The ancient city of Ephesus (or Efes) has to be one of the best archaeological sites in Turkey. These well-preserved ruins of a once-bustling civilisation give you an amazing insight into what life was once like in a bustling metropolis. During this blog post, I will show you how to take an Ephesus tour and share everything you need to know to visit Ephesus, and have an unforgettable time doing so.
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Why visit Ephesus
A walk through Ephesus is like a walk back in time, giving visitors an insight into what living in an ancient city was like, and how that city may have looked. As a Greek and Roman settlement in what is now modern Turkey, Ephesus was once at the forefront of civilisation.
Seeing the incredibly preserved ruins of the former city sparks awe, particularly when viewing the impressive amphitheatre and remains of the intricately carved Celsus Library, which held one of the largest collection of books in the ancient world.
Why take an Ephesus tour?
For sights with a lot of history such Ephesus I always recommend taking a tour with a knowledgeable guide to get the most out of your visit.
Of course, you can go independently to the sight and do plenty of research, but there’s something so special about being shown around by someone who knows the site like the back of their hand and can recall interesting and entertaining historical anecdotes to bring what you see in front of you to life.
Ephesus was one of the highlights during my time travelling to Turkey, and during this post, I’m sure you’ll discover why.
Where is Ephesus located?
Ephesus is located on the sunny west coast of Turkey near the port city of Kusadasi. The remains of Ephesus sit in the modern-day town of Selcuk.
How to get to Ephesus?
If you decide not to take a tour at all or one that includes transport, getting to Ephesus is still pretty straight forward.
From Izmir to Ephesus
Ephesus is easily reached by Izmir.
You can reach Ephesus by train, by taking the train from Basmane railway station. Take the train from Izmir to Selcuk, which is just 2.5 miles from the archaeological site.
These trains depart roughly every hour and cost 7.50 lira.
Once you have arrived in Selcuk, You need to walk 5 minutes to the bus station and take a local Turkish taxi bus called a dolmus.
At the bus stop, you may need to ask someone to point you in the direction of the bus. If the person you approach doesnt speak English, just as for Efes dolmus? Efes is the Turkish name for Ephesus.
The bus will cost just 3.5 liras and the ride will take just 5 minutes.
Listen closely for your stop, as the bus driver will loudly shout Efes.
Kusadasi to Ephesus
To get to Ephesus for Kusadasi you can take a dolmus to Selcuk in a journey that takes roughly 30 minutes.
The bus from Kusadasi to Selcuk will cost 11 liras. It is then a 10 to 15-minute walk to Ephesus from where the bus will drop you.
Best time to visit Ephesus
Luckily Turkey has gorgeous weather throughout the year so you won’t be limited to just visiting in the summer period. To beat the crowds coming in from nearby cruise ship port Kusadasi, it is advisable to visit off-peak.
Therefore, consider planning your trip to Ephesus in Spring, between March and mid-June. The days are long and the weather is nice and warm, but not too hot.
In regards to the best time of day to visit, it’s better to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
The current opening times of Ephesus are:
April – October: 8:00 am – 19:00 pm
November – March: 8:00 am – 17:00 pm
How to choose an Ephesus Tour?
With many options for tours to choose from when visiting Ephesus, here are a few things to consider to help you select the best option depending on your needs.
Here are some things to consider when booking an Ephesus tour:
The cost of your Ephesus tour
A good place to start is your price point. Are you a budget traveller looking for the cheapest tour to explore the site? Then a budget group tour for under £20 will be just what you’re searching for.
If you have more money in your budget, then perhaps consider a tour that offers something a little bit extra to make your trip even more memorable. One such tour is a private VIP experience with lunch included.
Duration of your Ephesus tour
What’s Included in your Ephesus tour
Next, consider what is included in your tour. Are you looking for an option with lunch?
There may be extras you want to make sure are part of your tours such as stops at the House of Virgin Mary and the temple of Artemis.
There are even options to combine a tour of Ephesus with a visit to the archaeological museum to view finds from the excavations carried out at the sight.
Finding a good tour guide
The quality of the tour guide can make or break the experience of your trip. This is where reading reviews of the tours you are interested in becomes particularly important.
What comments have previous visitors said about the guide. You’re looking for somebody knowledgable, fun and that brings the interesting history of Ephesus to life. Viewing this ancient city is by no means a quick trip. To really make the most of it you want a guide that will take you through the various aspects of what you were seeing in front of you, transporting you back in time.
Choosing a tour through your hotel, cruise ship or independently
You’ll find if you are staying in surrounding areas such as Kusadasi or Izmir, or taking a cruise into Kusadasi, you’ll be recommended a tour through the place you are staying.
There are pros and cons of choosing to follow this option.
Pros include not having to take to organise anything extra yourself, knowing you will have pick-up secured from your accommodation and being able to ask questions of the staff as they will likely have experience with dealing with the providers of the tours.
However, there are also cons. One con is not being able to find the best price as sometimes these tours are pricier than finding your own independent option.
Secondly, you may not have as much flexibility when it comes to selecting the best tour that works for your time, budget and sightseeing desires.
Also sometimes these hotel arranged tours can include unwelcome surprise destinations added to try and upsell certain items to tourists. For example, on my trip to Ephesus, we were made to stop at a diamond workshop/ shop and were encouraged to buy jewellery, which was not something I was at all interested in.
Notable locations of Ephesus – Highlights you will see on your Ephesus Tour
As the sight of Epheusu is so big and encapsulates so many different monuments, remains and areas, below I have included information on a few of the highlights you can expect to see during your tour.
This impressive theatre has seating for over 24,000 and was used to entertain the masses. However, this entrainment didn’t consist of just dramatic performances. It was also a preaching site for the famed St Paul during his visit to Ephesus.
Ephesus library – Celsus Library
This ancient library was known to be one of the most impressive buildings of the roman empire. It stored an eyewatering 12,000 scrolls, making it the third-largest library of the ancient world, being Alexandria in Egypt and Pergamum in Anatolia, Turkey
Interestingly, the library also serves as a mausoleum for Celsus, who was a wealthy and popular senator. The library was built to honour him and was paid for through his personal wealth.
Mazaeus – Mithridates Gate
Situated just to the right of the Library is Mithridates Gate, which gained its name from two free slaves that built this structure. Walking through the gate takes you through to the Agora, which was the commercial heart of the city of Ephesus.
To the left side of the Celsus library, you will see Hadrian’s Gate. This gate marks the end of the marble road, where you can discover what is said to be the oldest advertisement in the world. This advertisement is an image of a foot with a cross, a woman, a heart, a purse, a library, and a hole in the rock on the ground. This advertisement is pointing its way to the ‘private house’ where visitors could ‘buy love’ for the evening.
Here lived some of the wealthiest citizens of Ephesus, an what remains today certainly tells that story. Walking down this great street you will see detailed mosaic floors, fountains and statues that showed how decadent a lifestyle some residents lead.
The public toilets
Dating all the way back to the 1st century, these public toilets had their own drainage system. The downside was people had to pay for the privilege of to using them.
Inside the beautiful temple, you will see copies of a number of friezes, telling the story of how the city was founded. In the curved arch above the temple, Tyche, the goddess of fortune is depicted.
Not only was the Odeon a theatre, but it was also an important location for city politics. This is where the Senate-House, or Bouleterion, met to discuss important city matters.
Thank you for reading this post, guiding you through how to visit and take a tour of Ephesus.
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