We’re now in the middle of our Mediterranean cruise. We sailed mostly through Greece, but we did begin and end in Italy, and in the very middle, we had one day in Turkey. David and I had traveled to Turkey before and explored Istanbul and Cappadocia for a week. One day I’ll write about that; it’s still one of the most amazing trips we’ve ever done. This was our first time in Ephesus, however. And I remain convinced that Turkey should be a country on everyone’s list.
Getting to Ephesus from Kusadasi
Ephesus was astonishingly easy to reach. Right at the exit of the port of Kusadasi, we approached an information table where a man gave us a map and directions on where we could catch a minibus. It was an easy 10-15 minute walk toward a roundabout at the center of town, and everyone we asked along the way was super kind and informative. The minibus to Selcuk (signs are on small placards at the front of the bus) cost 6 lira per person (1 USD = about 3 lira) and took about a half hour or so.
At Selcuk, the minibus dropped us off the corner of a major road. There was a sign clearly pointing toward Ephesus, so we just walked up. There are taxis here though offering to take you to the east or upper gate if you like. It was 15 minutes or so of walking to the lower gate, and a horse trail near the end gave us a small shortcut. Just to enter the parking lot by car would’ve cost 10 lira; we might have ended up having to pay that had we come by taxi.
Things to note about Ephesus
It’s 30 lira per person to enter Ephesus. You can use cash or credit, and there are self service machines to buy tickets from.
As soon as you enter, stop by the audio guide booth and rent at least one guide per couple–they are 20 lira each and will require an ID as a deposit, but it’s an excellent investment and I can’t imagine any tour guides having much more to add. Note that if you borrow an audio guide here, you have to come back here to reclaim your ID, which should be fine if you came in through this gate since it’s your way out too.
There are restrooms at both entrances of Ephesus, by the lower gate and at the east gate. There are restaurants and souvenir shops at the lower gate as well.
Things to see in Ephesus
There’s a lot to see in this ancient city and it can certainly take up the whole of your day if you decide to meander and take it slow. We did see everything to our satisfaction in about 3-4 hours. Here are some of the sights.
Church of Mary
This church is known to have hosted the Third Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, during which Mary was officially declared to have been the Mother of Christ. Besides that, it was very interesting to see the excavation still continuing in this area. It’s rare to actually be able to observe archaeologists at work.
The Theater of Ephesus and the Harbor Road
If you walk up along the tree-lined avenue from the entrance, you’ll immediately spot the gigantic theater set into the mountain. 66 rows of stone seats could hold about 25,000 spectators. The acoustics are supposedly so awesome that a trained performer could stand at just the right spot on the stage and project their voice throughout the entire theater. You’ll probably see tourists trying to do the same thing. Even now, famous singers have occasionally performed here.
The beautiful, bright Harbor Road is so named because it once actually led to a harbor. Isn’t that amazing? Due to many factors both natural and human, the city of Ephesus is now about 2 miles from the sea.
Library of Celsus
Oh my. This absolutely wowed me. In a city full of grandeur, their grandest, most beautiful structure is a library! Clearly, we no longer value literature and education in the same way.
The library of Celsus once held 12,000 scrolls, and was the third largest library in ancient times (after Alexandria and Pergamum).
The gate just to the east of the facade led to an agora, or marketplace, thereby showing how closely intertwined this library was to the everyday functions of the city.
The public latrines were pretty fascinating–people didn’t use to have toilets, and pooping was kind of a public activity… you could have regular conversations with your friends and even make business deals while on the potty.
There are two temples whose ruins still stand here: the Temple of Hadrian (the same Hadrian whose arch stands in Athens) and the Temple of Domitian.
You can also see the beauty despite the ruins of the Fountain of Trajan. Like the latrines, fountains were a very important public service in Ephesus and there were many other fountains all around the city.
There’s an Odeon here as well–this theater was specifically for musical performances.
After we had explored Ephesus to our hearts’ content, we returned to Kusadasi the same way we came–walked out to the main road, then crossed the street and caught a minibus heading to town.
We grabbed a kind of gyro at a corner shop as we were walking from the bus junction back to the port. It was only 4 lira and David called it a Turkish hamburger–chicken, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mayo. We were very hungry after our exploration, so this was a great and inexpensive meal. We also stopped at Anatolia Sean’s near the mosque for some drinks. David’s Efes was 10 lira each; I got 2 roadrunners for 24 lira.
For souvenirs, we picked up boxes of Turkish delight for 1 euro each, and a magnet for 3 lira. Postcards were 5 per 1 euro.
Ephesus is not to be missed! I think it was my favorite site of the cruise–yes, more than Athens, amazingly. It was just such an easy site to navigate, and there was just enough to fill a day without feeling rushed. What would it have been like in its heyday? It’s so cool to walk through streets that are hundreds of years old, knowing people have been traversing them for millenia.
If you’re deciding what cruise to take, dare I say, try for one that stops in Kusadasi so you can visit the amazing city of Ephesus.