Turkey, a peninsula surrounded by turquoise seas and a country rich in history, is a truly unique destination full of vibrancy. Besides history and beauty, your Turkish experience also comes with bazaars for shopping (and haggling) and lavish day and night clubs.
I recently visited three cities along the Turkish Riviera—Kusadasi, Cesme and Bodrum—as a guest of Celestyal Cruises. (If you haven’t already, check out my other stories in the series (part 1 on Greece and part 2 on Aegean cruises.) Now, I present to you the Turkish Riviera and 5 reasons you must go:
1. Ephesus (Efes) — Izmir Providence
Of all of the ancient ruins in this country, Ephesus seems to top all of them no matter who you ask. In fact, it’s the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean. In the 10th century BC, Ephesus was a coastal city with a population of around 225,000. It became one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire and was notorious for its wealth and luxury between the 1st and 4th centuries.
Tip: The view of the city of Ephesus from the Terrace Houses is quite spectacular. After walking through the Houses, you’ll see the lookout spot to your right before you walk down the steps. The above photo was taken there!
Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see for any visitor. Walk through Ephesus to see the Agora, the Odeon, the Library of Celsus, the marble-paved main Street of Kouretes, the Baths of Scholastica, the Great Theatre, Trajan’s Fountain and the Public Latrines. I was awestruck for most of this half-day trip by the ancient beauty and intricate detail that remains today.
2. Ephesus Terrace Houses — Izmir Providence
While at Ephesus, make sure you don’t pass up the Ephesus Terrace Houses, known as the “houses of the rich” during the Roman period. Accessible for an additional fee, they’re worth the money as you get to see the colors preserved from the mosaics on the floors and the frescoes on the walls. I couldn’t believe the colors were still that bright after so many centuries.
Tip: The Terrace Houses are covered with protective roofing, which makes them an ideal spot to cool off and grab some shade. If you get to Ephesus in the morning (which I recommend), save the Terrace Houses until last when the sun’s rays are at their hottest.
Walking through the Terrace Houses is not just walking back through ancient history; you can feel the luxury and lavishness of life there in the first century AD.
3. Sole Mare Beach Club — Cesme
A dip in the bay, many tropical beverages, rice-stuffed mussels, and corn on the cob delivered to my white fluffy pillow at water’s edge…this is Turkish happiness, my friends. Sole Mare Beach Club sits on Aya Yorgi Bay and I can see why locals and visitors alike flock to this place for its day club. I hear the nightclub is bumping too! Go early in the day to beat the crowds and keep the Mango Crushes flowing quicker.
Tip: For some local flavor head to the town of Alacati, a 20-minute drive from the club. You’ll find art galleries, antique shops and outdoor shops on the square surrounding the mosque. If you decide to overnight in Cesme, check in to the posh Loveyou Hotel Ayayorgi. (Yes, of course I found a hotel named Loveyou.) It’s a cool spot and rooms are decorated with art ranging from graffiti to paintings.
4. Silk-making and carpet-weaving — Selcuk
Silk production is very important to the Turkish economy. Bulbul Mountain Looms, a family-owned trading post carpet weaving factory, shows visitors the craft of silk-making and rug-weaving. I watched as many silk fibers magically became one strand through a spinning process shown at the cocoon stage. The factory also showed us how carpets are weaved from hanging yarn in the air and crisscrossing strands (shown below).
Then it was time to see the final product in the showroom as many colorful wool, wool-on-cotton, cotton, and silk carpets were beautifully laid out in front of us while we sipped on tasty beverages.
Tip: The beverages are free in the carpet showroom (with the hope that you make a purchase, of course). Whatever you do, try the apple tea. They’ll also give you more than one beverage if you can’t decide between apple tea and ouzo!
5. Cumhuriyet Street — Bodrum
Walk through Cumhuriyet Street (“Bodrum Bar Street”), which is a mile long and filled with restaurants, bars and nightclubs. I loved the scene on the street and hearing great live music blast out of bars as we walked by! (Beware of the locals standing at the front of the restaurants. They’re very persistent in trying to lure you to their restaurants.)
Tip: You can also experience Bodrum by staying on the cruise ship and sitting out on the deck. There, you’ll get a great view of yachts in the harbor and the Bodrum Castle in the distance.