Ancient Perge Archaeological Site
The stunning ancient city of Perge contains some of the most beautiful Hellenistic and Roman Ruins in Turkey and is easily accessible from the modern city of Antalya. The city is rich with history as Alexander the Great once strode through its gates, and the Apostle Paul preached there on his missionary journeys. Prominent features of the site include a remarkably well-preserved theater, the best-preserved Roman Stadium in Western Turkey, exquisite Roman Baths, towering Hellenistic Defenses, and long rows of beautiful colonnaded streets. The Archaeological Site of Perge was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2009.
If you want to spend a day exploring the remarkable ruins of Turkey, you can easily pair Perge with either Aspendos, Sillyon, Termessos, or Side. You may also want to check out the Antalya Archaeology Museum, which contains many of the beautiful sculptures archaeologists uncovered at Perge.
Once you finish exploring Perge, there are some incredible restaurants in the area which specialize in "Kofte Piyaz." Our favorite TTP recommended places are "Meşhur Şimsek Kofte Piyaz" or “Meşhur Köfteci Cihat.” Both are located in the little town of Aksu near ancient Perge.
For current admission costs and visiting hours, more information can be found on the museum’s official website. There is no audio guide available, but the signage is relatively informative. Once you buy your ticket, do not enter the main gate to the city! Visit the theater first, which you access by crossing the street from the main ticket office. If you enter the city, it is difficult for you to go to the theater, and they do not like to admit you twice on the same ticket. They may not tell you this upfront, so buy your ticket, enjoy the theater, and then take in the rest of this glorious ancient city.
I would recommend 2-3 hours to explore the entire site and it is absolutely beautiful to visit the site around 5-8 pm as the sun sets!
Transport to Perge is relatively easy from the city center of Antalya! You can hop on the T1B tram and ride it to the Aksu stop. When you ride the escalators down from the tram, there is a taxi stand that offers quick and cheap rides to the entrance to Perge. You could also walk this distance relatively easily.
Brief Historical Overview of Significant Features
After buying your ticket, make sure you cross the road and explore the theater first! It is separated from the rest of the archaeological site by a modern road.
Built in the traditional Greco-Roman style leaning against the Kocabelen Hill, the theater at Perge is the third largest of its kind in Turkey (Ephesus and Aizanoi boast larger ones). At total capacity, it could probably seat around 12,000 people! The stage was built in the Roman style during the height of the Pamphylian region in the 2nd Century AD, with the third story and renovations added later. Today, it is one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in Turkey, rivaling the notorious Aspendos Theater just a thirty-minute drive away.
Make sure you hike up to the top to get a beautiful panoramic view of the entire city!
To the left of the Hellenistic, Gate Towers is the extensive complex of the Southern Roman Baths. You can walk through this remarkable structure under beautiful, intact arches. Constructed in various phases throughout the first and second century AD, the baths would have featured exquisite mosaics (now covered for preservation) and a veritable art show of statuary that has been recovered. The Roman Baths were a key feature of many Greco-Roman cities and are found worldwide. The complex at Perge featured four main bathing sections: apodyterium (changing room), frigidarium (cold bath), tepidarium (warm bath), and caldarium (hot bath). You are able to walk through each of these rooms and even see the spaces underneath the floor where blazing furnaces heated the baths.
After exploring the theater, enter through the main entrance gates and head to your left. There you will be able to appreciate the stunning Roman Stadium built in the later 2nd century AD. It could hold around 12,000 people and when in use, was the center of entertainment and fierce competition. In addition, there is evidence that the vaults which support the seating likely served as a shopping complex. Unlike many other ancient stadiums in Western Turkey, the stadium at Perge is remarkably well preserved, and much of the seating is intact. The stadium is also in the process of being restored and protected and was given a fairly substantial budget pre-COVID.
Once you finish exploring the Stadium, you can walk through the garden to enter the rest of the city. Straight ahead, you will face the imposing Hellenistic defenses that once guarded this ancient city. The Hellenistic Gate Towers are one of the most unique and fascinating elements of the ruins at Perge. The original towers are dated from the third century BC and were three stories high. In the later Roman period, extensions and niches housing commemorative statues were added. Excavation and restoration are still in progress by the Antalya Museum Directorate, with major excavations conducted in 2015.
To the right of the Hellenistic Gates is the meticulously planned agora (market) of Perge. Archaeologists have been able to re-erect many fallen columns, and you can walk over the ancient stone streets and view the remains of the once beautifully mosaiced stores. In the center of the columned square remains a circular structure that likely served as a temple and possibly a religious fountain.
Other Important Features of the site you don’t want to miss!
- Visible Mosaic of Agammenon’s Sacrifice of his Daughter: Recent excavations in 2015 revealed a magnificent mosaic on the floors of one of the buildings along the Western Columned Street just before you get to the Northern Baths and Gymnasium. You can view this mosaic from behind a locked gate, and it could be easily missed while exploring this remarkable city!
- Colonnaded Streets: Perge has three major colonnaded roads! Each of these leads to different aspects of the site. As you walk along, notice deep grooves in the stones where the constant passing of carts and chariots have left their permanent mark. The main street begins right behind the Hellenistic Towers and Gate.
- Nymphaeums: Perge has multiple monumental fountains dedicated to various benefactors. None are as glorious as the fully functioning one at Sagalassos, but they are beautiful nonetheless! The most prominent nymphaeum was likely the one at the end of the main columned street known as the Nymphaeum of Kestros, which guarded the approach to the Acropolis. Antalya Archaeology Museum now houses the statues which once lined this beautiful fountain-gate.
- Acropolis: While there are few intact buildings of note on the acropolis, climbing to the overlook is well worth it to see the site of Perge in its entirety.
- Basilica/Churches: There are two large basilicas in Perge and likely more smaller churches. The most prominent one is the Southern Basilica which is located South of the Agora and dates from the 6th century. Perge is rich with Christian history as a location where the Apostle Paul visited twice and where John Mark abandoned his first missionary journey. The Southern Basilica is still being excavated but is accessible. The other basilicas marked on the map were inaccessible when we visited them and were marked off for restoration or excavation.
For More Information:
“Antalya Perge Archaeological Site.” Turkish Museums.
Türkiye Ministry of Culture and Tourism. “Archaeological Site of Perge.” UNESCO. 2009. https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5411/
Bakacak, Oya. “Critical Evaluation on Conservation Approaches in the Archaeological Site of Perge.” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2007.
Kara, Onur and Mustafa Demirel. “Perge Excavations in 2015.” In ANMED: News Of Archaeology From Anatolia’s Mediterranean Areas #14. Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Institute on Mediterranean Civilizations, 2016.
“Perge Archaeological Site.” (Official Website). https://muze.gov.tr/muze-detay?sectionId=PRG01&distId=PRG
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