Kuşadası (lit. the Bird Island) is the most beautiful bay of the Aegean Sea. Its international marina is a popular port of call for yatchs, while its harbour is a favourite stopover for cruise ships. Discerning visitors return time and again to Kuşadası, for its crystal-clear sea, its miles of Blue Flag sandy beaches, its hotels offering secure acoommodation, its holiday resorts and its pensions geared to meet the visitors every need.
The hinterland of Kuşadası is endowed with a rich historical heritage, whose archaeological diversity is reflected at sites such as Güvercinada (Dove Island), Pygale (a center for Mycenean ceramics), Kadıkalesi (the judge’s fortress), Davutlar Kurşunlu Monastery, hidden in the hillside, Öküz Mehmet Paşa Caravanserai, the Kaleiçi (Citadel) Mosque, and the ancient Ionian settlement of Neopolis.
Dilek Yarımdası Milli Parkı (Dilek Peninsula National Park) teems with the rich flora and fauna endemic to the region. The Zeus Cave, once favoured by Zeus, still preserves its mystery and beauty.
Activities available for more active or adventurous visitors include trekking, scuba-diving, swimming, thermal baths, safaris, cultural tours and cave exploration. Those seeking evening entertaniment will find it on Barlar Sokagı (Street of Bars). Hotels, holiday villages, discos, clubs, cafes and the Adaland Aquapark provide plenty of other opportunities for recreation in Kuşadası.
The attractive kuşdası cuisine with its delicious tastes merges traditional Turkish cooking with other Aegean specialities. The hotels serve Turkish and international cuisine, often blended in their world-renowned open buffets. With more than four thousand boutiques offering both traditional and modern wares, Kuşadası is a paradise for shopping.
The short look at the history of Kuşadası
Founded by the Lelegians in 3000 BC, the area was settled by the Aeolians in the 11th century BC and later by the Ionians in the 9th century BC. The Ionians were seafarers, overseas traders and some of the world’s first “get-rich-quick” merchants. Their ensuring political power enabled them to found twelve cities, known as the Ionian Colonies. Kuşadası was known in antiquity as “Neopolis” (New Town), and it became one of the most important ports of Anatolia opening to Mediterranean. The rule over the city by the Lydians (7th century BC) and the Persians (546 BC) lasted until Alexander the Great of Macedonia captured the whole of Anatolia in 334 BC. The city fell under Roman domination in the 2nd century BC; then, Kuşadası become a religious centre in the early years of Christianity, when St. John and the Virgin Mary settled in nearby Efes (Ephesus). During the Byzantine Period Kuşadası was known as “Ania”, and become a haven for pirates during the Middle Ages. During the period of Venetian and Genoese domination (15th century) it was known as “Scala Nova”.
Turkish domination began with the conquest of the region by Seljuk Sultan Kılıç Aslan 2 in 1186. The area then became an export gateway to the Aegean for caravan routes. Kuşadası fell under the domination of the Ottomans in 1413 during the beylikler period (the period of principalities); after that, it remained under Turkish domination and was adorned with many new works.
The ancient ports of the Menderes (Meander) Valley were Ayasulug (Ephesus) and Balat (Milet). However, when the sea withdrew both harbours became silted up and the region needed a new port; this was built at Kuşadası. Trading in the eastern Mediterranean was at that time controlled by the Venetians and the Genoese, and so the new port was called “Scala Nova” (New Pier in Italian). It became a complete trading colony with its consulates, warehouses and trading houses. The Muslim Turks generally preffered to live in the “Andızkule” regioni five kilometres inland of Kuşadası.
Kuşadası arrived at what is more or less its present day layout in the 17th century, when the Ottoman Grand Vizier ÖküzMehmet Pasha built the city walls and a religious complex, as well as bringing in water for the city dwellers and creating a public water distribution network. During the primacy of the Venetians and the Ottomans, Güvercinada served as a military base; in 1834 it was extensively rebuilt and its renowned fortress was built. The present day name Kuşadası, was derived from this fortress. Kuşadası was part of Izmir province until 1954, when it was reassigned to Aydın province, since then its development rapidly took off. The tourism potential of the area began to be tapped in the 1960s, and hotels, pensions, camping sites, holiday resorts and summer residences were built in quick succession. During the same period a marina was constructed and port facilities improved and enlarged.
Since then Kuşadası has became an established recreational centre, much esteemed for the quality and multiplicity of its attractions and for the hopitality and kindness of its inhabitants.
The geography of Kuşadası: A natural beauty spot
Kuşadası County, alongside the Aegean Sea, is the touristic region of Aydın Province. It is encompassed by the counties of Selçuk (in Izmir) to the north, Germencik to the northwest, and Söke to the east and south. It encompassesthe coastal plain in the east and southeast of the gull of Kuşadası and the low-lying plateau behind. The western part of Kuşadası, with its 50 kilometres long coast, faces the Aegean Sea. To the east and south-east are mountains, while the county’s natural beauty spots and tourist attractions are located in two main areas and six villages.
Güzelçamlı (Marvellous Pines) National Park may justly claim to be the richest national park in Turkey, for itsvariety of flora and fauna. All types of vegetation cover native to the coastal Aegean, Marmara, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions can all be found here.
Kuşadası has a temperate Mediterranean climate
Average Monthly Temperature
Month Air Seawater
January 12 15
February 12 15
March 14 15
April 20 16
May 25 19
June 32 22
July 34 23
August 38 24
September 30 22
October 25 20
Novomber 18 18
December 14 17
How to get Kuşadası
Visitors fly to the Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir, and continue by road to Kuşadası
Many coach companies provide regular services between the various cities of Turkey and Kuşadası.
The coach journey from Izmir to Kuşadası takes about 1.5 hours. There are regular services between Kuşadası and Izmir departing at half-hour intervals.
There is a major port with two piers in Kuşadası. International cruisers regularly stop here. In the summer season day-tours to Sisam (Samos) and cruises to other Greek Islands can be arranged throughlocal travel agents.
Must see sights of Kuşadası
Öküz Mehmet Paşa Caravanserai with its distinctive architecture could be the first stop on your itinerary in Kuşadası. It was an Ottoman stronghold, built by the Grand Vizier Öküz Mehmet Pasha in 1618 to foster overseas trade. The caravanserai situated near the pier of Kuşadası, was extensively renovated in 1996.
The courtyard of the caravanserai, approximately 18.5 by 21.6 metres, is surrounded by a two-storey portico. The entrance of the caravanserai on the north facade is a 2.96 meter-wide marble doorway bonded by a shallow arch, and the gate has a plain design. The safekeeping section, where the wares were held, the gatekeepere’s lodge and the ablution fountain, recently converted to a swimming pool, are the principal points of interest for visitors. The portico sections are spanned with cross vaults, each with a cell behind. Every cell has a fireplace and niches of various dimensions for storage. The caravanserai was covered with a flat roof, and, in order to stand firm against attacks from the sea, the north and north-eastern facades were built especially to be stronger than other parts. There is also a gate on the eastern facade leading to the marketplace.
Kaleici (Citadel) Mosque has a distinctive architecture. It was commissioned by the Grand Vizier Öküz Mehmet Pasha in 1618, and it is also called as Öküz mehmet Pasha Mosque. The gate of the mosque is embeelished with mother-of-pearl inlays and decorated with interlocking geometric panels. The mosque has a dome resting on a dodecagonal (twelwe-sided) drum perforated with sixteen windows. Situated in the marketplace, the building was extensively restored in 1830.
Güvercinada, the amulet or lucky charm of Kuşadası, is a small island just off the Kuşadası coast. The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway, and the fortress, built on a rock outcrop, is very picturesque. The fortress fulfilled its function for many years, and is also known as the Korsan (Corsair’s) Fortress. Today it is a tourist attraction, but during the Ottoman Period it served as an outpost to defend the port against potential attacks from the Aegean islands, all the more likely in the aftermath of the More Uprising. The tower, central to the function of the fortress, was built at the highest point on the island. A cistern was also installed. The fortress has been extensively refurbished, and restaurants, cafes and recreation areas have been introduced, so that visitors can enjoy the historical building amid pleasant facilities. In the evening the fortress is illuminated, adding to its enchanment. Naturally, it has become a favourite spot for young couples to imbibe the charming ambience of moonlight nights.
In the Dilek Peninsula National Park chasms of wild canyons adorned with unique flora cut through the mountains to meet the sea breeze in secluded coves where visitors can be captivated by the bosom of nature.
An impressive variety of plant species can be found in the National Park. It is the last place where the Anatolian Leopard was wont to roam, and today it is a regular haunt of sea turtles and Mediterranean seals. The Dilek Peninsula National Park incorporates the decline of Mount Samson int the Aegean Sea, as well as the Akdere and Karakter forestry areas, and a total of 11.012 hectares. It is a hilly area, approximately 20 kilometres long and 6 kilometres wide. Mount Samson is the westernmost part of the Mountain Range of Aydın. Its average height is 600-650 meters, and the highest peak is Dilek Hill (1237 m). The Dilek Peninsula is wedged between the Küçük (Lesser) and Büyük (Greater) Menderes Rivers and is a part of the Menderes Massif, which is 500 millennia old.
The peninsula is punctuated by the many deep canyons and gorges that have been carved into it by descending streams. These canyons and gorges are the habitat of many plant and animal species. Red pine, European black pine, Mediterranean cypress, Judas-tree, Phoenician juniper and oak are among the most prevalent arboreal species; however, adible examples, such as Anatolian chesnut, carob, fig, common hawthorn and blackberry shrubs, are also abundant. The strong perfumes of lima (Tilia) trees, of jasmine and honeysuckle, and oleander shrubs, may intoxicate you as you pass among them.
The wild animals that you may have the chance to see on your walk include wolves, foxes, jackals and lynxes, as well as badgers, martens, hedgehogs, boars and golden eagles. The marine animals you may catch a glimpse of are sea turtles, dolphins, common sea breams, eels and octopi. The azure sea, the golden sand and the lush greenness of vegatation all come togother in the coves of the National Park. İcmeler Cove is quite shallow and safe, and it can be reached through a woodland of monumental trees. Aydınlık Cove has a fine sandy beach, five kilometres in lenght. Apart from the tranquillity provided by the natural surroundings, there are picnic sites on the beaches. More adventurous souls can head deep into the canyons of Dilek Peninsula National Park and climb the arduous route through Dikkaya Gorpe up to the peak. The rich plant life of the National Park makes the rest stops more enticing. Good swimming may be found at Kavaklı Point and Karasu Cove, and Zeus Cave, which harbours a natural swiiming pool, offers the chance of further adventure.
You will observe the imperviousness of the cities and buildings of antiquity to the passage of time.
Pygale is 3 kilometres north of Kuşadası. The arcaeological finds at Pygale bear witness to an ancient settlement, believed to have been founded by the Mycenaean King Agamemnon. Geographer Strabo refers to a Temple of Artemis in the city. Experts believe that Pygale was one of the centres of Mycenaean ceramics.
Neopolis (Yılancı – Snake Charmer’s point), the city of antiquity, is in the appearance of a second peninsuls beyond Güvercinada, jutting into the sea. Having been the first settlement at Kuşadası, it is believed to have been founded by the Ionians. Only a few ruined traces have survived to our day, but it is a favourite spot on the itinerary of local tours.
Kadıkalesi Fortress is a historical gem. It is situated on the 10th kilometer of the road leading to Davutlar from Kuşadası. It was a Byzantine fortress built on the shore and intended to dominate the gorge between Samos (Sisam) Island and the mainland. The fortress was built on top of a Bronze Age earthen mound. Archaeological excavations around the small mosque have revealed a chapel from the Mid-Byzantine Period and fourteen burials of woman and children. The city gate and square-planned tower have also been restored. Among the archaeological finds are many imported items, Mycenaean ceramics and local terra-cota ware, a lead seal, fragments of architectural statues, and coins from the Roman and Islamic eras.
The Panionium is an Ionian sanctuary that impressed even Herodotus. The ancient city of Pnationium is situated in the town of Güzelcamlı. It was the centre of the twelve Ionian cities that had come togother to form the Ionian League. The Panionium has an impressive natural site, located on the northern shore of the Dilek Peninsula National Park, at the foot of Mount Samson, known as Mount Mycale in ancient times. Heredotus described the Panionium’s geography as follows: “The Ionians, meeting in the Panionium, founded their cities in the best climate of the world that is known to us. Neither the northern nor the southern region comes close to equalling the climate of Ionia. As for the eastern and western areas, some are cold and humit, others hot and barren.”
The site contains an Ionian temple devoted to Poseidon, dating from the 8th century BC, and functioning as a centre for festivals and games as well as religious ceremonies. It is noteworthy that when the Persians wiped the Lydian Kingdom from the surface of the earth (in the 6th century BC) and started occupying Anatoliai the Panionium became the first centre of Ionian unity and resistance to the threat. During the period of Alexander the Great the Panionium was renowned for its splendid festivals.
Access to the Davutlar Kurşunlu Monastery is quite diifcult, but the scenery is worth the effort. The historical building situated in the Davutlar area of Kuşadası is throught to have been a Byzantine Orthodox monastery built in the 11th century. It is believed that the site was chosen on safety grounds, as it is quite high and hidden away from sight. The monastery, which also provided education, contains a refectory, a larder, a kitchen, monks cells, an infirmary, a chapel and a necropolis (cemetery), the defensive walls and cellars. The frescos that adorn the monastery’s ceiling are still very impressive. During the Iconoclastic Period, which began in 726 and ended in 843, symbolic and geometric motifs were deployed; with the end of this period religious events and personages were figuratively depiced. When the region came under the domination of Seljuk sultans in the 12th century, a period of religious freedom provided the opportunity for new frescoes generally depicting scenes from the life of Jesus Christ as well as biblical stories.
The Çalıkuşu House Culture & Art Centre, with its impressive architecture, should also be visited. The houses, constructed in the traditional architecture of Kuşadası, were taken under protection and have become an important point of call on culture tours. The most prominent of them is the old Turkish house of Feride, the teacher, whose story was told in the novel “Çalıkuşu” (The Wren) by Turkish author Resat Nuri Güntekin. It was renovated and converted into a culture and arts centre and opened to visitors. The two-storey building, with its hipped roof and larger upper-floor plan with protruding cantilever expansion, as well as louvered windows with wooden grills, is quite picturesque. The garden of the house and the exquisite bird figures carved in the building’s eaves are eye cathing.
Age-old traditions of seafaring and harbouring live Kuşadası’s international marina. The harbour provides one of the most important marinas for yachts along the Turkish coast, on account of its developed capacity, its technical equipment and the quality of service it provides. The marina operates around the clock and has the capacity for 650 boats. It is visited annually by 2500-3000 craft. There is a regular daily passenger boat service from Kuşadası port to the Greek island of Samos (Sisam) between 1 April 20 October. The same service is available on a charter basis during the winter season. Along with day-tripping boats and boats hired by the hour, Blue Cruise yachts are also available at the port.
Setur Kuşadası Marina provides highly qualified technical support and service to yatchs and mariners. It is the closest marina to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as well as to the House of the Virgin Mary and St John’s Church in Ephesus. The diving school operating in the marina provides special diving tours during the summer season, and during the winter season there are various fishing excursions.
The port of Kuşadası, visited by 600 larger-tonnage cruise ships annually, hs two piers and is a popular stopover on Mediterranean cruises. It is a visitors respite on the regular routes of the most famous cruise-ship operators in the world. The boats carry visitors from foreign lands. It is clear that Kuşadası port has become a favourite with visitors because of its natural beauty as well as its modern facilities that meet the highest international standarts.
Ephesus Convention Centre, put into service in 2013 , has enabled Kuşadası to host many large-scale events. The venues and technical facilities provided for international conferences together with manifold local attractions, have made Kuşadası an ideal location for such events.
Kuşadası’s much loved hiking routes have also placed it among the most prefferred locations for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts. The Dilek Peninsula Nationaal park, with its beaches and coves and its walking routes for observing various species of plants and wildlife, attracts the visitors. On the walking routes clean and crips air accompany you as you go in search of the many indigenous plants and animals.
The thermal springs near Davutlar offer another alternative. The thermal springs have provided a combination of natural beauty and natural health to visitors across the centuries. Modern facilities, including the option of restful accommodation, have been designed to blend in with the natural beauty and tranquillity of the area.
Nature summons camping enthusiasts to Kuşadası. There are numerous camping sites, offering the best of modern facilities and services to campers.
Asyalı (Yaren) Cave at Kirazlı village is the meeting place for the lovers of adventure. The cave is 110 meters long and reaches a depth of 36 meters. To reach it, you need to walk for three kilometres from Dereagzı, on the road to Kuşadası.
Zeus Cave, resting place of Zeus, the mythological king of gods and goddesses, is situated in an enchanting part of the Dilek Peninsula National Park. The national park is a heaven on earth. The cave, named after Zeus, is a major attraction for hikers and cave enthusiasts. Access to the cave is through a slate-paved pathway which is about 20 metres long. Many visitors assamble at the sight of Zeus Cave and its formation. The place, a fitting habitat for mythological gods and goddesses, is actually a sinkhole whose base resembles a pool with a spring. Here Zeus, king of gods, frequently teasted his brother Poseidon. Growing angry, Poseidon used his trident to raise the waves, and created a storm. To save himself from Poseidon’s fury, Zeus took shelter in the pool at a depth of 10 to 15 meters. There he bathed and found peace. The clear mineral water with a hint of green is a mixture of spring water filtered from the mountains and salt water seeping in from the sea. This is the sight that tourists flock to see. In the cave and pool where Zeus found peace and tranquillity, visitors now enjoy going for a dip.
The cyristal clear waters of the sea and underwater attractions are irresistible. Kuşadası is a prime location for travel agencies and hotels catering for water sports. Every kind of opportunities for the water sports are presented in Kuşadası together with the spectacular natural beauties. These beauties make the activities much more enjoyable.
Going on safari remains one of the favourite activities that Kuşadası offers. For horse riding enthusiasts there are many opportunities for horse back safaris. In addition, jeep safari and Quad (ATV) safaris are offered by various travel agents for those with a spirit of adventure.
The Handicrafts of Kuşadası
Kuşadası is a part of Aydın Province, and the handicrafts of the region are highly acclaimed. The colourful hand-woven carpets and kilims, and saddlebag-style handbags bearing Turcoman and Yörük motifs, made with fibres imbued with natural dyes, are much admired. Also tents of woven goat-hair, and sacks of the same material, made by the nomadic Yörük people, along with traditional clothes and headgear, needle lace, embriodery, applique and artefacts made out of wood, are also noteworthy. In order to help the traditional handicrafts to proposer in the modern age, training and practical experience courses are regularly held, the products are exhibited to visitors and some made available for purchase.
Not only gourments but also the gastronomes agree that the cuisine of Kuşadası is rich and delicious.
Kuşadası cuisine examplifies the cuisine of Aydın province; its specialist can be sampled in both traditional and modern restaurants. The best known products of the region are figs, grapes, and olives.
Kuşadası is gastronomically very active. It holds the record for the “largest open buffet in the world”. Every year the traditional Gastronomic Festival of Kuşadası is held in the town to promote its mouth-watering cuisine.
Vegetable dishes cooked with olive oil and served cold, soups, seafood, citrus fruits, Seville orange jam, various fig and grape wines, desserts such as semolina halva, saffron-coloured rice pudding (zerde), milk pudding (muhallebi), rice pudding (sütlac), Noah’s pudding (aşure), fried pancake balls in syrup (lokma), rice-flour pudding sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds (pelvize), hot casserole, black-eyed peas in olive oil (börülce), stuffed wine leaves (yaprak sarma), aubergines and chilli peppers fried in olive oil and served with a tomato-onion-garlic sauce (kırlı kızartma), tomato-chilli pepper-cottage cheese salad (gipsy pilaf), black-bryony shoots and wild asparagus fried in olive oil (sarmaşık-kedirgen kavurma), fennel fried with wild leek and served with egg and yoghurt (arap saçı), meat and artichoke hearts stuffed with a meat sauce (etli enginar), fried aubergines (patlıcan kavurma) are the dishes most favoured in Kuşadası. The rich local specialities, such as salads of golden thisle (şevketi bostan), purslane (semiz otu), wild radish (turp otu), served with fried meatballs (yuvarlama) and pastry filled with an aubergine-tomato-chilli-garlic mix (paşa böreği) and fried vegetables (sebze ızgara) offer a plethora of choice: a veritable cornucopia of gustatory delights.
Centre of entertainment: Kuşadası
The dolphinarium of Adaland (Aquapark) offers various performances by dolphins, the main attraction. As well as such entertainment, visitors may swim alongside the dolphins which will certainly be a unique experience.
If you are looking for music and dance, The Kaleiçi (Citadel) and the Street of Bars offer a variety of choice. You can enjoy authecnic Turkish Music as well as music of various styles from many different countries. You may watch dance shows or take part in them. Bars, cafes, clubs and discos provide entertainment catering to all tastes, and sometimes you might find yourself in the mids of a surprise party. Besides, most hotels offer evening shows and performances.
Kuşadası offers visitors various types of accommodation, ranging from modern and comfortable hotels to traditional and authentic pension-style accommodation. Hotels also provide an exquisite choice of Turkish cuisine as well as entertainment and shopping facilities. Camping facilities are also available.
Pleasure of shopping in Kuşadası
Being a centuries-old port city, Kuşadası has a long tradition of commerce. More than four thousand shops welcome visitors to a shopping haven. Carpets whose motifs reflect the local culture, colourful kilims, leather jackets and other items, jewellery of gold and silver, tiles displaying remarkable design and colours, real spices, local clothing, decorative objects, authentic home decorations, blue amulets, water pipes or hubble-bubbles (nargile), ceramics, rare Turkish coffee cups, souvenirs …. Is’s an Alaaddin’s cave of infinite variety.
Car hire (rent a car) may facilitate your visit
To visit the sights around Kuşadası you may prefer to hire your own car. Many car hire companies offer a comprehensive service
Do not leave Kuşadası unless you have;
Explored the untouched nature of the Dilek Peninsula National Park
Visited güvercinada, Öküz Mehmet Pasha caravanserai and Çalıkuşu House
Visited the port of Kuşadası, and taken a boat trip
Toured the most secluded coves of the Aegean Sea
Swum at Blue-Flag beaches, and taken a dive at the best diving spots
Seen the Zeus Cave
Found health and beauty at the thermal springs and spas
Tasted the cuisine of Kuşadası
Enjoyed a dose of retail therapy
Inspected the regional handicrafts
Enjoyed some evening entertainment
Those are the things you must do before leaving Kuşadası.