As a culture and history lover, we look for places where history comes alive. We look for places where we can stop and admire in awe at the sensational past of the place. On such place is Aphrodisias that existed even before the birth of Christ and was one of the earliest, richest and most evolved Greek settlements in Turkey.
It even predates Ephesus, the most popular Greek ruins in Turkey, but while Ephesus is in ruins, Aphrodisias still exists more or less intact. And the best part is that, Aphrodisias is located deep in Aegean Turkey and on an offbeat trail, which ensures that not many people visit it or even know about it.
Set amidst lovely mountains and lush valleys, pomegranate fruit orchards, almond and poplar trees and other farms, this settlement that predates 3rd century BC was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. It is the unbelievable architecture and marble work that will stun you on your visit here.
How could someone build a stadium that could seat 30,000 people 2,500 years ago? Even till date, we only have a handful of such high capacity stadiums in the whole world. How could someone build amphitheaters with sound acoustics? How could someone build reservoirs and irrigation techniques? How could one build hammams (bath houses) with cold and hot water facilities?
Did you know that 2,500 years ago, they used to have rooms like our corporate conference rooms where they used to discuss township planning, strategy and all of that good stuff? All this sounds hard to believe and that is precisely why I remained dumb and awe struck as I ambled along this historic site.
The size of the pillars of Tetrapylon (the main entrance gate to Aphrodisias) and that of the main temple of Aphrodite make me wonder how they moved around such monoliths. Did mammoths exist those days or did they possess some kind of engineering that we don’t know of? Whatever it is, I am simply at a loss for words.
The life like forms, the rich sculpting, the visually appealing stories portrayed on the walls, the sacrophigi and most of all, the size of everything is something you could gape at. May be, they wanted to show off or may be, they had the best artisans. Either way, their work is so good that these artisans and their bloodline became some of the most famous sculptors in the entire Roman period.
If you ever make a visit here, you will visit the Stadium, the museum, the Temple of Aphrodite, the Agora, the Bath and Hadrian, the Sebasteion, the Odeon Palace, the Bishop’s Palace, Tetrapylon, the amphitheater, the Tetrastoo and the Bath theater and other smaller places. You will find information about all of these on other sites and through pamphlets when you arrive. I would recommend taking an audio guide or the services of a recognized and knowledgeable tour guide to understand the place well.
My favorites from Aphrodisias have to be the following:
1) Stadium: I sat on top of one of the stadium seats and imagined that I watched an animal fight or gladiator event along with 30,000 other spectators. 2,500 years ago, to have such a facility was super cool.
2) Bath Houses: There was cold water and hot water hammams. Meetings were held at these bath houses. It was more like informal town planning used to take place in what was like a massage parlor. I sounds so much like a today’s spa.
3) Sebasteion: Some of the best sculptures of Aphrodisias can be seen here. Greek gods, greek stories and greek mythology can be seen in life like forms here.
4) Amphitheater: A massive acoustic amphitheater where we could see performances and plays 2,500 years ago is super cool. Try singing here and you will see what they meant by acoustic engineering.
The Aphrodisias Museum also has very well preserved sculptures from that era. Some of them exist here and some in esteemed museums across the world. But, whatever exists here is bound to keep you captivated.
How to get here
It is located at about a 2 hour drive from Denizli. Places to stay here are very minimal, though camping is an option. The best way to explore Aphrodisias is through a hired vehicle or tour from Pamukkale. That way, Aphrodisias can become a great day trip while you can continue with the rest of your Turkey holiday. If independent travel is your thing, you could either do self drives or a combination of hitchhiking/walking and public transport to get here.
Costs: 15 TL per person.
Recommendations: Take the Audio Guide. Visit in the first half of the day. Carry some food and water with you. Any season except the peak of summer would be great.