History: Izmir, which was known as Smyrna in ancient times, is one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of over 8,500 years of civilization in Izmir, which was in turn ruled by the Persian, Roman and Ottoman empires. Some significant earthquakes and fires destroyed most of the relics of antiquity in Izmir, yet there’s still a great deal to see and an immense aggregation of history to absorb in the region.
Location: Izmir is on the western coast of Anatolia, the region of Turkey considered the westernmost part of Asia. The city sits on the Gulf of Izmir, with the province stretching north and south along the coast as well as reaching inland to the south of Izmir city. Izmir is 348 miles south of Istanbul and about 400 miles west of Ankara, the only two larger cities in Turkey.
Climate: Izmir experiences year-round sunshine – an average of 300 days a year – with very hot, dry summers cooled by sea breezes and winters that are mild and often rainy. In winter you can see snow-capped mountains from the city, but at sea level the temperatures rarely drop below zero. Temperatures year-round typically range from 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Historic Kemeralti Bazaar:
Historic Kemeralti Bazaar: Whether you want to haggle over souvenirs, drink coffee at traditional Turkish cafes or simply soak in the atmosphere of what Lonely Planet calls “one of Turkey’s most fascinating bazaars,” a visit to Izmir’s historic Kemeralti Bazaar is a must. A kaleidoscope of goods is available in the bazaar’s stalls and storefronts, among them handmade glass, sandals, jewelry, spices and candies. The bazaar is also flanked by some of Izmir’s most interesting landmarks, including the circa-1597 Hisar Mosque.
Ancient Agora: The ancient agora (marketplace) of Izmir dates to the late 4th century BC. The original structures were destroyed by an earthquake in 178 AD, then rebuilt under Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. What remains within this working archaeological site is a striking Corinthian colonnade, vaulted chambers under two basilicas, and a channel of running water supplied by the same natural source for over 2,000 years.
Ephesus was one of the most important cities in antiquity, a religious and cultural center established under Alexander the Great in 300 B.C. It was the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Archaeological Museum at Ephesus displays items uncovered there dating as far back as 6,000 B.C. Ephesus is about an hour south of Izmir city. Visit to see the scant remains of the Temple of Artemis, a 5th-century chapel, the Celsus Library, Hadrian’s Temple and walls, mosaics and marble paneling preserved from ancient terrace houses.
Largely undiscovered outside Turkey, Alacati is where many Turks, including several national celebrities, spend their holidays to escape the more touristy scene in Bodrum. It’s also known as one the world’s best windsurfing destinations – the Professional Windsurfing Association (PWA) Windsurfing World Cup is held here in August.
The town is quiet by day when most visitors flock to the sandy beaches around Alacati. They range from lively beach clubs hosting parties and concerts at sunset, to more intimate stretches for families and quiet sun worshippers. All are between one and 10 miles from town, some accessible only by boat. But Alacati comes into its own in the evenings, when its cobbled streets, outdoor cafés, quirky antiques and souvenir shops buzz with locals and tourists. Others head for the waterfront bars and restaurants in the port and the yacht marina. Designed by the late French architect Francois Spoerry, who also designed the tourist spot Port Grimaud in the Cote d’Azur, it is lined with private yachts docked directly along the back gardens of several traditional Mediterranean homes with terracotta roofs inspiring an old Aegean fishing village atmosphere.
Top Five Things to Do in Izmir Province
Ephesus was one of the most important cities in antiquity, a religious and cultural center established under Alexander the Great in 300 B.C.
Pergamon: A second UNESCO World Heritage Site in Izmir province is Pergamon, about two hours north of Izmir city.
Cesme: Cesme, a beach town about an hour from the center of Izmir city, is very popular, especially during the summer. In its vicinity, Ilica Beach features hot springs within the sea along with mud baths nearby; Pirlanta Plaji is a surf spot; Ayayorgi cove has a party atmosphere; and boat tours take snorkelers to the turquoise cove of Mavi Koy.
Seferihisar: Turkey’s first official “slow city” as sanctioned by the Cittaslow movement, Seferihisar is surrounded by vineyards and groves of olives and citrus, as well as archaeological sites.
Sardis: Another remarkable archaeological site in Izmir Province is Sardis, about 45 miles east of Izmir City. It was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, which fell to Alexander the Great around 334 B.C. but thrived again during the Byzantine era.
Getting to Izmir
Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir is a modern, international airport served by Turkish Airlines, Sun Express and British Airways, among other major European airlines. The most straightforward way to get to Izmir from the U.S. mainland is to either fly directly to Istanbul, then take a connecting flight to Izmir, or to fly to London before connecting to Izmir. The Havas shuttle service from the airport to the center of Izmir runs daily, both ways, and takes about an hour. There’s also a bus connection, and taxis are widely available.
Izmir is also linked to Istanbul and Ankara by long-distance buses, which take 9 1/2 or 9 hours respectively. There’s also an overnight train from Ankara to Izmir, which takes 14 hours. Also consider the overnight ferry from Istanbul to Izmir, which runs four times a week in summer only.