- What’s On
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Turkey’s Aegean coast takes on many guises as you head south from the cool waters of the Dardanelles, across the Troad peninsula to the classical world of the Ionian Greeks and conquering Romans, at Troy and Ephesus, the country’s most spectacular ancient site. At its centre is Izmir, once a trading centre for the western world, and still buzzing with life. There are many other ancient sites, too, culminating at Knidos on the Datça peninsula, while fishing villages have become popular tourist destinations, from Ayvalik and the Cesme peninsula in the north to Bodrum in the Blue Cruising grounds of the Gulf of Gökova.
The Aegean makes a magnificent out-of-season drive. In early spring it is perfectly possible not to come across a single tourist between Izmir and Gallipoli. Assos is a favourite place at this time, and Mount Ida offers the easiest and most rewarding of climbs, though it does need planning. Wineries are flourishing on Bozcaada (ancient Tenedos) and the Çeşme peninsula. Figs are still gathered in Ephesus, and rugs dyed the old fashioned way by the Yörük in the hinterland of Ayvalık, where olive oil of the finest quality is made.
Spring or autumn are the times to go. Winter is wonderful, too, but beware of icy roads. Most car-hire companies allow you to start in Istanbul and end in Izmir, or vice versa.
Turkey's northern Aegean coastline is a joy to explore by car, and the independent traveller will still find it gloriously bereft of tourists in early spring and autumn.
Izmir, ancient Smyrna, is a multi-layered city, full of historic resonances – dusty and horribly over-built, but in a rather old-fashioned way that blends '60s delapidation with Riviera charm. It really doesn't care a jot about the rest of Turkey.
This amazing area includes the breezy peninsula of Çeşme, the coastal trio of Ephesus, Miletus and Priene, and, away from the coast, the ancient metropolis of Aphrodisias, as well as a number of busy market towns.
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