Mid-way, between Milas and Muğla in Turkey lies Stratonikeia, a well-preserved ancient site from the Carian times. Stratonikeia was one of the most significant Carian cities, and it has been inhabited continuously since the Bronze Age. That’s 1.500 BC! So how come you’ve never heard of it? Or you may even have driven past it and failed to stop! Turkey has so many ancient sites that people are focussing on the bigger ones, like Ephesus. Still, considering a stop at Stratonikeia is a different experience. Stratonikeia offers a unique opportunity to combine visiting an ancient site with active excavations and restorations while tasting the day-to-day village life in Turkey. Well yes, when we said continuously before, that was exactly how we meant it. Even today, Stratonikeia is still inhabited.
A former major city turned intimate
You can wander through the streets of the uninhabited part of Stratonikeia and be the only ones there. Discovering this ancient town, which has been partly restored already is a bit magical. Having it all to yourselves makes up abundantly for the fact that a lot of the ‘old stones’ still have to be sorted, and the pieces of the puzzle need to be put back together. It all doesn’t seem to matter. Somehow you get a feel for the old town’s life as you walk along the narrow, paved streets and past the empty houses.
A rare combination of houses and ruins and the remains of pillars scattered around.
This ancient site is majestic, impressive and intimate at the same time.
Stratonikeia is home to a Gymnasium that was built in the 2nd quarter of the 2nd century BC and that is believed to be the largest known gymnasium from the Ancient Period. The north side is 105 m wide; the total length is approximately 267m. Nowadays, you’ll need more than a bit of vivid imagination to know what it must have looked like. The mosque of the village has been beautifully restored. Behind it, you will find the remains of the Roman Bath.
One of the old gates to the city. Now that’s quite an entrance!
Stratonikeia is the perfect road-stop!
Visiting the theatre, the gymnasium, and necropolis surrounded by nothing but nature and silence is magnificent. Stratonikeia also has a little cafe where they serve çay (Turkish tea) and refreshing drinks underneath the trees, in the shadow of the mosque. This makes Stratonikeia a perfect place for a break while on the road. Strange as it may sound, but sitting there sipping your Turkish tea may well be one of the things you will remember for a long time after you’ve left.
Turkey has a lot of ‘old stones’ lying around, as we tend to call it disrespectfully. Some of those old stone sites just happen to be more enchanting than others. And being far from the madding crowds helps to enhance the experience at Stratonikeia. We agree that the major tourist attractions are indeed worth visiting, but getting off the beaten track and exploring some more unknown parts of the country has given us the satisfaction of being the sole visitors of places full of history and charm. A nice aspect of adopting slow travel and having the opportunity to explore things more deeply, something we intend to continue doing in the future. Stay tuned for more off the beaten path destinations in Turkey!
It seems we’re not the only ones that fell for the charm of Stratonikeia. These TripAdvisor reviews confirm it’s time to visit this hidden gem.
Of course, you will find hotels near Stratonikeia, but we’d advise you to plan this as a day-trip. Stratonikeia is only a short drive away from the Bodrum peninsula or beautiful Gökova bay.
Boho Bodrum has enough charm to last a lifetime!
The nearest airport is Bodrum-Milas with regular connections to Istanbul airports. You’ll find cheap flight options here. Or you can use the search widget on the side to quickly find the most affordable and best flights available.
All pictures © @Aegean.Images
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