In ancient times Lake Bafa was open to the sea and was known as the Gulf of Latmos. On the entrance of the gulf was Miletus in the south and Priene in the north. Within the gulf was the small Carian city Herakleia.

The gulf was an important place for marble, e.g. the marble for the Apollo Temple in Didyma was quarried here.

With time silt from the Meander River cut the gulf off from the sea and also silted up the harbors of Miletus and Priene. This brought about the end of these important Hellenistic cities and also influenced changes in history.

But the silence of the Lake attracted monks who came and built their monasteries there. From the 9th century AD to the 13th century AD they built eleven monasteries around the Lake and it became an important place for Byzantine culture.