Aspendos boasts the best-preserved Roman theater in Turkey, and one of the best in the world.
Once called Belkis, Aspendos was founded by the Hittites, but it was Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD) who ordered its great theater to be built.
|Note people on the Acropolis
above the theater.
Still used for performances today, the theater really allows you to imagine what it was like to attend a dramatic performance in Roman times.
The ruined city of Aspendos includes a substantial aqueductand less impressive remains of an agora, basilica and stadium, and you can wander through the fields to find them, though it’s the theater that you really want to see.
There are no hotels or restaurants right by the theater, just snacks, but you can stop for a tasty gözleme (Turkish crepe) and ayran(yogurt drink) at village stands on the road to into the theater.
Aspendos is crowded with tour groups in the middle of the day in high summer, so try to avoid the crowds by coming early or late in the day, or off-season.
If you do come in high summer, you can enjoy the Aspendos Opera & Ballet Festival in September with performances in the marvelous theater. What a thrill to see a performance here!
East of the road from the highway to the theater is a graceful, restored Seljuk Turkish stone bridge across the Köprüçay stream. It’s worth taking the short detour of only a few hundred meters to visit it and admire this beautiful 800-year-old engineering work.
Aspendos is also a starting-point for the St Paul Trailleading north up onto the Anatolian plateau by way of dramatic Köprülü Kanyon National Park through which the Köprüçay river churns and rolls. A good day’s excursion is to go river rafting on the Köprüçay, or to drive all the way up the valley to the ancient Roman town of Selge (now called Altınkaya). More…
—by Tom Brosnahan
Distances & Travel Times
|Antalya: 47 km (29 miles) W, 50 minutes
Alanya: 83 km (52 miles) SE, 1.5 hours
Köprülü Kanyon National Park:52 km (32 miles) N, 1 hour
Perge: 27 km (17 miles) W, 30 minutes
Selge: 64 km (40 miles) N, 1.5 hours
Side: 37 km (23 miles) E, 40 minutes