Nysa: ancient city turned olive grove

Nysa on the Maeander quite rightly deserves a spot on the list of overlooked sites. At only 50 km from Ephesus, you could easily add it to an itinerary, including other gems such as Magnesia on the Maeander, Tripolis, Laodicea, and of course, Hierapolis and Pamukkale. Then again, we know all about priorities, and there’s only so much someone can do in a certain amount of time.

With close to 18.000 protected archaeological sites in Turkey, you will need to make choices. (And no, that’s not a typo, it most certainly is almost 18K!) If you like to take it slow, and you love exploring certain areas a bit more in-depth, then consider a stop at Nysa, as it is a delightful place to explore. Have a walk around with us in this article.

Columns Standing Proudly At The Agora

Columns Standing Proudly At The Agora

Nysa on the Maeander in history

Nysa was founded in the 3rd century BC, during the Hellenistic Period. Located in the fertile northern Meander Valley, it occupied a vital position within the transportation hub between Central Anatolia and the urban centers of Caria and Ionia. Nysa – originally known as Athymbria – quickly became a notable town with a vibrant cultural center. The cities’ name originates from the name of one of the wives of Antiochus I Soter, the founder of the city who reigned from 281 to 261 BC. Strabo, antiquities’ most famous geographer studied in Nysa, and called it a double-city, as it was divided in two by a fast-flowing river.

Nysa remained inhabited until the 15th century when it was abandoned, and people moved to the nearby modern town of Sultanhisar, south of the city. Today, archaeological excavations have essentially uncovered the remains and buildings of the Roman, Late Roman, and Byzantine Periods. Researchers believe that the cities’ Hellenistic remains still mostly lie hidden underneath the Roman and Byzantine levels. A walk around the site reveals some spectacular structures.

Click here to access a map of the ancient site.

Beautiful Still Life Capturing The Vibe Of This Site

Beautiful Still Life Capturing The Vibe Of This Site

The Theatre

The 73 by 99m Theatre is one of the best-preserved buildings in Nysa. The Cavea or auditorium was most likely built during the second half of the 1st century BC, while a 2-story stage building and extravagant decorations were put up between 120 and 40 AD. An earthquake destroyed the stage building from Hadrian’s rule, after which it was reconstructed as a 3-story high masterpiece. There are a lot of similarities between the Theatre at Nysa, and the ones at Perge and Side. Some of the frieze sculptures from the podium, such as the one depicting the marriage of Pluton and Kore, or the life of Dionysos, were found in their original locations.

The Theatre At Nysa

The Theatre At Nysa

Theatre And What Remains Of The Stage Building

Theatre And What Remains Of The Stage Building

The Agora

Nysa’s Agora is absolutely divine! Not because there’s a lot left still standing, but because it perfectly reflects the vibe at this ancient site. The entire site is currently an olive grove where excavations are taking place. It adds a bit of magic to your visit. The combination of proud standing pillars and the gnarled olive trees works so well! The massive Agora stretched 113,5m east-west to 130m north-west and was surrounded by a colonnaded portico on all four sides. The Agora dates back to the Late Hellenistic Period, and an Ionic double colonnaded stoa encircles its building on the north and east side, and a Doric single-colonnaded stoa on the south and east sides.

Plenty Of Columns At The Agora, But Even More Olive Trees!

Plenty Of Columns At The Agora, But Even More Olive Trees!

Symmetry Is Always A Winner!

Symmetry Is Always A Winner!

The Gerontikon or senate house

The Gerontikon or senate-house was connected to the Agora by a Plateia or main street. The beautiful building had a seating capacity of 700 people and was accessed through a monumental gate. The Gerontikon had a 2-story façade and a front courtyard. While the courtyard and the façade are in ruins today, the Cavea or seating area was very well-preserved.

The Beautiful Gerontikon In Its Fabulous Setting

The Beautiful Gerontikon In Its Fabulous Setting

At The Back Of The Gerontikon

At The Back Of The Gerontikon

The Forum & Colonnaded Street

The Forum is adjacent to the remains of the Market Basilica and the Colonnaded Street. Excavations in this area are ongoing and are looking promising. The Basilica was discovered fairly recently, in 1994 when the modern road that runs through the ancient site was enlarged. This was a public building used for business and legal matters. A triple arcade bounded the 20 x 15m rectangular and roofed hall to the north. This is where the law court stood. Next to the Basilica, the 41 x46 m Forum was surrounded by 22 columns. It had an L-shaped decorative pool in each corner.

This section is boarded by a 9,5-meter wide colonnaded limestone street, the largest street in Nysa, and the center of the ceremonial life.

The Colonnaded Main Street Used To Be Connected To The Other Side Of The Gorge

The Colonnaded Main Street Used To Be Connected To The Other Side Of The Gorge

Main Street At Nysa

Main Street At Nysa

The Library

The Library at Nysa was built around 130 AD and also served as an auditorium and a courthouse. Its main interior room had wooden galleries over two floors containing 16 bookshelves. At the northern end of this room was a platform used as a speakers’ tribunal during court sessions. During excavation works, archaeologists found the sarcophagus of the buildings’ founder in front of the building. The sarcophagus is now on display at the Aydın Archaeology Museum.

Inside Nysa's Library

Inside Nysa’s Library

At The Back Of The Library At Nysa

At The Back Of The Library At Nysa

Other Landmarks at Nysa

Other remains and structures at the site include a spectacular Stadium, which is only partly preserved and was built in harmony with the topography of the site. You will also find Roman bridges and tunnels, a Gymnasium from the 2nd century AD located just before you pass the entrance gates, and temples, churches, and shops. Some landmarks are more spectacular than others, but all of them contribute to the enriching experience that is Nysa.

The Remains Of The Gymnasium

The Remains Of The Gymnasium

View From The Main Street Towards The Stadium

View From The Main Street Towards The Stadium

Final thoughts

This site is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. It has some beautiful buildings and ruins, most of which have an information board giving you more insight into the excavation works and history. And, maybe the most important thing, the site has a very peaceful feel to it, at least if you visit on weekdays.

This brings us to the only downside: there’s a road that cuts the site in half. While this is undoubtedly a huge plus for anyone with mobility issues, this also means that people tend to drive from one landmark to the next. This is particularly the case during the weekends when Turkish families visit the site hopping in and out of their cars to take pictures. But please, do not let this keep you from visiting Nysa. Entire areas are far away from the road, and on weekdays, you probably won’t see any other visitors, except maybe a local attending to his olive grove.

For more practical tips to prepare your visit, head over to the tabs below this post.

Street Connecting The Library With The Shops

Street Connecting The Library With The Shops

✔️ Have you been to Nysa? 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.
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You need to pay a small entrance fee to enter this site. There are toilets near the entrance, but no other facilities on site. Make sure to carry plenty of water and wear sturdy walking shoes. Please note that if you visit during the wet season, the tunnel below the Roman bridge may be inaccessible due to flooding.

Does Nysa look like your cup of tea? If you’re still unsure, have a look at these reviews on TripAdvisor to find out what other travelers have to say. If you have any questions, head over to our contact page, or join our closed Facebook group where other Turkey travelers and aficionados are ready and eager to help.

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! 😉

Check out our Turkey Trip Planner to discover more places to visit nearby.

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 Nysa Hotel when visiting the area. While it doesn’t always get raving reviews, we were very pleased with our room. It seems that the management has listened to the feedback and the hotel has gotten an upgrade, or at least the room where we stayed had. The hotel is in a quiet area, very close to the ancient site. There’s a restaurant on-site, and the rooms are comfortable and budget-friendly.

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! 😉

The easiest way to reach Nysa is by car. You’ll find the site just above the town of Sultanhisar, above the E87 connecting Aydın and Nazilli. The road up to Nysa is well signposted.

If you are relying on public transportation, there are regular buses from Nazilli to Sultanhisar from where you can walk up to the site. Click here for the timetable.

When searching for flights, we like to use Skyscanner. It’s easy to use, and reliable. 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! 😉

You need to pay a small entrance fee to enter this site. There are toilets near the entrance, but no other facilities on site. Make sure to carry plenty of water and wear sturdy walking shoes. Please note that if you visit during the wet season, the tunnel below the Roman bridge may be inaccessible due to flooding.

Does Nysa look like your cup of tea? If you’re still unsure, have a look at these reviews on TripAdvisor to find out what other travelers have to say. If you have any questions, head over to our contact page, or join our closed Facebook group where other Turkey travelers and aficionados are ready and eager to help.

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! 😉

Check out our Turkey Trip Planner to discover more places to visit nearby.

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 Nysa Hotel when visiting the area. While it doesn’t always get raving reviews, we were very pleased with our room. It seems that the management has listened to the feedback and the hotel has gotten an upgrade, or at least the room where we stayed had. The hotel is in a quiet area, very close to the ancient site. There’s a restaurant on-site, and the rooms are comfortable and budget-friendly.

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! 😉

The easiest way to reach Nysa is by car. You’ll find the site just above the town of Sultanhisar, above the E87 connecting Aydın and Nazilli. The road up to Nysa is well signposted.

If you are relying on public transportation, there are regular buses from Nazilli to Sultanhisar from where you can walk up to the site. Click here for the timetable.

When searching for flights, we like to use Skyscanner. It’s easy to use, and reliable. 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!

Work with us

Get direct access to your target audience with a proven interest in Turkey. People call us their Turkey Bible!

Contact us for a feature on our map, a destination guide, a photo shoot, or any form of professional Turkey-related content.

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Are you unsure about a destination, activity or hotel? Why don’t you ask other travelers about their experience?

We have a closed Facebook group where you can ask all Turkey-related questions. You’ll get solid advice and travel inspiration.

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Nysa: ancient city turned olive grove