Kuşadası is a resort town in Turkey’s Aegean coast and the center of the seaside district of the same name in Aydın Province. Kuşadası lies at a distance of 90 km (56 mi) to the south from the region’s largest metropolitan center of İzmir, and 71 km (44 mi) from the provincial seat of Aydın situated inland. The primary industry is tourism.
The city stands on a bay in the Aegean with the peninsula of Guvercin Ada sticking out into the sea at one end, and the mountain of Kaz Dağı behind.
It is 90 km (56 mi) south of İzmir, the region’s largest metropolitan center. It is 71 km (44 mi) from the provincial seat of Aydın situated inland.
The Yavansu Fault Line passes near Kuşadası and there have been earthquakes here throughout history.
The name comes from ‘kuş’ (bird) and ‘ada’ (island) as the peninsula has the shape of a bird’s head (as seen from the sea). Since Byzantine times it has been known as Ephesus Neopolis, Scala Nuova, becoming Kush-Adasi at the beginning of the 20th century. Some people from the Aegean region shorten the name to Ada.
Kuşadası has a residential population of 50,000 rising to over half a million during the summer when the large resort fills with tourists (from Turkey itself, northern Europe and the Balkans), plus the hotel staff, bar staff, construction workers, and drivers who are needed for work in the restaurants, the holiday villages, aquaparks, rock bars beach clubs and big hotels servicing all these visitors. In addition to the visitors from overseas there is a substantial community of foreigners resident in the area.
The area has been a centre of art and culture since the earliest times and has been settled by many civilizations since being founded by the Leleges people in 3000 BC. Later settlers include the Aeolians in the 11th century BC and Ionians in the 9th century. Originally seamen and traders the Ionians built a number of settlements on this coast including Neopolis.
An outpost of Ephesus in ancient Ionia, the area between the Büyük Menderes and Gediz rivers, the original Neopolis is thought to have been founded on the nearby point of Yılancı Burnu. Later settlements were probably built on the hillside of Pilavtepe, in the district called Andızkulesi today. Kuşadası was a minor port frequented by vessels trading along the Aegean coast. In antiquity it was overshadowed by Ephesus until Ephesus’ harbor silted up. From the 7th century BC onwards the coast was ruled by Lydians from their capital at Sardis, then from 546 BC the Persians, and from 334 BC along with all of Anatolia the coast was conquered by Alexander the Great. From then onwards the coastal cities were the centre of the mixed Greek and Anatolian culture called Hellenistic.
The Roman Empire took possession of the coast in the 2nd century BC and in the early years of Christianity, Mary (mother of Jesus) and St John the Evangelist both came to live in the area, which in the Christian era became known as “Ania”, although the spirituality was clearly not ingrained as during the Middle Ages the port was a haven for pirates.
Later as Byzantine, Venetian and Genoese traders began to work the coast the port was founded (as Scala Nuova “new port”), a garrison was placed on the island, and the town centre moved from the hillside to the coast.
From 1086 the area came under Turkish control and the Aegean ports became the final destination of caravan routes to the Orient. However this arrangement was overthrown by the Crusades and the coast again came under Byzantine control until 1280 when first the Menteşe and then the Aydınoğlu Anatolian Turkish Beyliks took control. Kuşadası was brought into the Ottoman Empire by Mehmet I in 1413. The Ottomans built the city walls and the caravanserai that still stand today.
In 1834 the castle and garrison on the island was rebuilt and expanded, becoming the focus of the town, to the extent that people began to refer to the whole town as Kuşadası (bird island). However in the 19th century, trade declined in favor of İzmir with the opening of the İzmir-Aydın railway, as Kuşadası had no rail connection.
During the Turkish War of Independence Kuşadası was occupied from 1919-1922 first by Italian, then by Greek troops. It was eventually captured on September 7th 1922.
Under the Turkish Republic the Greek population was exchanged for Turkish people as part of the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922. It was a district in Izmir Province until 1954 and become the district of Aydın Province. Until the first holiday apartments were built here in the 1970s Kuşadası was a fruit-growing rural district, it then grew into a small resort town with holiday flats. These were built as housing co-operatives, membership sold to families in Ankara, Izmir, Denizli and other Turkish cities. From the mid 1980s Kuşadası grew again into the centre of mass tourism that we have today.
In 2005, the town was the location of a bomb attack causing five casualties, three Turkish nationals, British citizen Helen Bennett and the Irish student Tara Whelan.
Kuşadası caters to tourists, arriving by land, and as the port for cruise ship passengers heading to Ephesus. In a controversial deal in 2003 the previously public-owned port was leased to a private company and renovated to attract luxury cruise liners. These range from the huge Grand Princess to smallers tours.
There are beaches.
Real estate agents sell holiday flats and villas. Among all the ice-cream, carpets, leather, and software, there are bookshops selling books in English, German, Russian and other languages.
Old houses near the seafront, some of them converted to bars and cafes, are the remnants of old Kuşadası, which has become a modern-European looking town. The hills behind are built up with big hotels and blocks of holiday flats. The building boom in the late 80s and onwards has been continued into the hinterland of Kuşadası.
Transport around the town is by dolmuş (minibus). There are bus and taxi services to the nearest airports, in İzmirBodrum. Day trips are available by boat from Kuşadası and Güzelçamlı. and
The city is a port of call for cruise ships. The port is linked by a six-lane highway to İzmir’s Adnan Menderes Airport
There is daily ferry services to the nearby Greek island of Samos.