Travel Guide Turkey

Ephesus Self-Guided Tour from Selcuk

My trip to Ephesus,Turkey is what I consider a trip of a lifetime. It was my first long-haul flight, which took over 30 hours from the Philippines. It took many leaps of faith just to get there and when I finally reached my dream destination, I cried. I felt a different level of gratitude unlike any I have experienced before.

This post is part of my 11-day Adventure in Turkey. Please check out this Turkey Travel Guide if you are planning your own trip.

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus was nothing short of magnificent.

Where to stay in Selcuk

My friend and I arrived in Selcuk Town at around 7:00 in the evening. It was already dark and most of the shops in town were already closed. We got lost on our way to our chosen accommodation, Ephesus Palace, but we met a friendly hostel owner who contacted the guesthouse for us. We were then picked up by one of the staff and we finally checked into Ephesus Palace, a budget-friendly accommodation located about 5 minutes from Selcuk town.

Our one night accommodation in Selcuk – Ephesus Palace

Although my friend and I did not stay long in Ephesus Palace, I will recommend this guesthouse to anyone. The owners Mehmet and Handan were very kind and accommodating. The complimentary Turkish breakfast was great and became my standard when it comes to home cooked Turkish breakfast.  I particularly enjoyed the complimentary tea and the awesome view from the balcony.

Ephesus Palace
4027 Sok. No 15, Selcuk 35920, Turkey
Check rates and availability

the prettiest breakfast I have ever had!

How to get to Selcuk

From Istanbul

There are various ways to get to Selcuk depending on where you are coming from. You can fly out via Turkish Airlines, Onur Air and Pegasus Airlines from Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen International Airport or the brand-spanking new Istanbul Airport to Izmir Adnan Menderes International Airport, the closest airport to Selcuk. From Izmir Airport, you can take a local train located just across the airport to get to Selçuk town. Check out this timetable for more information. 

From Cappadocia

Take a Pegasus Ailines or Sun Express flight from Kayseri Erkilet Airport to Izmir Adnan Menderes International Airport. There are also direct buses from Nevşehir (Cappadocia) to Izmir. From there, take a local train to get to Selcuk town. It’s going to be a long bus ride so I would suggest to travel by air instead. Air tickets are cheap in Turkey, so take advantage of this. 

From Pamukkale  

Catch a minibus to get to Denizli Otogar (bus) station. From there, walk towards the gar (train) station and take a local train to Selcuk. It will take about 3 hours to get to Selcuk town.

the breakfast spread at Ephesus Palace

How to to get to Ephesus Archaeological Site from Selcuk

Ephesus is about 3 kilometers from Selcuk town. To get there, take a cab from your chosen accommodation to the south or north gate. Travel time is about 10 minutes and one-way fare is 10 Lira or about 90 pesos. You may also take a minibus from town to get to the north gate, which only costs 3.50 Lira or 30 pesos.

Baths of Varius

The Ancient City of Ephesus

The Ancient City of Ephesus, once occupied by the Greeks, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman, was once a vibrant mega-metropolis located in the western coast of Turkey.  The city played a key role in the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire when it became the capital of Asia Minor. Even after many centuries since its downfall, some of its former splendour still remains. A guided tour or a self-guided tour give us glimpses into the lives of the people who once lived there. It’s almost like a time travel when you walk down the ancient streets. 

my friend Maki and the ancient Roman Corinthian columns

Where to start – South or North Gate?

The North Gate (Lower Gate) is closer to Selcuk town so it is recommended to start here if you are taking a minibus or planning to walk from town. It is also closer to the main sights like the Great Theatre, Lower Agora and the Library of Celsus. However, starting at the North Gate can be a challenge, especially during summer, because it is mostly uphill. So make sure to pack some water, sunglasses, sunscreen, and sturdy shoes.

Basilica Stoa or Royal Colonnade beside the Lower Agora (marketplace)

The South Gate (Upper Gate), on the other hand, starts at the Magnesia Gate where you will see the Upper Agora, Baths of Varius, Odeon or Bouleuterion (Parliament), and the Prytaneum (Town Hall). For me, this is the best place to start your self-guided tour because you will be walking downhill and your tour will end with Ephesus’ most famous attractions – the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre. Saving the best for last without being exhausted with uphill walks.

one of the many cute cats found in Ephesus

What to see in Ephesus

Ephesus boasts a lot of significant historical monuments but here are the ones that I found to be the most awe-inspiring and enchanting. I posted the photos in order from the South Gate (Upper Gate) down to the North Gate (Lower Gate). I hope you find these photos helpful when you do your own self-guided tour, or else grab a map or hire a tour guide. 

one of the stairs leading up to the Odeon

The Odeon (Bouleuterion)

The Odeon, also known as the Small Theatre, served as an entertainment and meeting center of the city. It also served as a political centre for the city council for religious and governmental discussions. Its small covered theatre sat roughly 1,500 spectators and is one of the original permanent stone theatres to stand in Ephesus.  

Odeon (Bouleuterion)

The Prytaneum

At the west end of the Odeon (Bouleuterion), we found the remains of the Prytaneum built in 1st century BC. This used to be one of the most important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Ephesus. At the centre of the building was the Temple of Hestia which contained a sacred hearth that was never allowed to go out to represent all the hearths in Ephesus. Today, only two Doric columns remain from the six original. 

The ‘Rhodian Peristyle’ and the Prytaneum

The Temple of Domitian

Built in the 1st century AD, the Temple of Domitian was said to have been dedicated to the Roman Emperor Domitian. He was said to be one of the most brutal Roman emperors but because the Ephesians wanted to secure good relations to Rome, they dedicated many buildings in the city to emperors. The Temple of Domitian was the first ever monument built for a Roman emperor.

The Temple of Domitian

Goddess Nike

A short walk from the Temple of Domitian, we found this beautiful flying Nike statue. Nike was the goddess of victory in Ancient Greece. This statue symbolized ultimate success and triumph. I later found out that the image of Nike is found on Olympic Medals as a good reminder to never give up.

This huge stone statue is Nike, the goddess of victory in Greek mythology and is said to be part of the Hercules Gate.

Fountain of Trajan

Built at the beginning of the 2nd century AD, the Fountain of Trajan was constructed to honor Emperor Trajan. Located at the he north end of Curetes Street, the fountain had two ornamental pools at the front and rear and statues which are now on display in the Ephesus Museum. It’s hard to imagine what it used to be like back in the ancient times but the signage on site will help you understand what the fountain probably looked like.

Fountain of Trajan (Nymphaeum Traiani)

Curetes Street

Curetes Street is one of the three main streets of Ephesus and is home to many historical monuments. This ancient street runs between Hercules Gate and the Library of Celsus, which used to be a sacred route that lead to the Temple of Artemis. I immediately noticed that this street was very significant since the ancient times because there were a lot of beautiful monuments on the slope. 

Curetes Street

The Temple of Hadrian

Located along the famous Curetes Street, the Temple of Hadrian is regarded as one of the most famous monuments in Ephesus. There were magnificent statues and friezes inside the temple including a relief of Medusa. but they have all been replaced with replicas of the originals. You will find the original statues in the Ephesus Museum.

The Temple of Hadrian and the stone relief of Medusa
ancient Roman public toilet
this cute cat was hanging out enjoying some sunshine 🙂

The Library of Celsus

As you come to the end of Curetes Street, the most photographed and the grandest monument of Ephesus slowly comes into view. This is the famous Library of Celsus dating from the early 2nd century AD. It is impossible to describe the feeling standing at the foot of the library while looking up at some of the ancient statues and carvings that have survived after many centuries. This monument was the reason why I wanted to visit Ephesus in the first place. 

the highlight of Ephesus – The Library of Celsus
Look at the details. How can they possible design something like this in the ancient times?
getting around Turkey was super easy thanks to Alldaywifi 🙂 Read my review here.
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one of the stone sculptures at the Library of Celsus
how did this thing survived after many centuries?
Lower Agora (marketplace)

The Great Theatre of Ephesus

The Great Theatre of Ephesus, which was capable of holding up to 25,000 spectators, was one of the best preserved Greek-Roman ancient theaters in the world. It was used initially for entertainment like musical and drama, but was also used for gladiator fights during later Roman times. This massive theatre was nothing like I have ever seen before. Okay, I have not seen any ancient theaters before my trip to Turkey, but seriously, this theatre was really amazing. 

The Great Theater
These cats just finished eating but they seemed annoyed with each other. Lol!

Other places to visit in and around Ephesus

Meryem Ana Evi (House of the Virgin Mary)

One of the most popular destinations near the ruins is Meryem Ana Evi (House of the Virgin Mary).  It is believed that the Virgin Mary was taken here by St. John the Apostle shortly after the Crucifixion and to survive the Roman persecutions. It was reduced to rubble by many earthquakes and it was only until 1951 when it was discovered again by a German nun when she the place in her visions.

The Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis was a Greek temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. During the downfall of the Cult of Artemis with the rise of Christianity, the temple was neglected and looted. Unfortunately, a single column and a small pile of rubble were all that remain of the Temple of Artemis.

The Basilica of St. John

The Basilica of St. John was a monumental basilica in Ephesus ordered to be constructed by Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century. It stands over the burial site of St. John the Apostle. It used to be one of the most celebrated pilgrimage centres on the way to Jerusalem during the medieval times but in was destroyed due to Arabic invasions in 14th century.  Today, visitors can see some of its magnificent structures like the outer courtyard, chapel, atrium, treasure hall, and a simple stone memorial with the statement “The Tomb of Saint John.”

Where to eat in Selcuk

Since we weren’t planning to stay in Selcuk for over two days, my friend and I did not bother researching the best places to eat. Good thing, we found Mehmet and Ali Baba Kebab House, while we were on our way back from Ephesus. This Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurant located near Ephesus Museum is one of the top-rated restaurants in Selcuk.

Mixed Kebab platter and Adana Kebab was our choice for lunch, which we absolutely loved. We also loved their complimentary bread and meze (appetizers).

Where to avail Ephesus Guided Tour

If you would like to avail a guided tour instead, check out the following options.

Ephesus, House of Virgin Mary, & Artemis Temple Group Tour (From US$ 29 per person)

Full Day Ephesus tour from Izmir (From US$ 79 per person)

Half-Day Small Group Ephesus Tour from Kusadasi (From US$ 28 per person)

Stay connected in Turkey

Whether you are travelling to Turkey for vacation or a business trip, a pocket WiFi should be a non-negotiable. Public places in Turkey do not offer free WiFi so it is challenging to stay connected to family and friends as well as navigate or research for your trip. To enjoy a secure, fast Internet connection and portability that a Pocket WiFi provides, make sure to rent your own device from Alldaywifi. Use my promo code ‘PROJECTGORA10’ to get 10% off!

How about you? Is Ephesus part of your bucket list? Let’s chat down below!

By Project Gora

Hey there! My name is Milet Miranda, and I'm a full-time corporate employee during weekdays and a traveler during weekends (and get the picture). I'm a foodie at heart and I love joining food tours. When I'm not traveling, you'll find me walking my dogs or biking around my neighborhood.