My Turkish friends always raved about Çeşme.
“Çeşme is better than Bodrum.”
“The sea in Çeşme is beautiful.”
“After you go to Çeşme, you’ll never want to go anywhere else in Turkey.”
After passing through several times on the way to my mother’s village on the Greek island of Chios, just across from Çeşme, I finally decided to see if the hype was real. The first time I passed through was in July 2000 on my way to Izmir. It had grown quite significantly since then, with construction reaching much further inland and the ferry terminal relocated outside of the city center.
While it was a nice detour for a couple hours, I didn’t see what all the hype was about. I was able to check out a few different points of interest in the city before catching my ferry to Chios late in the afternoon. It became obvious my friends were actually referring to neighborhoods in Çeşme and the several tiny resort villages around it – not the city center itself. No complaints, but it was a bit of a letdown.
Çeşme has been known by several different names since ancient times. It was Kísos (Κύσος) and Kríni (Κρήνη) to the ancient Greeks and later Tsesmé (Τσεσμέ) to Ottoman Greeks. It was held by the Genoese for a time before being taken by the Ottomans.
The most obvious site in the city is Çeşme Kalesi. It was originally built by the Genoese in the 15th century and enlarged by the Ottomans. It is now the location of the city museum. Admission is 8TL (as of August 2012).
While the museum is fairly interesting, the castle is nice to visit only for the views. You get sweeping views of the entire city and marina and can see clear across to Chios on a clear day.
In front of the castle is a statue of Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Paşa and his pet lion. He was a great Ottoman admiral and Grand Vizier who fought in the Battle of Çeşme. For a good laugh, knock on the statue. It’s hollow and not made of solid metal as it appears.
On the waterfront, you’ll find a gorgeous marina filled with yachts. There are several private clubs and fancy restaurants surrounding it. The best views are from the castle.
The long seaside walkway is a great place to take a stroll. Along the way you’ll find plenty of cafés and restaurants serving traditional Turkish cuisine.
At the end of the walkway you’ll come to a mediocre beach that’s a bit polluted. The water was nice but the sand was full of garbage. You can find much better beaches in the other villages. The first picture below is looking towards the beach, several people swimming and laying out. The second picture is at the far end of the beach where it’s very rocky and unswimmable.
Çeşme had quite a large Greek population until the 1920s. You can see the remnants of the city’s Greek past by walking inland down the main road near the castle. Several Greek buildings line the road selling souvenirs and other goods. This part of the city was personally interesting to me because my great-grandfather was from Çeşme.
Wander into the streets and alleys off the main road and you’ll find many more of these buildings.
The old 19th century Greek church of Agios Haralambos has been converted into a gallery space. Some of the icon work has been partially restored.
I spent about eight hours in town. With a few extra days, it’s worth checking out the surrounding villages (something I’d like to do when I return to the area). The entire city is walkable and it’s very convenient to get to nearby towns and villages by minibus. I didn’t stay overnight in Çeşme so I can’t recommend any hotels.
Çeşme makes a nice day trip from Chios and is a good stopping off point while waiting for ferries. The international ferry terminal can get you to and from Chios, which is just 45 minutes away (20 minutes by catamaran). Sunrise and Ertürk offer services in the morning and afternoon for about €25. You can buy tickets at the ferry terminal directly or from a ticket office in town.
To get to Çeşme by bus, there are several services from Istanbul. I usually used Metro Turizm. The trip took a good 10 and a half hours and was quite miserable. However, the bus terminal is conveniently located a short walk from both the town and the ferry terminal.
By plane, fly into Izmir’s Adnan Menderes Airport. Havaş runs a seasonal shuttle bus to Çeşme. From the airport, it’s less than a two hour ride. When going back to the airport from Çeşme, make sure you get there early enough to book a ticket. The buses fill up fast!