still be found below the sea, while inland you can visit the original World War I trenches and early 20th century battlefields.
A Gallipoli Tour will take you to the three most significant monuments: Chunuk Bair, dedicated to New Zealand’s fallen troops; Lone Pine, which stands proud upon a hill top, among the sea of commemorative plaques are over 500 graves to unidentified Australian fighters; and the resting place of the brave forces of the Turkish 57th Regiment, who occupied the most dangerous position on the peninsular.
Home of Troy: Canakkale
On the opposite bank of the Dardanelle Strait is the vibrant city of Canakkale, just a short ferry ride from the Gallipoli Peninsular and connected to Istanbul and Izmir by bus. The city is known for the buzzing student nightlife, fantastic naval and archaeological museums and the central clock tower. While on the outskirts of the city Cimenlik Kalesi, a 15th century Ottoman built castle that occupies the hilltop, overlooking the channel and providing a great panoramic view of the city.
If you are visiting Canakkale then you will certainly want to make a stop at the Ancient City of Troy. The UNESCO site is said to be over 4,000 years old and is the same city that the legend of ‘Helen of Troy’ originates. At the entrance to the site is the famous wooden horse that starred in the Troy movie alongside Brad Pitt. So even if history doesn’t interest you, you might still enjoy taking some snaps with this famed Trojan Horse.
A Natural Phenomenon: Pamukkale and Hierapolis
Possibly the most breathtaking site in all of the Aegean coast, the ancient Spa City of Hierapolis still stands beneath the cotton-white, travertine terraces of Pamukkale, where the mineral rich thermal waters has forged natural swimming pools into the hillside. Climb to the top pool to take some splendid photos, this location is even more magnificent at sunset when the ‘Cotton Castle’ reflects the orange-red hue of the setting sun, and the stone walls of Hierapolis are silhouetted in the fading light.
Inside the spa city, built in the 2nd century BC for the Kings of Pergamon, you can find a ruined theatre, Greek monuments, temples, an ample museum and sacred thermal baths, where you can bathe with Greek and Roman artifacts.
The Old and the Ancient: Selcuk and Ephesus
Situated inland from the seaside resort town, Kusadasi, is the quaint town of Selcuk. While Selcuk is a popular launching pad for exploring the area and receives thousands of tourists each year, the town has managed to retain its Turkish authenticity and still hosts a number of traditional restaurants with colourfully decorated tables and tasty food, as well as locally owned guesthouses and independent stores. Selcuk is also known for it’s weekly market, when traffic is stopped by hundreds of pop-up stalls that occupy the streets from sunrise to sunset, selling fresh fruit and veg, cheeses, olives, nuts, wines, and meats, plus clothing, vibrant textiles and a handful of souvenirs.
On the outskirts of Selcuk are some renowned historical sites including, The Cave of Seven Sleeper, the Virgin Mary’s House, the Temple of Artemis and of course the UNESCO acclaimed World Heritage Site, Ephesus. Once on of the 12 cities of the Ionic League, the prosperous port city later fell to the Roman Empire and blossomed into one of their largest and most important cities. The site now boasts an impressive amphitheatre, a grand library and decorative mosaics, among many more ancient artifacts. Explore this site, along with other points of interest along Turkey’s Aegean Coast with a Ephesus to Gallipoli Tour or hop on a local bus from Selcuk, you could even head to the Greek wine making village of Sirince when you’ve finished walking through the 2,000 year old stone structures.