Originally established as a port for commercial use, the ancient city of Ephesus is home to some of the region's most impressive archaeological remains. Located just 30Km from the cruise ship terminal at Kusadasi it is easily reached by a short transfer when you disembark from the ship. Temples in this area date back to 356 BC when the Greeks started to build impressive monuments to honour their gods. The city grew to become one of the largest in the Roman Empire and bore a vast array of sculptures, works of art and mosaics – a number of the sculptures are now housed in the British Museum.
The entire area is packed with archaeological sites and ruins dating back thousands of years. With so much to see and do in this area you really will be spoilt for choice as to which sites and attractions to visit. Here are some of the most tourist activities in the area:
House of the Virgin Mary
Located a short distance from the ancient site of Ephesus, is a typical Roman structure made from stones, believed by some to be the House of the Virgin Mary. It is claimed that this is where she may have spent her last days with Saint John by her side. When you visit the house you can see the bedroom and prayer room. The kitchen had to be restored in the 1940s after it fell to ruins. Now it is mostly a place of pilgrimage, with Pope's Paul VI and John-Paul II numbered among its visitors, as well as being a Muslim pilgrimage point.
Basilica of St John
St John spent his former years in the area and visitors to the region are able to visit the small chapel which was built over the saint's burial site. It was later turned into an impressive basilica with 11 domes by the Emperor Justinian. Whilst it has now fallen to ruins there are still some mosaics, frescos and decaying columns that attest to the grandeur of the original structure.
Celsus Library & Other Ruins
In recent years there have been numerous excavations taking place at the site which have uncovered a whole new world of buried archaeological treasures. Some of the structures such as the Celsus Library, Odeon Theatre and Temple of Hadrian have been open to visitors for a number of years, and the recently unearthed terraced houses provide an insight into how the wealthy would have lived. Located across from Hadrian's Temple the houses display intricate mosaics and lavish frescoes displaying richer Roman citizens' lifestyles. Located nearby is the Great Theatre which is believed to have been able to accommodate up to 25,000 seated spectators. It is best to take a guided or audio tour of this site to help you appreciate its best features.
The Turkish-Greek village of Sirince is a popular tourist place to visit. It offers authentic old style hospitality accompanied by stunning views from its elevated mountaintop position. Local crafts and olive oil are available to buy, and there's a traditional Turkish tea house providing refreshments.
Shopping in Ephesus
There are a few shops and stalls in Ephesus selling traditional style souvenirs from your time spent at the ruins. You can pick up the usual t-shirts and trinkets but there are also some lovely cultural pieces on offer. Elsewhere in the area there are Turkish rug-making factories, as well as ceramics and leather on offer. The prices are very reasonable and haggling is expected so make sure you don't pay the initial asking price to get a good deal.
Dining in Ephesus
Keeping in line with the traditional and ancient feel of this town, the Prince of the Castle restaurant offers an authentic Roman menu which has kebabs and imam bayildi on the menu. Relax in the friendly and welcoming interior of the restaurant where you aren't rushed and can enjoy the view. If you fancy trying the locals' favourite restaurant for some Turkish fare then head to Yavus's Tavern. This bustling eatery has a variety of local dishes on the menu with its speciality being Talti Gozleme, a savoury pastry dish filled with a variety of meats and spices.