Things to See and Do on a Holiday in Kuşadasi

14 Feb 2022

Kuşadasi is a popular holiday resort town on the Aegean coast of western Turkey. It attracts package tourists and cruise passengers, and is a gateway to some beautiful areas of national park and important archaeological sites.

One of the town's big draws is its beaches. Kuşadasi gets around 300 days of sunshine a year, with hot summers and mild winters, so visitors can take advantage of a long holiday season. You can avoid the peak-period crowds that throng to the sands and still bask in gorgeous temperatures as early as May or as late as October.

Right in the middle of Kuşadasi town centre, between the cruise harbour and the marina, is Downtown Beach. You can hire sun beds and beach umbrellas, and there are also cafés and showers within a short distance. From the beach, you have views of the cruise ships coming in and out, as well as one of the most prominent landmarks in Kuşadasi, Pigeon Island (Güvercinada).

Güvercinada (Pigeon Island), crowned by an Ottoman-era fortress

This small island, linked to the mainland by a causeway, is home to a castle that was originally built in the 13th or 14th century, during Byzantine times, and later rebuilt under Ottoman rule. In the shadow of the castle's square tower are the grounds of the castle's walled citadel, where you can take a pleasant stroll and admire the views of Kuşadasi across the water. The castle is on the list of places to which UNESCO is considering awarding World Heritage Site status.

The viewing terrace at the top of Atatürk Hill

For views over the town and coast from even higher up, climb to the top of Atatürk Hill, just inland from Pigeon Island. It's quite a steep walk (you can take a taxi instead), but worth the effort for the panorama that will reward you. At the top there is a viewing terrace and a statue of the first president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which looks out over the harbour below. On one slope of the hill, houses have been painted in bright colours —when viewed from below, they resemble a large rainbow on the hillside.

Kaleiçi — the Old Town of Kuşadasi — and the towering minaret of Kaleiçi Camii, the Old Town Mosque

The old part of Kuşadasi, known as Kaleiçi, is a labyrinth of narrow streets, over which rises the minaret of the impressive Kaleiçi Camii, the Old Town Mosque that was built in the 17th century. Nearby, you'll find some great opportunities for souvenir shopping. Bozkurt Street, also known as the Old Town Bazaar, and the Grand Bazaar, are among the best places to buy jewellery, leather items, fake designer goods, and much more.

Popular Ladies Beach is now open to everyone, and is a short walk from the town centre

Outside of town there are some excellent beaches. The popular Ladies Beach is a 15-minute walk, or a short mini bus (dolmus) ride south of Kuşadasi town centre. Once exclusively for female bathers, the kilometre-long sands are now open for everyone to enjoy. The water is clear and shallow, and you can take in views over to the Greek island of Samos. A palm-tree-lined promenade features shops, cafés, restaurants, bars, and hotels. There are also watersports, changing rooms, toilets, umbrellas, sun beds, and lifeguards.

Five kilometres south of Ladies Beach is Long Beach, an 18-kilometre stretch of sand that is divided into areas with different names such as Love Beach, Paradise Beach, and Diamond Beach, and is home to beach clubs and hotels. Again, you can take a dolmus from Kuşadasi and find your perfect spot along the shoreline. Long Beach is also home to Tortuga Pirate Island Theme & Water Park, one of several water parks in the area. There are a couple more just north of Kuşadasi town: Aqualand and Aqua Fantasy, which are packed with thrilling waterslides, plus lazy rivers and white-water rafting.

Another perfect way to spend the day by the sea is to visit a beach club. There are several around Kuşadasi, with hammocks, sun beds, and large cushions to relax upon, as well as restaurants and bars. You usually pay an entrance fee, which entitles you to use the facilities all day. If you want to stay longer, some host DJ sets, so you can dance into the early hours.

There are plenty of other nightlife options in Kuşadasi. The action centres on the thoroughfare with the nickname Bar Street, which is packed full of bars and nightclubs — it's loud and busy, and things don't really get going until after 11pm. For somewhere with a more relaxed atmosphere and fewer touts than Bar Street, head to the area around Ladies Beach, where there are restaurants with terraces overlooking the sea, plus a few bars and clubs.

The ruins at Ephesus date back to around 6000BC

There are many day trips you can take in the area, incluing the 20-kilometre journey from Kusadasi to Ephesus, one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world. Ephesus's history stretches back to around 6000BC, and it has been home to Neolithic, Bronze Age, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman settlements. It was once an important port, although when its harbour later silted up, the city's status as a trading centre declined.

Today, you can still see some stunning ruins, including the Library of Celsus, a 24,000-seat theatre, a temple to Hadrian, public baths, and city gates. The city, once home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, also contains the ruins of a basilica believed to have been built over the burial site of John the Apostle.

Dilek Peninsula National Park offers stunning sea views and a huge choice of walking and cycling trails

About 30 kilometres south of Kuşadasi is Dilek Peninsula National Park, a beautiful 275-square-kilometre area of mountainous headland. There are some great hiking and mountain bike trails through the canyons, villages, and forests of the park, and there is a diverse collection of flora and fauna to look out for, including free-roaming wild pigs and fallow deer. The park is also home to several beaches with clear water that is ideal for snorkelling, plus some designated picnic areas with picnic tables and toilets, as well as cafés. You can reach the park by dolmus from Kuşadasi, while jeep safaris also go there. Boat trips around the peninsula are also available, departing from the town of Güzelçamli, and stopping off at bays and islands — you may even spot dolphins along the way, if you are lucky.

From Kusadasi, you can see across to Samos — the Greek island lends its silhouette to the beautiful sunsets this part of the Aegean coast gets. If you are curious about what lies across the water, you can catch a ferry from Kuşadasi to Samos. The island, which was the birthplace of Hera, wife of Zeus in Greek mythology, is a wonderful place to explore, with lovely little white-sand beaches, fishing harbours, mountaintop churches, wineries, and pretty villages. You can even visit the cave where the mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras sought refuge.

Before travelling, be sure to check out our travel guide to Turkey.

Then read about what to do in Istanbul
Indulge in Turkey's best foods
Study up on customs and safety in Turkey
Be sure you know when to visit Turkey
Dream about what to expect on a Turkish gulet cruise
Find out what to take in along the Turquiose coast
Plan what to see in Marmaris

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Nick Elvin contributed to this post.

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