Last week, my friend from Hong Kong came to visit me in Istanbul for 5 days. Istanbul is a big city with a rich history so 5 days was definitely not enough to see the whole city especially considering she wanted to visit this city in the Southwest Turkey, Ephesus (Efes). So for the Ephesus trip, we had to squeeze it into one day.
For those that don’t know, Ephesus was an ancient Greek city built in 10th century BC. Many empires would end up ruling over the city (Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman) but regardless of all the change, it remained one of the most vibrant metropolises of the ancient world and to this day remains a popular touristic destination for its ability to take you back in time and make you imagine what it might have been like to live in those times.
One of the quickest ways to go to Ephesus is to take a one-hour flight from Istanbul to Izmir, the third most populous city in Turkey, then take the bus or taxi or minibus to go to Selçuk, it will be another hour. Besides taking the flight, travelers can also go by the train from Istanbul to Izmir, the price will be cheaper and you can enjoy the views along the journey, but it will take 9 hours to bring you there.
Because we just planned for a day trip, we chose the fastest way, by plane. I booked 2 tickets to fly with AtlasGlobal from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport to Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport one week before my friend actual arrival in Turkey. The reason I chose to fly with Atlas was not about the fare, the fare was even a bit more expensive compared to the other airlines. However, after considering the transportation we have to take from Izmir Airport to Selçuk, Atlas provides the free shuttle bus transfer from the airport to Selçuk. For us, it will be easier and convenient as we don’t have to worry about finding the right bus in Izmir or being ripped off by a taxi.
So, let’s go!
Welcome on board!
The weather was gloomy with a bit of rain in Istanbul.
But, Voila! Just a short trip, Turkey became bright and sunny! (Photo at Izmir)
Free Shuttle Bus
Once you step out of the airport, turn left.
You will see some red and white buses from far.
They have the sign at the front window, so, make sure you get on the right bus.
Scenery on the way to Selçuk.
This was the drop off point of the bus.
On Atlasglobal website, it said the bus will stop in front of the hospital. But this time the bus stopped right opposite the pick up point- Cemal Öz Kaynak Parkı and the hospital was actually next to the park.
It was almost noon when we arrived in Selçuk, so, the first thing for us to do was to look for the food!
Selçuk is a small but beautiful town, however, if people want to spend 2D1N trip in Ephesus, normally they will stay in the town called Şirince, which is 9Km from Selçuk. But recently, I became friend with a Hong Kong girl, she and her husband are running a villa in Selçuk, Villa Dreams. If you are planning a trip to Ephesus for more than a day, it would be your good accommodation choice.
We walked around the area that the bus dropped us off. we saw this restaurant just 5 minutes walk from the bus drop-off point, opposite the hospital, but it had no customers and it seemed like it might be a tourist”rip-off” restaurant, we hesitated to go in. But at the end, we couldn’t find another restaurant and we were in a rush to go to Ephesus , so it was the only option for us.
But I was wrong. It wasn’t any tourist”rip-off” restaurant, I would say the price was reasonable in a touristic area, and the staff were super nice. We only ordered the meat ball and chicken skewers but they offered the free fresh salad, pickle, jalapeno and grilled onion. The food was tasty! At the end, they wanted to treat us to some free tea or coffee, but we were kind of in a hurry, so had to reject their kindness.
Because we just had about 5-6 hours to visit Ephesus, there were 3 main places we wanted to visit in this trip: the Ephesus Ancient City, the House of Virgin Mary and the Temple of Artemis. We planned to take the mini bus to go to the Ephesus Ancient City first, followed by a taxi to the House of Virgin Mary and the Temple of Artemis will be the last stop as it is close to the airport bus pick-up point.
The mini-bus stop was right opposite the restaurant. When we were in the half way to the counter to ask for the mini-bus ticket information, we were stopped by a grey hair guy, and he was selling us this taxi package:
1) First, the taxi driver will drive us to the House of Virgin Mary (8km from Selçuk), then he will wait for us at the gate for 30 minutes.
2) Then, after the House of Virgin Mary, the driver will take us to the east gate of the Ephesus Ancient City (3km from Selçuk), then he will wait for us 1.5 hours at the other gate (the Ancient City is about 1.5km long).
The total price was 100 TL for 2 people. (Not included the entrance fees)
**Entrance price: House of Virgin Mary 25TL/ person; Ephesus Ancient City 40TL/person
We were not sure about the mini-bus ticket price, but under this tight time schedule and hot weather, the deal seemed fine for us. Because I had no chance to ask for the mini-bus ticket price, I am sorry that I can’t share that information here.
House of Virgin Mary
The way to the House of Virgin Mary.
House of Virgin Mary
The House of Virgin Mary wasn’t a big area, 30 minutes was enough for us but some visitors may like to sit under the trees and enjoy the surrounding peace.
Next, was the ruins.
Ephesus Ancient City
The East Gate of the Ephesus Ancient City
You can rent an audio guide at 20TL.
This was the first spot in front of us after the entrance–Varius Baths of Ephesus.
The State Agora of Ephesus
The Market Basilica
Odeion of Ancient Ephesus
Memmius Monument Ephesus
The Temple of Hadrian in Ephesus
Nike, Winged Goddess of Victory
Ephesus Curetes Street
The Trajan Fountain of Ephesus
The Library of Celsus Ephesus
The Marble Street of Ephesus
The Great Theater of Ephesus
This was the end of the Ephesus Ancient City.
There were some souvenirs stores and restaurants outside the gate of the Ephesus Ancient City .
After walking under the sun for 1.5 hours, what we needed was a glass of iced lemonade!!
Temple of Artemis
Temple of Artemis is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world. This is the only place in the world, you can see a Temple, Mosque and Church in the same angle.
The original taxi package didn’t include the Temple of Artemis, but the location of the temple was very close to the taxi/minibus station, so we asked the taxi driver if he could drop us off at the temple and we would walk back to the town ourselves. (It was about 650m, 8 minutes walk from the minibus station.) The taxi driver was nice and said no problem to take us there.
The mosque was located behind the bushes at the back. (Can you see? )
This is the Mosque. We had to climb up to a small path to take a close up picture.
On the way back to the town, we saw these calm little goats taking a siesta.
At the end, we spent about 4 hours to visit the 3 main attractions we planned. We still had about 2 hours to walk around in this little town, Selçuk, before the airport bus.
For the Atlas airport bus pick-up, passengers need to be at the pick-up point 2 hours before the flight departure time.
Opposite was the drop-off point.
Our flight was at 8:45pm, and we arrived in Istanbul at 10pm.
Overall it was a memorable trip and even though we could not visit all the historical attractions, the parts that we did see gave us a great glimpse into the wonderful history that is buried within this region.