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Escorted Rail Tours to Izmir

A fascinating Aegean port

With a population of more than four million, Izmir is the third most populous city of Turkey and the country's largest port after Istanbul. It is the capital of the surrounding Izmir Province, located along the outlying waters of the Gulf of Izmir, by the Aegean Sea. The history of the city is believed to possibly date back to about 3000BC, when the Trojans founded a settlement in what is now the Izmir Province. It is also believed to be the birthplace of the ancient poet Homer.

By the 6th century BC the first Greek settlers had certainly settled in the city (which was then called Smyrna), though it had been destroyed by the time of Alexander the Great's arrival in 334BC. After Alexander the Great's death, his generals restored the city, which then thrived as a major commercial port. In 1415 Mehmet I incorporated Smyrna into the Ottoman Empire, and from then the city expanded even further as a sophisticated city and a huge trading centre.

Not long after this the city gained its current name of Izmir. Little changed in the city until the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. Following World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the Allied Forces granted a mandate allowing Greece to govern Izmir. This was poorly received and short-lived, and Izmir became part of Turkey in 1922.

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Izmir today

Now Izmir is a modern, developed, and busy commercial centre, set around a huge bay and surrounded by mountains. With its broad boulevards, glass-fronted buildings and modern shopping centres, as well as its clutch of old mosques and churches, Izmir has a distinct atmosphere of Mediterranean Europe mixed with one of traditional Turkey.

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