The ancient Greek city of Priene represents the best-preserved Hellenistic townscape in Ionia, without any of the usual Roman or Byzantine additions. It also occupies perhaps the finest location of any such city. Perched on a series of pine terraces graded into the south flank of Samsun Dağı, this compact but exquisite site enjoys a situation to bear comparison with that of Delphi in Greece. Despite all this, and the fact that it’s just 35km south of Kuşadası, Priene remains far less visited than Ephesus – even in summer, you’ll largely have this wonderful place to yourself.
Visitors to Priene who are dropped by dolmuş at the western edge of the strung-out village of Güllübahçe face an uphill walk to the site ticket office, and then another good steep walk up the hill to the northeast gate into the city itself. Beyond that, the ruins are strewn over a wide area, and all major points of interest have English-language information boards.
The town was set up along a grid pattern made up of various insulae (rectangular units), each measuring roughly 42m by 35m. Within each rectangle stood four private dwellings; a public building had its own insula, sometimes two.
The original settlement of Priene lay elsewhere in the Meander basin. Following the receding shoreline, however – now just visible to the west – its inhabitants re-founded the city on its present site during the fourth century BC, just in time for Alexander to stop in and finance the cost of the principal temple of Athena. However, the city enjoyed little patronage from Roman or Byzantine emperors – which, of course, adds to its modern-day appeal.