Winter travel in Turkey is cheaper, has less crowds, and is good fun. However, one problem is the cold. It sort of ruins idea of swimming. Kusadasi has an incredibly bad or good reputation, depending on who you speak with.
With a population of only around 50,000, this resort town gets snubbed all the time for being a true tourism whore. It has fancy package hotels, aggressive touts, and everything travelers like me try to avoid. For such a small town it has number of bars and restaurants with a fairly diverse cuisine. It’s a place for Greek tourists and young Turkish college students to go in the summer and get fucked up. It’s also popular with German’s, Russian’s, and older Brits. Kusadasi is a plce you can order pork bacon for breakfast – in Muslim Turkey! The beach in summer is too packed, the bars are rowdy as hell, and I’m told that if you want to get laid in Kusadasi, it’s as easy as buying drinks. That’s the summer.
In the winter? Well, I like it. Uncrowded waterfront, plenty of choices in terms of what to eat (even though more than half the restaurants are closed), and the hotels are seriously discounted and empty. Just a twenty minute dolmush ride from Selcuk, it offers better accommodation options, more food choices, and is still within easy reach of Ephesus, the House of the Virgin Mary, and the Cave of the Seven Sleepers. Not to mention the other attractions in Selcuk.
Kusadasi is pretty without all the tourists there. The Okuz Mehmet Pasa Kervansarayi sits near the ferry terminal looking exotic and beautiful and the old Kaleci district is filled with locals doing their shopping, playing backgammon, or drinking tea. While the beach isn’t amazing, it’s nice. The major attraction, Pigeon Island, aka Guvercin Ada is a small island that is connected by a road to the mainland. On it an ancient fortress is an easy place to walk and enjoy the ambiance and fresh sea air. On the mainland side there is a fairly modern shopping mall complete with Starbucks and then the ferry terminal and a whole host of fish restaurants sitting on the wharf.
The ferry runs from Kusadasi to the Greek Island of Samos for about 35 Euro round trip. The catch though is that you can’t do that in winter. So don’t expect to. That may be the main reason why Kusadasi is such a pleasant ghost town in the colder months.