5 Things to do with children at Aegean Coast Turkey
The northern part of the Aegean west coast in Turkey is well-known for its all-inclusive resorts and tourist towns as Bodrum, Kusadasi and Izmir. Though this has its appeal to many, this might scare you off. But there is no reason, however, to avoid this part of Turkey, for there is so much to see and do off the beaten track. A family holiday on the Aegean coast includes ancient and current local culture, hiking in an unspoilt national park and much more. Here’s our top five things to do with children at Aegean coast Turkey, picked after three visits to Kusadasi and surroundings.
- Visit the ancient city of Ephesus
A place swarming with tourists from all over the world, Ephesus is one of Turkey’s most famous and most visited spots. At both entrances you will be greeted by locals selling anything from ‘genuine fake watches’ to pomegranate juice to outdated travel guide books. We enjoy this tremendously, keep on smiling while politely refusing their services and continue our way to the site itself. We visited Ephesus twice in the past few years. I would advise to start at the second entrance on the hill and work your way down from there.
If you are visiting on a warm summer day, start off early in the morning and focus on the main sights. If you are lucky enough to enjoy Ephesus on a cloudy day, take some more time to explain your children about ancient culture. Our kids loved to hear about the bathing houses and see the public toilets. And were amazed to hear the city used to be at the sea. We used a guide book that shows picture of the ruins today and a see through page overlay to see what it used to look like. Perfect for children and adults alike to get a better feel of Ephesus in ancient times.
Our highlights include:
– Temple of Hadrian
– Political arena
– Public toilets
– Celcus library
– Main arena (public theater)
– Harbor road (Arcadian avenue)
- Day trip by boat to Samos, Greece
Ferries to Samos and back leave from Kusadasi harbor on a daily basis between April 1st and October 31st. Meander Travel offers same-day return tickets for € 40,- per person. Children between 0-5 ages are free of charge and between age 6-12 get a 50 % discount (prices 2014). You can buy tickets at their Kusadasi office across from the harbor or buy tickets online. The boat trips takes 1,5 hours and leaves early in the morning. Best to bring your own snacks and drinks along. And by all means, do not forget to bring your passports. After going through customs at the port of Samos, you enter Greece in the town of Vathi. There are plenty of rental car companies to choose from so you can start enjoying the island.
On your day-trip visit to Greece, enjoy a frappe and treat your family to a Greek style lunch in one of Samos’ restaurants. There is some time to drive around and enjoy the island. We drove to Pythagorio, birth place of Pythagoras and a UNESCO world heritage site. We ended up staying there for hours, since we could not get the children to leave the beach. So there was only time for a short visit to Kokkari, Samos’ most popular beach town. After going through customs again – more stamps in your children’s passports, they’ll love it! – you head back to Turkey.
- Hiking at Dilek National Park (Milli Park)
The first time we visited Dilek peninsula National Park, we saw a wild boar family with nine or ten little ones at the beach. Supposedly, they are seen quite often. Lucky visitors have spotted wild horses as well. There are several well-maintained beaches to play on. I was glad to see that all visitors’ areas were clean, tourists seem to be aware to make sure to clean up after themselves. Three beach areas have a small restaurant with local food and drinks. The first area has a playground as well. If you are looking for some activity, there are opportunities for hiking and cycling at the park. We visited the NP twice in the past years. It is a quiet area, with signs about endemic plants and flowers to this part of Turkey.
- Traditional fresh market at Söke
Just a short drive from Kusadasi, Söke is definitely worth a visit if you are looking for the more authentic part of Aegean Turkey. I noticed that in summer more and more tourist buses will bring you to the Wednesday fresh market in Söke. We visited the market place twice in the past few years in spring. We only saw a handful of other foreigners and more importantly, the market is targeted on locals. Fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, honey and cheese, nuts and herbs, and all kinds of household appliances and clothes. Last time we were there, I bought fresh honey and almond paste. Both very sweet and delicious, and sadly enough both not very suitable to bring home as a souvenir. Needless to say, we ate a lot of honey those last few days in Turkey this May…
- Sun and fun at unspoiled Dereli sandy beach
My last recommendation for the Aegean coast in Turkey, and not by coincidence my last. Because this is our secret paradise spot. Did you ever go somewhere that felt so good, you did not want to share it with anyone? Dereli beach is ours. But I would like to share it with you.
We found it by coincidence, driving along the coast. You pass some luxury hotels, take an exit to the left and drive into the parking area of Dereli. I would not advise you to stay in their tiny apartments, these look rather run down. Pass these and enter a sandy beach, filled with palm trees. And the best: there is no one at the beach. Really, no one. It is just you and your family, the sun, the sand and the sea. And the friendly waiters at the restaurant of course. Great food, fresh fish and the best bread I ate in Turkey. The restaurant is very child friendly as well, but on the other hand, most restaurants in Turkey are.