Izmir is one of the most historical places in Turkey, famous for the ancient city of Ephesus which is around 80km south. Known as the "sunshine city", Izmir is located in western Turkey and hosts the world-renowned Izmir Festival in mid-June to July featuring world-class performers, orchestras and bands. The festival has been a yearly occurrence since 1987. There is plenty to do in Izmir, from visiting one of the 49 Blue Flag beaches along its 629km coastline, to the iconic 25 metre tall Izmir Clock Tower and if you have children, one of the many excellent water parks nearby.
History-lovers will be overwhelmed with all the places to visit near Izmir, such as the ancient city of Ephesus around 80km away, which was built in the 10th Century BC, is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Turkey and one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. The nearby Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and you can still visit the ruins of the temple today. Also worth a day trip, the ancient city of Pergamon near Bergama (around 110km from Izmir) features the well-preserved Theatre of Pergamon, plus various temples such as the Temple of Dionysus, Serapis Temple, Temple of Telesphorus and Temple of Athena as well as a library, Gymnasium, Trajaneum and the Sanctuary of Demeter. It is one of the settlements on the UNESCO World Heritage List, with over 200,000 visitors last year.
Modern Izmir offers a fusion of history and nightlife; stroll along the palm-lined streets by day, visit some of the many attractions, experience dinner at a renowned fish restaurant in the evening before visiting one of the many bars, discos and nightclubs. Also well worth a visit is the resort town of Kusadası, around 95km south of Izmir famous for its beaches. Ladies’ Beach, named because it was once for women only, is probably the most famous of these long sandy beaches featuring lots of restaurants, bars and shops. Be sure to visit Pigeon Island while you are there, which can be accessed via a causeway.
The Balçova Springs are found just 10km west of Izmir, and the district of Cesme is very popular with plenty of historical sites and white sandy beaches including Alaçatı beach which is ideal for windsurfing. Nearby in the town of Ilıca, there are hot springs with baths, hot mineral pools and the springs offer a great underwater massage as well as electrotherapy due to the high levels of minerals.
Getting around Izmir is quite straightforward, with options ranging from ESHOT buses, the metro, light rail and tram, as well as taxis. Take some time to stroll along the streets lined with palm trees, explore the shops and take a sunset walk along one of the white sandy beaches. Must-see sites in Izmir include the Church of St Polycarp, which is one of the seven churches mentioned in the Bible, the ruins of the castle on Mt. Pagos (Kadifekale) which overlooks Izmir and offers amazing views, the Hisar Mosque, the oldest and largest in Izmir and the Archaeological Museum, near Konak Square which features a great collection including the statues of Poseidon and Demeter. Also be sure to try some of the cuisine for which Izmir is famous, such as Tarnaha Soup made of dried yoghurt and tomatoes, Izmir Kofte, and Lokma, which are deep fried dough balls soaked in syrup, for dessert.