Want Greek Ruins? Go to Turkey

athens-acropolis

Updated: Originally this post went up when reports of the rise of Golden Dawn, an ultra-right wing party with a zealous hatred of illegal (and often legal) immigrants, also showed an increase in violent attacks and racism toward some tourists being arrested or even attacked and beaten by Greek police are making headlines. Korean backpacker Hyun Young Jung, who suffered a beating and detention despite showing his passport when stopped by police, said that he’d recommend travelers to “go to Turkey instead.”

While Greece is still struggling economically, political backlash and efforts to rein in (or even ban) the likes of Golden Dawn have at the very least seemingly led to a decline of such incidents. So that’s good news.

But the fact remains that Turkey is home to some really fantastic Greek (not to mention Roman and some of the most amazing Neolithic) ruins. Here are some of the most amazing Greek ruins in Turkey.

 

library-ephesus-turkey-efes

Ephesus or Efes is often considered the granddaddy of the Classical Ruins in Turkey, and well it should be. Colonnades, the library façade, a huge theater (Christian pilgrims will note St. Paul spoke here), and in recent years, an excavation of villas with mosaic floors. This is where one goes and then brags about it to friends back home. When those friends have seen it, then you move on to the next sites down this list, because Ephesus is, like, soooo passé.

 

aphrodisias-turkey-stadium

Aphrodisias, named for Aphrodite. Slightly off the beaten backpack track, but on the bus tour schedule, and chock full of good ruins, including the stadium which is 270 meters long and could have held 30,000 people. Inscriptions are common throughout the site and there’s a minor museum within.

 

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Miletus was once a port city and home to some of the wealthier Greeks. The Meander River meanders through here and after centuries of depositing silt, some of the more ancient archaeological evidence – as in prehistoric, Neolithic – isn’t readily available, let’s say. This is another one of those History on top of History sort of places… Lydians, Romans, Byzantines, St. Paul and Co.

 

aspendos-roman-theater-turkey

Aspendos has one of the best preserved theaters from antiquity. This was a Greek city in about 1000 BCE and later came under rules of Persians, Alexander the Great, and then the Romans who built this bad boy. (It was designed by a Greek architect at least.) Aquaducts stretch across the landscape nearby. Very cool.

 

heriapolis

Think of Heriapolis as sort of a spa destination. These ruins have become a sort of afterthought to tourists coming for a few hours to ogle and splash around in the mineral rich waters of the gleaming white “cotton castle” that is Pammukale.

 

pergamon-theatre-turkey

In the Book of Revelations Pergamon is one of the residences of Satan. I didn’t see him. There is a Temple of Isis here, which may come as a surprise. Famous Greek physician Galen once lived here. As the city sits high on a hill, the view is excellent. This is located just outside the Turkish city of Bergama. See our Pergamon photo gallery on the home site.

 

perge-ruins-antalya-turkey

This may sound familiar. Greek city, 1000 BCE, taken by Persians, then Alexander the Great, later Romans, and oh surprise! that Paul guy! Conquer, rinse, repeat. Perge (Perga) features a rather long main street colonnade, some exposed Roman baths, a Nymphaeum. The site is just outside of the popular Mediterranean city of Antalya.

 

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You’ve heard of the Oracle at Delphi, but the oracle (of Apollo) at Didyma was a close second in importance. I liked this place because it was right in town (Didim) and the guesthouse I stayed at overlooked the ruins at night. The most famous piece from here is the cracked image of Medusa. This is not far from Miletus.

 

priene-turkey_0003

Best Views Award goes to Priene, a Greek city that once overlooked the sea from up a slope and below a towering cliff. Deposits from the Meander River spoiled its seaside honor.

 

ruins-of-troy-turkey

Troy. Yes, THAT Troy is in Turkey. The first thing you have to do before going there is expect it to be the worst disappointment of your life. It is nowhere near as stunning in appearance as Ephesus. Once you have that taken to heart, you can really appreciate Troy. Excavations and signage help you see the nine layers of the city built on top of the city. And the long stretch out toward the horizon to the distant sea is also striking: Troy was once right on the shore. I’d say not to be missed, but don’t come without your imagination and a deep appreciation for history, atmosphere, and archaeology. But isn’t that really true of ALL ruins?

Watch for some photo galleries of these places coming up on The Mad Traveler.

12 thoughts on “Want Greek Ruins? Go to Turkey

  • Pingback: The Ruins of Pergamon in Turkey

  • January 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm
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    Thanks for all the interesting photos and as usual, I learned something again. Somehow I’d missed that Troy is actually in Turkey, now.

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  • January 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm
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    I was in Greece this past summer (2012) and you wouldn’t know it that the country was going through any issues. I suggest you visit Greece first before you start sending people away. It is always best to form our own opinion.

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    • January 16, 2013 at 9:32 pm
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      Yes, you are right, people should form their own opinions (as I’m sure Christian Ukwuorji and the Korean backpacker have), but one should also know the political climate of what’s going on. A tourist was badly hurt once in Bangkok while I was there simply because he was wearing a red shirt and he had wandered into a Red Shirt Protesters area at the wrong moment. Bad timing, bad luck, but also totally clueless about the news and thus mixed up into something so easily avoided. “More than 60,000 people have been stopped in the streets [in Greece] since the operation began in August last year. The US State Department has updated its travel advisory to warn tourists of the potential harassment.” Odds are good nothing will happen, but if you are obviously foreign, you should know what to expect or how to act when someone perhaps demands your passport (is it really an undercover cop or just a pickpocket scheme or hooligan?). I guess my question is why bother right now? Wait until they get their house in order.

      From the US State Dept: “U.S. citizens are strongly urged to carry a copy of their passport or some form of photo identification with them at all times when traveling in Greece.” “There has been a rise in unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be foreign migrants. U.S. citizens most at risk are those of African, Asian, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern descent. Travelers are urged to exercise caution, especially in the immediate vicinity of Omonia Square from sunset to sunrise. Travelers should avoid Exarchia Square and its immediate vicinity at all times. The U.S. Embassy has confirmed reports of U.S. African-American citizens detained by police authorities conducting sweeps for illegal immigrants in Athens.”

      I don’t always take their warnings seriously, but these things are as good to know as “watch for pickpockets on the subway” and “beware of Chinese students out of the blue in the park inviting you out for tea.” Anyway, the real point here is that there are some amazing Greek ruins in Turkey. 🙂 Not to mention Southern Italy!

      Reply
  • January 28, 2013 at 5:16 pm
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    nice blog, i loved many of the ideas that you got.

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  • April 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm
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    The travel advisory against Greece is a joke. The idea that the USA ( most dangerous place I know) would issue a warning against Greece is laughable. Turkey has may problems with human rights, women’s rights and freedom of speech.Think before you trash Greece, birthplace of philosophy and democracy and humanism.
    I have lived on Rhodes for 13 years and it is a paradise compared to the USA, my native country.

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    • April 8, 2013 at 2:09 am
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      Most travel advisories are a bit over the top and inflated but are generally based on actual incidents and trends. I ignore them often enough but keep them in mind in where I go or how I behave in certain areas. The rise of these hate groups in Greece, however, is not a joke and the period of actual common-people democracy over 2000 years ago is notable in human history but was short-lived and is now irrelevant. Hats off to them. Their history of dictatorship and fascism, also in the past, is far fresher on the pages of history and Golden Dawn is a disturbing reminder of what little we all learned in 20th century. But whatever. The idea of the USA being the most dangerous place you know is equal hyperbole (though it is sure as hell not the safest). While I haven’t been to Rhodes, I have been to other isles, and they seem worlds away from Athens, and yes, certainly paradisiacal compared to many places on earth. Turkey does have black marks all over its record. But at the moment, targeting and scapegoating immigrants and consequently some tourists isn’t one of them. Defend it if you must, but be thankful you likely don’t have dark skin and are on a quiet little island where these issues don’t affect you.

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  • January 2, 2014 at 4:17 am
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    Last I heard, there were some terrorist bombs going going off in Turkey too. But let’s not let the truth get in the way of a tourism promo for Turkey which is still yet to recognise the Christian genocides of the past.
    And “Kevin”, under what rock have you crawled out of? Or is your name really Mustafa?
    For a Christian, visiting Turkey should be a bit like a Jew visiting Auschwitz or Germany. Perhaps bear that in mind when marveling the ancient and not so ancient Greek ruins (like the Hagia (Agia) Sofia and Capadochia which are Greek ruins too) in Turkey and note that only recently (about 80-100 years ago), millions of Christians once lived in Anatolia (Modern day Turkey) namely Christian Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians up until the early part of the last century before they were exterminated or deported systemically by the Turkish government during and after WWI. But of course, as Hitler once answered rhetorically when planning the Final Solution for the extermination of the Jews when asked how will he be remembered, “who remembers the Armenians?”
    Note – Ancient Macedonia = Ancient Greece. Greece in ancient times comprised Hellenic city states, Sparta, Corinth, Athens etc (including Macedonia) that had a common Greek or Hellenic culture and language which at times fought one another and other times, united to fight against invaders such as the Persians and centuries later, the Turks.

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  • March 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm
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    Well, we managed to hit up 7 of these destinations in the 3 years we lived in Turkey. 🙂 Greece may have more beautiful islands, but I think Turkey has some of the best ruins. I honestly was quite disappointed in Athens. I prefer the vibe in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey to what we experienced in Athens. But Greece does have pork doner kebabs, which was pretty awesome!

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    • March 26, 2014 at 4:44 am
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      You’re right about the islands and I agree about Athens, sort of a letdown. Pork doner kebabs??? Oh hell yes! Reason to go back to Greece. Plus so many islands left to explore. But I hope to add more to my Turkey ruins list in May, including the neolithic Gobeklitepe! (Fingers crossed!)

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  • May 20, 2014 at 7:52 am
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    I would like to visit Greece, just because of its close connection to Turkey and the historical background. Have situations changed somewhat since you posted this?

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    • May 21, 2014 at 6:35 am
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      Hi Natalie,
      Thanks for asking. It seems the situation has improved with a serious backlash against the party behind much of this sentiment and law changes, but Golden Dawn still has a disturbing amount of support. If police are no longer harassing, that’s enough I think to keep this out of a traveler’s business (but still sad for the resident immigrants). I need to update the post — thanks for reminding me! 🙂

      Reply

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