Didim, an hour’s drive from the city of Aydın, is one of Turkey’s prime holiday destinations. It has a rich cultural heritage, golden beaches, and a coast of intricate coves, each a wonder of nature. The Temple of Apollo in Didim is one of the largest and best-preserved temples of the ancient world. There are few better beaches on the Aegean coast than the beautiful Altınkum, and it’s easy to hop on a boat trip to one of the picturesque coves to enjoy a swim. Fascinating ancient cities and gorgeous natural wonders await you. Didim is not a run-of-the-mill summer resort: the tourist attractions are only the start. The vibrant life of the city continues well after the summer season closes down. Large communities of ex-pat Europeans, especially the British, have settled in Didim, and consequently the shopping centres, market and supermarkets are full of bustling international activity year round.

Didim’s Greatest Monument: The Temple of Apollo (Didymaion)

Ancient Didyma was home to one of the most famous oracles of antiquity. The sanctuary was part of the illustrious city of Miletus. Visitors anxious for a vision of the future flocked to the “Sanctuary of Oracles”. The Temple of Apollo honoured the god of the sun, arts, music and prophecy. It became one of the most respected oracles of the ancient world, where visitors eagerly listened to cryptic omens of the future passed down by the oracles.

The founding legend of the Temple of Apollo concerns the shepherd Branchos, who learned the secrets of prophecy from the god himself. The temple was originally built in the 8th century BC, and the sanctuary was administered by the Brahchiadae, who claimed descent from the legendary Branchos. Over time the oracles became famous for the accuracy of their predictions, visitors included statesmen from far away nations who consulted the oracle on matters of state and plans for war.

Photo: Servet UYGUNPhoto: Servet UYGUN

The Persians demolished the temple in 494 BC to punish the Ionian uprising. Following the arrival of Alexander the Great, who stopped in Didyma during his quest to conquer the known world, the temple was rebuilt in a more grandiose fashion. Construction began in 300 BC on the orders of Seleucus, one of Alexander’s commanders, and lasted for many years. The rebuilt temple was even larger than the original and complemented by diverse ancillary structures. When Christianity started to spread in Anatolia the reconstruction work was abandoned, unfinished. The temple was no use to monotheism, and when the local population adopted Christianity oracles and fortune tellers were banned and severe punishments were promulgated against those involved in suspect activities. The new religion banned the oracles from their traditional activities in the sanctuary. Earthquakes chipped away at the structure – including a devastating 14th-century tremor. However, the present day ruins give a strong impression of the temple’s original grandeur.

Today only a few columns stand upright, but the renowned Temple of Apollo was once the third largest sanctuary of the ancient world. The original structure had 124 columns in double file, and the roof was almost 20 metres high. In many aspects, including its original layout, the Temple of Apollo was different from the other temples of the ancient world. The decorations and upright columns that have stood the test of time indicate the meticulous splendour of the temple’s design and execution.

In ancient times, visitors to the temple arrived by sea at Panormos Harbour, which was situated near present-day Mavisehir, and followed the Sacred Way up to the Temple. Both sides of the Sacred Way were lined with statues, many of which were removed in the 19th century. Today the statues are on permanent display at the British Museum. However, a few of the statues have remained in situ and can be seen here today. Along with the temple itself, visitors can see the petrifying Medusa Head, which has become a symbol of Didyma.

One the Best Beaches of the Aegean Sea: Altınkum

The Blue Flag Altınkum Beach, one of the best in Turkey, is only 10 minutes from Didim. The sea is quite shallow here, and the long, wide, sandy beach is well sheltered from the waves, making it popular among families with children. The shore off Altınkum is suitable for windsurfing, canoeing, and other water sports. Large waves are only seen during winter swells.

The waterfront of Altınkum Town, behind the beach, is lined with entertainment facilities, restaurants, and hotels that make the town a popular resort.

Centre of Science, Culture and Arts in Antiquity: Miletus

The ancient city of Miletus is situated on the road between Didim and Soke, near the Balat village of Didim. In antiquity, Miletus was renowned for the famous philosophers it produced. Foremost among them was Thales, who has been recognised as a precursor of philosophy and the sciences. Thales contributed greatly to the development of the natural sciences, astronomy, mathematics and geometry. He correctly calculated the solar eclipse of 585 BC, and developed a theorem that is still used today. Another important philosopher of Miletus is Anaximander who developed ideas about the formation of the universe. His disciple, the philosopher Anaximenes, contributed to the idea of evolution. These philosophers were the pioneers who laid the foundation of the Milesian School, which later formed the basis of the thoughts developed by philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Miletus maintained its prime position in science and culture for thousands of years.  The great 6th century architect, Isodoros, who built the magnificent Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, was born and raised in the city.

Maritime trading propelled the development of Miletus and it became an important centre of commerce. Many ancient structures have reached our times in quite good order. The most prominent of them are the Grand Theatre, with seating capacity for nineteen thousand, the Temple of Athena, and the Faustina Bath, which was one of the largest of ancient bathhouses. The city’s agorae, ports, and temples are also fascinating.

Miletus maintained its strategic importance for centuries and eventually came under Seljuk dominion. After the collapse of the Seljuk Empire, it became the capital of the independent principality of Menteseoglu Beylik. Later still the city was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. The most important structure dating from the era of Turkish domination in Miletus is the Ilyas Beg Mosque, which was built in 1401.

A Turquoise Sea Filling Emerald Coves: Akbük

Akbük is 20 kilometres from Didim and a heaven for visitors providing varying accommodations, entertainment facilities and beaches suitable for every budget. A fine tourist resort Akbük is an alternative to Didim, and there are many small and beautiful coves along the coast. These emerald coves with their turquoise seas are just the ticket for water sports. The best-loved beaches of Akbük are the Saplı Ada and Sahte Cennet beaches.

An Ideal Destination for Nature Lovers: Lake Bafa Nature Park

There are many natural beauty spots in the vicinity of Didim. A perennial favourite is Altinkum beach. Another spot of outstanding beauty is Lake Bafa Nature Park, 30 kilometres from Didim. The lake was, in ancient days, part of Miletus Bay. The lagoon gradually filled with silt and formed the lake. The lake now provides a habitat for many birds, including several endangered species. Occasional boat trips are organised on the lake.

Lake Bafa is surrounded with olive orchards and pine forests, and its shores are suitable for those who wish to stay away from the crowded cities. Walks on beautiful trekking routes around the lake provide photographers with a visual feast and superb vantage points.

Alternatives available for visitors to Didim…

History Enthusiasts: There are many important ancient settlements in the vicinity of Didim. Visitors staying in Didim can easily make day trips to such fascinating and famous sites as Preine, a significant port city, and the Heracleia of Latmus, which is renowned for its Temple of Athena, the agora structure, and many other ancient structures.

Boat Trips: Daily boat trips allow water-loving visitors to get their fill of the sea. These boat trips stop at several beautiful coves and allow visitors enjoy a swim in the turquoise sea, before enjoying a delicious lunch served back on the boat. The routes generally include the following coves: Cennet Adalari, Haydar, Dalyan, Gumus, Cennet, Gaye-2 and Akvaryum. The water in these coves is crystal clear and the depths can be seen clearly from the surface. Swimming in these clear and clean waters is an experience to cherish.

Festivals: Perhaps the most important festival in Didim is the White Gold Festival organised at the Akyenikoy Neighbourhood in the first week of April each year. Visitors who attend the festival will be able to watch ancient Turkish games, such as oil wrestling contests, and the equestrian team sport Jereed. The festival attracts many local people of Akyenikoy and quite a large group of domestic visitors, and provides an alternative for those who would like to learn about a different aspect of life in Turkey.

Nearby Holiday Heavens: Didim is conveniently close to several of Turkey’s other great tourism centres. Day trips from Didim take you to Bodrum and Kusadasi, and allow you to experience different aspects of the Aegean Sea, its culture and the fantastic entertainment facilities that dot the seaside towns.

Transport

Airlines: Those travelling to Didim by air should either fly to Bodrum Airport, which is 90 kilometres from Didim, or to Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport, which is 150 kilometres away. From Adnan Menderes Airport there are taxi and bus services to Izmir. At the coach terminus of Izmir there are regular services to Didim. There are also trains departing Izmir central station towards Aydin. Alight at Soke station, and enjoy a short bus ride to Didim.

Pergamon was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014, and it has been one the rare settlements that has survived several invasions and devastations over the ages, but reoccupied again on the merits of its strategic location. As confirmed by the findings of the excavations held, prehistory of Pergamon reaches back to second millennia BC. The city survived Persian domination and conquest of Alexander the Great. The most brilliant phase of its history lasted almost one hundred and fifty years when it was the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. At this time, one of the largest libraries of the world was built here and the city became a healing centre. The arts also flourished, and the city particularly became renowned for magnificent sculptures. During the Roman period, Pergamon maintained its significance and developed further becoming “the most famous and magnificent city of the Asia Minor”, as described by the 1st century AD philosopher and author Pliny the Elder. Visiting Bergama would provide you a chance to trace the steps of the ancient city Pergamon through several unique experiences.

The City of Firsts

Every year almost a million people visit Bergama and the ruins of ancient city Pergamon, which has witnessed many firsts in its history. One of the most significant of these was the first ever use of parchment. Invention of script has been a major breakthrough for the history of humanity, and innovation of parchment was quite important as it created a medium, enabling quick and stable recording of scripts. The development of parchment allowed Pergamon to create a library of manuscripts that rivalled the world renowned library of Alexandria, and paved the way to develop the city as an important centre of arts and science in the 2nd century BC. Pergamon had one of the first Seven Churches of early Christianity, and its name is cited in the Bible. The first theatre with a wooden stage; first trade unionfirst market lawfirst public building regulationfirst strike and collective agreement were amongst other firsts that took place in the history of Pergamon.

Open Air Museum

The principal ruins of the ancient Pergamon, comprising all the religious, social and commercial structures, are in the acropolis and the most remarkable of these include the ruins of Pergamon Library, which was one of the largest of the world in that era and hosted a collection of 200 thousand manuscripts; the ten thousand seat theatre where the audience enjoyed the magnificent vista of Pergamon Valley; the Sanctuary of Athena and the Temple of Dionysus; the Sanctuary of Trajan; the Pergamon Gymnasium, which was one the most important learning institutions of the Hellenistic Era; and, the Royal Palaces of Pergamon. The Base of Great Altar of Pergamon, or the Zeus Altar, could also be seen in the Acropolis. However the whole superstructure of the Altar was dismantled and transported to Germany in the late Ottoman Era and it is now on display in Berlin – the Altar and its friezes show the best examples of the art and architecture of Pergamon in the Hellenistic Era. The Sanctuary of Asclepius which was one of the principal healing centres of the Antiquity, where the patients were treated with sound of water, mud baths and waters of a healing spring. Pergamon was also the home of physician Galen, father of pharmacology, making the city stand out in the history of medicine and pharmacology. The Serapis Temple dedicated to Egyptian gods was one of the principal structures of the Roman era and it was renowned as the Red Basilica due to the colour of bricks used. During the Byzantine era this noticeably huge structure was converted to a church, which is one of the first Seven Churches cited in the Bible.

İzmir / Pergamon Ancient City - Photo: Orhan Özgülbaşİzmir / Pergamon Ancient City – Photo: Orhan Özgülbaş

Following the Roman and Byzantine eras, Pergamon came under Turkish domination. Today’s Bergama contains examples of the Seljuk and Ottoman architecture, such as mosques, bathhouses and bridges. Most prominent of these include the Ulu Cami (the Grand Mosque), Selçuklu Minaresi (the Seljuk Minaret), Şadırvan Cami (the Ablution Fountain Mosque), Çukur Han (the Sunk Caravanserai), and Taş Han (the Stone Caravanserai). There are also examples of 18th and 19th century civil architecture at the Kale Mahallesi (Citadel Neighbourhood) which is situated at the lower slopes of the hill where the Pergamon city was once built.

Museum of Bergama: Gateway to Arts of Antiquity

The art of sculpture reached its peak in the 2nd century BC in Pergamon and statues created in that era are admired even today. The Pergamon style became one of the principle schools of sculpture, magnificent examples of which could be seen in the Museum of Bergama. The most striking works are the statues of gods, goddesses and emperors, which were unearthed in the excavations carried out in the environs of Pergamon. Although the most prominent displays of the Museum are the sculptures, there are also other artefacts from various eras on permanent display. The ethnographical department would be very interesting for those who have a keen eye for the popular culture too.

Historical Spas of Kings and Queens

The thermal springs of Pergamon made the city one of the principal centres of healing and beauty in the antiquity, and many of them reached our times. One of the major thermal spas of Pergamon is within the Sanctuary of Asclepius (Güzellik Ilıcası) which is 4 km to Bergama. It is believed to be commissioned by King Euamens of Pergamon, and provided beautifying services to Cleopatra who enjoyed bathing there.

For Nature Lovers

Alongside its historic and cultural heritage, Bergama also harbours an outstanding natural beauty. Trekking along the route to Kozak Plateau through the pine forests covering the Kozak mountain range between Bergama and Ayvalık, dotted with ruins and rural landscapes, also provide opportunities for photo safaris.

How to Go?

Bergama is about hundred kilometres to Izmir, the largest city of Turkey at the coast of Aegean Sea. The Adnan Menderes International Airport has scheduled and charter connections to all major European airports. Also, a number of cities across Turkey are connected to Izmir by air, rail and road.

When approaching Alaçatı, the first eye-catcher for the visitors is the windmills that embrace the sky with their white sails. The windmills some of which have been here for more than a hundred years point out the good relation between Alaçatı and the wind. When sea view is available, many colourful windsurf boards dancing on the water welcome you. If your visit comes across with the Kite Festival, you can witness to a visual feast of the kites dominating the sky.

Centre of the Windsurf

Alaçatı and the wind have always been together throughout history. This is Alaçatı’s distinctive feature from the other coves in the Aegean Coast. And this is why windmills decorated its hills. Today, the never-ending wind makes Alaçatı a windsurfing heaven. For windsurfing fans, one other charming fact is that the sea never gets wavy. As the well-known Turkish captain and navigator Piri Reis has told, the sea in Alaçatı is like a dough sheet. What is more is that the sea depth is not more than one and a half meter even far from the coast. All these reasons make Alaçatı one of the most popular seven windsurfing centres in the world.

Alaçatı welcomes windsurfers from all over the world mostly between May and September. In this period, Alaçatı hosts national and international races and tournaments. For those who want to try this beautiful sport, there are windsurfing schools. Its calm sea and the water depth make Alaçatı a perfect place to learn windsurfing.

Alaçatı Festivals

Thanks to its nature, the world-known Aegean Cuisine is very rich, and especially greens and herbs, which become unique delicacies when prepared by skilful hands, have an important place in cuisine culture. One other fact that played a role in shaping Alaçatı’s cuisine is that most of its population has settled here after the population exchange. Greens have been the common point of different cultures and traditional cuisine. For keeping the cultural values and traditional dishes alive, Alaçatı Herb Festival is held annually at the beginning of April, heralding the spring. Besides conversations, cooking workshops, video shows, photo exhibits and concerts, another enjoyable part of the festival is the parade cortege in which visitors can participate. One of the popular activities in a town identified with its wind is, undoubtedly, flying kites. The sky of Alaçatı is coloured with hundreds of best-designed kites especially during the Kite Festival.

The Rising Star of Tourism in Turkey

Located in the south of Çeşme Peninsula, Alaçatı has become one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations with its historical stone houses, windmills, calm sea and windy air perfect for windsurfing. Thanks to the windy air it is also possible to enjoy sunbathing all day long. The best place for swimming is Çark Beach which has a tropical look.

The rising popularity of Alaçatı has resulted in the opening of a large number of hotels and pensions. Restored from historical stone houses, the boutique hotels offer guests comfort together with home’s warmth. Some of the windmills which are town’s symbol are today used as cafes and restaurants. To find peace and serenity, Alaçatı is the perfect choice with its stone houses decorated with bougainvillaea flowers, cobblestoned streets, beautiful nature, rich history, and warm and gracious people.

How to Go?

Alaçatı is about a 90 kilometres drive to İzmir Airport which offers direct and connecting flights to all over the world.