Ephesus Turkey Travel
Everyone wants to visit this exceptional site!
Ephesus was of one of the most illustrious and important cities of ancient Greece and Rome. Once the capital of Rome’s Province of Asia, second only to Alexandria, and with a population of 250,000 it was famed for its beauty, wealth and decadence as well as its fabulous Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
As aptly put by “Let’s Go Istanbul tours“:
“Short, fiery and intense, Ephesus’ history has all the makings of an ancient tragedy. Out of devotion to its patron goddess Artemis, it stayed close to her colossal temple rather than sidestep certain death as its harbour steadily filled with silt. Despite desperate attempts to battle the Cayster River’s indefatiguable silt-depositing tyranny, the recession of the sea had sealed the city’s fate by the 6th Century. The harbour deteriorated into a marshy morass, which eventually became infested with with malaria-carrying mosquitoes, triggering a massive epidemic that resulted in nearly 200,000 deaths ….”
An important site of early Christianity, it is mentioned in the New Testament of the Christian Bible (Acts 19v23* and the Epistle to the Ephesians) and was the site of the third Ecumenical Council that determined the status of Mary as the Mother of God in 431 AD and found Bishop Nestoridas a heretic for disagreeing. St. Paul lived there for 3 years from 50 AD. Jesus’ mother Mary and Apostle John are other famous former citizens.
90% of people need 2 – 4 hours to see Ephesus; enthusiasts of classics, archeology and theology will want much more!
Private Guides, Tour Groups and “DIY” Guide Books are all available and are all good in their own way, depending on your budget and what you want.
2. ST. JOHN’s BASILICA & GRAVE
According to multiple sources, John is the youngest of the twelve disciples of Jesus, and his favourite, lived in the Selcuk- Ephesus area “on and off”, was officially exiled from Ephesus to Patmos and was finally buried on Aya Soluk hill. His grave was very likley remembered by the Christians of Ephesus, and when Christianity became legal and finally official, a small chapel was built over his grave.
In the 6th Century AD, Byzantine Emperor Justinian (also a patron of Aya Sofya in Ýstanbul) built a massive church from the remains of the Temple of Artemis over his marked grave. 98 feet – 32 metres high, it would today have been the seventh biggest church on earth had it remained, but it was flattened in an earthquake in 14th Century. The stones were promptly taken down the hill to build the Isa Bey Mosque and other buildings. Its the best-preserved Byzantine ruin in the Aegean. Although just a shell now, what remains is beautifully restored and its noted for its lovely atmosphere. Don’t miss the cross-shaped Baptistry with the baptismal pool with steps! A highly popular site with most visitors. Before you go, see the hotel staff for advice re the illegal sellers of antique coins that frequent the area.
AYA SOLUK CASTLE:
Selcuk’s landmark, a grand Byzantine fortress with walls that stretch down to protect St. John’s, is known locally as “The Castle on the Hill”. It has been closed to the public for many years as excavators declared it unstable and in 1999 a wall did collapse. There are no plans to reopen. Wonderful views are available, however, from the Sirince and Meryemana roads.
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3. MERYEMANA – THE HOUSE OF THE VIRGIN MARY
Jesus’ mother Mary is thought to have lived here from 37 AD until her death in ~45 AD. Despite no “proven” physical evidence ever having been found, there are ~ a dozen reasons supporting the idea of this somewhat surprising claim.
• It is recorded that Jesus, at his execution, asked the young John to treat Mary as his own mother & Mary to treat John as her own son – and John is recorded as being a long term resident of Ephesus. John spent his life ‘following’ Jesus at his peril – was he likely to have disregarded the dying wish of someone he loved & revered so greatly ?
• ALL the disciples left the Holy Land after Pentecost (most went to Turkey): It was very dangerous there – Christians like Stephen and James were being killed – why would they leave Jesus’ mother there ?
• The journey was not impossible – Paul is recorded as making it 4 times.
• There are extremely early Rock Church paintings in Cappadocia of Mary riding through Cappadocian scenery.
• Ephesus was a busy, cosmopolitan port, and they are notable for being more tolerant for this very reason – constant mixing of many peoples.
This is seen today in the lighter application of rules in Saudi Arabian port towns. Even though it was the world epicentre of Artemis worship & Paganism was “compulsory” in those times, temples to other gods (such as Egyptian) can be seen today. Ephesus was a place one could “blend in” inconspicuously – and thus a good place to go.
• Paul lived there preaching fervently (even gaining support in high places) for 3 years before needing to leave.
• From the existance of The Epistle (letter) to the Ephesians, we know there was a definitely a community of Christians there, who would have highly valued the mother & “favourite” follower of the person whose teachings they revered and followed under threat of death.
• Furthermore, the foundations “date” correctly for these years (the lower walls are byzantine repairs & the upper walls are modern repairs. Original fallen stone was very likely incorporated into the Byzantine repairs). Spookily, 2 structures described by Catherine Emmerich were found exactly where she described them in her vision.
• For more information, see our library…
“Discovered” in 1892 by sceptical priests wishing to disprove the hugely controversial vision of Bavarian nun Catherina Emmerich, it was already well-known to local Muslims & Christians, who had been visiting it for the Feast of the Assumption since times immemorial.
It is now officially accepted by the Catholic & Orthodox Churches as “the true site”, rather than the “traditional” one in Jerusalem.
4. EPHESUS MUSEUM
Valuable items found at Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis are in this small museum. Although called the EPHESUS Museum, it is actually in Selcuk and is one of Turkey’s premier collections with two famous statues of Goddess Artemis, marble portrait busts and beautiful statuary from the streets, fountains and altars. Also see gold, funerary items, coloured glassware, surgical instruments (including an arrow-head remover), children’s toys and exquisite furniture like the “coffee” table supported by rearing, roaring panthers. Outdoors in the walled garden are restored Ottoman buildings with displays of old trades and businesses and a nomadic tent! The 400-year old hamam there is a hamam & folk museum – ask on arrival. Allow 1.5 hours.
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5. THE CAVE OF THE SEVEN SLEEPERS
A legend similar to that of “Rip van Winkle” allegedly took place here – seven boys who refused to sacrifice to Roman Emperor Decius were said to have slept here for 120 years to escape persecution. This Byzantine Graveyard was once an important Medieval pilgrimage site; now a simple restaurant serves delicious, inexpensive “Gozleme” (tasty thin dough “crepes”) to hungry visitors instead
6. THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS SITE
This was once one of the “Seven Wonders of the (Ancient) World” – the creator of the list said it was the greatest of them all. Four times the size of Athen’s Parthenon, it was the largest of the grand temples of Classical civilization. It was once joined to Ephesus by a marble road lined with statues. Finally destroyed by the Goths in 253 AD it was eventually stripped for building materials for St. John Basilica and Aya Sofya in Istanbul. From 1869, after 6 years of excavation, the last remains were removed to the British Museum. Only one small pillar (once there were 127 – 20 metres high !), remains at the site. Today one can mentally rebuild the temple – its size was astonishing. See its masonry at the Basilica of St. John and the Isa Bey Mosque, its mammoth pillars and marble plaques in Aya Sofya in Istanbul.
• For more on The Temple of Artemis.
• Who was Artemis?
7. ISA BEY MOSQUE
This mosque is the only one of its kind in Turkey. It was designed by a Syrian and built in 1375 from “classical junk” from Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis and St. John Basilica. See the lovely decorative stonework in the courtyard, the classical stone in the west wall and the Ottoman gravestones wearing stone turbans (men) and garlands (women). The pillars in the courtyard, filched from Ephesus, are originally from Aswan in Egypt! The Imam here is very welcoming to visitors. Open at prayer times.
NB: DRESS CODE for MOSQUES: “Modest, respectful attire” for both sexes eg
Legs, midriffs, cleavage, upper arms, back and hair must be covered. Sarongs make useful “coverups”. Scarves etc are available from the pro-actively helpful Imam (mosque priest). In winter, you can just tuck all hair out of sight under coat hoods and ski hats.
Must cover their thighs and torso. Long baggy shorts are OK in THIS Mosque: in others, shorts may need to be covered with a sarong.
Some knowledge about local religion will put you in good stead for visiting mosques and practices you will encounter.
• Islam in Turkey
• Religious customs particular to Muslim Turks
Today’s Selcuk TURKISH BATH
This is something you really should consider doing! This quintessential Turkish experience can be “the highlight of the holiday(vacation)”.
Selcuk’s “Hamam” is open 7 am to 11 pm everyday: for men! Women are allowed to attend at these times (“Mixed” bathing). “Women Only” time is Noon to 4 pm on Fridays. For many reasons & to promote the traditional bathing experience and preserve the tradition, if at all possible, on request, we will book private closed sessions for women only with a woman attendant (Conditions apply).
See our comprehensive Hamam page on this fascinating old custom.
SATURDAY LOCAL MARKET
The weekly bazaar kicks off at ~ 8.30 am and starts to pack up as the sun starts to go down. Enormously popular with travellers, it attracts crowds from Kusadasi as well. This market is primarily for the local people – a great place to buy cheap clothes and gadgets as well as fresh food. Keep your eyes peeled for the unusual – eg horse collars, donkey saddles, unusual tools, the odd antique and poison-sellers ! People-watching is another interesting pastime.
CAMLIK OPEN AIR RAILWAY MUSEUM
15 minutes from Selcuk lie 3 dozen retired Steam Engines: a treasure trove for Train Buffs, although of general interest as well – surprisingly so! With its expansive manicured lawns and immaculate trains its also great place for kids and family picnics! The 29 locomotives and 4 historical wagons exhibited in natural surroundings in the 160 acres museum fascinate the visitors.
A single 1932 specimen can be found near Selcuk Train Station for the less enthusiastic!
“BIRD PARADISE” SANCTUARY
The estuary at Pamucak Beach is an interesting spot for Bird Watchers. Flamingos can be seen in March – April. Also, from mid-March to August see our famous storks nesting and raising their young on every chimney stack and aquaduct arch in Selcuk!
More bird watching is possible at Dilek Peninsula National Park
There are several Aegean Sea beaches within 10 – 20 minutes of Selcuk.
The most convenient are:
1. Pamucak Beach: The closest – a public beach only 10 minutes away by road.
Long & curved, its sand is silky & fine; very rare in the Aegean & Mediterranean, which typically have stoney beaches. Many Turkish beaches plunge steeply, making them deep even at the shore, but Pamucak is flat and shallow for quite a distance out, making it particularly suitable for children. Horse riding may be available.
2. Tusan & Kustur Resorts are ~20 minutes away by road in the direction of Kusadasi. Very narrow beaches which “belong” to the two resorts. The sand is a mix of fine pebble and coarse sand. There are a few bands of rock on the shore but once you traverse them, it is fine and soft in the water, which is very clear. Very busy in peak season.
Both are shallow and the shore waves, if even present, are usually under 1 foot / 30 cm.
There are frequent public transport mini buses to both from Selcuk.