A Side Trip to Aphrodisias

Just when you think you've been saturated by amazing sights, you round another bend and behold the archaeological ruins of the ancient site of Aphrodisias (tel. 0256/448-8003; admission 8TL). The best-preserved example of a Hellenistic civilization in Turkey, Aphrodisias is still undergoing excavations, compliments of New York University. If you've got a car and time for a side trip, this is definitely worth your time.

It is commonly believed that the cult of the mother goddess was central to its origins. As early as the 1st century B.C., Aphrodisias was recognized as a sacred sanctuary and was awarded special privileges that began with Julius Caesar and lasted through the end of the Roman Empire. Popularity in the cult of Aphrodite hung on even as Christianity took hold, but eventually waned. After raids by Selçuk and Turcomen tribes in the 11th and 13th centuries, the city was ultimately abandoned.

The site covers an area of 520 hectares (1,285 acres). Some of the highlights of the site include the Temple of Aphrodite, built around the 1st century B.C. and converted into a basilica in the 5th century A.D. Excavations, however, have revealed earlier structures, dating to the 7th century B.C. The immense Stadium of Aphrodisias, an elongated oval of 262m*59m (860 ft.*194 ft.), rivals in grandeur the stadium of Pompeii. Before it was excavated, the truly Olympic-size pool was originally thought to be an agora, as it was surrounded by impressive Ionic porticos and covered a vast area. The porticos were simply aimed at creating a fabulous reflection in the pool, which is laid entirely of marble. The pool is best appreciated from the top tiers of the theater. Nearby is the Portico of Tiberius, and to the west, the Baths of Hadrian, who had them built.

Getting There -- You can get to Aphrodisias by car from Pamukkale, only 1 1/2 hours away. Also, some day tours from Izmir and Kusadasi include a stopover in Aphrodisias, on the way to Pamukkale; just comparison-shop along the main drags in Izmir, Kusadasi, Bodrum, or Antalya for a tour to fit your needs. If you're driving from Pamukkale, Karahayit, or Hierapolis, take the road for Denizli, and then follow the signs for Tavas. At Tavas, take the turnoff for Karacasu and follow signs for the site.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.