A visit to the Aspendos theatre is a popular day trip for tourists along the Antalya coastline. In fact, Aspendos isn’t just a theatre; it’s an ancient site. But we have to admit; the masterpiece is the theatre indeed. The question is, is it worth your time? The answer is yes!
Aspendos: the theatre
Aspendos’ theatre is a richly decorated historic monument dating back to Roman times. It was built between 160-180 A.D. Upon arrival; you are struck by the immense façade of approximately 22 meters high and 100 meters wide. Sources state a capacity varying between 7.300 up to 20.000 people. On the UNESCO website, they mention a maximum of 8.500 people if the stairs are used as seating as well. In any case, the semi-circular theatre is divided in a lower and an upper section of respectively 20 and 21 rows, topped by a barrel-vaulted collonade gallery. The two-storied stage building still stands to its full height.
In recent years, the theatre underwent significant restorations, particularly the seating area. A lot has been said and written about it as people were especially criticizing the white marble used to renew the seats. Having visited Aspendos both before and after the restorations, we feel that within time, the new marble will start to blend in with the old pieces, and it doesn’t diminish in any way the grandeur or the experience of visiting this architectural masterpiece.
The ancient site and aqueducts
If you are visiting Aspendos with a tour bus, chances are you won’t be wandering around behind the theatre to discover the ancient site. Despite the fact that the remains and ruins are modest compared to some other Turkish historical sites, they are still worth visiting. After all, you’re there already! Walk up the marble street on the right-hand side of the theatre entrance. It leads to the East Gate of Aspendos, past the Stadium ruins. The marble street passes under an archway, and at some points, Aspendos’ ingenious drainage system is still visible. Apart from the fascinating aqueducts, the biggest still standing structures in Aspendos are a part of the Basilica, the Nymphaeum, the remains of the market hall, and the Bouleuterion.
Do not leave Aspendos without seeing the aqueducts that brought water to the city from the mountains. The city had a sophisticated water system with both arcades, and underground pipe drains carrying the water. The aqueducts have two original siphons of approximately 30 meter high, connected by arches of 15 meter high in the lowest point of the valley.
Things you need to know before visiting Aspendos
Most people visit Aspendos on a day trip from Antalya, Lara or one of the nearby resorts. Apart from the theatre, the site is on moderately rough terrain. Make sure to wear appropriate shoes. There is no shade or trees to protect you from the sun. Carrying sunscreen and plenty of water is always a good idea! Also, during the summer months, Aspendos is the venue of several concerts and performances among which the Aspendos Festival. This means you will find staging equipment and other equipment inside the theatre which may affect your experience.
Aspendos opens at 8 am and closes at 5 pm in winter time, and 7 pm during summer time. There is an entrance fee to be paid. You will find more information and the possibility to purchase your entrance tickets online using this link to the official Museum website.
To help you prepare for your visit, we’ve added this map of Aspendos, courtesy of PlanetWare:
The nearest airport is Antalya with regular connections to Istanbul airports and plenty of European cities. You’ll find cheap flight options here. If you are exploring the broader area, make sure to include a trip to Antalya old town, we’re confident Kaleiçi – the Turkish name for the old part – will charm the hell out of you. Also, we have compiled all you need to know about visa applications, transport, and more on a single page to help you prepare your trip to Turkey.
If you are looking to visit Aspendos from one of the nearby coastal resorts, these are some excellent options: