Kusadasi town has a population of approximately 55,000. It is in the town centre where you will find the majority of the shopping streets, restaurants, bars and of course the cruise port.
There is a luxury yacht marina situated at the northern end of the town, which is home to not just itinerant visitors, but also several “live aboards” who stay on their boats throughout the year except for the months of December, January and February.
Travel a few minutes further north following the coast road to reach the water parks and the beaches of Kustur and Pamucak, as well as the incredible view from Klaros – definitely a picture taking point – further on is the town of Selcuk, the ancient city of Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary, and around an hour away, the beautiful city of Izmir.
To the south of the town is Ladies Beach and then the Long Beach area which leads to the towns of Davutlar and Guzelcamli.
Kusadasi town centre is a heavily residential area, has plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and amenities and is open all year round to serve the local population as well as the summer visitors. There are some businesses which are purely seasonal, but most shops, restaurants etc are open throughout the year.
There is a lively social life to be found at all times of year and several clubs and organizations – many of which support local good causes – have sprung up over the past few years. These clubs are friendly and welcoming to all and are a great way to get to know a variety of people in a short space of time, to chat, share information, network and of course, to have fun. There is a town hall (Belediye) electricity main office, telephone and ADSL office and many police stations. There are also plenty of banks; cash point machines and bureau de change offices. Street crime is extremely low, and there is CCTV on all the main streets as well as an overt police presence, but it’s sensible to take all normal precautions. Don’t flash a lot of cash; keep your cash close to you and don’t leave bags unattended.
If you are considering holidaying or settling here and enjoy good restaurants with plenty of choice and a variety of nightlife, the town centre or promenade hotels are ideal. Most have sea views and a pool, there are all sorts of accommodations from a traditional pension to 5 star luxury and everything in between.
There’s a thriving fish market at the harbour where you can go and see the daily catch brought in, and eat it at one of the harbor-side fish restaurants. Just to the south of the harbour is the port, which is where all the cruise liners dock and there are plenty of places where you can sit and watch everyone coming and going. At the port are a variety of well known brand shops and cafes, and a few bars. This is also where you get the Samos ferry.
A little further – just after the port – you will see Pigeon Island, which is where Kusadasi gets its name from. The Turkish name for the island is Guvercin Ada –Bird Island, and Kus is also bird, ada, island – so Kusadasi is “by the island of birds” Pigeon Island is accessed via a man-made causeway which was created in the 1950’s, and has a castle/fortress reputed to have been a lookout for the Barbarossa pirates! There are tea houses and cafes on the island and a “wish tree” where people go and tie a small piece of white material to the branches and make wishes. Why not try your luck?
Housing in the town centre is a mixture of old Greek style houses with hidden courtyards, apartment blocks with commanding sea views and duplex or triplex villas, which are mainly located in the area running from the Friday market to the marina. Most of the housing right in the centre is apartment style, and if you want to live in a typical Turkish neighbourhood among Turkish families, then this is the spot for you.
These small side streets are surprisingly quiet even though some of them are less than a three minute walk from the main shopping streets. Everything is within easy walking distance and the nearest dolmus, (mini buses which supply regular cheap transport in all areas of Turkey). Many of these streets are on the flat too, which can be a consideration if you have mobility issues to deal with. Up towards Friday market, the land grows steeper, but the reward is the view across the bay to the Greek island of Samos and the peninsula at the southern end.
In the centre of the town is the Kaleici (the Old Town) and the Caravanseray. The Kaleici is a subtle mix of old houses and winding streets peppered with individually styled bars, shops and restaurants. There is no definite style to the Kaleici, it is a blend of ancient and modern, is wholly unique and you have to experience it for yourself. Near the Kaleieci is the Caravanseray, and this is where in ancient times, traders with camel trains would stop and rest up to fortify themselves for their journey by land or sea, taking their haul of rugs, silks and spices across to Europe.
Nowadays the Caravanseray is still a hotel and is also the place where you can see spectacular Turkish Night displays of music and dance. Behind the Caravanserai the winding streets climb sharply and are lined by dozens of Greek style houses which overlook the harbour and port, climbing to the foot of Ataturk statue placed on the highest point overlooking the town.
In Kusadasi town centre there are plenty of collection points where you can pick up a free copy of The Ege Eye and catch up on the latest events, as well as newsagents selling a variety of European newspapers and magazines. From Kusadasi centre it is possible to catch a dolmus to take you to any part of the local area, or other towns nearby, and there is also a large bus garage where you can board a coach to take you to Izmir, Istanbul or any point north, south east or west at a very reasonable cost.
Turkish coaches are comfortable, clean and reliable. On board you will be offered lemon cologne or wipes to clean your hands, a drink and if it’s a long journey even a snack. On long journeys rest breaks are frequent to allow you to stretch your legs, eat and use the facilities. Taxis are easily available in Kusadasi and are on meters so you know what you are paying. Turkish lira, sterling, dollars, euros are all acceptable currencies in shops, bars and restaurants, and prices and menus are often in more than one currency for your ease and convenience.
Haggling for the best price is a Turkish tradition which many buyers and sellers enjoy, but please be aware that haggling is not a sport – if you haggle to make a deal, it’s a deal to buy – don’t haggle just to pass the time as shopkeepers have to make a living too! Haggling is not acceptable in supermarkets, bars or restaurants and definitely not in the corner grocery stores.
You are never far away from a friendly face and can feel confident about asking directions etc, most people are only too happy to help or to call a friend to assist. You will see road marking which look like zebra crossings – they aren’t! They are pedestrian walking points but drivers rarely stop unless there are several people trying to cross. Remember that the traffic may be driving on the opposite side of the road to that which you are used to and look both ways when crossing.
Mopeds are a very popular mode of transport especially in the town itself and they need special looking out for. Turkish drivers beep their horns for lots of reasons; to tell someone to move along, to say hello, and to celebrate. This can make you jump at first but you will soon get used to it. If there’s a big football match on, at the finish those supporting the winning team drive round the town beeping like mad!
Horns are also used to draw attention to wedding and circumcision processions. With the former you will see a car decorated with flowers with the bride and groom inside at the head of the parade. With the latter, a small boy dressed in a blue and white robe and hat holding a scepter is the lead figure! For colour, vitality and charm you would have to go a long way to beat Kusadasi.