Let us rewind our time & go back in the history in this post, precisely 10th Century BC when Ephesus was built. Yeah it’s that old! Located in Selçuk in İzmir province of Turkey, it’s one of the most visited archaeological site and is also added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites! Every year lot’s of people from different parts of the world visit these ruins and are awed by the stories behind this astounding architecture. I know you must be thinking about why any city which is apparently in ruins would be termed as a UNESCO World Heritage site? There has to be something interesting about this place to be added in this list. Well, yes there are plenty of interesting stories about Ephesus and I’ll try to walk you through some of them.
This ancient city was initially built & ruled by the Greeks, however Persian, Roman, Byzantine and even Ottoman empires followed suit and ruled this city over centuries. Hence, it wouldn’t be wrong if you call this ancient city as the mixture of empires. Also, Ephesus was responsible for spread of early Christianity. This is also mentioned in The Bible and I think Virgin Mary had lived here for some years.
If you enter Ephesus today, you’ll be shocked to know that approx 2,00,000 people used to live in an otherwise small city. This is because some of the ruins are still not found or excavated, hence giving the perception that it is a small city. But in reality it was huge! During those times, Ephesus was an important port & a major center for trade & commerce as it was located right on the shoreline. But you’ll be surprised to know that in modern times it takes about an hour to the nearest shoreline. So how did things change? All this happened due to the natural process over centuries i.e geographical changes. Well these are some of the important stories about this ancient city. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? But if you dig further I’m sure you’ll find a plethora of stories. Make sure to share them with me.
Early in the morning we started our journey by train from Izmir. Initially, the plan was to have breakfast on reaching Selcuk. However, we ate our breakfast in the train itself when a seller started selling bagels for as cheap as 1 Turkish lira. On reaching Selcuk & on the way to the bus station, we came across a local street market full of fruits, vegetables and spices. The market was so similar to that of an Indian market, I felt homesick. My friend, who is a hardcore fruit eater, wanted to stay in the Market & drop the plan to go to Ephesus. But as we were about to come back in the same way, we decided to come back in the market later.
As we had reached early in the morning, we got inside the ancient city quickly and without much hassle. There were very few people and we literally had the place to ourselves. It was difficult to believe that this place was once an important trade center in ancient times. Most of the part were in ruins. Honestly, I felt this place to be a bit over-priced, but later read somewhere that Ephesus is the most visited archaeological site in Turkey, so obviously it wouldn’t have been cheap (sigh!).
After spending about 1.5 hours inside we started moving towards the exit. Since the entry and the exit spot is the same, we saw a long line outside the ticket counter for entry inside this ancient city. That is when we realized that we made the right decision to come early. Also, just like any other touristic spot, there were plenty of shops trying to sell the high-priced souvenir outside. We somehow tackled them all before they could stick the souvenirs right on our face and left for the bus stop. The bus arrived in 10 minutes and in no time we were in Selcuk market again for lunch. We spent another hour in the market eating lunch & my friend buying things. After which we left again for Izmir city.
How safe is Ephesus?
Very safe. Just like any other archaeological site should be. This place is located on the south-west part of Turkey, away from the borders and near to the Aegean Coast. As I had mentioned earlier, every year thousands of people visit this site. Safety should definitely be the last thing you need to be worried about.
How to get to Ephesus?
There are plenty of ways to reach Ephesus. You can go there by train, bus, car etc.
BY BUS: To reach Ephesus by bus, you need to reach Selcuk Otogar (bus station), as the nearest town is Selcuk. Many long distance buses arrive at Selcuk Otogar from different cities of Turkey. There are plenty of mini-buses leaving for Ephesus from time-to-time from Selcuk Otogar. The mini bus will drop you right outside the entrance of this archaeological site. Make sure to check the bus timings & details on Kamil Koc
BY TRAIN: The best & the most efficient way is to reach by train from Izmir. Ephesus can be explored in just a half a day from Izmir. To reach here one needs to take a train from Izmir Basmane station up to the Selcuk train station. Take either Izmir-Denizli, Izmir- Nazilli or Izmir-soke train. The train journey will last for 1.5 hours. From Selcuk train station, the Otogar is just a 10 minute walk, from where several mini-buses depart from time-to-time till the entrance of Ephesus.
BY PLANE: The nearest airport is the Izmir airport. If you are flying to Izmir, then right outside the airport there is a train station from where you can find a train to Selcuk station. From Selcuk train station, the Otogar is just a 10 minute walk, from where several mini-buses depart from time-to-time till the entrance of Ephesus.
Where to stay?
Most of the people stay in Selcuk as it is very near to the ruins. However, there aren’t many things to do in Selcuk as compared to Izmir. What I did was, I stayed in Izmir & went on half a day trip to Ephesus.
Mid-budget: Movenpick Hotel Izmir
If you wish to check out some more options, then you can do so here: Accommodation in Izmir
How much does it cost?
ACCOMMODATION: Depending upon your budget, the cost of accommodation will be higher or lower. However the basic cost of accommodation starts from 20-25 US dollars. Free WiFi is available and some hostels & hotels even offer free breakfast. The price of the accommodation changes during peak seasons.
FOOD: The food costs around Ephesus is around 5-10 Dollars. Make sure to eat in the Selcuk market for great prices and authenticity.
TRANSPORTATION: The cost from Selcuk bus station to Ephesus is 1-2 Dollars or 3 Turkish Lira, and is located at a distance of 10 minutes (one way). The cost of arriving by train from Basmane train station to Selcuk is 8 Turkish Lira or 2-3 US Dollars.
ACTIVITIES: The entrance cost to the ancient city is 40 Turkish Liras, which is 11.5 US Dollars. Entrance to the temple of Artemis is free of charge. Entrance to the House of Mary costs 25 Turkish Lira, which is 7 US Dollars (approx). All the cost mentioned above are per person.
The ancient city is open everyday from 8 am – 6.30 pm. If you wish to have the place all to yourself then early morning between 8-9 am would be the ideal time. There is no rush in the morning hours & only a handful of people are exploring the area. However, on certain days or events the timings may differ. Make sure to check the timings on their website before heading out.
To sum up, Ephesus is a great historic site to visit if you are a history lover (like me!). There are plenty of interesting stories associated with this place. However in my opinion it’s a bit over-priced. If you are not much into history & have less number of days in hand, then it would be no harm to miss this place altogether.
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