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.
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, 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.