So, you are traveling in Turkey and planning a day in Ephesus into your itinerary. Are you wondering where the best places to go are? There is a lot to do in this small region right outside of Selçuk, Turkey. Read on to find out what to do, where to go, and some tips for traveling in Turkey!
- Ephesus, the Ancient City
- The House of Virgin Mary
- Seven Sleepers Cave
- Şirince, a small Turkish village
Ephesus is an ancient city located in Turkey sprawling with ruins from thousands of years ago, built by various successive empires. It is right outside of Izmir, about 64 kilometres; and people from all over the world come to see it, roughly 1.5 million annually! Ephesus (Efes in Turkish) is an especially notable place for Christianity, since many of the early Christians visited there and it is where Jesus’s mother Mary was said to have retired. The book of Ephesians is written by the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Ephesus. The latest excavations of Ephesus were carried out beginning in the 1950’s, where major structures built during the Roman Empire were uncovered. Once upon a time, the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, stood on this ground, but now very little remains.
There are two entrances, the “top entrance” and the “bottom entrance.” If you are going by car to Ephesus, rather than a group tour, you can park at the bottom entrance and taxi up to the top for a mere 20 Turkish Liras. This will save you a lot of time, so you don’t have to walk through twice. If you are going with a tour, you are most likely going to be dropped off at the top and the bus will be waiting at the bottom. Entrance tickets (as of summer 2018) are 40 TL.
*Turkey Travel Tip: If you are going to be visiting Turkey for an extended period of time and visiting many museums or the Seven Churches of Revelation; then I recommend buying the “Museum Pass Turkiye,” because in the end it will save you a lot of money. If you are an expat resident living in Turkey (like me!) then I recommend buying a Muzekart for 50 TL.
One must-see are the Terrace Houses within the city of Ephesus. The entrance is an additional 20 TL, and it is certainly worth seeing. The Terrace Houses are ancient luxurious villas that showcase beautiful mosaics and allow you to imagine what life might have looked like for the wealthy in the ancient world.
Two other beautiful features include the Library of Celsus, a large intricate structure built in 117 A.D., which was able to house 12,000 scrolls; and the Temple of Hadrian, one of the best-preserved structures in Ephesus.
There are two amphitheaters; the Theatre Gymnasium and the Great Theatre. Both are incredible structures and if you visit, you should test out the echo capabilities of both. There is so much more to see, learn and explore in Ephesus, but I don’t want to give it all away! It is for anyone who wants to peek into the ancient world and walk along the ruins.
*Turkey Travel Tip: Summertime in Turkey is hot, so I recommend going on this adventure sometime between May-June, or Sept-October to avoid the worst of the heat. If you must go during summer months, go early in the morning! There are practically no shaded areas in Ephesus so wear sunscreen or take a tip from your Asian friend’s mom and bring an umbrella. The marble pavement is all white so that sun can be vicious. I was suh-weat-ing before noon.
The House of Virgin Mary
The House of Virgin Mary is very close to Ephesus, located up the Bulbul mountain about 9 kilometers away. It is said this is the location where Mary spent her last days, and there is a shrine to her built there. It is a small structure built according to typical Roman architecture (i.e. made entirely of stone). Many Christians and Muslims visit this site, as Mary is an important figure in both religions. The premises are well kempt and beautiful, with a few cafes and a restaurant for any travelers who want to rest or have a bit to eat. We paid 30 TL for our entrance and parking. Unfortunately, our museum pass didn’t work here; but that is because it is not a museum. The site still functions under the Catholic church.
There is a legend that during early 250 A.D. seven Christian men were walled into a cave space because they refused to renounce Christianity. They slept for over 100 years. When they awoke, they didn’t realize any time had passed. They tried to use their money from 100 years before, and people were shocked to see such coins. Many people thought it was miraculous that these men slept for 100 years. Crazy story, right?! The cave is up on a small mountain side, just a few kilometers passed Ephesus’ bottom entrance.
This is also a great location to stop for a bite to eat at Yavuz’un Yeri (Yavuz’s Restaurant). It is a quant restaurant with great authentic Turkish food for a very reasonable price. My husband ordered menemen (sort of pronounced like ‘many-men’), which is a type of egg, tomato, onion, and pepper dish. It is delicious! I ordered something called “çöp şiş” which is a type of skewer and a taste special to the Aegean region. There are different types of meat choices, but mine was lamb.
Şirince is a Turkish village about 20 minutes away from Ephesus by car. The drive up the mountain is on a windy, narrow road, but the view is beautiful and green. Parking is on the left when you first enter the village. Don’t miss that turn, because the streets are narrow, and it is very challenging to turn around.
This small village has become quite the hub for tourists in recent years and it is busiest during the summer. There are tons of small shops and merchants selling their goods. You can find authentic village products like spices, olive oil, soaps, jam, various nuts, dresses and shirts. Şirince is also known for their fruit wine, which I am not personally a huge fan of (red wine for life), but you can sample various flavors for free! Flavors usually include peach, pomegranate, cherry, blackberry and grape. There are also red and wine whites available to try and purchase.
My favorite part of Şirince’s local flavor is their Turkish coffee that they cook over hot sand. If you see “kumda kahve,” that means that location serves Turkish coffee cooked over hot sand (kum means sand). Turks enjoy Turkish coffee at all times of the day, sometimes even multiple times a day! My husband’s family often drinks Turkish coffee right before going to bed…
*Turkish Travel Tip: When you order Turkish coffee, there are three different options: sade (plain, no sugar; pronounced ‘saw-day’), orta (medium sugar), or şekerli (lots of sugar; ş is the ‘sh’ noise in English). If you are interested in a video on how to order Turkish coffee like a local, let me know in the comments below!
Şirince is crowded on their main streets with all of the shops, but if you can escape to the outer parts of the village there is some peace and quiet. You can get a feel for what village life in Turkey is really like off the main roads. They are also great spots to take some cool pictures!
*Turkey Travel Tip: Don’t be alarmed by all the stray cats. They are well loved and cared for, as you’ll notice by all the cat food and water left out for them.
There are all kinds of fresh squeezed juices, ice cream and gözleme available to try in Şirince. Basically, you will eat and drink your way through the village! Who doesn’t love that? You can also grab a little keepsake like a magnet or keychain at the small shops.
These four locations will most likely take up your entire day, so start early and take a few breaks! If you find you still have more time and energy left to adventure, you can check out Isa Bey Camii (Isa Bey Mosque) in Selçuk. It is an incredible piece of architecture. We didn’t get the chance to see it, but I hope to visit it another time!
Have you ever traveled to Ephesus before? Let me know what you liked!
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