Before returning to Istanbul after our six days in the rest of Turkey, my friend and I had one more stop in the country to make. It would be in Ephesus, a former ancient Greek city located at the very west of Turkey, along the Aegean coast. We would have a short day tour there, to see more history and also a glimpse of the stunning Turkish coastline.
Following our rather lackluster visit of Pamukkale, we left the town with about ten other passengers to our next destination. It was about a two-hour drive in the mini-van, with one or two rest stops in between. Soon enough, we caught views of the sparkling Aegean Sea from the car window, and we soon pulled into the resort town of Kuşadasi. My friend and I were dropped off at our hotel just across the street from the beach, where we would spend the night in.
Next to our hotel in Istanbul following our tour, our hotel in Kuşadasi was a second-favorite: not only did we have easy access to the beach, but also the hotel itself was quite nice. Our room was a bit small, but it was clean and it had great amenities, including A/C. We also had decent breakfast in the hotel, with views overlooking the sea. Especially since we’d spent the previous few days traveling inland, having sea views was a refreshing change.
Since we’d arrived late in the afternoon and wouldn’t be staying for long, we didn’t have much time to really explore Kuşadasi. All the same, though, we tried to make the most of it by heading out as the sun was setting to stroll along the beach, before heading to one of the restaurants on the waterfront for dinner.
We weren’t expecting any of the dining options to be extraordinary, just because Kuşadasi is a resort town and more likely than not, the restaurants were tourist traps. But we still wanted to get sunset views by the water, so we chose a random eatery to catch the golden hour. I opted for a mediocre pasta dish with a glass of white wine, and it was a lovely time enjoying my meal right next to the water as the sun made its descent after a long day of traveling.
It was rise-and-shine the following day, as our guide picked us up at our hotel around 9:30. Along with a dozen or so other passengers, we headed off for our tour of Ephesus and other stops in and around the Aegean coast for the day.
Compared with our visit of Cappadocia and Pamukkale during the past few days, I found this part of Turkey to feel slightly more…Greek? Perhaps it was because the region is the westernmost part of the country, with Greece just a boat ride away. Or maybe it was because we would be seeing ruins from ancient Greek times, and so the experience did not feel very Turkish. Then again, Greek rule is a part of Turkish history, so in any case, it made for a cultural and historic education between both countries.
Our first stop was at the Virgin Mary’s House, located atop one of the surrounding hills of Ephesus. The house is, in fact, very small, serving more as a shrine than as a chapel: it’s rumored that the Virgin Mary herself lived in this dwelling in the last years of her life, considered to be true by a German nun in the early 19th century. The nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich, had apparently visions of the Virgin Mary’s life in the eponymous house, and it wasn’t until the late 19th century that a French priest stumbled upon said house in Turkey. Since then, it has been a popular tourist site in Ephesus, along with being a pilgrimage site for the religious.
It was a slight, uphill walk to the house, and we soon filed in one-by-one into the small space to view the Virgin Mary’s shrine. Photos weren’t allowed, and I took a minute to check out the room before stepping out to let the flow of traffic continue its smooth course. I’m by no means religious, so while I found the shrine to be a nice tribute to an iconic figure in Christianity, the visit didn’t strike me as anything remarkable.
We passed by what’s known as the “Wishing Well” while exiting the house grounds. It’s essentially a small stream that trickles along the granite walls. One is actually allowed to take a sip from the water, as it’s thought to have healing powers. I chose not to, not because I didn’t really believe in the legend, but rather for sanitary purposes. My friend and I spent some time checking out the small, souvenir stands by the entrance before our tour reconvened to head out.
Ephesus was the highlight of our visit, as we spent the major bulk of the tour visiting its massive grounds. We only hit selected parts of the once-flourishing Greek city, including the Library of Celsus and a glimpse of its amphitheater. Much of the site was paved in smooth granite, and we had to be careful not to slip as we made our way slightly downhill through the site– I saw a few people eat it on the walk over, which was scary!
After about a couple of hours wandering the site, we headed to lunch and afterwards made our final stop at the Temple of Artemis, labelled as one of the “Seven Ancient Wonders of the World” that still exists today, albeit barely so. It was raining by the time we arrived at the site, and we just got a photo or two in before heading back inside the tour mini-van to avoid getting wet. The temple itself was, unfortunately, nothing to write home about, as much of it had been destroyed in the fifth century AD, and only one pillar remains today.
Our tour effectively concluded at 16:00, and we were dropped of at Selçuk, the main town in the Ephesus area. We would be taking our third and final night bus back to Istanbul, thereby ending our multi-day tour of Turkey. While waiting for the night bus, my friend and I wandered town, getting Turkish tea and trying pide (Turkish pizza) and ayran, a fermented drink made from yogurt, water, and salt.
The former was delicious, but the latter was certainly an acquired taste: I found it to be a combination of salty and sour, which I wasn’t used to at all. In any case, I managed to drink most of the large glass, as I was told that it has great, probiotic qualities. Even if the taste wasn’t very enjoyable, at least it’s good for you!
Ephesus was our last stop of our tour in Turkey before we returned to Istanbul. Overall, our eight to 10 days in the country was a whirlwind: it was a series of exhausting night buses, dizzying landscapes and architectures, and plenty of incredibly-delicious Turkish food. Granted, it was a very-intense tour, but it was a budget one, so we got what we’d paid for– I would definitely try to take my time should I return, but until then, I found Turkey to be a solid visit: overly touristy, but worth it for the food and hospitality.
Thanks for reading, and more travel adventures coming soon!