Situated on the Aegean Coast of Turkey, Kusadasi is a highly sought-after tourist destination that has also become a key Mediterranean port of call for mega cruise ships. While there’s an abundance of shopping opportunities at the local bazaar, the town itself doesn’t offer many attractions. However, visitors with varied interests such as history, sunbathing or adventure can find plenty of activities in the surrounding area.
With an array of enjoyable, family-friendly activities, this Turkish town offers a plethora of options. Whether you’re just passing through for the day or staying for a week, you’re bound to find something that piques your interest and promises a good time.
Kusadasi is an ever-present stop on our Mediterranean cruises, ensuring we make our way there once or twice annually. Our children and grandchildren have accompanied us on multiple occasions, eagerly anticipating our visit to Kusadasi. To make the most of our family time, we’ve curated a list of four family-friendly activities that we enjoy the most in Kusadasi.
Kusadasi, a gateway town to the ancient city of Ephesus, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, dating back over 2000 years. This historic city played a crucial role in ancient Greek and Roman times, serving as an important trade and religious center in early Christianity. Apostle Paul even preached to the Ephesians here. Today, it’s a popular tourist destination in Turkey that offers a glimpse into the way of life of Greeks and Romans from two millennia ago. The well-preserved columns and buildings serve as a testament to the city’s rich history and are well worth the visit.
Introducing youngsters to ancient history is an opportune moment. It imbues them with a sense of the past’s vividness. Believe it or not, even the lavatories of yore elicit excitement from the little ones, as well as the grown ones, like my son and son-in-law. Besides, the Odeon, the Hercules Gate, the Terrace Houses, the renowned Celsus Library, and the Stadium are all prominent structures and sculptures worth exploring. Of course, there are innumerable other sites to visit as well.
During our visit to the kusadasiNike relief, my grandson Dion was captivated by it, especially the “swish” logo which the athletic shoe company has adopted. While the girls and I explored the Terrace Houses, my husband and the boys preferred to remain outside, climbing some of the blocks in the vicinity. The Terrace Houses were indeed a treat for us, with the mosaics and frescos impeccably preserved, some of them appearing as if they were painted recently! Without a doubt, the Terrace Houses are worth the admission price and time spent exploring them.
Located approximately 30 km away, the site can be conveniently reached by taxi, minibus, or through a pre-booked tour. However, if you choose to travel on your own, as we often do, the best option is to negotiate with a local taxi driver. Typically, a mini-van that accommodates six passengers can be hired for around $75 to take you to the site and back. Request to be dropped off by the Magnesian Gate entrance, one of three gates to the ancient city, and begin your descent through the site. Upon reaching the bottom, where a vast parking lot is located, your driver will be waiting to take you back to your hotel, port, or any other desired destination. Remember not to pay the driver until you have been returned to your destination.
Admission tickets can be obtained at the entrance of the site for 40 TL or around $10, granting entry to the premises but not the Terrace Houses. For a glimpse of the exquisite mosaics housed within the excavated homes, tickets can be purchased at the main entrance for 20 TL or roughly $5. Alternatively, tickets can be purchased at the Terrace Houses entrance if you’re still undecided. For added convenience, online ticket purchases are also available.
While exploring Ephesus, you can also discover other archaeological sites in the surrounding area. These include the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Although not much remains of the site today, admission is free and children can still have fun playing among the ruins. For a small fee of 20 TL, around $5, you can also visit the House of the Virgin Mary, where some believe she spent her final years. Additionally, the Basilica of St. John, constructed atop the apostle’s supposed tomb, offers admission at a nominal cost of 10 TL, about $2.50.
A trip to the ancient city of Ephesus is not complete without a visit to the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in nearby Selçuk. This museum is home to a vast collection of artifacts unearthed during the excavation of the site, including the statue of Artemis from the goddess’s temple in Ephesus.
For a nominal fee of 10TL, roughly $2.50, you can gain entry to the museum, which can be explored in as little as an hour. While the kids found it intriguing, what they enjoyed most was the brevity of the visit. After you’ve had your fill of historical sites and museums, why not spend a day at Adaland—one of Europe’s top-rated waterparks? Kusadasi boasts three waterparks, but Adaland stands out among them. Last summer, we spent a day there, and the kids had a blast.
With diverse activities catering to every age group, the water park offers a range of options for visitors. Jett, for instance, enjoyed the splash zone and mingling with older children, whereas adults reveled in the water slides. Admission fees vary, with €17 charged for children aged 4-9, and €24 for other age groups. However, children aged three and below can enter for free. The admission price includes the use of pools, changing rooms, lockers, lounge chairs, and umbrellas, whereas additional charges may apply for some activities like rafting.
The park boasts a troupe of roving photographers who relish snapping shots of you and your little ones. Though purchasing is optional, perusing the images at the photo kiosk is encouraged. For us, the best option was buying a thumb drive with all the photos. Meanwhile, the park’s eateries offer a gamut of culinary delights ranging from fries and pizza to Turkish kebobs, all at a reasonable cost. To our delight, we found the meals to be surprisingly delectable.
Enhance your bargaining prowess at Kusadasi Bazaar, where a plethora of goods from spices to souvenirs, toys, leather articles, and jewelry await you. The bazaar boasts meandering alleyways that offer a fascinating experience for children to explore and purchase items. The area is also home to several cafes and restaurants, including popular fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Popeye’s. However, we recommend relishing the local cuisine, with the chicken kebobs being a hit among the kids, and the sweet cheesy Kunafe serving as a go-to dessert.
After indulging in some shopping and fine dining, take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront. Adjacent to the port, you’ll find seafood restaurants and a verdant park just across the street. For the more adventurous, hike over to Pigeon Island connected to the main island by a causeway. Once a bastion against marauding pirates, the fortress now houses quaint seaside restaurants. From the island’s vantage point, you can enjoy stunning views of Kusadasi’s charming harbor and the town itself.
If you find yourself with some free time, consider visiting one of the local beaches. From the town center, you can easily hire a taxi or hop on a public mini bus to reach the shoreline. With warm waters and pristine sandy stretches, Ladies Beach and Long Beach are the most popular options. They are both well-tended, equipped with sun loungers and umbrellas for rent, and boast a variety of cafes and restaurants. It’s a perfect spot for families with children who are sure to enjoy the beach to the fullest!