Six things you must do in Izmir

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iol travel june 1 Izmir REUTERS People walk in the ancient Ephesus ruins.

On a wide bay under a range of high hills halfway down Turkey’s west coast is a big city with a long history. Izmir is one of the fastest-growing cruise-ship ports of call on the Aegean and an excellent base for trips to nearby Ephesus and Pergamon. Gareth Huw Davies spent some lazy days browsing the boulevards, walking the elegant seafront, riding a century-old cliff-face elevator and visiting some of the most extensive Roman ruins outside Pompeii ...

1... CATCH OF THE DAY

IzmIr is an ideal base, if you don’t require a sandy beach and resort facilities. The airport, served by UK budget airlines, is only ten miles from the city centre. Izmir can be crowd-free even in the first week of August, when historic sites such as Ephesus and Pergamon are awash with tourists. I stayed at the waterside Crowne Plaza Hotel, with stupendous views over the bay. A free shuttle bus takes guests the six miles to the city centre. In the evening the day s catch is barbecued at fishing boats tied up on the waterfront promenade and served between great hunks of fresh bread. Utterly fresh: perfectly simple.

2... GO GREEK

ALEXANDER the Great started building the city and the Romans finished the job, so it’s worth a visit to the roman and Greek remains at the Agora. Go early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat, and walk among the colonnades and remnants of once-mighty gates. Statues of Poseidon, demeter and Artemis from the altar of zeus are displayed in the site’s museum. They are knocking down homes and rehousing people, and taking down a multi-storey car park so the site can be expanded.

3... BOOK A GuiDE

MOST people who visit Izmir by cruise ship are whisked off to the big attractions by coach, at £40 (about R500) a head or more. I recommend taking a personal guide instead. If you are with three or more people, you save serious money. my guide gave me a tour of Izmir, breaking for an excellent (£20 for two) lunch in the market. our last call in the city was to the Ansansor quarter for a trip in the antique, recently renovated and free elevator, enclosed in a tower made of bricks. It zings locals up from the cobbled, sea-level street to the clifftop neighbourhoods. Stop at the terrace cafe for great views over central Izmir. next day my guide took me to Ephesus 50 miles away.

4... SQUARE DEAL

THE spacious Konak Square, with a 1901 clock tower as its central feature, is the spiritual heart of the city and, arguably, of modern Turkey the fight for independence after partition in the wake of the First World War began here. From the square, it’s a short stroll to the cafe-lined seaside promenade, the Kordon, and the customs house on Konak Pier built by Gustave Eiffel and restored as a chic shopping centre. I recommend the short ferry trip across the bay from Pasaport for some fresh sea air and good views back over Izmir.

5... ROMAN ROAMING

EPHESUS is a fabulous place, with the largest collection of roman ruins in the eastern mediterranean. It is the closest thing to Pompeii as a place of buried marvels still to be excavated only an estimated 15 to 20 percent has been unearthed. But it does get extremely busy (and very hot). You should go as early in the day as you can, perhaps overnighting in nearby Selçuk. Use the eastern entrance, then walk down the marble road, past the many highlights such as the library of Celsus and the 25,000-seat amphitheatre. Be careful with your possessions... I had my wallet stolen at the gate.

6... RETREAT TO THE OLIVE GROVE

TOURS to Ephesus often add the village of Sirince, about five miles away in hills smothered with olive groves and vineyards. A number of the mainly 19th Century houses have become boutique hotels. local people make wine and olive oil and grow tasty peaches. I stayed at the nisanyan boutique hotel where, from the terrace at dusk, I watched the swallows hand over to the night shift of bats. It was ramadan and they announced the pre-dawn feast by someone walking round the village beating a drum. It was authentic village life. - Mail on Sunday

l For more information on Izmir, visit turkey.com.

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