Are you looking for a summer day trip but want something out of the usual summer sun and sea? Doğanbey is a perfect option and cultural experience as well.
Doğanbey… I had never heard of it before the international women’s group I belong to decided to take a day trip there. It’s totally not surprising that I have never been before though. Being a foreigner and newcomer to Izmir, I have a LOT learn about the beautiful southwest coastline of Turkey.
An adventurous group of local and expat ladies loaded up in a hired mini bus at 9 am and made the 2+ hour drive from Izmir to the little town of Doğanbey. I will cover the history, what to see, the stone houses, and other various info below!
History of Doğanbey
Doğanbey Village dates back to the late 9th century. The first name of the Doğanbey village was Domatia (orDomatça), which means ‘rooms’ in Greek and comes from the name of the square shaped courtyard. Domatça eventually became Doğanbey and then Old Doğanbey and is settled in the district of Söke near Aydin.
The last Ottoman Sultan, Abdülhamit Han, re-established this area as a commercial center on top of the ruins of the Aegean islands. There was a lot of trade between the areas of Greek, Cyprus, Crete, and Samos . During WWI, there was a lot of fighting between the Greeks, that sided with the Brits, and the Turkish militia. It is said there are still empty cartridges from those days that can be found in the area. When the Turkish army entered Izmir in 1922, the Greek Cypriots abandoned it. There are only a few families left.
In 1924 during the great Turk/Greek exchange, Turkish citizens from the larger Ottoman Empire, which reached into Bosnia and Thessaloniki, were brought in to settle here. From many other ruins I have seen, it seems the Greeks enjoyed settling inland into the hills while the Turks prefered to be on the flat lands or closer to the seaside. With Doğanbey it is no different, the people literally settled in the middle of a mountain surrounded by serenity and nature.
The Turks abandoned the mountainous, stony, barren, and windy area of Doğanbey and established Yeni Doğanbey near flat area by the farming fields. Eventually, the villagers began to sell ruinous houses that were too much trouble to repair. The lecturers, artists, and architects from Istanbul bought many of the ruins of Greek houses and have lovingly restored the village. There has been a great effort to retain the education and historical significance of this place with the public schools, the German dignitaries, the writers, the artists, and the collectors.
The town is for the artist and architects who bought the ruins of the Greek houses at reasonable prices and carefully and lovingly restored them. Together they are like one big family as they organize, plant flowers, and beautify the area. They want to set an example to others who also want to restore other older historical areas.
This tiny little town is not searching for tourists or money and ironically enough, they have no desire to commercialize. Even some residents do not want people to flock to the streets to take photographs of the cobbled pathways of the homes. Signs are hung on the window reading “Please respect our private property with silence and do not take photos.” (which makes me love the town even more!)
What to see
In the middle of this quaintness is a costume museum which features carefully preserved Ottoman and Turkish dresses. As part of our pre-arranged day tour, the costume museum directors Nevzat Bey and Emel Hanim greeted us kindly and sincerely. Their home has the second largest collection of Ottoman clothes in Turkey.
Having once moved from country to country for work, his wife would organize Turkish Fashion shows for locals. She personally shared how she started and organized the shows. Since our group was much larger than the museum could accommodate, we took turns listening to the history of the city given by the Nevzat Bey, and the history of the costume show given by his wife, Emel Hanım.
While some of us were touring the museum, others explored the village. In the heart of the area, there are 2 small cobblestone paved streets which are too small to be called a village anyway. If you need a break from touring around, there are a couple of cafes. While I didn’t personally have time to try them, the Mola Cafe and has been recommended to me. There is a guesthouse (Mola Pension) and two boutique hotels (Domaça House and Casa Luna) as well.
All Greek houses are under SIT board protection and can only be restored to the board’s standards. The goal is to preserve the historic nature and style. Each of the gardens is very well-kept and tasteful with cactuses, colorful flowers, fruit trees and pines, and historical artifacts. In the middle of the cobbled streets there are channels for rainwater to escape downhill.
Since our group of ladies were headed to the seaside for lunch, we toured the town by foot for the time we had, and then headed on to Karine Restaurant. The restaurant had organized a fix menu of mezes (appetizers), fish, dessert, and tea. After lunch we headed back to Izmir, but not without a quick stop by the ancient city of Priene.
How to get there:
By car, follow İzmir-Aydın motorway (E87) to the exit of Söke. From Söke, go towards Didim-Milas-Bodrum. You will continue towards Güllübahçe and onward to Didim. Follow the signs indicating Tuzburgazı-Doğanbey and eventually Tuzburgazı, you will see the sign for Doğanbey. After 5 more km, you will reach Doğanbey Köyü.
Doğanbey Köyü step by step: (Our 20+ group rented a minibus from Izmir)
- Minibus (2ish hours)
- Old Doğanbey Houses
- Costume Museum
- (If time, check out a local cafe)
- Bus to the restaurant
- Karine Restaurant
- Priene Ruins
- Minibus return (2ish hours)
Hotel/Guesthouse recommendation: (I have not stayed here.)
- Mira Cafe & Pension
- Casa Luna Guest House
For those who are tired of city and beach and for those who want to experience the nature and calmness, this is your place! It forces you to stop and be still – take a walk or a restful hike, breath in the fresh air, read a book, sleep in, rest and recharge. The village practically draws you to take a break from the rest of the world with its offers of simplicity and charm.
Questions for our readers:
Have you been to Doğanbey? What did you think?
Do you have any suggestions for this visit?
What other interesting facts do you know about this area?