After ending our trip in Greece, my friends and I made our way down to Turkey. Our first stop was in Izmir because it was the port closest to Chios. From here we were then able to take a day trip to Ephesus. Below is a brief description of our side trip to this ancient Greek city.
What to Do:
Ancient Ephesus. The main thing to do in this city is to go to the ancient ruins. Although we had already seen a lot of the Greek ruins in Greece, we could not resist the chance to see some more of these ruins in Turkey, especially the Celsus Library. In my opinion, this library is the real showstopper and something different than what we saw in Athens. In addition to the library, there are lots of other ruins, including a nice theatre that visitors can walk around. This area is spread out so visitors can easily spend a few hours here walking around seeing everything. We opted to walk around by ourselves, but this might be a place to get a tour guide. There is not a lot of signage so we were mostly just guessing about what we were seeing based on our knowledge of other ruins. For those looking for a more exact history, a tour might be the better way to go. Plan to spend half a day here.
House of the Virgin Mary. This shrine has a rich history and has been blessed by several popes. While we did not visit this area because of time and lack of knowledge beforehand, this is somewhere I would recommend visiting as part of a package trip with the Ephesus ruins. This shrine is located nearby the ruins but not within walking distance. Visitors will need to take a taxi or car to get here. For those going out to Ephesus, seeing everything of import in the same trip makes sense, especially since these can both be done easily in the same day.
This is not really a city for shopping, but like every great tourist site there is a gift shop at the entrance of the ruins. This shop does have some nice items, although most of the items are things that can be found in a wider variety and bargaining prices at the larger bazaars in Istanbul. If visitors are looking for something unique for this area, try buying a photo or informational book here.
What to Eat:
There are two entrances on either side of the Ancient Ephesus site (one uphill and one downhill). And there is a cluster of food shops near both entrances. Visitors can eat here before they begin their visit or after they finish. The food is typical Turkish fare, and the prices are reasonable considering this is a closed tourist spot with limited options. We were only here for half day so we only ate lunch here. I had a durum wrap that was decent. And we got ice cream when we were done walking around to cool off.
Where to Stay:
We did not stay in Ephesus so I cannot recommend the places to stay here. Although visitors can plan to stay here, they likely do not need more than a full day in this town. Visitors can easily make a day trip here from nearby Izmir, which is a larger city, and is what we chose to do. We chose to stay in Izmir because this is where our ferry from Greece dropped us off, and this is where we were getting a bus to Istanbul from. In Izmir we stayed at an Airbnb near Kulturpark. This was a good area in walking distance of a metro stop and near lots of restaurants and shops.
We arrived to Ephesus from Izmir by bus, which is the cheapest option. There are multiple buses that go there from the main bus station in Izmir, but it is a little difficult to find where to go in the station. The people there, however, are very friendly and helpful although their English is limited. We had to ask a few people before we were able to find the right place. Once there we bought a ticket at the window for Selcuk (the bus station in Ephesus) and waited for them to announce our bus. The ride takes 1.5-2 hours. The bus drops visitors off about 3 km from the upper entrance. Do not rely on Google maps, which makes it look like the entrance is a short walk away. This is not accurate as we found out the hard way. Instead, either take a private taxi or a group minibus to the entrance. For those deciding to do more than just the ruins (such as Mary’s house) negotiate with the taxi to go to all sites and back to the bus station. For those just interested in the ruin, just do a drop off. There will be taxis and minibuses at both entrances to take visitors back to the bus station when finished. Selcuk bus station is small so it will be easy to buy a return ticket to Izmir. Again, the bus will be announced when it is ready and there is a small cafe to get drinks while waiting.
I enjoyed our nice day trip to Ephesus. This city has a rich history and even though I had already seen the Greek ruins in Athens, these Greek ruins were something different. We came here in early September so it was not too crowded, but it was still very hot. Definitely bring a bottle of water and stay hydrated. We spent a half day here, but visitors could easily spend a full day. And a day is probably all that is needed to see the highlights. This city is for history buffs and travelers who love seeing ancient ruins.