Best Ephesus Travel Guide: Exploring Ancient Turkey

The Ephesus archaeological site is one of the top attractions in Turkey, drawing in two million visitors every year. Explore the best Ephesus Travel Guide to learn more about the attractions to see and why it holds the UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Stunning columns, detailed carvings, and a whole ancient city waiting to be explored will bring out the adventurous side of any traveler.

The nearby towns further add to the area’s historical importance, offering additional historical sites to explore along with more modern activities like shopping. Ephesus is a bucketlist visit and any traveler’s dream destination as it provides a contrast between the ancient city and the more modern surrounding villages.

Below is a detailed Ephesus travel guide providing must-see attractions like the Library of Celsus. Additional tips and accommodation recommendations are included to allow for the best possible trip.

Some links on this page are affiliate links—that means that at no extra cost to you, we earn a small commission if you book through these links, and that helps keep this blog running.

Table of Contents

Ephesus Travel Guide

Know Before You Go

COST
60 TL or Museum Pass
Terrace Houses: 55 TL
Kids Under 8 Free
HOURS
8am - 5pm | Nov - Mar.
8am - 7pm | Apr - Oct
BEST TIME TO GO
April - October
Early at 8am
Afternoons after 3pm
LOCATION
3 km from Selcuk, Turkey
PARKING
25 TL for Cars
TIME NEEDED TO VISIT
2-3+ HOURS

When to Go to the Ancient City of Ephesus

During the summer, Ephesus becomes a busy tourist destination. It’s best to visit during the shoulder seasons to avoid crowds and heat. April, May, September, and October are the optimal months to stay as they’ll provide pleasant weather and allow you to explore the ruins without battling crowds.

You’ll still find that a good number of people visit Ephesus during the day, so it’s best to head to the ruins as early as possible or later in the day. You may find that you have the ancient city to yourself!

Get all the details on what to bring in our Turkey Travel Packing Guide.

How to Get to Ephesus from Istanbul

There are a few different transportation methods that you can take to get to Ephesus from Istanbul, including flying, taking a bus, or driving. Below is our transportation guide to Ephesus:

By Car

While it is possible to travel to ancient Ephesus from Istanbul by driving, it’s not the quickest method. It will take about 5.5 hours to arrive in Ephesus from Istanbul; there’s also a good chance you may hit traffic along the way, adding a few hours to the timeline. If you have time to spare, renting a car may be a good option.

By Plane

The quickest, and most convenient way, to travel to Ephesus is by airplane. It will take about one hour to fly from Istanbul to the Izmir airport (closest to Ephesus). Upon arrival, you’ll need to rent a car or hire a driver to drive you the final stretch into the ancient city. This ride will take about 45 minutes.

Flights generally cost between US $50 – $115 roundtrip per person. This cost will change depending on how far in advance the flight is purchased, with lower prices for flights booked further in advance.

By Bus

Taking a bus from Istanbul to Ephesus is another great option. Keep in mind; this transportation method will take about 9 hours. However, pricing is fairly affordable. Expect to pay around US $25 per person.

Ephesus Planning Guide

Where to Stay

While there are no hotels or accommodations directly located in Ephesus, there is a myriad of options in the surrounding towns. We recommend staying in Selcuk or Sirince to be close by Ephesus and the surrounding sites. If you want more night life and a city vibe, we recommend staying in Kusadasi near the water. Not sure if you want to stay in a luxury hotel or one that is budget-friendly? In our accommodation guide to Ephesus, you’ll find options for both in Selcuk, Sirince, and Kusadasi. See below for more details:

Luxury Hotels

  1. Richmond Ephesus Resort

Location: Selcuk

This stunning resort sits directly on the beach, offering incredible views during a stay. It’s a 5-star accommodation that features swimming pools, tennis courts, and other outdoor activities. Multiple restaurants, bars, and even a café are available onsite, featuring various dishes from different cuisines like Italian and Turkish. This accommodation is located 15 minutes away from Ephesus, making it convenient for travelers.

Price per night starts at US $73, with a 2-night minimum stay.

  1. Nisanyan Hotel/Houses

Location: Sirince

The Nisanyan Hotel is highly rated and offers a unique experience for travelers. This accommodation began with a few village houses built in the 1800s and spread into a tiny town known as the Ninsanyan Houses. There are stunning renovated houses available for rent or a room in the larger mansion. There is a marble swimming pool on the property and a tower where guests can enjoy meals from locally sourced products with a view. Nisanyan Hotel also offers cooking classes for those interested.

Price per night starts at US $97 per night in the mansion and US $216 per night in the houses.

  1. Charisma de Luxe Hotel

Location: Kusadasi

The Charisma de Luxe Hotel offers incredible views of the Aegean Sea and a private beach for use by guests. Each room has an elegant style and amenities like a business desk, a living room, and a large balcony. At the Charisma Hotel, there are multiple restaurants where guests can enjoy meals seaside.

Budget Hotels

  1. Ephesus Centrum Selcuk Hotel

Location: Selcuk

Ephesus Centrus Selcuk Hotel is located in the center of Selcuk. It’s conveniently situated nearby public transportation with buses and trains only a few minutes away by walking. This hotel boasts friendly staff, comfortable rooms, and an option for a professional room. Travelers enjoy this hotel for its affordability and cleanliness.

Price per night starts at US $22.

  1. Kirkinca Houses & Boutique Hotel

Location: Sirince

Kirkinca Hotel is located in the heart of Sirince. This budget-friendly hotel offers romantic-style décor and an array of amenities. Complimentary breakfast and free parking are included in the pricing for this hotel. There is also a salon, coffee shop, laundry area, and restaurant onsite. This boutique hotel is an excellent option for couples, families, or solo travelers who want to stay in an accommodation with character and friendly staff.

Price per night starts at US $48 for weekdays.

  1. Ilayda Hotel Kusadasi

Location: Kusadasi

The Ilayda Hotel Kusadasi offers beautiful views of the Aegean Sea while budget-friendly. This hotel is located in the downtown area of Kusadasi, offering ample opportunities for shopping and dining in nearby restaurants. The rooms are modern, simple, and clean, offering a comfortable stay for families or travelers of any variety.

Price per night starts at US $45.

What to See in Ephesus

The city of Ephesus holds many sites for visitors to explore. You can explore with Ephesus private tours or take a self-guided Ephesus tour. Depending on how long you have in this region of Turkey, you may want to spend the entire day at Ephesus, and many do. However, if you can only budget a few hours in this wondrous city, there are a few attractions you must see.

Ephesus Arcadia

1.              Arcadian

The Arcadian is an ancient avenue that visitors can partially explore. On either side of the street sits ruins of columns that once stood tall and magnificent. When strolling around the Arcadian, it’s easy for you to imagine what life was like many years ago.

Great Theater in Ephesus Turkey

2.              Great Theater

Follow the Arcadian to the Great Theater, a detailed outdoor area that can hold an impressive 25,000 people. The theater is only partially preserved, with the bottom layer available to explore for now as the restoration continues. This theater features ornate details, large columns, and incredible views of the harbor once you climb the stairs.

Celcus Library Ephesus

3.              Library of Celsus

One of the top spots to see is the Library of Celsus and the magnificent Gate of Macaeus and Mithridates. You must pass through the gate arches to reach the incredible Library, distinguishable by the large columns that run up the front and multiple statues situated in niches.

Ephesus Terraced Houses

4.              Terraced Houses Complex

This housing complex features beautiful, tiled floors and stunning fresco walls. Guests can walk through the Ephesus Terrace Houses Complex using a glass walkway that offers views into the rooms below. Initially, this attraction is home to luxury villas, as evidenced by the details put forth into the décor. There is an additional fee to enter this area.

5.              Church of the Virgin Mary

The Church of the Virgin Mary is another popular attraction. This building held multiple purposes through the years, including a center for research and a meeting location for the Third Ecumenical Council.

For those that have a full day in Ephesus, additional attractions include the Eastern Gymnasium, Odeon and State Agora, Temple of Domitian, and Pollio Monument, to name a few.

Selcuk Turkey

What to See in Selcuk

Selcuk is not only the gateway to Ephesus, but it also includes many ancient sites that are well worth including in your itinerary. Selcuk is home to The Temple of Artemis, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The temple, previously a location that included 127 pillars, now holds one pillar created as part of a shrine for Artemis.

Ephesus Museum is another must-visit location in Selcuk. This museum offers further background information on the city of Ephesus and exhibits of artifacts from Ephesus. As the excavations of this site continue, more artifacts and statues are added to the museum creating a new experience each time you visit.

While visiting Selcuk, there are other landmarks to explore, including the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, St. John’s Basilica, and the Isa Bey Mosque. Otherwise, downtown Selcuk is excellent for shopping, enjoying tea gardens, and trying new restaurants.

Day Trips near Ephesus

You can take a few day trips nearby Ephesus for additional activities and sightseeing. Spend the day in Sirince or Pammukkale and Laodicea for a change of scenery.

Sirince Turkey

Sirince

Sirince is a beautiful village nearby Ephesus. This town provides the opportunity for visitors to enjoy the surrounding nature with incredible views of the lush green mountains. The village itself has a relaxed, charming feel with narrow cobblestone streets and offerings of wine. Sirince is a great location to explore if you need a break from the busyness of Selcuk. Spend the day exploring the abandoned church and enjoying the architecture of the village buildings during a day trip.

Pamukkale Turkey

Pamukkale & Laodicea

Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle,” is a hill covered in natural hot baths. Its nickname derives from the minerals built up around the thermal baths, creating a unique view that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a cotton castle.

After spending a few hours enjoying the mineral baths, you can head to Laodicea. This is another ancient city near Pamukkale (a few miles away). Laodicea provides a unique experience compared to Ephesus as the ruins found are not renovated, so you can explore the area as it was found.

Ephesus Travel Guide: Local Food

Turkey is well-known for its Mediterranean-style cuisine, and the Ephesus area is no exception. Beef, poultry, fruit, and vegetables are common ingredients in meals found here. With its proximity to the Aegean Sea, Ephesus and the surrounding areas offer delicious fresh seafood options.

Where to Eat

Bizim Borekci

We had breakfast here 2 mornings in a row. The owner has been making borek and many other pastries for over a decade. You can try borkek, pogca, cakes, cookies, filter coffe and tea. You’ll find his place down the the old town right across the street from the Ephesus Centrum Selcuk Hotel.

Selcuk Pidecisi

You can dine or get take out. This pideci has a wood fire oven that you can watch them make the pide you order. Fun for the to watch and then eat the pide later. They have other menu items as well – the kofte and mantarli kofte being a couple that we tried and were delicious. 
 

Below are a few foods you need to try while visiting the area:

1.     Chop Shish

This dish offers smaller meat kebabs seasoned with pepper, thyme, oil, garlic, and tomatoes. Chop shish is a typical dish found in Selcuk and Germencik. If you’re a fan of standard kebabs, this tasty treat is a must-try.

2.     Izmir Tulum

Izmir Tulum is a typical dish found in Izmir and is a great option for adventurous foodies. This dish is a cheese created from sheep’s milk stored in animal skins. When served at restaurants, this cheese is offered with butter and bread.

3.     Macun

Macun is a delicious, sweet toffee paste that street vendors sell in Izmir. It includes an array of spices creating a complex flavor that is not typical of desserts in the US.

4.     Efes

Efes is a Turkish beer brewed in Izmir. It’s a popular brew that many locals and visitors enjoy. It’s named after the city of Ephesus – Efes for short, making it an excellent way to memorialize your trip to the ancient city.

Our Complete Guide to Turkish Food will give you everything to know to eat your way through the Ephesus area.

Ephesus Library

Best 3-Day Itinerary

If you have two to three days to spend in the Ephesus area, Ephesus and Pamukkale create the optimal itinerary. See our recommendations incorporating Ephesus into a 10-Day Turkey Itinerary. You can review our Turkey Trip Planning Guide to start planning your trip.

Day 1: Ephesus

Spend your first day exploring Ephesus and Selcuk. This allows you to explore the ancient ruins, taking as much time as you need. Afterward, you can enjoy a meal in Selcuk and an evening exploring the additional historic sites. There’s plenty of lodging in Selcuk for a restful evening before embarking on the trip to Pamukkale.

Day 2: Pamukkale

Pamukkale opens at 6 am every day with varying closing times depending on the season. It’s easy to spend a full day here and in the surrounding historic cities. Enjoy the thermal baths or swim in the stunning Cleopatra Pools, which are said to have been a gift from Marc Antony to Cleopatra herself. Then, spend a few hours exploring Hierapolis, ancient ruins on top of Pamukkale. These ruins offer incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Stay in one of the Thermal Pool Hotels in the area.

Day 3: Travel Day

Travel back to Izmir to catch your flight back to Istanbul, Cappadocia or Antalya for your next adventure.

The Ephesus area is a historically rich area that offers the opportunity for visitors to take a step back into history by visiting multiple sites. With the vast array of attractions available, you can easily extend your trip from a few days to a week and have a full itinerary.

In addition to our guide to Ephesus, you can visit Bodrum & Fethiye in the Aegean region. Check out our Best Places to Go in the Aegean Region Guide.

Some links on this page are affiliate links—that means that at no extra cost to you, we earn a small commission if you book through these links, and that helps keep this blog running.

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Family Travel to Turkey: Enes and Dania

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