Ephesus trip was towards the end of our 10-day Turkey itinerary. We started with cultural sightseeing in Istanbul, then went to explore the surreal landscape in Cappadocia and managed a quick stop at Ephesus before spending a few more days in Istanbul. There are Ephesus tours arranged as day trips from Istanbul or Izmir, but we decided to stay overnight near Izmir and do the Ephesus walking tour by ourselves.
You would think this was quite a detour for a historical site. The ruins of Ephesus are a major tourist attraction. Rightly so! This ancient city has seen successive settlements both in the Greek and the Roman era.
The city was considered one of the most important trading centers in the Mediterranean region.
Istanbul to Izmir: Stay at a boutique property
So a direct flight from Kayseri in Cappadocia got us to Izmir, the closest airport to Ephesus. Most people who for an Ephesus day trip stay in Kusadasi or Selcuk, but we had hit upon a sweet little hotel in the historical Sirince village – Nisanyan Evleri Hotel. We had prearranged an airport pick-up from the hotel. Although this was an expensive option, our flight was late in the evening and we thought it is prudent to not search for our hotel in the dark. Our chosen hotel was not in the village but right at the top of a small hill.
Despite the pre-arrangement, it felt a bit eerie when we got out of Izmir and started climbing the hill roads in Sirince village towards the hotel. It was really late in the night when we reached the property and there was no one to receive us. The taxi driver, who works only for hotel guests, showed us the keys to the room and we fell in bed exhausted.
The next morning rewarded us with a beautiful view of Sirince valley. And we got introduced to the resident peacock, peahen and the goose while having a leisurely breakfast. My daughter, Kaavya couldn’t have been more delighted.
I must admit the stay at Nisanyan added an unexpected charm to our Ephesus day trip. We were hoping to visit major historical ruins, but also got a fabulous stay, delicious authentic food and a charming village in the bargain.
Ephesus day trip: Visiting the ancient ruins of Ephesus
We planned to visit Ephesus ruins post lunch, and later we postponed our Ephesus walking tour to 4 pm. This was a good decision.
We reached the site before 5 pm – the sun wasn’t hot and most of the tourist buses had left. Since the site is open till 730 pm, this gave us enough time to wander around this amazing ruin, take pictures and let our daughter spend leisurely time with the (inevitable) cats!
The site is huge and you may wish to take a group or private guided Ephesus tour or even arrange a Ephesus day trip from Izmir. We did the Ephesus walking tour by ourselves and enjoyed the freedom of spending time at each monument as per our choice and gathering information through written signposts. Unless you are a history student, about 3-4 hours is enough for the site.
Ephesus is a veritable treasure trove. Everywhere you turn, there is an impressive and well-preserved monument. Excavation and conservation efforts in the past 150 years – which still continue – have revealed many stunning monuments of the Roman Imperial period. I talk about the 3 that impressed me the most.
Most of the Ephesian ruins seen today such as the Giant amphitheater, the Library of Celsus, and the aqueducts were built during the Roman rule.
Ephesus walking tour: Library of Celsus
The imposing two-story facade of the Library of Celsus is perhaps one of the most photographed monuments in Ephesus. The library itself was originally three stories high and entirely faced with colored marble. Along the rear wall was a series of rectangular niches for holding parchment books and scrolls.
Ephesus walking tour: Great Theater
The theater’s three by 22 tiers of seating, divided into sections by 12 stairways, could accommodate an audience of some 25,000. It is particularly impressive, both for its great size and for the excellent state of preservation
Ephesus walking tour: Terrace houses
A separate ticket needs to be taken to visit the terrace houses, but this is well worth the extra fee. The terrace houses are in a large covered complex where archaeology work is ongoing. There is enough written information on the boards to understand the history and importance of the surroundings. The terrace houses of the erstwhile aristocracy are quite well preserved.
The mosaics and frescoes provide a fascinating insight into the lost world of Ephesus.
Some of the best finds from the ancient city of Ephesus are housed in the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk. We skipped this because of the paucity of time. The hotel taxi picked us up and we were booked for dinner at the hotel restaurant. This turned out to be one of the best meals that we had in Turkey. Next day was an early afternoon flight back to Istanbul.
Do check out other posts from our family trip to Turkey –
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