Called Didim in Turkish, this was the site of a stupendous temple to Apollo, occupied by an oracle as important as the one at Delphi. The ruins you see today belong to a temple started in the late 4th century. This replaced the original temple, which was destroyed in 494 BC by the Persians, and a later construction which was completed under Alexander the Great.
The Temple of Apollo was never finished, though its oracle and priests were hard at work until, after 1400 years of soothsaying, Christianity became the state religion of the Byzantines and brought an end to pagan practices.
Ancient Didyma was never a real town. Only the priests who specialised in oracular temple management lived here. Originally from Delphi, they had a pretty cushy life, sitting on the considerable temple treasure.
When you approach Didyma today, you come into the town of Yen i hisar, which has grown phenomenally in the last few years to engulf both Altınkum, the beach to the south, and Didim, formerly the Ottoman-Greek town of Yeronda. It's a popular place with tour groups, and carpet shops gush forth touts at the approach of each new bus.
Temple of Apollon, Apollon Temple
Didyma Claros Apollon Temple
The temple porch held 120 riuge columns with richly carved bases vaguely reminiscent of Luxor in Egypt. Behind the porch is a great doonvay where oracular poems were written and presented to petitioners. Beyond the doonvay is the cella (court), where the oracle sat and prophesied after drinking from the sacred spring. We can only speculate on what that water contained to make the prophesies possible. The cella is reached today by covered ramps on both sides of the porch.
Didyma Hotels, Didyma House (Places to Stay & Eat)
There are two good pensions beside the temple. The 10 room Oracle Pension (256-811 0270) is perched above the temple precinct to the south, with close-up views of the marble pile.
Just around the corner from the temple, on the Altınkum road, Medusa House (256-813 4491) is a pretty restored stone village house with lovely gardens. Inviting rooms cost US$40 a double, breakfast included. Al-though it's only steps from the temple, it has no temple view and noise from the road could be annoying.
The vast restaurants across the road from the temple entrance are geared up for the tourist trade, with prices to match.
Altınkum Beach, Altinkum Loves
About 4km south of Didyma through the town of Yenihisar is Altınkum (Golden Sand) Beach, a resort visited mostly by Turkish families who patronise a typical assortment of restaurants, pensions and hotels rated from no stars to three stars. Most accommodation - and especially the cheapest - is booked solid in summer, and the sand is so strewn with cigarette butts that you hesitate to walk on it. At a pinch, go west from the access road and look at the pensions a block inland from the beach. A berter plan is to forget Altınkum unless you come during the low season.
If you start early in the morning from Kuşadası or Selçuk, you can get to Priene, Miletus and Didyma by dolmuş and return to your base at night. If you have a car, you can see ali three sites, have a swim and be back by mid-afternoon.