Pergamon, Ephesus, Pamukkale Trip

This year, the family decided to do something completely different for the Thanksgiving weekend and booked a guided tour to visit Izmir, Kusadasi, Pamukale and some other really interesting ancient sites on the western side of Turkiye.

First Stop… Pergamon: Asklepion

Pergamon or Pergamum (/ˈpɜːrɡəmən/ or /ˈpɜːrɡəmɒn/Greek: Πέργαμον), also referred to by its modern Greek form Pergamos (Πέργαμος),[a][1] was a rich and powerful ancient Greek city in Mysia. It is located 26 kilometers (16 mi) from the modern coastline of the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus (modern-day Bakırçay) and northwest of the modern city of BergamaTurkey.

During the Hellenistic period, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon in 281–133 BC under the Attalid dynasty, who transformed it into one of the major cultural centres of the Greek world. Many remains of its monuments can still be seen and especially the masterpiece of the Pergamon Altar. Pergamon was the northernmost of the seven churches of Asia cited in the New Testament Book of Revelation.

The city is centered on a 335-metre-high (1,099 ft) mesa of andesite, which formed its acropolis. This mesa falls away sharply on the north, west, and east sides, but three natural terraces on the south side provide a route up to the top. To the west of the acropolis, the Selinus River (modern Bergamaçay) flows through the city, while the Ketios river (modern Kestelçay) passes by to the east.

Pergamon was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014.

Virgin Mary’s House in Ephesus

Ephesus has a great importance for Christians. Its name is mentioned in the Bible by St. Paul (letters of Saint Paul to Ephesians) and by John the Evangelist in the book of Revelation.

Ephesus is also the city where the Virgin Mary and St. John spent the last days of their life and if in the area, one should definitely make a stop at Mary’s House. While one cannot 100% prove that this is the house that Mary lived in at the later part of her life, three popes have visited and blessed the house. Pope Paul VI in 1967, Pope John Paul II in 1976 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Ancient City of Ephesus

Ephesus was a city in ancient Greece on the coast of Ionia, 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of Apasa, the former Arzawan capital, by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era, it was one of twelve cities that were members of the Ionian League. The city came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.

The city was famous in its day for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), which has been designated one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Its many monumental buildings included the Library of Celsus and a theatre capable of holding 24,000 spectators. Ephesus was recipient city of one of the Pauline epistles; one of the seven churches of Asia addressed in the Book of Revelation; the Gospel of John may have been written there; and it was the site of several 5th-century Christian Councils (see Council of Ephesus). The city was destroyed by the Goths in 263. Although it was afterwards rebuilt, its importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River. In 614, it was partially destroyed by an earthquake.

Today, the ruins of Ephesus are a favorite international and local tourist attraction, being accessible from Adnan Menderes Airport and from the resort town Kuşadası. In 2015, the ruins were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The family enjoyed our time here. The kids enjoyed walking around the different ruins and our guide was top notch, so we learned a lot about the city and even saw some things we would have missed if we did not have a local guide.


Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, is a natural site in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. The area is famous for a carbonate mineral left by the flowing of thermal spring water. It is located in Turkey’s Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which has a temperate climate for most of the year.

Our first stop was to the ancient city of Aphrodisias. Located in southwestern Turkey, in the upper valley of the Morsynus River, the site consists of two components: the archaeological site of Aphrodisias and the marble quarries northeast of the city. The temple of Aphrodite dates from the 3rd century BC and the city was built one century later. The wealth of Aphrodisias came from the marble quarries and the art produced by its sculptors. The city streets are arranged around several large civic structures, which include temples, a theatre, an agora and two bath complexes.

The ancient Greek city of Hierapolis was built on top of the travertine formation which is in total about 2,700 meters (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 km away. This area has been drawing visitors to its thermal springs since the time of classical antiquity. The Turkish name refers to the surface of the shimmering, snow-white limestone, shaped over millennia by calcite-rich springs. Dripping slowly down the mountainside, mineral-rich waters collect in and cascade down the mineral terraces, into pools below.

One could easily get lost walking around the site, which was larger than I thought it would be.

It was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 along with Hierapolis.

Necropolis and Hierapolis

Our last stop was the ancient city of Hierapolis but before we got to the city gate we had to walk through the Necropolis, or city of the dead. It was a surreal experience walking on the ancient road that cut through the Necropolis. Thankfully there were no ghouls or zombies in site!

The hot springs have been used as a spa since at least the 2nd century BC, with many patrons retiring or dying there as evidenced by the large necropolis filled with tombs, most famously that of Marcus Aurelius Ammianos, which bears a relief depicting the earliest known example of a crank and rod mechanism, and the Tomb of Philip the Apostle.

Hierapolis was originally a Phrygian cult centre of the Anatolian mother goddess of Cybele and later a Greek city. Its location was centred upon the remarkable and copious hot springs in classical Phrygia in southwestern Anatolia. Its extensive remains are adjacent to modern Pamukkale in Turkey.