The ancient city of love

aphrodisias turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkale

The ancient city of love


Aphrodisias, Turkey

It’s all about love, isn’t it? And at the ancient temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the love goddess, you can feel it all around you. Not just in the ethereal sense, but in the practical. For it was the love of history that saw Turkish archaeologist Kenan Erim dedicate his life to uncovering the story of Aphrodisias. It became his second home for 30 years and, now buried there, his eternal resting place. It is because of his work that we are now able to experience one of the greatest sites in Turkey.


It’s the ruins at Ephesus that generally get most of attention when it comes to the ancient sites of Turkey. But, in many ways, Aphrodisias is far superior. The site stretches out over a large area, it’s been extremely well preserved or restored, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment because it doesn’t have the large tourist crowds it probably deserves. Imagining life in the Aphrodisias of old is not difficult.

aphrodisias turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkale

aphrodisias turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkale

Once it was a thriving city but most of the houses of the average people haven’t been uncovered. It’s the main landmarks which take centre stage, all revolving around the temple to Aphrodite. Some of the larger houses nearby, often taking up a whole city block, have been unearthed and reveal a wealthy and prosperous community.

aphrodisias turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkale

A robust civic society with an emphasis on social interaction and public spaces is how I imagine it would once have been. A long open stretch of pool with fountains at each end form the boundary of one side; the traditional-style baths take a prominent place in the city’s layout and would have been the epicentre of the gossip trade; a beautiful ampitheatre must have been the setting for great performances of culture and arts; and then there’s the stadium… oh, the stadium.

aphrodisias turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkale

aphrodisias turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkale

It truly is a sight to behold. The description on the site’s information plaque describes it as “the largest ancient stadium in the world and one of the best preserved”. That may be true but the superlatives don’t do it justice. Standing at one end, the other seems so far away. It is 270 metres long and every one of those metres seems to stretch out longer than in should under the midday sun with the empty seats staring down. There would have been times when thirty thousand people would have filled those spots, shouting and cheering at the sports taking place below. The crowd would have come from not just the city, but from the whole region, for these contests.

aphrodisias turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkale

Aphrodisias on World Heritage List?

There’s a lot to love here. What I don’t understand, though, is why it has not been recognised more widely for its value. Having been to some of Turkey’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, I believe this is a much better candidate for inclusion than Xanthos-Letoon, for example. But it wasn’t until 2009 that Turkey even suggested it be considered (it is still on the tentative list along with 36 other Turkish properties). These things do move slowly and decisions are not always made simply on merit, but hopefully its time will come.

aphrodisias turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkale

aphrodisiaphrodisias turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkaleas turkey, aphrodite temple, best ruins in turkey, things near pamukkale

Regardless, you can understand why it became almost an obsession for Kenan Erim to reveal as much as possible of Aphrodisias to the world. He would be pleased to know that the archaeological work is continuing and that there are visitors who are very grateful for his dedication.

You can find out more here about the archaeological work at Aphrodisias

UNESCO world heritage siteThis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited here.

  • Laurence | Sep 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Looks like a real candidate for UNESCO status to me. Sounds like you got their before the crowds discover it – nice one 😀
    Laurence recently posted..That time I nearly died in the OutbackMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 4, 2012 at 6:38 am

      Yeah, it was nice to not have too many people there. It’s definitely on the tourist map but it’s a little bit out of the way so I think that keeps a lot of visitors away. It will get busier with time, I’m sure.

  • Elmer Cruz | Sep 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Definitely in my hit list!
    Elmer Cruz recently posted..Introducing Dumaguete – The City of Gentle PeopleMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 4, 2012 at 6:39 am

      You won’t be disappointed!

  • D.J. - The World of Deej | Sep 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Great story….Oddly enough, I never really knew where the term “Aphrodisiac” came from…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The Blogger Relay – My Top 3 Travel MemoriesMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 4, 2012 at 6:40 am

      Before you go getting too excited, there is nothing there these days that could be deemed an aphrodisiac. It’s just a name now…

  • Angela | Sep 4, 2012 at 5:48 am

    When I see such ancient ruins I love to imagine how life could have been in their heyday. I, too, think they had a great civil society. Great pictures!
    Angela recently posted..A trip, a photo – In Rio, the trendy and the favelaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 4, 2012 at 6:42 am

      It looks like it would have been a lot nicer than many current cities that I’ve visited. Perhaps a temple to Aphrodite should be mandatory in more places!! 🙂

  • Steve | Sep 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Place is awesome! Our travel club went there in October last year…Great shots

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 6, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Oh, you would have got some great photos from there with the travel club. There’s so much variety and it’s all quite well maintained (by ruin standards).

  • Natalie | Sep 4, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I can never figure out how the UNESCO list has missed some sites in Turkey and put others on it. Seems like a mystery. It looks like Turkey has impressed you though
    Natalie recently posted..14 Famous Landmarks of IstanbulMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 6, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Turkey has indeed impressed me! Sadly it’s been a much shorter visit than I would’ve liked. But looking forward to coming back again and seeing some more of the country.

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica | Sep 5, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Great find. I had never heard of it.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..A Guide to Food and Drink in BoliviaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 6, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      You’ll have to add it to your list of ‘reasons to start travelling again’! 🙂

  • Cole @ | Sep 5, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Stop posting awesome things about Turkey please. I just want to go back.
    Cole @ recently posted..La Notte Rosa Sunrise in RiminiMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      I think it’s one of those countries you’ll always want to go back to. I’m already planning my next trip there (vaguely… in my head… you know what I mean…)

  • Jess | GlobetrotterGirls | Sep 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    The ultimate travel catch-22. You love it so you want to tell people, but one thing you love is that there weren’t a lot of people there…tough one! This looks awesome though,we’ll definitely go when we are in Turkey!

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      It’s such a big site. Don’t worry, there’s room for everyone!! 🙂

  • Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey | Sep 7, 2012 at 9:10 am

    There really does seem to be no rhyme or reason to the UNESCO inscription process. We’ve visited so many UNESCO sites. Most are really amazing but a few are disappointing head scratchers. Then there are the gems that we fall in love with, like Aphrodisias, that seem more than worthy for World Heritage Status. Then again, finding those gems that aren’t on “the list” is part of the fun.
    Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey recently posted..Worst Birthday EVER – Piedras Iman, El SalvadorMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 14, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      You’re right about the pleasure in finding a site that should be on the list but isn’t. It’s nice to think you know better than the experts – and you’ve often got the bonus that it’s not as crowded!

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel | Sep 8, 2012 at 2:59 am

    Glad that you found and are willing to share this hidden gem. Looks like a wonderful place to spend the day and bring a picnic.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..Announcing Our Next Grand Adventure!My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 14, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      It’s a lovely place indeed. It gets quite hot in summer, though. If you’re planning to take a picnic make sure you find a nice shady spot to stop for lunch! 🙂

  • Andrew | Sep 19, 2012 at 7:33 am

    They kept trying to rope us into a day trip here from Pamukkale. It was our down day to rest and get caught up and the tour operators just felt sleazy. It does look cool though.
    Andrew recently posted..In the Spice Market – Aromatic ChaosMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 20, 2012 at 2:29 am

      I know what you mean about the operators. They do feel like they’re trying to rip you off and send you off to some crappy site. But it really is worth it. Hopefully you get back there one day and can get a chance to check it out.

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