The surroundings of Afyon include the site of Amorion, the village of Ayazini and the town of Çay.
This 153sq.km/59sq.mile salt lake (altitude: 836m/2,742ft) south of Dazkiri dries out almost completely in summer, a white salt crust forming over it. Known in antiquity as Anaua Limnae, the historian Herodotus records that Xerxes and Alexander the Great both marched their armies along its shores.
Remains of buildings and wall towers 80km/50mi northeast of Afyon, near Emirdag, are all that now mark the site of Amorion. It was once the key stronghold in the military district of Anatolikon, which the Byzantines established to defend their eastern border against the Arabs. After lengthy sieges and despite brave resistance, this important frontier fortress fell first in 716 to the Omayyad Caliph Süleiman and then again in 838 to Caliph Al-Mutasim. This last onslaught left the town completely destroyed and most of its inhabitants massacred. Captured officers spent seven years imprisoned in Samarra before being put to death for their faith. Since then they have been venerated by the Greek Orthodox Church as the 42 martyrs of Amorion.
Anitkaya (formerly Egret), a village 30km/19mi northwest of Afyon, lays claim not just to one but two Seljuk caravanserais. The Egret Hani is a triple-aisled hall-like building dating from the 13th century, with a columned portal and interior arcades. The Yenice Köy Hani, only 5km/3mi northwest, is thought to be of Early Seljuk origin.
Arslankaya (Kaya Kabartmasi)
Situated 40km/25mi north of Afyon to the east of Ihsaniye/Döger, this Phrygian site (not easy to find; guide recommended) was dedicated to the cult of Cybele. There is an altar with a niche and a shrine cut into a huge tuff monolith embellished with a relief. The figure of Cybele is flanked by two large lions (hence the name, meaning "lion-skin") with two sphinxes on the rock gable above.
The "Lion Stone", among a cluster of rocks known as "Asarlik" about 3km/2mi west of Ayazini, is another Phrygian rock shrine. It too features a pair of lions in relief.
Set in a delightful landscape 30km/20mi north of Afyon, the village of Ayazini has numerous rock dwellings, also an Early Christian church with cruciform domed rock basilica and tombs dating from antiquity and the Byzantine period; it is very reminiscent of the troglodyte villages of Cappadocia. The well-preserved church with its high central dome has barrel vaulting, an apsis visible from the outside, rows of columns, and a baptistry chapel. Ayazini used to be called Metropolis and was for a time a bishopric.
Two large country areas, scene in 1922 of decisive engagements during the Turkish War of Liberation against the Greeks, are now National Parks (signposted). One lies immediately south of Afyon, the other north of Dumlupinar (53km/33mi to the west).Within the park is an Open Air Museum and Memorial, as well as cafes with music and entertainment.
As well as two Ottoman caravanserais, Selcuklu Han and Kursunlu Han, Bolvadin, 60km/40mi east of Afyon, has a bridge built by Sinan (Kirkgöz Köprüsü), the Alaca Fountain, the Esireddin Ebheri Türbe, the Rüstempasa Camii which are well worth a visit, and the Rüstempasa Hani (Ottoman caravanserai). Formerly a caravan halt, Bolvadin (Byzantine "Polybotum") was fortified against the Seljuks in the 12th century though nothing from that period now survives.
The town of Çay occupies a verdant location on the southeast edge of the Afyon Ovasi not far from Eber Gölü (967m/3,173ft). Known in ancient times as Julia Ipsus, it was here in 301 B.C. that the Macedonian Antigonus was killed in a power struggle between the diodochi. Outside the town there is an old bridge with 40 arches. Also worth seeing is the Seljuk Tas Camii (1278) with its fountain, richly ornamented portal and ruins of a domed medrese (13th century tiles). Of the very neglected caravanserai from the same period only the hall and portal have survived.
Dinar, 120km/75mi south of Afyon, lies at the foot of Samsun Dag (to the north) and Ak Dag (to the south), at the convergence of several roads. The town is the successor to the ancient Keleanai and the Hellenistic Apameia Kibotos, founded by Antiochus II Soter of Syria. Apameia Castle used to stand above Dinar on the site of the ancient settlement of Kelenai (remains of a theater). Following the Battle of Magnesia (Manisa) in 190 B.C. Antiochus the Great took refuge in the Seleucid palace here. In Roman times Apameia was the most important trading center east of Ephesus and was a bishopric until taken by the Seljuks in 1070. Kibotos (= "tub"), the second and unofficial part of its name, is believed to derive from Noah's Ark which, according to a somewhat fanciful Jewish tradition - there was a large Jewish community here - came to rest on this spot. Owing to the frequency of earthquakes (northwest edge of the Isparta arc) the town itself is devoid of historic monuments. There is much of interest to be seen in the surrounding countryside however (guide recommended).
Sources of the Maeander
Not far from Dinar rise several sources of the Büyük Menderes (Great Maeander River), tributaries of which include the Orgas (flowing north), Obrimas (flowing south) and Marsyas. Between the Samsun-Ak Dag and the Kir-Kizkuyu Dag, two mountain ranges east of the town, stretches an extensive polje (depression), the Dombay Ovasi, harboring the very swampy Çapali Gölü (ancient: Aulokrene reed lake). The basin traps water from a number of surface streams and large karst springs (Kavak Pinari, Pinarbasi), which then disappears into a karst swallow hole (ponor) at the foot of Akdag on the western edge of the swamp before emerging again on the far (west) side of the uplands in the guise of sources of the Maeander. The river has three principal sources at the western foot of the Samsun-Ak Daglari: the southern source near Bülüç Alani, the main source on the eastern outskirts of Dinar, and the northern source "Kapi Pinari" 20km/12mi northwest near Gökgöl which are all karst springs emitting substantial volumes of water, most of it drawn from the mountainous hinterland to the east via the karst drainage systems.
Also known as Kybele Kapikaya or Büyük Kapikaya, this Phrygian monument on open ground northeast of Liyen (40km/25mi north of Afyon) is again of interest - a rock niche with a surround in geometric design (Maeander relief) and a carved figure of Cybele.
Batakligi (Karamik Swamps)
One of the largest freshwater swamps in Turkey, covering an area of some 4,100ha/10,000 acres, is found about 20km/12mi southwest of Çay to the east of the Dinar/Karadilli road. Lying in a depression at an altitude of 1,008m/3,300ft, the surface of the swamp is almost completely covered with a carpet of reeds. Water-lilies grow where there is open water and myriads of frogs provide the staple diet for numerous herons and storks. Birds of prey are much in evidence, as are other water fowl including ducks (white-eyed pochard and white-headed duck), mute swans and ruddy shelduck (which latter breed in the Sultan Daglari).
Known in earlier days as Ishakli, Sultandag (about 65km/40mi east of Afyon) is situated in the northern foothills of the Sultan Dag, on the old caravan route from Afyon to Konya. Not far away lies the Aksehir Gölü, part swamp, part freshwater lake teeming with fish. In the south of the town, in the courtyard of a two-storeyed mosque on the main street (eight-part cross vault, stalactitic dome), are the remains of a caravanserai, the Ishakli Han (or Sahibata Hani; five-bay hall, elegantly articulated court portal) built in 1249/50 by the renowned master builder Ship Ata (Fahrettin Ali Ben Husain). The inner courtyard contains two double bowers with twin-bayed barrel vaulted arcades.
Extending southwest from the upper valley of the Gediz Çayi is a gently undulating upland region known as the Usak highlands (altitude around 1,200m/3,900ft). The name derives from the town of Usak, the provincial capital and busy commercial center of what is predominantly an agricultural region. Usak itself is attractively situated astride a small river, at the foot of Elma Dagi (Apple Mountain, 1,805m/5,924ft, northeast of the town). Well-known in the 16th and 17th centuries for its hand-woven carpets, traditional carpet manufacture is still important although more and more production is becoming factory rather than craftsman based.In the section of the highlands west of Usak between Gediz and the Gediz fault north of Alasehir, especially around the small town of Kula (70km/43mi west), the flat upland surface is overlaid with relatively young volcanic basalt and tuff eruptions. In some places the volcanic features - craters, cinder cones, lava streams etc. - remain almost as if new. This is the Katakekaumene (Burnt Country) of the ancients. The uplands south and east of Usak, through which the valley of the Banaz Çayi carves a swathe 30m/98ft deep, terminate abruptly in cliffs which meet almost at a right angle above the upper Maeander river.Usak itself, said to be of Seljuk origin, almost certainly stands on the site of the ancient, though not very important, Pelta. The present town, dominated by a dilapidated Byzantine citadel (Eucarpia), has few relics of the past, having been largely rebuilt in the 18th century after a fire.