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The road less traveled: discover ancient Miletus in Turkey

The beauty of ancient sites is a strange thing. Obviously, it helps when a big part of the constructions has survived nature’s forces and the invasions of conquerors at times. A well-kept building has an immediate impact as to where a few pillars scattered around might ask for a more significant effort of our imagination. But the scenery and your state of mind are also a playing factor, not to forget the weather. In Turkey, for most of the year, the weather is something you won’t need to worry about. What could be a spoiler, are the crowds at certain times of the year, especially if you decide to visit famous sites like Ephesus.

At Slow Travel Guide, we love the road less traveled.

In that perspective, a place like Miletus (or Milete, or Miletos depending on the language) is a charming alternative for those who like their travels seasoned with some history and culture, without having to deal with herds of tourists trying to share ‘the experience.’ Of course, Miletus doesn’t have the ‘grandeur’ that Ephesus has, but it has a lot that Ephesus has no longer… And trust us, Miletus is worth your time. This stretched-out site effortlessly combines a mixture of well-kept ruins testifying to its glorious past, with corners that leave more room to your imagination. Take a walk with us around some of Miletus’ landmarks in this post.

Courtyard At Ilyas Bey Mosque

Courtyard At Ilyas Bey Mosque

View From The Episcopal Palace Towards The Theatre Hill

View From The Episcopal Palace Towards The Theatre Hill

A bit of history on Miletus, Turkey

This ancient Greek city is situated not too far from Lake Bafa, and very close to Didim and beautiful Didyma. Miletus probably dates back to long before the Bronze Age, though little evidence has been found to support this. During the Bronze age, Minoan Cretans settled here, joined by Carians during Mycenaean times. By 500 BC, it was the most significant Greek city in the east. Its four harbors turned Miletus into a gate to and from Anatolia. After the Greeks came the Persian rule, and then back to the Greeks to receive even Roman attention in later times. Miletus was abandoned after the harbors had silted up, leaving an impressive site to visit.

View From The Ionic Stoa Towards The Theatre Hill

View From The Ionic Stoa Towards The Theatre Hill

The Theatre

The first thing that strikes you after you arrive, is the theatre. Built in the 4th century BC, it was enlarged several times in the course of its existence, until it had a 15.000 spectators seating capacity. Walking around in it is a step by step discovery of beauty and history. Especially the broad stairs that lead to a next level or the arched ‘hallways’ behind the seats are well worth seeing. Make your way up to the top level and take the top exit, only to discover a picturesque landscape, and a great view of Miletus at the back and the side of the theater. Take in the image of different times and Rulers with the remains of a Greek stoa (a long and covered hallway with pillars on one side and a wall on the other), the remains of the baths, also from the Greek period and a beautiful mosque from the Turkish Rulers all in one picture. Speaking of great views, imagine what it must have been like back in the days when this Theatre was still in use. The grand structure faced the harbor, offering visitors not only the pleasure of watching a good play or concert, but also fabulous sea views from this waterside building.

Overview Of The Theatre

Overview Of The Theatre

Faustina Baths and Ilyas Bey Mosque seen from the Theatre Hill at Miletus

Faustina Baths and Ilyas Bey Mosque seen from the Theatre Hill at Miletus

Faustina Baths

The Faustina baths consist of an enormous and well-preserved complex, situated right next to a Palaestra with a square dedicated to exercising. From there, visitors made their way through the lavishly decorated bath complex composed of dressing rooms, cold baths, hot baths, etc. The cold bath or Frigidarium carries a pleasant surprise. It features two statues standing alongside it, one of a lion, and one of a river god. While these are copies, it certainly adds to the experience, and one can almost picture how people must have been to be able to bathe in this spectacular environment. You’ll be happy to see that the originals are on display at the Miletus Museum.

Exploring the Faustina Baths at Miletus

Exploring the Faustina Baths at Miletus

Lion Statue & Fountain At Faustina Bath's Frigidarium In Miletus

Lion Statue & Fountain At Faustina Bath’s Frigidarium In Miletus

Ilyas Bey Mosque

The Ilyas Bey Mosque is part of a larger complex consisting of a Medrese (Koran School), and a Hamam, amongst others. The mosque has been expertly restored in the period 2007-2011 and is one of the most famous dome mosques of the Emirate period. It stands out for its rich stone decor using colored stones and ceramic inlays. The main entrance, the prayer niche, and all the window gables are decorated with plant and geometric ornaments.

Expertly Renovated Ilyas Bey Complex

Expertly Renovated Ilyas Bey Complex

Ilyas Bey Mosque With Its Broken Minaret

Ilyas Bey Mosque With Its Broken Minaret

The Ilyas Bey Bath Complex next to the mosque has been partially restored and received a wooden roof and wooden platforms to allow you to visit it in a comfortable way. Its surfaces used to be plastered, and the walls were adorned with impressed blocks of floral and geometric design.

The Hamam At The Ilyas Bey Complex At Miletus

The Hamam At The Ilyas Bey Complex At Miletus

Inside The Ilyas Bey Complex

Inside The Ilyas Bey Complex

Serapeion & South Agora

Past the Faustina Baths lies the Serapeion or Temple of Serapis. The cult of this Egyptian-Hellenistic god is attested at Miletus since the first half of the 2nd century AD. Nowadays, nothing much of the temple is visible. But the porch serving as a main entrance to the temple from the south was once flanked by two more doors and became the centerpiece of a tripartite gate that formed the largest and most ornate access to the Byzantine city.

Overview Of The Serapeion At Miletus

Overview Of The Serapeion At Miletus

What Remains Of The Serapeion

What Remains Of The Serapeion

Ionic Stoa

The Ionic Stoa at Miletus is probably one of its most iconic images. Depending on which season you’re visiting you may find it partially submerged, adding a bit of romanticism to it all. The Stoa lies on the eastern side of the Sacred Way leading to the sanctuary of Didyma. It measured roughly 100×14 m, featuring 35 columns. Behind the colonnaded passage was a series of rooms and two halls which connected the Stoa to the adjacent bath complex.

Ionic Stoa Seen From The Harbor Gate Side

Ionic Stoa Seen From The Harbor Gate Side

Detail Of The Column Foots Of The Ionic Stoa

Detail Of The Column Foots Of The Ionic Stoa

Delphinion & Bath Complexes

The Delphinion was the main sanctuary at Miletus since archaic times. Erected in honor of Apollon Delphinios, this was the first part of the Sacred Road to the Apollo Temple in Didyma. The remains date back to both Hellenistic and Roman times. The circular structure at the center of the courtyard was most probably a Heroon from presumably Roman times.

Delphinion At Miletus

Delphinion At Miletus

Nothing much is left of the Capito Thermae Complex these days. These were the oldest baths at Miletus, and they must have been equally epic in proportions and finishing as the Faustina Baths. As for the Roman Bath Complex, this was one of the smaller baths of the city. Due to its location, next to the Lion Harbor, it is thought the Roman Baths were probably frequented by merchants and seamen.

Remains Of The Roman Baths At Miletus

Remains Of The Roman Baths At Miletus

A small detour to Euromos

If your cultural hunger hasn’t been satisfied just yet, then consider going a little further afield to visit Euromos. You will find it along the road to Milas when driving from Miletus or Bafa. Most of this site still has to be uncovered, but the Temple that awaits you amidst pine trees generously makes up for that. It makes a profound impression. But then again, that is most probably what a ‘Temple of Zeus’ is supposed to do. After all, we are not talking about your next-door neighbor here. Zeus was the king of the gods and the god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, and justice; or more simply put the god of just about everything. That surely deserves a temple worth this status. With less than half an hour drive from Miletus, treat yourself to this piece of history. Chances are you will be the only ones visiting, which makes it all the more surreal.

Euromos

How do you like your culture trips served? Bite-size pieces? Or rather all included? Why not combine your visit to Miletus with a trip to Priene, Eski Doğanbey, or Güllübahçe? If you prefer to use a guide, we wholeheartedly recommend using a local guide. Find local guides for tours to Priene and Miletus here.

Nymphaeum Seen From A Distance

Nymphaeum Seen From A Distance

Take a 360° virtual tour of Miletus here & make sure to check out the tabs below for more practical information to help you prepare your Miletus visit.

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Miletus is receiving excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, so it seems that we’re not the only ones to like it. Please not that some areas of the site are flooded out of summer. This makes for great pictures, but less accessibilty. Do keep this in mind when planning your visit.

The site is stretched out, but you can get a free map at the museum. Make sure to grab one before your visit!

If you have any questions about Miletus, feel free to ask. You can send us a message through our contact page, or join our closed Facebook group where other Turkey travelers and aficionados are ready and eager to help.

Turkey is a perfectly safe country to travel, except for these risks. Still, you should never travel without proper insurance. We love World Nomads’ travel insurance. We love their philosophy and their take on responsible travel, but also the fact that they cover popular activities in Turkey such as paragliding or balloon rides.

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! 😉

Have a look at our interactive map of Turkey and check out more wonderful places to visit in this area. You’re awefully close to the Apollo Temple, Lake Bafa, and Çomakdağ, but also to the beautiful Dilek Peninsula where Priene, Güllübahçe, and eski Doğanbey await.

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! 😉

Miletus is very near Bafa Lake which offers a far more relaxed experience than many accommodations in Didim may. That is why we suggest places to stay at Bafa when visiting Miletus.

If you need a hotel, make sure it is in the Kapıkırı area. You will find hotels on the other side of the lake as well. Those are situated along the main road and may offer a splendid view, but you will be isolated from anything else Bafa Lake has to offer.

These are our top picks:

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! 😉

The nearest airport to Miletus is Bodrum Milas which has easy connections with Istanbul airports if required. You’ll find cheap flight options here.

Do you prefer some good old road tripping? Miletus is easy to find and well signposted. You’ll find signposts to the site from the main Milas – Söke road, D525. 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! 😉

Miletus is receiving excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, so it seems that we’re not the only ones to like it. Please not that some areas of the site are flooded out of summer. This makes for great pictures, but less accessibilty. Do keep this in mind when planning your visit.

The site is stretched out, but you can get a free map at the museum. Make sure to grab one before your visit!

If you have any questions about Miletus, feel free to ask. You can send us a message through our contact page, or join our closed Facebook group where other Turkey travelers and aficionados are ready and eager to help.

Turkey is a perfectly safe country to travel, except for these risks. Still, you should never travel without proper insurance. We love World Nomads’ travel insurance. We love their philosophy and their take on responsible travel, but also the fact that they cover popular activities in Turkey such as paragliding or balloon rides.

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! 😉

Have a look at our interactive map of Turkey and check out more wonderful places to visit in this area. You’re awefully close to the Apollo Temple, Lake Bafa, and Çomakdağ, but also to the beautiful Dilek Peninsula where Priene, Güllübahçe, and eski Doğanbey await.

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! 😉

Miletus is very near Bafa Lake which offers a far more relaxed experience than many accommodations in Didim may. That is why we suggest places to stay at Bafa when visiting Miletus.

If you need a hotel, make sure it is in the Kapıkırı area. You will find hotels on the other side of the lake as well. Those are situated along the main road and may offer a splendid view, but you will be isolated from anything else Bafa Lake has to offer.

These are our top picks:

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! 😉

The nearest airport to Miletus is Bodrum Milas which has easy connections with Istanbul airports if required. You’ll find cheap flight options here.

Do you prefer some good old road tripping? Miletus is easy to find and well signposted. You’ll find signposts to the site from the main Milas – Söke road, D525. 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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