Castle of the Week 104 – Citadel of Küçük Ada, Kuşadası, Turkey

Citadel of Kucuk Ada
Kusadasi as seen from the Citadel

The city of Kuşadası (Bird Island) is located on the southwest coast of Turkey, on the Aegean Sea, 90 km from Izmir and 18 km from Ephesus. The area surrounding Kuşadası was first settled around 3000 BC by the Lelegians and Carians. The land was fertile for growing grapes, olives and figs. Its harbor made it an important part of trade routes, and became even more valuable when nearby Ephesus’s harbor was no longer usable due to the course of the Caystros River changing. With such a desirable location, Kuşadası underwent many invasions and changes in dominating forces through the years, among them the Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Genoese, Venetians, and Ottomans.

causeway to the island

Just off the coast of the city is Pigeon Island (Güvercin Ada, also known as Küçük Ada or Little Island), which is now connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. A stone citadel was built on Pigeon Island during the Byzantine Empire. The Citadel has a keep at the top of the hill, giving it an unobstructed view for quite a distance, two towers, and a single gate. During the revolution of Thomas the Slav (820-823) against the emperor, one of his lieutenants, Zacharias, was captured and imprisoned on the island.

main keep

The Citadel was used as a defensive outpost through the years, protecting Kuşadası against invading forces and pirates from the sea (for which it also acquired the name Pirate Island). Ironically, legend has it that during the 1500s the island was used by Kheir-ed-din Barbarossa (Ottoman admiral and privateer, or pirate, depending on point of view) as a base from which to operate through the Mediterranean Sea, and also as a place to stash his treasure.


During the Mora Uprising in the first half of the 1800s the Ottomans fortified the Citadel and used it as protection against attacks from forces gathered on other islands. Some of the cannon remain today, though they are no longer mounted.

aviary with birdhouses

Today the Citadel of Küçük Ada is host to a lighthouse, a restaurant, and a nightclub, and is a popular local hang-out. There is an aviary with several birdhouses, and with migrating birds still descending on the island, it is a great place to birdwatch. The island is also popular with divers, for the rocks scattered nearby in the sea give sanctuary to stingrays, sponges, morays, sea turtles, and octopi.

steps on the grounds
Citadel with the gate on the right

Write-up and pictures by Kester.

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