12 Top attractions in Ephesus
The ancient city of Ephesus is a major tourist attraction in Turkey and high on every traveller’s list of things to see. Its dazzling marble-columned temples and colonnaded streets are every history buff’s dream. There’s plenty more to do in the vicinity once you’ve finished rambling through the ruins. Ephesus sits on the edge of the vibrant town of Selçuk which has long been a favourite stop for independent travellers. With a castle, excellent museum, Byzantine basilica and a Roman aqueduct running straight through the centre, this little town may be overshadowed by the mammoth ruin next door but has much to offer those who choose to spend a few days here.
Ephesus is one of Turkey’s major sightseeing attractions. This vast and beautiful Greco-Roman city was once home to 250,000 people and the glorious monuments that remain point to it being a vibrant and rich metropolis. Supposedly founded by the Ionian prince Androclus in the 10th century BC, Ephesus was not only a centre of trade but a great pilgrimage centre with the Temple of Artemis built in worship of the mother goddess.
2 Ephesus Museum
After you’ve finished visiting Ephesus, head straight to this brilliant museum. Some of the best finds from the ancient city are on display including an exquisitely carved Artemis statue famous for its multi-breasted depiction of the goddess.
3 Basilica of St John
This citadel-like basilica once occupied the whole breadth of the hill it sits on and was ranked with the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople (now the Aya Sofya) as one of the Byzantine Empire’s largest churches. According to tradition the grave of St John the Divine is under the church.
4 Temple of Artemis
Just one lonely column (topped by a stork’s nest) is all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Excavations carried out by archaeologist JT Wood here showed that the site was originally occupied by a stone platform on which the cult image of the goddess stood, while underneath were rooms where votive offerings were presented. The renowned gigantic marble temple of Seven Wonders fame was built in the 6th century BC and boasted a staggering 127 columns.
Located 8 km from Ephesus, the Meryemana is a major tourist attraction and has a curious history. Tradition holds that the Virgin Mary journeyed to Ephesus with St John, and is said to have died here.
6 Ayasuluk Fortress
Ayasuluk Fortress sits on the hill high above Selçuk. This hilltop site has been settled since the Neolithic period but the fortress dates from the Byzantine era and the fortifications were extended by the Seljuks. The mighty enclosure wall had 15 rectangular towers. Within the walls are several remnants of houses and a small Seljuk mosque.
7 İsa Bey Mosque (İsa Bey Camii)
This Seljuk era mosque is a beautiful example of the fine architecture of the 14th century. Its tall outer walls enclose a large arcaded courtyard leading to a double-domed prayer hall. The large columns of black granite used in the structure were recycled from the Roman baths. Above the richly decorated main entrance there is an elaborate calligraphic inscription.
8 Roman Aqueduct
Running through the centre of Selçuk is this partly preserved Roman aqueduct, made all the more of a tourist attraction these days because of a number of stork nests built on top of it.
9 Grotto of the Seven Sleepers
Approximately 2 km down a dirt trail from the Ephesus ruins, is this cave system that has an interesting local legend attached to it. Supposedly in AD 250 the Emperor Decius persecuted seven early Christians who then were sealed up by the emperor in this cave.
Sweet little Şirince is a picture-perfect village of red-roofed stone houses that cascade down a hill slope surrounded by dense forest. Located 8 km from Selçuk.
If you’re looking to sample rural Turkish life, the farming hamlet of Tire is a great place for a wander. The town, about 40 km from Selçuk, is renowned for its felt-making tradition and you can still see master felt craftsmen at work in the village.
12 Pamucak Beach
When you’ve had your fill of ancient ruins, this prime piece of sand, about 7 km from Selçuk, is the place to chill out and enjoy some sun and swimming. Pamucak Beach can get very busy on weekends so if possible leave your sunbathing for a weekday.
Written by Jess Lee