9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bergama and the North Aegean
The North Aegean region may play second fiddle to the more famous Turquoise Coast, but what this area lacks in crowds it more than makes up for with tourist attractions. The Hellenistic glory of ancient Pergamum (Bergama) is the main sightseeing draw, but hidden within the hills and along the coastline are hundreds of other ruins and monumental remnants. Sleepy villages in the region are picture-perfect in and of themselves.
This is where the Turks come to take their summer holidays - in quaintly gorgeous coastal towns with houses painted in pastel hues. They have no idea why foreign travellers rush past this region on their way south either. But they're happy to keep the North Aegean a secret for a while longer.
1 Pergamum Acropolis area (Akropol)
The ancient site of Pergamum should win an award for stunning location alone. Rolling across the hillside 5 km from the modern town of Bergama (there is a cable car if you have no car and don't fancy the steep ascent), the Acropolis area was once the beating heart of a powerful Hellenistic city. The most striking feature is the 15,000-seat theatre, set into the steep southwest slope of the hill and reached by a narrow flight of steps from the Temple of Athena. Adjoining the temple are the ruins of Pergamum's famed library, built about 170 BC and once home to the one of the largest libraries in the ancient world with 200,000 volumes (later carried off to Alexandria by Mark Antony as a gift to Cleopatra).
To the west of the library is the Temple of Trajan, built in the Roman era, with its marble colonnaded terrace. Below the theatre, the Altar of Zeus was once decorated with elaborate friezes (removed to Berlin in the 19th century).
Location: Kale Sokak, Bergama
2 Pergamum Asclepion area
This ancient spa is a 2 km uphill hike from the modern town of Bergama. It thrived as a major healing centre, with mud bath treatments and the use of herbal remedies, during the 2nd century AD. Many of its remaining buildings date from its Roman-era glory days rather than the earlier Hellenistic period. An imposing colonnaded street leads to the main complex, which holds a sacred well, library and Roman theatre. At the Temples of Aslepios and Telesphorus, patients would pray for recovery to the gods of medicine.
Location: Off Cumhuriyed Caddesi, Bergama
3 Red Basilica
Hadrian (AD 117-138) originally built this massive red brick ruin as a temple dedicated to the gods Serapis and Isis. Later, in the Byzantine era, it was converted into a church and dedicated to the Apostle John who had earlier called this grandiose pagan temple the throne of the devil. Although the interior is severely ruined, the building is definitely worthy of a visit just to witness the sheer bulk of the remaining walls, which give a great idea of how foreboding and impressive the temple must have looked like when fully standing.
The interior was divided into three aisles by two rows of columns. The central aisle ended in a semi-circular apse, under which was a crypt.
Location: Konyaaltı Caddesi, Bergama
4 Bergama Archaeological Museum
When you've finished your sightseeing around ancient Pergamum don't forget to poke your head in Bergama's small but well laid out museum. There are a number of excellent exhibits displaying finds from surrounding archaeological sites. Of particular note is the display of "Pergamum School" statues of gods dating from the 4th century. There is also a less interesting ethnography section with some dated dioramas.
Location: Cumhuriyet Caddesi, Bergama
5 Bozcaada Island
Tiny Bozcaada Island is a sun-worshipper's paradise with glorious beaches backed by vine-covered green slopes. Dinky Bozcaada town is the island hub, where warrens of cobblestone alleys wrap around a grand Byzantine castle that looks across the harbour. This is a place to come and relax and soak up the sun. Head to Ayazma Beach if you want to hang out with the chichi set who flock here from Istanbul during summer. Ayana Beach is a quieter patch of sand.
Location: Ferry from Yükyeri Harbour, Biga Peninsula
6 Alaçatı village
Turkey's chicest holiday destination, Alaçatı is a boutique-hotel haven with a burgeoning foodie scene. Beautifully restored traditional stone houses have been transformed into cafés and restaurants. The village is heaven if you're a culinary connoisseur, and a visit should be high up on your sightseeing list. Alaçatı is also a major windsurfing spot with plenty of sea action available for beginners as well as seasoned pros.
Location: Çeşme Peninsula, 75 km from İzmir
One of the North Aegean's prettiest towns, Ayvalık is filled with crumbling, vine-draped stone houses in soft pastels. Streets lead down to a bustling harbour where fishing boats jostle with excursion vessels and yachts. If you're here on a Thursday, head to the huge and lively market on Neşe Sokak to get a real vibe of local life. Otherwise this is a top place to head out onto the water for some sunbathing and swimming (or diving) action. Down at the harbour during the summer months, dozens of excursion boats offer cruises around the bay.
Location: 45 km from Bergama
The Temple of Athena, with its panoramic views across the Aegean Sea, is a reminder of the glorious past of ancient Assos, which was founded in the 8th century BC. Once home to philosophers such as Aristotle, Behramkale is a modern village today that sits beside the temple ruins. It is a quietly charming place to sit back and marvel at the former splendour. While the temple is the primary tourist attraction, there are also a necropolis, theatre and medieval wall remnants to check out.
Location: Biga Peninsula
One of Turkey's most vibrant cities, İzmir is a bustling port with a history that stretches back to the 11th century BC when a settlement of Greeks founded the colony of Smyrna here. Over the centuries Smyrna grew into one of the Mediterranean's most important cities, surviving and thriving through countless empirical changes, up to and through the Ottoman era. During Turkey's War of Independence in 1922 most of old Smyrna was burnt to the ground and the modern city of İzmir was born.
Unfortunately, this means that despite its long and illustrious past, historical attractions are few and far between. That said, the Kemeraltı Bazaar in the city centre is a great place to pick up Turkish textiles and other souvenirs. The Ethnography Museum on Cumhuriyet Bulvarı is also worth a look.
Location: E87 Highway