The ancient city of Ephesus is a major tourist attraction in Turkey and is high on the list of things to do for travelers. The dazzling temples with marble pillars and colonnades are a history buff’s dream, and there’s plenty more to do in the area once you’ve toured the ruins. Ephesus is located on the outskirts of the lively town of Selçuk, which has long been a favorite stop for independent travellers. With a castle, an excellent museum, a Byzantine basilica and a Roman aqueduct that cuts through the centre, this little town is overshadowed by the huge ruin next door, but there is plenty of sightseeing to do for those who want to spend a few days here .
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Ephesus is one of the main attractions of Turkey. This sprawling and beautiful Greco-Roman city was once home to 250,000 people, and the glorious monuments that indicate it is a vibrant and wealthy metropolis. Ephesus was supposedly founded by the Ionian prince Androclus in the 10th century BC. Ephesus was not only a trading center but also a great pilgrimage site, with the Temple of Artemis built in worship of the mother goddess. During Roman times, the city continued to dazzle and it was only after the Goths destroyed the city in 263 AD that its importance began to decline. Don’t miss the mammoth library (The fourth largest in the ancient world), the well-preserved theaterand the Temple of Hadrian.
Location: 3 kilometers from Selçuk
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Ephesus
2 Ephesus Museum
After visiting Ephesus, head straight to this brilliant museum in the heart of the city. Some of the best finds from the ancient city are on display, including a beautifully carved Artemis statue famous for its multi-tiered depiction of the goddess. However, the highlight of the museum for most tourists is it Gladiator-kamerwith exhibits of the finds from the excavation of the gladiator cemetery and information boards explaining gladiator life in the city’s golden days.
Address: Uǧur Mumcu Sevgi Yolu Street, Selcuk
3 Basilica of St. John
This citadel-like basilica once took up the entire width of the hill it sits on and ranked with the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (now the Aya Sofya) as one of the largest churches of the Byzantine Empire. According to tradition, the tomb of St. John is under the church. Originally a mausoleum with a vaulted roof on four columns was built over the tomb, but Emperor Justinian replaced this simple monument with a three-aisled basilica on a Latin cross plan with six domed roofs. Including the narthex at the western end and the arcaded courtyard, the basilica was 130 meters long and 40 meters wide. After the Seljuks captured Ephesus in 1130, the church was converted into a mosque and later served as a bazaar until it was finally destroyed by an earthquake. Although only partially restored, the remains of the basilica give a good idea of the great size of the original building.
4 Temple of Artemis
Only one lone column (topped by a stork’s nest) is all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Excavations conducted by archaeologist JT Wood here showed that the site was originally occupied by a stone platform on which stood the cult image of the goddess, while below it were spaces where votive offerings were presented. The famous gigantic marble temple of the Seven Wonders celebrity was built in the 6th century BC and had a whopping 127 columns. Although destroyed by fire and other disasters over the centuries, it was restored and rebuilt twice before finally falling into a state of complete destruction in the Byzantine era, when its stones were used as a quarry for building material, including for Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia (now the Aya Sofya), where some of its columns and marble slabs can still be seen.
Address: Off Dr Sabri Yayla Boulevard
5 Virgin Mary
The Meryemana is a major tourist attraction and has a curious history. Tradition holds that the Virgin Mary traveled to Ephesus with Saint John and is said to have died here. The main building dates from the Byzantine era (6th century) but the association with the Virgin did not begin until the 19th century, according to the visions of the German nun, Katharina Emmerich, who accurately described the situation and appearance of a house in Ephesus in which she claimed that the Virgin had lived and died. In 1891, based on this account, a French priest discovered the ruins of a small church, which apparently belonged to a monastery and is now revered as the house of the Virgin. The chapel here is small and be aware that the site is often crowded with tour bus groups. A small wishing well is on site, where it is customary to tie a piece of cloth and make a wish.
Location: 8 kilometers from Ephesus
6 Ayasuluk Fortress
Fort Ayasuluk is located on the hill high above Selçuk. This hilltop location has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, but the fortress dates back to the Byzantine era and its fortifications were expanded by the Seljuks. The mighty enclosure wall had 15 rectangular towers. Within the walls are several remnants of houses and a small Seljuk mosque. The views over the city and surrounding countryside are stunning from the hilltop, making a trip here worth the uphill hike. Archaeologists are still excavating the site, so it is sometimes closed to visitors.
7 Isa Bey-moskee (Isa Bey Mosque)
This Seljuk-era mosque is a fine example of the fine architecture of the 14th century. The high outer walls enclose a large galleried courtyard leading to a two-domed prayer dome. The large black granite columns used in the construction were recycled from the Roman baths. Above the richly decorated main entrance is an elaborate calligraphic inscription. Dated January 10, 1375, it identifies Ali, the son of Mushimish al-Damishki, as the architect. Visitors are welcome to visit the interior outside of prayer times. To access, make sure you are dressed appropriately with shoulders and knees covered. Female visitors must wear a headscarf.
Address: St Jean Street, Selcuk
8 Roman aqueduct
Running through the center of Selçuk is this partially preserved Byzantine aqueduct, which today is even more of a tourist attraction due to a number of stork nests built on top of it. The aqueduct stretches across St. Jean Caddesi before crossing the main road into town to continue its journey to Inönü Caddesi. If you visit during stork nesting season from March to September, you are most likely to see the elegant birds perched regally in the nests.
Address: Inonu Street, Selcuk
9 Cave of the Seven Sleepers
About two kilometers down a dirt road from the ruins of Ephesus is this cave system to which an interesting local legend has been added. Emperor Decius is said to have persecuted seven early Christians in 250 AD who were then sealed by the emperor in this cave. Two hundred years later, the Christians woke up to find that the Roman world had become Christian and lived peacefully in Ephesus for the rest of their lives. When they died, they were buried here in the cave and it became a center of pilgrimage. Today you can see some graves in the cave.
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Sweet little Şirince is a picture-perfect village of red-roofed houses cascading down a hillside surrounded by dense forest. It was a Greek village until the population exchange of the early 1900s, when ethnic Turks pushed here from Greece were housed in the newly abandoned houses. It’s a bit of a stiff climb through the cobbled lanes to the top of the village, where you’ll find the Church of St. John the Baptist. Inside are some badly damaged frescoes, but the real reason to walk up the hill is to take panoramic photos of the village from here.
Location: 8 kilometers from Selçuk
If you’re looking for some rural Turkish life, the hamlet of Tire is a great place to wander. The town is known for its felting tradition and you can still see master feltmen at work in the village. If you come here on a Tuesday you will also see Tire’s famous market full of delicious local foodstuffs. On the way to Tire (at the turn to Tire, 15 kilometers northeast of Selçuk, close to the village Belevilisten)) is a burial mound and the remains of a monumental structure reminiscent of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum. These remains are believed to date back to the 4th century BC and believed to be part of the ancient Bonita. The sarcophagus found in the mausoleum can be seen in the Ephesus Museum.
Location: 40 kilometers north of Selçuk
If you’ve had your fill of ancient ruins, this prime stretch of sand on the road between Selçuk and Kuşadası is the best place to kick back and incorporate some sun and swim action into your itinerary. It can get very busy on weekends, especially during the summer, so if possible, allow your sunbathing for a weekday. Do as the locals do and pack a picnic. If you’re here during late winter and early spring, you can usually spot flamingos in the nearby estuary.
Location: 7 kilometers from Selçuk