Unraveling the Mysteries of Ephesus, Turkey – Touropia Travel

I used to think that I had to travel all the way to Israel to see biblical landmarks because I have the comprehension of a 2-year-old when it comes to ancient times. It is hard to comprehend just how far and wide the ancient world really stretched and that in places where we now sip cocktails by the sea, antique civilizations once flourished.

And regardless of your convictions or beliefs, there is something remarkable about seeing these early cities and monuments and how they have truly stood the test of time.

Ephesus is one of these antique wonders on the west coast of Turkey and it has withstood wars, sieges, and nature for more than 2,000 years (I’m struggling to make it to 35!). But despite being one of the most visited places in Turkey, it was still difficult to find accurate information about what to expect when visiting Ephesus. So I am here to give you the low down on how to step back in time and make the most of your time at Ephesus, one of the most impressive ancient locations left on earth.

How to Get to Ephesus


If you are anything like me, you greatly underestimate the size of Turkey. It is roughly the size of Germany and France combined and the drive from Istanbul to Ephesus is close to 6 hours. It certainly doesn’t fall into the “convenient day trip” category but this remarkable corner of the country is well worth a few days on your Turkish itinerary.

Ancient city of Ephesus

Most people prefer to touch down at Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir, where they are a stone’s throw away from Ephesus. From there, you can hop on a bus or arrange for a private transfer to whisk you away to the ancient city. For those who prefer the sea breeze in their hair, cruise ships often make port at Kusadasi, a lively resort town near Ephesus (more on that later).

Pro Tip: Kusadasi is the closest coastal town to Ephesus and is much more enjoyable than Izmir if you ask me.

Opening Times


It’s important to note that Ephesus operates on set opening and closing times, with the gates typically opening at 8 AM and closing at 6 PM during the peak season. Be sure to plan your visit accordingly, allowing plenty of time to soak in the sights and sounds of this historic site without feeling rushed. My advice is always to be at an attraction like this when the gates open and I cannot emphasize that enough in this case.

The majority of visitors to Ephesus come from cruise ships and they tend to arrive from 10 AM onwards. If you can reach the library before the buses pull in, you are golden for the rest of the day.

Pro Tip: If you REALLY hate crowds, try checking the Kuşadası port schedule and book a day when there is only one (or better yet, zero) cruise ship docking.

What to Expect from the Ephesus Historical Site


Although you only need 2-3 hours to explore Ephesus, not understanding the ins and outs of the site can sour your experience. The first hurdle is understanding the gates. There are two gates, one at the top and one at the bottom.

The bottom gate is the most popular one and, in my opinion, it is much better to walk uphill first and return downhill once it gets too hot. There are taxi drivers at the entrance that will try and convince you to take a ride to the top gate and just walk down, but it is not necessary at all.

Library of Celsus

The next important thing to remember is that you need to go to the Library of Celsus first. This is undoubtedly the most impressive part of the site but also the most crowded.

So if you can arrive when the gates open (my ultimate travel hack), walk past the amphitheater and other pitstops and head straight to the Library almost at the top of the hill. Once you have soaked it all in, you can continue to the furthest point of the site and see all the other important landmarks on your way back down to the gate.

terraced houses

And then there are the terraced houses, a hidden gem within Ephesus. This is an additional purchase that many people overlook but with our Turkey Museum Pass, we got instant access. Here you will step inside these ancient residences and marvel at the intricate mosaics, frescoes, and plumbing systems that hint at the opulence of days gone by. The section is completely covered and you won’t be able to see it without buying a ticket.

Temple of Hadrian

Continue further up the column-lined Ceretes Way until you reach the Temple of Hadrian. You’ll be greeted by the imposing facade adorned with intricate reliefs and ornate Corinthian columns. Dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, this temple served as a symbol of imperial power and divine patronage. Marvel at the detailed friezes depicting mythological scenes and the graceful statues of the imperial family that once adorned its niches.

Grand Theater

When you circle back to the bottom you can step into the Grand Theater of Ephesus—a majestic amphitheater that once echoed with the cheers of thousands of spectators. Built into the hillside, the Grand Theater boasts remarkable acoustics that allow even the faintest of whispers to be heard by people up in the nosebleeds.

As you wander through the rows of stone seats, you can almost hear the echoes of ancient applause reverberating through the ages. And when you reach the top, don’t forget to pause and take in the panoramic view of Ephesus sprawling below.


Indeed, while the grand attractions of Ephesus may steal the spotlight, it’s the smaller details that truly bring the ancient city to life. As you wander through the ruins, keep an eye out for the intricate carvings, inscriptions, and architectural features that adorn the streets and buildings.

These subtle touches serve as poignant reminders that Ephesus was once a bustling metropolis teeming with life, where real people lived, worked, and worshipped. From the intricate mosaic floors of the State Agora to the graceful columns of the Bouleuterion, each detail tells a story of the city’s rich history and vibrant culture. So don’t rush past these hidden gems—take the time to explore and appreciate the beauty and complexity of Ephesus, one detail at a time.

Pro Tip: There is no water inside the archeological site. Bring enough to keep yourself hydrated! And if you have one, bring an umbrella, there is no shade either. My friends may have sniggered but I was the one laughing when the sun started burning down with all its fury.

Other Things to Do Around Ephesus

House of the Virgin Mary

Ephesus isn’t just about ancient ruins—there’s plenty more to explore in the surrounding area. South of Ephesus is where you can explore the House of the Virgin Mary, a sacred pilgrimage site believed to be the final resting place of the Virgin Mary. As you drive out of the parking lot at Ephesus you should also turn right onto a secondary road that takes you to the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers.

Ephesus Archaeological Museum

The closest town is Selçukand here you will find the Ephesus Archaeological Museum which offers a deeper dive into the history of the region, with artifacts dating back thousands of years.

At the edge of town, you will find the remnants of one of the Marvels of the Ancient World, The Temple of Artemis. Although only one column remains standing, it is still humbling to stand on the site and try to comprehend the scale of what once stood here.

Pro Tip: Turkey is one of the few places where I highly recommend the national museum pass. You will save big with all the many museums and historic sites to visit. If you are only staying along the coast, you can buy an Agean Museum Pass as an alternative.

Where to Stay When Visiting Ephesus


Because so many people fly into Izmir to visit Ephesus, they also choose that as their main hub on the west coast. But Kuşadası is much closer to the archeological site and also much more charming.

It is a vibrant coastal town that offers a range of accommodation options to suit every budget and taste. For reference, we booked a 4-bed room in a hotel with a pool, sea view balcony, and an amazing breakfast for only $40 per night. That is what Mediterranean dreams are made of!


From exploring the bustling bazaars brimming with spices and handicrafts to indulging in freshly caught seafood at waterfront restaurants, Kuşadası offers a taste of authentic Turkish culture at every turn. History buffs can delve into the town’s past at the Kaleiçi Camii Mosque and the Ottoman-era Caravanserai, while beach lovers like me can bask in the sun on the golden sands of Ladies Beach or Long Beach.

If you are staying a little longer are feel like some adventure, you can always take on the rugged landscapes of the Dilek Peninsula National Park, where hiking trails wind through forests and cliffs overlooking the glistening waters of the Aegean Sea.

When to Visit Ephesus

When to Visit Ephesus

Choosing the perfect time to visit Ephesus is crucial to ensuring an unforgettable experience amidst its ancient splendor. Generally, the best times to explore this archaeological marvel are during the spring and autumn months when the weather is mild and crowds are fewer.

However, if you prefer warmer temperatures and don’t mind the hustle and bustle, summer is the peak time to visit Ephesus. And when I say “warmer”, I mean “scorching”. On my visit, the temperatures soared close to 40 °C so you need to be prepared.

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