Can you believe this: the 6th best preserved temple and historical complex in the whole of Asia remains unvisited by many travelers to Turkey’s Aegean coast? Tourists just whiz past Euromos and Lake Bafa on their way to more famous sites like Ephesus or Miletos. So, let’s remedy their oversight by exploring the Zeus Temple of Euromos and Lake Bafa.
Located at approx. 10km north of Milas and 90km north of Bodrum, Euromos is situated off the highway that leads to Söke and Izmir. As you approach, Euromos immediately pulls the visitor in. You have to watch closely for the road sign and then quickly turn off. But once you have managed this, you are in another world.
The side road leading to Euromos is a far cry from the highway. It is a narrow pebble covered lane twisting and turning through dense olive trees growing on rising green mountain slopes. No traffic, no noise other than the wind, birds and cicadas and it’s easy to imagine hearing Pan playing his flute. A last bend to the right and you are out of the olive trees only to be met by a total of 12 perfectly preserved Corinthian columns with elaborately carved tops, surrounded by a multitude of broken columns and other carvings which are strewn across the area.
The temple, which dates from the 2nd century AD, was dedicated to Zeus and is believed to have been built by Emperor Hadrian. Inscriptions on the columns are actually name plaques of rich people who contributed to the construction of the temple.
Euromos was once also a thriving city, possibly once connected to Milas, and although the temple is the most visible monument, you can climb up through the olive trees and discover remains of massive city walls, an agora and an amphitheatre which could seat 5000 to 7000 people. Most of it is still hidden below ground. As you climb and meander you feel a little bit like an archaeologist, ready to stumble over an undiscovered treasure at any moment.
On this particular day, my friends and I were on a mission to visit interesting and beautiful places which are often neglected by those who simply don’t know about them.
This brought us to our second stop: Lake Bafa. The lake is located approx. 10km further north from Euromos and reached by the same highway.
Whereas Euromos is a site of historic interest, Lake Bafa is a nature lovers’ paradise. The huge, oval shaped lake which has a shore line of 62km, was a bay of the Aegean Sea some 2000 years ago and was known as Gulf of Lade at the time. Silting of the Meander river caused the lake to be cut off and as the sea receded, the bottom was revealed which is what you walk on today. The Latmos mountain chain surrounds the lake with Five Finger Mountain its highest peek at 1700m. Hikers willing to climb a bit will discover a series of caves, some of which contain exceptional rock paintings.
The lake and surrounding area is home to 255 species of rare birds. Visitors can fish for eel, sea bream and mullet in the salty water of the lake or hire a boat and visit a small island which features the remains of a monastery dating from Byzantine times. History fans are also rewarded by the sites of nearby Heraklia that contains more monasteries as well as the mysterious rock tombs with their half removed lids. As you look down upon them from the top of the monastery, you happily discover several small restaurants eager to offer you a dish of freshly caught and grilled fish along with respite after your hearty hike and climb.
Not to forget the legend of Selene and Endymion; it was at Lake Bafa that the Moon goddess fell in love with the young shepherd Endymion. Zeus jinxed him into eternal sleep because we was jealous, but Selene visitied him every night and they produced 50 children!!
Combing both destinations makes for a lovely, peaceful and at the same time interesting day trip from Bodrum, Didim or Kusadasi. Don’t miss it if you have a chance.
Written by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte for EuropeUpClose.com