We flew from Capadoccia (Kayseri) to Izmir with SunExpress. Tickets costed only around R350 (32USD). We booked a few months in advance. An overnight bus costed around R150 but takes about 10 hrs – a suitable option if you’re on an extra tight budget.
Izmir airport is very modern and well connected. We decided to take the train to Selcuk which took over an hour. The train was full but the seats were comfortable and there was room for luggage. They do not announce which stop is next so we had no idea where we were going. I asked another passenger to let me know where to get off. She didn’t speak any English but she was a lifesaver.
Anyway, you will know when you are in Selcuk. Not many towns have Roman ruins greeting you at the train station.
We used our cellphone GPS to find our hotel but we didn’t need to – our hotel was only about 100m from the station. We stayed at Urkmez Hotel. It was the only real disappointment of our hotel stays. It was comfortable and pretty clean but it had several problems. The bathroom was tiny and the shower made the whole bathroom wet. The curtains were thin and let in a lot of light. It was pretty noisy as well. The TV was tiny. I did notice that the other rooms looked better than ours did. On the plus side, the breakfast was fantastic and changed daily.
The main highlight of Selcuk is Ephesus (ofcourse!). Its a quaint town with loads of eating options ranging from cheap to touristy and expensive. The cheapest meal I had there was a Tosti- toasted sandwhich. It was ridiculously yummy (and unhealthy) and was probably the cheapest meal we had in Turkey, costing only 5TL.
Anyway, back to Ephesus. We took a walk to the bus station and took a shuttle to Ephesus for 2TL. We entered from the south entrance which was great because most tour groups start at the north entrance which meant we had some time at the main sites such as the amphitheater and library of Celsus almost by ourselves but by 10am, it was packed. We chose the option of entrance to Ephesus and the Terrace Houses which was 40TL. We hired an audio tour at the entrance for 20TL. We took our own earphones with so that we could share the guide.
Ephesus is amazing! You are literally visiting one of the best preserved Roman and Greek cities from 2000 years ago! Some argue that the ruins are better preserved than those in Rome itself (I’ll let you know when I visit Rome). There is such a depth of history and some pre-reading about the city is highly recommended prior to to your visit. It allows one to appreciate the history so much more. For instance, Ephesus was a port city when it was built. It is now approximately 8km from the sea. The civilization was highly advanced especially in the sewerage system they created. Their latrines (toilets) were a social place where men went to have discussions even if they had private toilets. Important information was discussed in the Odeon by the council.
The library of Celsus was destroyed by an earthquake in the 10th or 11th century. The Facade was rebuilt in the 1970’s. It’s a great place to take pics but you don’t get pics like these if you don’t arrive early.
The Terrace houses were occupied by the more wealthy inhabitants. The walls and floors show interesting murals and mosaics thet give a glimpse into the living conditions of the wealthy of the time. It was intimate.
Other sites in Ephesus include The Church of Mother Mary, the Temple of Hadrian and The Gate of Hercules.
You require about 5 hours to explore the area thoroughly. 2-3 hours will allow you to scratch the surface.Take some cold water which is available from the stores in Selcuk.
Other Sites in Selcuk
Isa Bey Mosque
Isa Bey Mosque was built in 1375 and is considered one of the oldest and most impressive works of architectural art remaining from the Anatolian Beyliks. Note that the mosque is still in use and appropriate dress is encouraged. Non-Muslims cannot enter the prayer room during prayer times. Entrance is free.
St. John’s Basilica
The ruins of the Church of St John marks the spot where St John the Evangelist was buried. St John is believed to have spent the last years of his life in Ephesus writing his version of the Gospel. Entrance is 10TL.
Ephesus Museum was reopened in 2015 and has an impressive collection of relics and statues. Entrance is 10TL and it’s a great way to complete your visit to Selcuk.
We completed all this sight-seeing in a single day. It was a long day and we racked up around 20000 steps on the pedometer but it is entirely manageable. Do it at a slow pace and take breaks in the hotel. Luckily the days are nice and long in summer.
Next stop: Oludeniz