1: The Ancient City Ruins of Ephesus
Ephesus is the only reason why Kusadasi is a popular cruise ship port, and once you see it for yourself, it is easy to understand why. Matching up to standards of famous Greco-Roman ruins in countries like Greece and Italy, the ancient ruins of Ephesus are one of the top visited attractions in Turkey.
Restored landmarks from the original city include the terrace houses, Celsius library, grand theatre, and Hadrian’s Temple and Curates Street. Regarding things to do in Kusadasi, this place is highly recommended, and my advice is to either buy a good travel book or go on a guided tour, to enhance your visit.
2: Selcuk Town: Temple of Artemis, Saint John’s Basilica, Isa Bey Mosque
Many travel guidebooks and websites mainly ignore Selcuk town, yet I loved exploring its local landmarks. As well as the old aqueduct running through the centre, Saint Johns Basilica with its former baptism pool, church, and suspected tomb takes just an hour to explore. Just 5 minutes’ walk from there, Isa Bey Mosque with excellent architecture dating from the Selcuk era of Turkey’s historical timeline is a beautiful mosque to visit.
On the outskirts, Artemis Temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, sits in a small marshy field. Yet sadly, upon seeing what is left, you may be disappointed. Just one column is pathetically standing in among scattered carved stones, displaying little of its former glory.
3: The Wine Village of Sirince
High in the green hills of Selcuk, a small village, supposedly started by freed slaves from Ephesus has earned itself an international reputation for its homemade fruity wines. I personally think they are over-rated and taste like undiluted cordial juice but the village itself, with old Greek houses, an abandoned church, and spectacular landscape views is still enjoyable.
It is a long winding road to get up there, but once you have arrived, go wine tasting, explore cobbled streets and for good luck, throw a coin in the fountain of Saint Mary’s Church before settling down for a hearty Turkish style lunch in a traditional restaurant.
4: House of Virgin Mary
Lastly, also in the hills of Selcuk, a small, unobtrusive stone house is a pilgrimage destination for Catholics and Muslims all over the world. The tranquil gardens and ambiance of the Virgin Mary’s house, run by monks and nuns leaves a lasting effect, even on non-religious people. Suspected to be where she spent her last days, urban legends say three water springs bring an abundance of luck for health, wealth or fertility. Church services also take place on certain days.
5: Aqua Fantasy and Adaland
As two of the most popular water parks in Turkey, visitors but especially families love slides, wave pools, splash pads, flume tunnels, fountains, and everything else splashy. If you are ok with animals in captivity, Dolphin Park of Adaland schedules shows and photo opportunities to swim with the resident dolphins. Aqua Fantasy is my favourite though because their giant wave pool, Adventure River, relative calm Black Thunder ride, and pool bar with music, gives me great memories of a fun water themed day out.
6: Beaches Galore
A good list of things to do in Kusadasi should always mention beaches because the region has quite a few decent ones. Just a short bus ride from the city centre is Ladies Beach, the most famous for tourist and holidaymakers. Two urban myths surround its name; the first says women used to wait on this beach for their husbands to come home from fishing. The second says in history, women always inherited beach land because it was worthless.
Men received land further from the coastline so they could farm it. However, no one foresaw Turkey’s rise and prominent entrance into the international, travel market, which at the same time, made women incredibly wealthy as beaches became popular venues.
7: Dilek National Park and Zeus Cave in Guzelcamli
Four beaches, a spectacular coastline, fantastic views of the Aegean Sea and an abundant variety of flora and fauna make up Dilek National Park, just one of Turkey’s many protected conservation areas. On my last visit, I met the park’s resident wild boars and wandered many paths winding in among the forested area.
Zeus cave is close to the entrance of Dilek Park. Hidden from view of the pathway, mythology says this is where he hid from his brother Poseidon. The freezing cold water, even in summer is a favorite spot for a swim break.