The Ancient Ruins of Aphrodisias

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Turkey  , Denizli,
Saturday, April 30, 2011

We rose early the next morning in order to shower and enjoy the fantastic breakfast provided by our guest house before our ride to Aphrodisias arrived. The driver was prompt, and turned out to be the same guy who had driven us to the guest house the day before. The van was packed -- and then we picked up a few more people, taking us well over capacity. The other tourists were quite upset and complained long enough that the driver finally stopped and called for another car to come and collect some of his passengers. 

From there on out, it was smooth sailing through the gorgeous mountains around Denizli all the way to Aphrodisias. The weather couldn't have been better: clear blue skies, full sun, and about 80 degrees. The pieces had all fallen into place for a perfect day to explore the ancient city of Aphrodisias, a prosperous city in Roman times which was famous for its Sanctuary of Aphrodite.

Settlements on the site date back to about 5,000 BC, and the village itself was well-established by the 6th century BC. It remained little more than a village until the 1st or 2nd century, by which time the population had climbed to about 15,000 people. By the 3rd century AD, Aphrodisias had become the capital of the Roman province of Caria. The city continued to grow, and was one of the foremost cities in the area until it was nearly leveled by an earthquake in the late 7th century. After the earthquake, the town hobbled on as a small cathedral town until it was more or less abandoned in the 12th century.

Fast forward almost a millennium, and Aphrodisias is once again popular, though this time with tourists, instead of farmers and merchants. Fortunately for us, its sister city on the coast, Efes, is a much, much, much more frequented spot, so the number of tourists we had to cope with was fairly minimal. We were left to our own devices for three hours, and started our visit with a tour of the museum where we found a number of statues and other relics that had been excavated from the site.

From there we chose to go right at the fork in the road and ended up at the Tetrapylon, a beautiful, ornamental gate that was built in the middle of the 2nd century. The sign at the site said that the preservation of the gate is "extraordinary": 85% of the original marble is still there today. It was re-erected in 1990, and I must say that they did a fantastic job. We were more or less by ourselves there, which would prove to be the case pretty much everywhere at Aphrodisias -- another big benefit of visiting these ruins instead of those at Efes.

We walked from the gate through the Temple of Aphrodite (the lady behind the name), then past what is left of a house, all before getting to the stadium -- a site which was nothing short of amazing. We'd seen ruins before, but never like this. (To be fair, this does not diminish the awesomeness of the Egyptians pyramids -- it's just jaw-dropping in a different way.) I was not prepared for the stadium (nor the theater that would come later). I'd expected mainly structures that had a few columns still standing here and there, but the stadium was so much more than that -- for being nearly 2,000 years old, it has aged incredibly well. It is considered the best preserved of all the ancient stadia in the Mediterranean, which is saying a lot, given the number of them scattered across the remnants of the Roman Empire. 

We spent a good deal of time there, walking up and down the stairs, peeking in the tunnels underneath the "stands", pretending to stage a gladiator match on the stadium floor (okay, that part may be a fib), and just sitting in amazement of the massive structure. Since we only had three hours to explore the entirety of Aphrodisias, we couldn't play in the stadium all day, so continued on along the circuit, stopping at the other ruins before climbing the hill and walking into another marvel of the Roman Empire: the theater. 

The theater was in similar condition to the stadium, which meant it looked pretty damn good. We explored, walking down the steps, hamming it up on stage, and then wandering around the "backstage" area, which was extensive (and, I expect, much more than just the backstage). By the time we got back to the stage, our time in Aphrodisias was nearly up, which meant it was time to begin the trek back to our minibus. A short time later, we were, as Willy says, on the road again, heading towards Pamukkale and its famous white travertines.  

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pirharun on

“A treasure!”
We visited Aphrodisias on a day trip from Pamukkate and were so glad we did. Sitting out in the middle of the countryside, the ruins of this city are really amazing. There were other tour groups there at the same time, but we often found ourselves alone among the ruins and able to really enjoy them. Includes the truly beautiful ancient gate (tetrapylon), the remarkably intact stadium the temple of Aphrodite with many standing columns, the bouleterion, baths, agoras, houses, lovely amphitheatre, and the remarkable Sebasteion as well as an excellent museum. So much to see, and plenty of time to see it on a gorgeous early October day. Highly recommended.

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