Visiting Ephesus: A Complete Guide
Updated on January 5th, 2020
Visiting Ephesus is a must for any traveller. Ephesus is one of the largest complete ancient ruin sites in the world. Currently, only 20% has been excavated, and is therefore estimated it will take another 400 years to complete!
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about visiting Ephesus.
Whether you know little about ancient history and ruins or you’re a huge history buff, it’s impossible not to be impressed with Ephesus. Firstly, marvel at well-known sites like the huge amphitheatre and the Celsus Library. Coincidently, the amphitheatre alone can hold 25,000 people. Next, wander on up the marble streets viewing the lesser-known but still impressive buildings. While doing this imagine you lived when this city was alive gossiping with a friend or on the way to the amphitheatre to watch a jousting competition. What amazed me most is how detailed the surfaces are and the time taken to build each structure. Here, most buildings took at least two years to complete.
History of Ephesus
As mentioned above, Ephesus is one of the most complete ancient ruin sites in the world. Founded by Ionian Greeks in 1000 BC but inhabited since 6200 BC. The city was originally built on a fertile silt plain and makes it a great example of a Roman port city. Over the years the city’s harbour was moved further west three times due to the silt filling in the land. Now, the coastline sits 7 km west of the city. Over the years the city went through numerous rulers and eventually had its downturn due to the influence of Christianity. For a more detailed history check out My Favourite Planet.
If you enter from the northern car park, you walk straight into a courtyard of vendors selling dondurma (Turkish ice cream), souvenirs, watches and gemstones. The main gem on here and throughout Turkey is the Zultanite. This stone changes between six different colours depending on the weather and lighting. While tempting to buy on the spot, be careful of fakes and make sure you have an authentic dealer. After passing through the vendors you enter the park and follow a beautiful tree-lined stone road leading up into the city.
In the city gates, the structures have very little information about them if any. It would be worth paying for an audio guide to learn more about what you are looking at. Once inside the park, you have an option of paying an additional fee of 30TL (5.5 USD) to enter the terrace houses. This was once a large luxury residential complex. Today it is covered to protect from the elements. If you go inside you are likely to see the archaeologists at work.
The closest town to Ephesus is Selçuk. To beat the crowds, plan to arrive and stay here the day before. If you do not have your own car, it is easy to take one of the many buses from town to the entrances. Selçuk has many other sites scattered around the town which you can also visit if you have the time. See the Ayasuluk castle located on a large hill and score some great views around the valley.
Parking at Ephesus costs 10TL (less than 2 USD) and entry is 60TL (11 USD).
How to get to Ephesus (to Selçuk)
Fly and drive
The closest airport to Selçuk is Izmir. From here you can hire a car and drive the one hour south to Ephesus.
The best option after hiring a car is to catch a train from Izmir airport. The train also takes 1 hour to reach Selçuk without the hassle of traffic. Cost 1-2 USD and leaves every 4 hours.
Not the quickest or easiest option. But there is a bus which takes 1.5 hours and costs 4 x as much as the train.
Tips for visiting Ephesus
Visiting Ephesus is very hot and in direct sunlight. Make sure you pack plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat. While you can buy water in the park the prices reflect the touristy nature of the place.
To avoid crowds make sure you arrive early or late.
If you park at the northern gate, you will be told by the guys running the horse and carriage transfers that it is 2.5 km walk or longer just to reach the entrance. This is not the case. Politely decline the transfer and walk.
If you would like to visit via tour, no worries. There are numerous day tours which run to Ephesus from Istanbul, Izmir and many of the southern coastal towns.
Where to Stay
Hostel – Atilla’s Getaway is in the mountains of Ephesus, situated 2km outside of Selçuk. The hostel offers a free shuttle into town and back and has a huge rating of 9.7/10 on Hostelworld (based on 631 reviews). This hostel has it all, including a pool and poolside bar, volleyball courts and other games. Dorm beds start at 70 TL/night (12 USD) and private rooms start at 258 TL (47 USD).
Budget Hotel – Amazon Antique is a small hotel is located in the heart of Selçuk. Providing a clean bed, free breakfast, wifi and free parking this hotel is your ideal no-frills room. A double room costs 118 TL (21 USD).
Have you visited Ephesus? Do you have any tips for other visiting Ephesus?