New Voices columnist Izmir-born Ayse Uram, arrives fresh in Didim after 12 years studying and working as a tour guide in the heart of Cappadocia. Trekking, sports and music-loving Ayse offer a list of must-dos in and around Didim for first-time expats and tourists

DIDIM, once a glorious ancient site and home to many civilisations in history, sits on the most fertile lands of southern Aegean, surrounded by azure crystal waters amid pine forests and olive groves, making the area most liveable for its pure air and nature.

A summer holiday zone for its fine sandy beaches and blazing sunny days but a historical zone with scattered ruins. With its ancient name, Didymaoin is a living town today with 2 major holiday centres:

Altınkum: The ‘so-called’ golden sand – is more than a fishing town, dotted with nicely decorated cafes, traditional music playing bars and cocktail serving pubs for Brits, as well as delicious seafood and mezzes serving budget restaurants, and genuine fake garments selling souvenir shops.

Nights are hectic and the streets are bustling, while it is hard to find an empty sunbed on the beach. Not surprisingly, with many Brits, Europeans and Turks on the streets, the area is one of the most preferred and affordable holiday destinations.

Akbuk: The ‘other town’ is more tranquil, located on the southern shores of the Aegean. It sits amid pine forests and has become even more popular than Altınkum today due to its lower population and internationally recognized clean waters.

It is possible to find a living town at the centre of Akbuk with markets, restaurants, cafes and bars. Most Brits are attracted by the newly built private villas and detached houses to spend their retirement ages and the prices are still affordable should you consider to move in.

Didim being a perfect base, close to well known holiday spots, ancient ruins and most famous attractions to discover including the glorious ancient site of Ephesus, the resting place of Mother Mary House, bustling yet colourful local markets, the wine town of Sirince, the fascinating Greco-Roman ruins of Apollon Temple, Miletos and Priene ancient sites and Anatolian traditional villages. Here is a list of things to experience and explore:.

Apollon Temple – only 10 minutes drive from Altınkum, both reachable by a rental car or local minibus. The entrance fee is only 10 TL.

The Temple of Apollon dedicated to the God of Apollo as the oracle centre was the most famous and equal in importance to the Delphi Temple in Greece. The Temple was reached by a ‘Sacred Way’ from the harbour of Panormos.

Several impressive sculptures, historic ruins and pieces take you to a journey while you wander around where oracular stories whispered, however the most attractive piece of this Temple is the huge head of Medusa’s mythological character. It is a huge piece right at the entry of the temple on the right hand, not possible to skip.

Don’t miss having Turkish tea or coffee under the aged trees and enjoy the local flow.

Priene & Miletos Ancients Ruins

Miletus, an Ionian city lying on the southern edge of Meander River flood plain with the most gigantic ancient theatre has made a solid contribution to human history. It is well known for major characters; Thales of Miletus, one of the ‘seven sages of Greece’ and the founder of science, astronomy and geometry.

While Isidore of Miletus changed the course of architecture with the design of Hagia Sophia, in addition to Hippodamus who gave a revolutionary urban planning copied also in Priene.

A walk on the top of theatre, all the other impressive structure of the city including the Stadium, Baths of Faustina, city walls and Agoras can be appreciated. Entrance is 10TL. To get there, go to Akkoy, and the road signs will take you, only 5 km away.

Priene

Priene, with its dramatic setting on a flat table with Mount Mykale drop at the background attracts comperatively less visitors giving a space and time for its visitors to soak up the history.

It is worth visiting for its well preserved theatre, council building, the remains of Athena Temple – a work by the ancient World famed architect built the Mausoleum of Bodrum. The town of Gullubahce- where the ancient site is scattered around has shady tea houses, simple restaurants and few pensions to chill out. The entrance fee is only 5 TL, but be prepared to pay for the otopark and toilets as well.

Kusadası as a base

Kusadası was a pretty fishing town before it became a major holiday spot for its fine sandy beaches, sun and affordable stays, Now a major port town, it is a quick getaway for the renowned ancient city of Ephesus a glorious huge site which is a contribution of Greco-Romans discovered during the 1950s.

Home to Artemis worshippers before it was Christianized during Roman times, it became the prime Christian zone where St. John was believed to have written his Gospel and Mother Mary is believed to have spent her last years.

The spectecular Celsus Library , the second largest after Alexandria in Egypt, the remarkable Great Theatre hosted 25,000 spectators, intricately built temples in the name of Gods and Kings, the lavish styled Brothel and the huge Agoras are definitely worth seeing in a half day. Avoid hot afternoons and enjoy the tranquility and breeze of early mornings.

Sirince witnessed the population exchange of the 1920s. Nestled on top of a hill, looking over Selcuk town, it is dotted with historical mansions, cozy boutique hotels, nice cafes and souvenir shops. It is popular with its wine making, thus at every corner it is possible to get a sip of local taste. A wander along its traditional streets sticks in mind for a lifetime.

For nature lovers, Dilek Peninsula National Park 25 km away from Kusadası is a huge green land for a full day relaxing and refreshment with its crystal waters, unspoiled bays, a canyon to hike through to Doganbey village and picnic areas under shady trees.

At the entry of the park, visit the ‘Cave of Zeus’ where it’s believed Zeus and Mother Mary bathed. You will pay a small fee to visit this spectacular and it’s open till 7pm during the season.

The park is under protection as its home to many endangered species of birds, fishes, mammals and reptiles. The extinct Anatolian Leopard was last seen here.