Kuşadası is one of the Turkish Mediterranean’s most popular cruise ship ports, and this harbour town is all about sun, sea and fun holidays. Known for its bargain shopping and lively nightlife, it has become a favourite destination for European visitors on package holidays over the past few decades.
Hotel developments are scattered all along the coast surrounding town and the beaches are packed in peak season. But Kuşadası isn’t just prime beach-sloth territory. Nearby the majesty of ancient sites such as Priene and the natural beauty of the Dilek Peninsula are tourist attractions that will convince even the most adamant sun-worshipper to brush of the sand and head out on a day-trip
Just off Kuşadası harbour a 350 m causeway leads out to charming Pigeon Island, where the remnants of a 13th century Byzantine fortress are perched on a cliff. The stronghold later became a pirates’ lair. Rampart walls, which wrap partially around the island, are a later addition dating to the early 19th century. Today Pigeon Island is a favourite spot for a seaside walk and there is a lovely café here as well.
The area has been a centre of art and culture since some of the earliest recorded history, and has been settled by many civilizations since being founded by the Leleges people in 3000 BC. Later settlers include the Aeolians in the 11th century BC and Ionians in the 9th. Originally, seamen and traders built a number of settlements along the coastline, including Neopolis.
An outpost of Ephesus in ancient Ionia , known as Pygela (Πύγελα), the area between the Büyük Menderes (Maeander) and Gediz (Hermos) rivers, the original Neopolis, is thought to have been founded on the nearby point of Yılancı Burnu. Later settlements were probably built on the hillside of Pilavtepe, in the district called Andızkulesi today. Kuşadası was a minor port frequented by vessels trading along the Aegean coast. In antiquity it was overshadowed by Ephesus , until Ephesus’ harbor silted up. From the 7th century BC onwards the coast was ruled by Lydians from their capital at Sardis , then from 546 BC the Persians , and from 334 BC, along with all of Anatolia, the coast was conquered by Alexander the Great . From that point on the coastal cities in Anatolia became a centre of Hellenistic culture.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Christian church in Ephesus (we call that letter the Book of Ephesians), the city was one of the wealthiest and largest cities in the eastern Mediterranean area boasting a population of more than 300,000.
Its position along the coast of modern day Turkey made it a very important trade city, linking the East routes (India, Persia, and the Far East) with the European and African trade routes. The populace enjoyed many gymnasiums, baths and impressive public buildings and the city’s outdoor theater seated 25,000 people.