Laodicea (Laodikya, Laodikeia), 6 km (4 miles) north of Denizli and 1 km (6/10 mile) east of the road to Pamukkale (map) near the village of Goncalı, is an extremely old city that is being “born again” through archeological restoration.
You can visit Laodicea from Denizli in 3 hours or less, whether or not you have a car.
Excavations here have revealed artifacts dating from 3500 BC (Late Chalcolithic) to 3000 BC (Early Bronze Age). The city’s name comes from the Seleucid king Antiochus ii, who named it for his wife Laodike in the 3rd century BC when it wa thriving. Later controlled by the kings of Pergamum, it was willed to the Roman Empire, and thrived again from the 4th to 6th centuries. Its importance then numbered it among the Seven Churches of Revelation.
Set in an earthquake zone, it was ruined and restored many times, but by the early 1200s it was only farmer’s fields.
I first visited Laodicea in the 1970s and found a vast area (5 square kilometers/2 square miles) of rolling hills covered in grass and weeds, with bits of ruins here and there, and absolutely no visitors. The theaters were quite visible, but little else was distinguishable.
One of two theaters at Laodicea, unrestored…
Years of tedious excavation work have revealed a splendid, rich city that is now being reconstructed—and in some places rebuilt with new marble-work—to show the importance of Biblical Laodicea.
Laodicea regains some of its former glory…
Archeological and restoration work is still very much under way at Laodicea, and will be for years—perhaps decades—to come. But there’s enough to see right now to repay a visit.
You can get there easily from Denizli or Pamukkale by taking a Denizli-Pamukkale minibus dolmuş. They depart about every 20 minutes from Peron (Gate) 76 on the lower level of Denizli’s Otogar.
Walk west along this road for 1 km (6/10 mile, 10 to 15 minutes) to the entrance to the archeological site, buy your ticket (TL10), then walk another 10 minutes uphill and into the site.
As mentioned, Laodicea is spread over 5 sq km (2 sq mi), most of it unexcavated and unrestored, but you can visit the restored parts in as little as 30 minutes, or as much as 2 hours. Audio guides are available for rent, and display signs mark the most important sites.
—by Tom Brosnahan