The fourth busiest cruise port in the entire Mediterranean, Kusadası has shed its fishing-village roots in order to become the official gateway to Ephesus. Most tourists will only spend twenty minutes in town, which is about the time it takes to disembark from an ocean liner.
But those who are able to stick around and explore will find that the friendly city is actually quite fun. You won’t get much in the way of Turkish culture beyond the trademark hospitality (although you’ll find some, if you’re prepared to seek it out). Instead you’ll have free reign over a decent, if oft-crowded beach, and some of the coast’s headiest nightlife think Irish pubs, happy hours, singalongs, tribute acts and swaying discos. Now, if that sounds like a bit too much, then you’re better off basing yourself in the quieter confines of sleepy Selcuk nearby.
Kuşadası’s town has a small artificial beach, but the area’s most famous stretch of sand, and the primary focus for the majority of its package holiday visitors, is Kadınlar Denizi (Ladies Beach), 2.5km south of town and served by dolmuşes running along the coastal road. It’s nice enough but packed with big hotels and woefully inadequate for the high summer crowds. The coast south of Kadınlar Denizi has several small beaches, each backed by big hotels.
In town, the main formal attraction is the minor stone fortress that occupies most of Güvercin Ada (Pigeon Island), a small island connected to the mainland by a causeway. Its main hall hosts exhibitions of handicrafts and there are a few coops on stilts for the eponymous pigeons, but the fortress’ main appeal is as a strolling route it’s particularly popular with local courting couples who secret themselves among the battlements and canoodle.
East of the island are the cruise ship docks and, handily situated immediately to the south, the main bazaar area. This is a strictly tourist-oriented place cheap leather jackets, knock-off designer bags, carpets, jewellery etc but you’ll rarely be harassed by vendors.
Kusadası is a resort town on Turkey’s Aegean coast and the center of the seaside district of the same name in Aydın Province and is a very popular holiday resort, especially for visitors from Northern and Western Europe.Kusadasi takes its name from the Turkish for ‘Bird Island’, a reference to Pigeon Island, which is connected to the mainland of Kusadasi by a short causeway. Kusadası lies at a distance of 95 km to the south from the region’s largest metropolitan center of Izmir, and 71 km from the provincial seat of Aydın situated inland. Its primary industry is tourism.
A trip to Ephesus is a must. It’s the best-preserved ancient city in the Eastern Mediterranean and a magical place that enthralls even those who normally find rubbernecking around ruins a bore.
The Virgin Mary is believed to have visited there between 37 and 45 A.D. The two-story library once contained thousands of scrolls, and the Terrace Houses display intricate mosaics and colorful frescoes. The fabulous Temple of Artemis which Alexander the Great visited during its construction in 334 B.C. was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Often included in tours to Ephesus and definitely not worth missing is a visit to the House of the Virgin Mary, located atop Nightingale Mountain (Bulbul). It’s a humble, one-story brick house that, by myth, is supposed to be the place where she spent her last years. Discovered in 1880 by a German nun with a vision, the house has been visited by countless folks on pilgrimages, including two popes. Sometimes included with an Ephesus tours is an excursion to the Basilica of St. John. Many believe that St. John spent his last years near Ephesus and was buried in the area. The small church built over his grave site in the 4th century was turned into a basilica in the 6th century.
Note: Prepare carefully for a trip to Ephesus; the site gets very crowded and extremely hot in the summer months, so take plenty of water, sunscreen and hats. There are restaurants near the site, and full-day cruise tours will include lunch.
If you’re looking for a fun time while on holiday in Kusadasi you’ll find this popular town offers something for everyone! From its restaurants, to bars, discos and an evening of entertainment, nightlife in Kusadasi is fun and friendly.
Kusadasi nightlife includes a little bit of everything! It’s vibrant enough to attract a crowd of younger party-goers, yet it’s not too over the top. There are discos if you enjoy dancing the night away, as well as bars that have room for dancing, and pub style establishments that are very obviously aimed at the holidaymakers.
Those of you who prefer your nightlife to be more low-key will find Kusadasi nightlife suits you too. There are quieter parts of town where the bars aren’t trying to deafen you, and you can sit back and relax to the sounds of Turkish music, jazz, or several other genres. Some of the restaurants provide their own nightlife so once you’ve enjoyed a great meal you don’t have to get up and leave. The Turks are such friendly people that they would welcome you to stay and enjoy traditional Turkish music or dancing. This kind of entertainment is also often available in some of the larger hotels too.
In Kusadasi, Bar Street is definitely the noisiest part of town and it’s located just above the old heart of the town; just follow the music and you should find it! There are not usually admission charges for these bars and clubs but the drinks are priced higher than elsewhere; for this reason Bar Street doesn’t usually start filling up until around 11pm and doesn’t get quiet again until after 4am.
For the quieter bars, some of which play live music, head to the older part of Kusadasi called Kale. Here you’ll find narrower streets and a more genteel crowd, with a great atmosphere and ambiance.
Further out from Kusadasi centre there are still plenty of bars, pubs and clubs to choose from in the suburbs and along the beaches. Alongside the most famous beach in Kusadasi, Ladies Beach, you’ll find some lively bars and clubs. There aren’t as many as in Bar Street and although they’re loud, they’re not ‘as’ loud! The atmosphere here is a little more relaxed too, so may be preferable for families on holiday in Kusadasi.
Getting there & away
Kuşadası’s otogar is at the southern end of Kahramanlar Caddesi on the bypass highway. Several companies have ticket offices on İsmet İnönü Bulvarı and offer servis (shuttle minibuses) to save you the trek out there. Note that dolmuş leave from the centrally located Adnan Menderes Bulvarı.
In summer, three buses run daily to Bodrum (€7 to €8, 2 to 2½ hours, 151km); in winter, take a dolmuş to Söke (€1.65, at least every 30 minutes all year). For Didyma, Priene and Miletus, change also at Söke.
For Selçuk, (€1.65, 25 minutes), dolmuş run every 15 minutes. For Pamucak or Ephesus, take the Selçuk dolmuş (which can drop you off there). For Seherihisar (€2.80; 70 minutes), dolmuşes leave every 45 minutes all year.
All Kuşadası travel agents sell tickets to the Greek island of Samos.
From 1st April to 31st October, boats depart daily from Kuşadası to Samos at 8.30am. From 1 May, there’s an additional boat at 5pm. Note that ferries do not operate in winter. Tickets cost €32 for a single, €38 for a same-day return and €59 for an open return.
If you stay the night you will be landed with a €9 tax for leaving Greece and another €9 tax for coming back into Turkey. Some pensions discount these tickets, so ask, and flash your student card. You must be at the harbour 45 minutes before sailing time for immigration formalities.
- On Foot
Kusadasi is easily explored on foot. Your ship will provide a map of the area, but you can also obtain one from the Kusadasi Tourist Information Office, across the street from the harbor in the Iskele Meydan.