Asia,  TDM,  Travel Journal,  Turkey

Ephesus (Turkey) in a backpack – Travel Diary

This weekend we spend 4 days in the Lycos Valley visiting ancient cities and hot springs. Even if there is very little information for those who want to visit the area in a backpack, our experience in Cappadocia shows us that you can always get out of it. So it is only with two plane tickets and no other reservation that we left Istanbul

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

How to get there?

We chose to do a large part of the trip by plane (istanbul – izmir) even if it forced us to get up at 5:15 am. We land with 15 minutes of delay at the airport of Izmir and take a shuttle of the Havas company just in front of the airport at 10:30 am in the direction of Soke (30TL/person). We are crammed in a mini bus before being transferred a few minutes later in a bigger bus. The journey takes 1 hour. As we approach Selçuk, someone asks to get off. Even if we had already told the driver that we wanted to get off at Selçuk, he could have forgotten. Luckily, someone asked to get off

Dropped off not far from the bus station in Selçuk (look for Pamukkale Turizm on google maps to see where this bus station is), we are redirected to the many mini buses that leave every 20 minutes for Ephesus (3TL/person). Explained like that, it looks complicated but it’s super super easy to come here in backpack mode. If you want to have more information, I wrote a complete article about transportation from Istanbul to Ephesus here

Travel Notebook

Sorry for this blablabla on transportation, there is too much information missing about Turkey so I felt obliged to reassure everyone.

The mini bus drops us off at the North entrance of the site. As soon as we leave the mini bus, a man comes to see us to tell us that it will be necessary to return to the same place later to return to Selçuk. At the beginning we took him for a reeler but we understood later that he was placed there to regulate the flow of the mini bus and to indicate to the tourists the good mini bus to take. What an organization! Thanks to him, we also understood that the organized tours began initially by the House of the Virgin Mary (to go there we had to take a cab) then they go down slowly towards the ancient city of Ephesus. It would have been too tiring to visit in the other direction because it goes up dry. JB and I look at each other and after 2 seconds, we decide to zap the house of the Virgin Mary. Not being believers, this visit has little importance for us

Admission costs 60TL/person

This is how we visit the site in the opposite direction of the organized tours. To the right is the church of the Virgin Mary, which we leave for the end since we have to come back here to go out anyway. We continue straight ahead and see on our right the ruins of the port of Ephesus. It’s hard to imagine a port at this location because the sea has receded 10km vs. 2000 years ago

On the left is the amphitheater considered the largest in the ancient world, capable of accommodating up to 25,000 people. From the stage one can speak softly and everyone will hear on the platforms, even if they are far away. The acoustics are really excellent

We will cross a street dotted with broken marble columns to arrive in front of the famous library of Celsus. What is cool with the ancient Turkish cities is that in front of each place, they always put the picture of the place at the moment they found it, what it must have looked like and what has been renovated. I’m rather disappointed to learn that this nice library has been renovated. That the whole thing is a bit fake. It was destroyed because of an earthquake. Then its broken pieces were used to make a fountain. And now the pieces are glued back together and pieces of marble and missing walls are added to make a whole that stands. The main interest is that it’s more visual and easy to imagine than all the other piles of ruins next to it..

At the entrance of the site, many vendors try to sell us paper guides of Ephesus. I think that if you are interested in history and antiquity, these guides, also available in French, are very well done. They have 3D reconstructions of each building on the site, allowing you to better appreciate the ruins they have become now. These books are also sold in the Museum Shop, just after the entrance. It is better to buy them before the visit. For the others, reading the explanations in English available on the site is more than enough.

I would also like to point out that I absolutely can’t show the true color of the columns (a little pink) on the pictures, because of the sun hitting too hard. In real life, it’s even prettier than that

Opposite are former brothels and public latrines where the rich used to have a reserved seat (class!). This reminds me of the scenes shown in the series Rome, and the bonus scenes from the same series where a historian explained in detail the functioning and social role of public latrines at that time

We pass by the renovated facade of Hadrian’s Temple, which was originally very, very beautiful

And in front of Hadrian’s temple, for an additional 30 TL, we have access to the terrace housesThe building is being renovated and protected by a roof. The interest of this visit is to have a small idea of the life of the Romans and especially to appreciate the monster work of the archaeologists. The pitch is: everything is broken, we have a puzzle of 120,000 pieces to put back together. Hin Hin. And they have already been able to put back together whole walls. Hats off! Following this visit, we realize that it is really not a job for us: we are terrible at Tetris and puzzle

We continue to climb up to the statue of Niké and as there are only ruins left, we go back on our way and visit the church of the Virgin Mary, one of the churches mentioned in the Bible. It’s still too classy to be mentioned in the Bible, seriously!

We end the tour and head to the mini-bus station. We take a closer look at the places served by this mini bus. We do not know them all, but if they propose it it is because there are surely things to see. As we have a lot of time, we opt for Pamucak Beach, which is 9km away

Pamucak Beach

A group of Germans takes the mini bus with us. They stop at Aqua Fantasy. I think it is their hotel. We are dropped first in front of the beach. Impressed by the beauty of this beach, the Germans are speechless. We did not know either that the beach was going to be so beautiful. There are only two restaurants and as usual I choose the most rotten one on the left. I don’t know, I always have a little pity for empty restaurants. Even if the service isn’t very responsive (in fact there is no service :D), the lamb meatballs were not bad. Lunch price for two, drinks included: 50TL

With a full belly, we explore the beach, followed by three cute labradors. The sand is super fine, the beach is flat and very wide. In summer it must have been a dream destination. The water is good, but unfortunately it is too cold at the moment (10 degrees at the end of October 2018) and there is too much wind. We could have rented a deckchair or had lunch with our feet in the sand

Seeing that no mini-bus has passed since we are here, we ask the owner of the restaurant to call one for us. We don’t speak Turkish but there are words to know and universal gestures: dolmuş Selçuk? (+ the gesture “allo”)

the ş and ç are pronounced as “shh” and u = or
dolmuş = the local mini-bus
Selçuk = the city we want to return to

15 minutes later, dolmuş arrives. It passes in front of Ephesus and then takes us back to Selçuk for 4.5TL per person. I think that if no one is there to call a dolmuş for us, we surely could have called one ourselves

Archaeological Museum of Ephesus

We go down in front of the museum of Ephesus. The entrance costs only 15TL. The museum keeps all the statues found in Ephesus, jewelry, ceramics. The most interesting is the miniature of the temple of Artemis, one of the 7 ancient wonders. Just the miniature impresses us, imagine the size of the original. In the center of the temple was a magnificent statue of Artemis

We have two statues of Artemis in this museum, of unparalleled beauty, each about 2 meters tall. I don’t know if they are originals, but in any case, in the museum, it was marked “1st century” and “2nd century” ! Unfortunately, the pictures can’t show all the details, but come here, just for that !

Then, for apprentice goldsmiths like me, gold jewelry fascinates me. Finally, fashion has not changed much. I think they are still relevant today

There are surely other important discoveries in this museum but I am not an archaeologist or historian. I let you read the details about their collection here

Temple of Artemis

We don’t have much time left and instead of going to the ruins of the temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. We try to look at them from afar, through someone’s garden. Be careful, we aren’t in their garden, but it is open and we can see from the sidewalk a piece of one of the two remaining columns of the temple and a mass of stones. Destroyed in favor of the rise of Christianity, this temple can no longer be renovated because people used it to build Hagia Sophia in Istanbul in the 5th century. Oops. But let’s congratulate their recycling reflex!

It’s time to return to the bus station. It is 4:30 pm and we are comfortably installed in a big bus to Pamukkale

In conclusion, the visit to Ephesus was very pleasant and full of surprises. It is also the best renovated ancient site in the area. For those who want to combine the pilgrimage and the visits, I will tell you in the practical part of the guide about other places that every practicing Christian should visit in this city

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • Cab from Istanbul => airport: 60TL for two
  • Plane Istanbul => Izmir : 16€/person one way – flight of 8h20
  • Izmir => Selçuk with Havas company : 30TL/person
  • Selçuk => the house of the Virgin Mary: we were told about 20TL by cab
  • Selçuk => Ephesus with a dolmus: 3TL/person
  • Entrance to the Ephesus site: 60TL/person
  • Entrance to the terrace houses: 30TL/person
  • Ephesus => Pamucak Beach with a dolmus: 4,5TL/person
  • Lunch next to the beach: 25TL/person
  • Pamucak Beach => Selçuk with a dolmus: 4,5TL/person
  • Entrance to the archaeological museum of Ephesus: 15TL/person
  • Water bottle: 1TL/small bottle, 2TL/large bottle

Tips & Tricks

  • Transportation from Istanbul to Ephesus has been well detailed in this article.
  • Concerning the mini bus(dolmus), here are the destinations served and the corresponding fares.

  • Apart from the otogar (the bus station), and Ephesus, it is better (out of season) to ask someone to call a dolmus for you. If there are clients, they can come by every 20 minutes. It’s really super easy, people don’t speak English and we don’t speak Turkish but we understand each other without any worries. One Turkish word out of twenty has French origins in addition. If we believe their business card, here is the number to call a dolmus if needed: 05075464603
  • For any practicing Christian, stay at least 8 hours on site (or even sleep on site). It is of course inconceivable that you will miss

    • a visit to the house of the Virgin Mary, where she would have spent her last days. It is necessary to go there by cab.
    • or a visit to the Basilica of St. John of Ephesus where the tomb of St. John is located. You have to go there by cab too.
    • The Church of Mary at Ephesus is one of the 7 churches of Revelation that I mentioned in the article.

All points of interest in Ephesus (and Pamukkale) are tagged on this custom Google Maps. Feel free to share it, it’s made for !

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