Laodicea on the Lycus: last Church of Revelation and first-degree archaeological site

If you have seen pictures of Laodicea on the Lycus, they most likely contained lots of columns. The reason is obvious; they’re all over the site! Only at Perge did we see more columns and colonnaded streets, but Laodicea (or Laodikeia) probably deserves the second place. Other than at Perge, Laodicea is very much a work in progress.

We wouldn’t call it a charming site, but an interesting one. What it lacks in charm, it makes up for in size and thought-provoking reconstruction works. After all, this was an important ancient city that fell into ruins after a series of devastating earthquakes. Today, Laodicea is being restored to its former glory, making it a fascinating place to visit.

Turkey travelers interested in Biblical tours will be happy to learn that the last Church of Revelation was included in the restoration works, and is open to visitors. Take a tour with us in this post.

Doorway To The West Theatre In The North Agora Wall

Doorway To The West Theatre In The North Agora Wall

Laodicea on the Lycus in history

Laodicea lies about 6km north of Denizli. There is evidence of early settlements going back to the Early Chalcolithic period (around 5.500 BC) in this west Phrygian city. More finds indicate occupation during the Early Bronze Age and the Classical period. It wasn’t until the Hellenistic Laodikeia was named after Laodike, the wife of its founder, the Seleucid King Antiochus II.

Before that, it was called Rhoas, and – in earlier days – Diospolis, which means ‘city of Zeus’. Over time, Laodicea grew in importance and population, reaching about 80.000 inhabitants between the 1st and 3rd century AD. As a comparison, only half this many people lived in nearby Hierapolis.

Part Of The Propylon At The Sacred Agora

Part Of The Propylon At The Sacred Agora

A thriving metropolis, Laodikeia was a center for commerce, culture, arts, and sports, with the textile trade as a main source of income, followed by marble, grains, and livestock. But this was also the home of the Laodicean Church during the earliest years of Christianity. The Laodicean Church is the 7th Church in the Book of Revelation.

Located in an area prone to earthquakes, Laodicea experienced a series of earthquakes over the centuries. It was razed to the ground and never fully recovered after the year 494-earthquake. But it wasn’t until the earthquake during the 602 – 610 Focas reign that the city was left abandoned after its water supply from the Başpınar spring was damaged.

Next To The Stadium With The Gymnasium Complex In The Distance

Next To The Stadium With The Gymnasium Complex In The Distance

Today, Laodicea is the largest and first institutional excavation site in Turkey, where systematic excavations started in 2002, and the works and restorations have continued uninterruptedly since 2009. Professor Celal Şimşek, the leading on-site archaeologist, said the aim is to build a living archaeology park. A walk around the site testifies to the amount of work done to allow visitors to enjoy a real-life museum experience.

Syrian Road With The Plains Below

Syrian Road With The Plains Below

Exploring Laodicea

Laodicea is stretched out, so you’ll have a bit of walking ahead of you if you plan on seeing the entire site, which covers about five km². You can see the majority of the restored landmarks following the ‘short tour’. If you want to include the stadium, amongst other things, you’ll have to settle for the ‘long tour’. Both tours are clearly waymarked, and audio-support is available at the entrance of the site.

To help you to prepare your visit, we’ve included a map of Laodicea, courtesy of Tutku Tours. Click here to find more ancient city maps on their website. Below you’ll find an overview of the most significant remnants and sights of Laodicea on the Lycus.

Expect to see one of the biggest stadiums in Anatolia, two theatres, four baths, five agoras, five fountains, two city gates, a bouleuterion, several temples, and colonnaded streets. Not all have been rebuilt, but those landmarks that were restored will blow you off your feet!

Laodicea City Plan ©️ Tutku Tours

Laodicea City Plan ©️ Tutku Tours

Syrian Road

Your Laodicea tour starts at the Eastern Byzantine Gate & Towers, where you enter the Syrian Road. This colonnaded street of Doric order is one of the main streets of the city and dates back to the Roman Imperial period. A 400m-section of the 900m-long street was completely excavated in 2007. This includes the Porticoes and the front walls of the shops located alongside the street. The collapsed columns, capitals and piers were uncovered and re-erected to rebuild the 6th-century look of the street.

A walk on the Syrian Road will take you past a few houses, Temple A, a few fountains, and the Central Agora, as well as the Propylons towards the North Agora. It is a scenic walk, to say the least, that sets the tone for the rest of your visit. Look out for the ‘Duodecim Scripta’ game boards in front of some of the shops. Those were the predecessors of backgammon.

The East Byzantine Gate and its Towers were built around 395 – 396 AD to complete the fortifications encircling the city. The Towers were partly restored in 2008, with the original materials still present on-site.

You’ll find the Syrian Road under N° 11 on the city plan, the Eastern Byzantine Gate & Towers are N° 30.

Detail Of The Pavement Of The Syrian Road

Detail Of The Pavement Of The Syrian Road

Syrian Road Looking Back Towards The Byzantine Gate And Towers

Syrian Road Looking Back Towards The Byzantine Gate And Towers

Temple A

Temple A was built in the 2nd half of the 2nd century AD and extensively repaired during the Diocletian reign (r. 284 – 305). Originally dedicated to Apollo, Artemis, and Aphrodite, the building transformed into a church archive in the 4th century. With the earthquake of 494, it collapsed. However, the courtyard and the surrounding area remained in use until the big earthquake of the 7th century. The number of columns and pilasters surrounding the courtyard used to add up to 54.

During restorations works, 19 columns were re-erected, and the stairs and doorway of the temple were rebuilt. A steel-and-glass roof construction now covers the vaulted subchamber once used to store the temple’s gifts. This glass terrace offers magnificent views of the surroundings, and a unique peek of the interior below.

You’ll find Temple A as N° 12 on the city plan.

At The Bottom Of The Steps Up To Temple A

At The Bottom Of The Steps Up To Temple A

Overview Of Temple A

Overview Of Temple A

Central Agora

On the south side of the Syrian Road, opposite the S. Severus Nymphaeum, you’ll find the Central Agora, with the Central Baths behind it. The Central Agora was built during the Roman Imperial period and remained in use until the Early Byzantine times. Porticoes and shops surrounded the Agora. Centrally in the square, a column or obelisk was erected. It originally carried a statue, but later symbolized the unicity of the God and power of Christianity.

Little remains of the glorious Agora these days, and even less is still standing on the other side of the street where the Septimius Severus Nymphaeum stood. This monumental fountain was excavated in 2003 and measured 41,6 x 14,30 m. Only the front of the rectangular pool is still standing. It used to be surrounded by a two-tier colonnaded marble construction on three sides and must have been absolutely magnificent.

You’ll find the Central Agora under N° 28 on the city plan; the S. Severus Nymphaeum is N° 32.

The Central Agora Monument

The Central Agora Monument

North or Sacred Agora

Just past the Septimius Severus Nymphaeum, are two Propylons that give access to the North or Sacred Agora. The Central Propylon is quite spectacular. It has a double-winged doorway with a console above it, that is flanked by three ‘postaments’ on either side. Four steps take you down from the elaborately decorated Propylon to the North Agora. This place served as a Temenos or sacred court during the Roman Imperial period; it became an Agora only from the 4th century onwards.

The North Agora is of epic proportions and covers an area of 265 x 128 m, and the walls of the porticoes had doorways to the theatres. Like all other constructions in Laodicea, the North Agora fell into ruins after a devastating earthquake. Plenty of columns have meanwhile been re-erected during restorations works, and you can clearly see how many meters of soil had to be removed to reach the original floor level of the Agora.

You’ll find the North Agora under N° 58 on the city plan; the Central Propylon is N° 27.

A Beautiful Play Of Light At The North Agora

A Beautiful Play Of Light At The North Agora

Laodicea's North Agora With Pamukkale In The Background

Laodicea’s North Agora With Pamukkale In The Background

Church of Laodikeia

The Church of Laodikeia was built in 313 AD during the reign of Constantine the Great. During the 4th century, Laodicea became a center of Christian pilgrimage. Still, nowadays, the church is most famous as the 7th Church of Revelation. This is Apostel John’s letter to the Church in Laodicea, as it is on display at the church:

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth, and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

(Revelation 3:14-22)

The letter is a reference to the notorious wealth of the city. And, of all letters sent to the Seven Churches of Asia, this is the only one without a word of appreciation. Next to Apostel John’s letter is an overview of the canons set up by the Council of Laodikeia to clarify issues on interpretations, rites, and church regulations. Quite enlightening reading material!

Canons Of The Council Of Laodicea

Canons Of The Council Of Laodicea

The Church of Laodikeia wasn’t identified until 2010, after which it was entirely excavated during the same year. The church features an innovative layout with 11 apse-like niches. The naos is arranged into a three-aisled basilica with the north, and south aisles paved in mosaic. Other parts of the church, such as the Baptistery, were paved in opus sectile.

Laodicean Church Interior Seen From The Bema

Laodicean Church Interior Seen From The Bema

Detail Of The Restoration Works At The Church Of Laodikeia

Detail Of The Restoration Works At The Church Of Laodikeia

Theatres

Laodicea on the Lycus boasts two Theatres. The first one built was the West Theatre (N° 9 on the city plan). This Theatre was built on a natural slope, facing the early settlement of the city. It took advantage of the westerly winds in the afternoon and boasted a seating capacity of 8.000 people. It functioned from the Hellenistic period until the big earthquake during the Focas reign. It is currently undergoing restoration works, a fascinating process that you can witness on-site.

The North Theatre was built in the 2nd century AD in reply to the increasing population of the city, causing the West Theatre to be unable to answer the needs for theatre seats. The North Theatre (N° 8 on the city plan) with a seating capacity of 12.000 faces Hierapolis, and you can clearly see the white travertines of Pamukkale from the viewpoint. This Theatre stayed in use till the 7th century and is unrestored. From the 7th century till 1990 (!) it was exploited as a quarry and limekiln, as was the West Theatre.

West Theatre With Its Ongoing Restoration Works

West Theatre With Its Ongoing Restoration Works

The North Theatre With The Laodicean Church In The Background

The North Theatre With The Laodicean Church In The Background

Stadium Road

The Stadium Road is another colonnaded street heading towards the stadium of the city. It takes you past latrines, the Ephesus Street Portico, more Nymphaea, several public buildings, and the Central Baths. The street was built during the Domitian reign in 84 – 85 AD. The porticoes on the side are two steps up from the street, which is paved with large travertine blocks. Stadium Street was extensively used from the 2nd century throughout the first half of the 7th century AD.

Part Of The Stadium Road

Part Of The Stadium Road

Detail Of The 'stock' Near The Stadium Road

Detail Of The ‘stock’ Near The Stadium Road

Stadium and South Baths & Gymnasium Complex

You’ll find the Stadium at the far southwest end of the city, just below the South Baths & the Gymnasium Complex. Laodicea’s Stadium could host up to 25.000 spectators with its 285 x 70 m seating plan, and it was built entirely on a natural slope. The adjacent Bath Complex was used as a bathing place for athletes.

Strangely enough, the South Baths are said to be the best-preserved structures in Laodicea. This seems contradictory to the way they look, only because unlike a lot of other landmarks, the Gymnasium Complex has remained unrestored. The vaulted complex was built in 135 AD for the occasion of Emperor Hadrian’s visit. It measured 133 x 75 m and also connected to the South Agora to its north.

You’ll find the Stadium as N° 48 on the city plan, the South Baths & the Gymnasium Complex are N° 2.

View Of The Gymnasium Complex From The Bouleuterion

View Of The Gymnasium Complex From The Bouleuterion

Look At The Size Of That Stadium!

Look At The Size Of That Stadium!

In short, and just in case the pictures didn’t speak for themselves, Laodicea on the Lycus is absolutely worth your time. Some sources mention you would only need about half an hour to finish the short tour, we disagree. If you want to experience this site to its fullest, calculate at least an hour to finish the short tour. We feel two hours is a more appropriate estimation; after all, we spent a full day here.

There is so much to see and to take in, especially if you want to watch the rebuilding of an ancient city. Laodikeia is a work in progress; this means you have to accept that some parts are inaccessible due to restoration or excavation works. You are, in fact, walking around a building site, but one that has taken on the task of reconstructing a part of history. It is fascinating! And the bonus is that you’ll find plenty of information about each landmark on-site, even if you decide not to pay for the audio tour.

Laodicea makes a great combination with trips to Hierapolis and Pamukkale. Being in the area also allows you to visit the beautifully painted wooden mosques nearby. Check out the tabs below for more practical information for your Laodicea visit, and how to get there.

✔️ Have you been to Laodicea? Then please head over to our Turkey Trip Planner to leave a review. Alternatively, if you plan on visiting, you can add the site to your bucket list.
Bits And Pieces Everywhere In Laodicea On The Lycus

Bits And Pieces Everywhere In Laodicea On The Lycus

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Entrance to the site isn’t free of charge. Please refer to the official webpage for current opening times and fees. There is a small cafe at the parking lot, as well as a toilet building.

Make sure to wear sturdy shoes, and carry water during the hotter days. There is not a tree in sight, so escaping the summer heat is virtually impossible. Using good sun protection is a must!

Do read these reviews on TripAdvisor as well. It’s always good to have a broader perspective! If you have questions about visiting Laodicea, feel free to ask. You can send us a message through our contact page, or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

Also in the area: Pamukkale, Kaklık Cave, Denizli’s Coppersmith Quarter, and much more. The easiest way to find nearby places is by using our Turkey Trip Planner.

You must have guessed it already, we’re independent travelers. Joining groups for excursions or activities isn’t really our cup of tea. But we fully understand that not everyone is keen on exploring Turkey on their own. That’s when Get Your Guide comes in handy. They offer plenty of activities and sightseeing tours that you can pre-book online. For Laodicea, and the Seven Churches of Revelation, check out this tour.

If you’re more into a personalized experience while enjoying the services of a guide, Tours by Locals may be what you’re looking for! We just love them! You get the knowledge and assistance of a local, and the experience of independent traveling. Best of both worlds, really.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

We stayed at Bellamaritimo Hotel in Pamukkale and loved it. The rooms in this budget-friendly hotel are spotless, the breakfast delicious, and if you stay on the upper floor, you’ll get travertine views as a bonus! Watch the balloons take off from your bed. 😉 

We ate at Kayaş Restaurant and Bar, which has undergone a complete makeover. (a lot of photos on TripAdvisor are still from the old place) This restaurant now has a boho, laid-back vibe with a twist. The food was great, the prices very reasonable, and the atmosphere was perfect!

We still love to use Booking.com when searching for the perfect hotel or vacation rental in Turkey. Unfortunately, the website isn’t accessible from within Turkey without the use of a VPN. If you don’t have a VPN, and you’re already in Turkey, Hotels.com is a good alternative.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

Laodicea is easy to reach by public transport if you’re not driving in Turkey. Minibusses to Pamukkale leave from Denizli Otogar on a regular basis. You’ll need line 230. Tell the driver you’re visiting Laodicea so he knows where to stop. It’s a short walk from the main road to the entrance of the site. Click here for the timetable of the bus to Laodicea.

When searching for flights, we like to use Skyscanner. It’s easy to use, and reliable, for Laodicea, Denizli is the nearest airport. Find the best flights to Turkey and domestic flights that will take you all around the country here.

Do you prefer some good old road tripping? Once you get used to the unconventional driving style in Turkey, you’ll love to hit the road. After all, it’s all about the journey, and you may expect some very scenic rides! Renting a car in Turkey is easy. If you’re looking for an established car rental company that allows pick-up and drop-off at different airports, check out Europcar. They have offices all over Turkey.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

Entrance to the site isn’t free of charge. Please refer to the official webpage for current opening times and fees. There is a small cafe at the parking lot, as well as a toilet building.

Make sure to wear sturdy shoes, and carry water during the hotter days. There is not a tree in sight, so escaping the summer heat is virtually impossible. Using good sun protection is a must!

Do read these reviews on TripAdvisor as well. It’s always good to have a broader perspective! If you have questions about visiting Laodicea, feel free to ask. You can send us a message through our contact page, or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

Also in the area: Pamukkale, Kaklık Cave, Denizli’s Coppersmith Quarter, and much more. The easiest way to find nearby places is by using our Turkey Trip Planner.

You must have guessed it already, we’re independent travelers. Joining groups for excursions or activities isn’t really our cup of tea. But we fully understand that not everyone is keen on exploring Turkey on their own. That’s when Get Your Guide comes in handy. They offer plenty of activities and sightseeing tours that you can pre-book online. For Laodicea, and the Seven Churches of Revelation, check out this tour.

If you’re more into a personalized experience while enjoying the services of a guide, Tours by Locals may be what you’re looking for! We just love them! You get the knowledge and assistance of a local, and the experience of independent traveling. Best of both worlds, really.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

We stayed at Bellamaritimo Hotel in Pamukkale and loved it. The rooms in this budget-friendly hotel are spotless, the breakfast delicious, and if you stay on the upper floor, you’ll get travertine views as a bonus! Watch the balloons take off from your bed. 😉 

We ate at Kayaş Restaurant and Bar, which has undergone a complete makeover. (a lot of photos on TripAdvisor are still from the old place) This restaurant now has a boho, laid-back vibe with a twist. The food was great, the prices very reasonable, and the atmosphere was perfect!

We still love to use Booking.com when searching for the perfect hotel or vacation rental in Turkey. Unfortunately, the website isn’t accessible from within Turkey without the use of a VPN. If you don’t have a VPN, and you’re already in Turkey, Hotels.com is a good alternative.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

Laodicea is easy to reach by public transport if you’re not driving in Turkey. Minibusses to Pamukkale leave from Denizli Otogar on a regular basis. You’ll need line 230. Tell the driver you’re visiting Laodicea so he knows where to stop. It’s a short walk from the main road to the entrance of the site. Click here for the timetable of the bus to Laodicea.

When searching for flights, we like to use Skyscanner. It’s easy to use, and reliable, for Laodicea, Denizli is the nearest airport. Find the best flights to Turkey and domestic flights that will take you all around the country here.

Do you prefer some good old road tripping? Once you get used to the unconventional driving style in Turkey, you’ll love to hit the road. After all, it’s all about the journey, and you may expect some very scenic rides! Renting a car in Turkey is easy. If you’re looking for an established car rental company that allows pick-up and drop-off at different airports, check out Europcar. They have offices all over Turkey.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

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Check the weather

Never wonder about the weather in Turkey again. The Turkish climate is as diverse as the country with significant differences between the regions.

This page contains the current weather and weather statistics for all regions in Turkey.

Prepare your trip

How to order a tourist visa for Turkey?

What about public transport?
Can you skip the line at Istanbul Airports?

General Turkey travel information, essential to help prepare your trip, on one page!

LISTS & REVIEWS

Bookmark your favorite places, find other destinations nearby, get directions from your location, and read or leave reviews.

Our Turkey Trip Planner wad designed to do just that. You'll find all our favorite spots in one place, including scenic road stops.

Map of Turkey

Do you like to see things on a map? On our interactive tourist map of Turkey, you'll spot nearby points of interest right away. We've done the heavy lifting for you. Just click on the icons to go to each post.

Enjoy our practical and inspirational map of Turkey!

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Laodicea on the Lycus: last Church of Revelation and first-degree archaeological site