The central and southern Aegean is a region of rolling hills, mountains surrounded by clear blue seas, and glorious white-sand beaches are just a few of the reasons why. Wandering through historic ruins, boating, scuba diving, basking in the Anatolian sun, and eating fresh fish are just some of the ways you can fill your days.
Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, can seem very modern and industrial and some of the bigger resort areas like Kusadasi and Bodrum attract multitudes of package tourists in the busy summer months—this is also where you’ll find most of the booming nightlife that the area is becoming known for—yet there are certainly more tranquil spots to be found. Head out to some of the smaller villages, and you’ll be amply rewarded.
The Central and Southern Aegean Coast Sights
Turkey’s third-largest city, with a population of 2 million, Izmir was called Smyrna until 1923. A vital trading port, though one often ravaged by wars and earthquakes, it also had its share of glory. Many believe that Homer was born in Old Smyrna sometime around 850 BC. Alexander the Great favored this city with a citadel atop its highest hill.
Izmir fell into assorted hands after the Romans, starting with the Byzantines and Arabs. From 1097 on, it was a battlefield in the Crusades, passing back and forth between Muslims and Christians. Destroyed and restored successively by Byzantines and Seljuks, Smyrna was held by the Knights of Rhodes in 1402 when the Mongol raider Tamerlane came along, sacked it yet again, and slaughtered its inhabitants. Thirteen years later Sultan Mehmet I Çelebi incorporated it into the Ottoman Empire.
Toward the end of the 15th century, Jews driven from Spain settled in Smyrna, forming a lasting Sephardic community. By the 18th and 19th centuries Smyrna had become a successful, sophisticated commercial port with an international flavor. Its business community included a sizable number of Jews, Italians, Greeks, Armenians, British, and French. This era came to an end with World War I, when Ottoman Turkey allied itself with Germany. In 1918 the Greek army, encouraged by the British and French, landed at the harbor and claimed the city. The occupation lasted until 1922, when Turkish troops under Atatürk defeated the Greek forces and forced them to evacuate. On September 9, 1922, Atatürk made a triumphant entry into the port. The joy of the local Turks was short-lived; a fire shortly thereafter blazed through the city. Fanned by the wind, it burned wooden houses like matches while hidden stores of munitions exploded.
The city was quickly rebuilt—and given the Turkish name Izmir. Like the name, much of the city dates from the ’20s, from its wide boulevards to the office buildings and apartment houses painted in bright white or soft pastels. This important industrial center is not particularly pretty, though it has a harbor-front promenade and peaceful green Kültür Parki at its center.
The Central and Southern Aegean Coast Restaurant Reviews
Eating along the Aegean coast is a pleasure, especially if you like seafood. The main course is often the fresh catch of the day, though meat lovers can rest assured that there are always beef and lamb kebabs. Some of the more common fish you’ll find are palamut (baby tuna), lüfer (bluefish), levrek (sea bass), çupra (sea bream), and kalkan (turbot).