It wasn’t until my third visit that I discovered that Kusadasi offered much more than Ephesus. In fact, the region’s best-known historic site is only one of many historic sites worthy of a visit. Kusadasi also serves up religious shrines, authentic villages where you can enjoy lunch in a family home, once-thriving maritime cities, the remains of massive Greek temples )including one that ranks among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and much more.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to spend a day on shore excursions from Kusadasi.
Combine Ephesus With A Visit To The Virgin Mary’s House
Shuffling our feet along a street made from marble slabs, we were walking the Marble Road, which cuts through the heart of what was the second largest city in the Roman Empire, Ephesus.
As we walked along, our guide pointed to grooves carved from the frequent traffic of chariots and carts, and to beautiful mosaic sidewalks alongside the road. Mark Antony and Cleopatra rode in procession here, our guide told us. St. John lived nearby. In the Grand Theater, St. Paul preached to the Ephesians.
From its wonderful, mostly intact or rebuilt ruins, Ephesus echoes voices of the past and reveals centuries of history. The classical Greeks established Ephesus more than 2,500 years ago, but the city began to flourish when it came under control of the Roman Republic around 129 A.D. Thus, most of what you see in Ephesus today is of Roman origin.
Roman temples and shops once lined the Marble Road. In the 2nd century, the Romans build the Celsus Library, which boasted more than 12,000 papyrus scrolls in its heyday. Today, all that remains is a two-story facade, rebuilt in the 1970s.
Ephesus is a must-see in any season. Bring along a hat and drinking water, and, if possible, join a small group on a private tour for a more enriching experience than you would have as part of a large group. And don’t stop once you’ve seen Ephesus. Only a short drive away, up a winding and scenic road, you’ll find an unassuming small stone structure tucked away among the trees. Here on Mount Pagus is the Virgin Mary’s House. Catholic pilgrims visit the house on the belief that Saint John brought the mother of Jesus here to live the last years of her life. Several popes have also paid visits to what is now a shrine.
If you’re so inclined on your visit to this holy house, step outside to light a candle in memory of your loved ones or sip holy water dispensed from a fountain in a stone wall. The experience of visiting the Virgin Mary’s House is moving for many and a curiosity for others. I am glad I went the extra few miles to step inside the Virgin Mary’s house.
Combine Ephesus With A Visit To The Basilica Of St. John, Temple of Artemis & Isa Bey Mosque
From Ephesus, head to the town of Seljuk. It’s only a short drive away but it comes with some significant sites: the ruins of the Basilica of St. John and the Temple of Artemis, both of which were part of Ephesus, and the Isa Bey Mosque. All are a stone’s throw from one another, and you could easily conduct a thorough visit of all three within a couple hours.
Ephesus With The Terrace Houses & An Evening Concert
Visit Miletus & the Archaeological Museum, Plus The Temple of Apollo
Miletus is said to be a city where geniuses were born. Indeed, one of the more significant claims attributed to Miletus is that it was the first city to which the principles of modern town planning were applied. The grid plan, introduced by Hippodamos, was later to form the basis of town planning in all Roman cities. You will see the ruins of the theatre, thermal baths and the stadium here, and the once-thriving harbor.
Be sure to visit the Archaeological Museum at Miletus to see artifacts representing the many ancient sites of the area.
Enjoy A Local Lunch In The ‘Ugly City’
The clever Greeks named the village they founded “Ugly” (or Çirkince in Turkish) thinking that no one would want to come to such a place. In 1926, the governor of Turkey’s Izmir Province changed the name to Sirince (meaning “sweet” or “pleasant”) to reflect the true characteristic of the town. I found Sirince to be authentic and charming, with beautiful homes situated on the hillsides amid vineyards, olive trees and the like.
Don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of your time when your ship calls in this fascinating Turkish port. And if you discover something I missed, I’d love to hear from you.