Julie Turkey 12 Comments

When you visit Selcuk, Turkey, there is more to see than the ancient city of Ephesus. You can also tour a mosque, visit an Ancient Wonder of the World, and see where the Virgin Mary lived after the death of Jesus.

Here are our recommendations of things to do in and around Ephesus.

Best Things to Do in Selcuk

#1 The Ancient City of Ephesus

Without a doubt, Ephesus is the highlight of a visit to Selcuk. Touring this ancient city is what attracts tourists to this town.

Ephesus (Efes in Turkish) was once an ancient Greek city and later became a Roman city. During the beginning of the Roman period, around 100 BC, Ephesus had a population of 250,000, making it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world.  The city had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the world.

Ephesus was an important city for early Christianity. The Gospel of John may have been written in Ephesus from 90 to 100 AD. Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean and only 15% of the city may be excavated.

Here are some of the most important places to visit in Ephesus.

Street of Curetes

This is the main thoroughfare through Ephesus.

Marble Road

Library of Celsus

The centerpiece of Ephesus, the Library of Celsus was built in 117 AD. It housed more than 12,000 scrolls, making it the third richest library in ancient times after Alexandria and Pergamum.

Library of Celsus

Library Celsus

Earth Trekkers Ephesus

Temple of Hadrian

This is another impressive structure, with its Corinthian columns and curved arch.

Temple of Hadrian

The Great Theater

This is the most magnificent structure in Ephesus. It was constructed in the Hellenistic period in the 3rd century BC. It contains 25,000 seats, half of that of the Roman Colosseum. The theater was used for concerts, plays, political discussions, and gladiator and animal fights. Kara uses it for dancing.

Great Theater

Kara Dancing

Ephesus Turkey

Odeon Theater

This was an enclosed theater used for meetings of the Senate and concert hall performances. At one time, before excavations of Ephesus, this entire theater was completely underground.

Odeon Theater

The Terraced Houses

The Terrace Houses of Ephesus are located just opposite the Temple of Hadrian. These houses are also called the “houses of the rich” because they were owned by the elite families of the city. Inside there are six buildings decorated with very fine mosaics and frescoes. The time span that the houses were in use varies between 1 century BC up to 7 centuries AD.

Mosaics Ephesus

Terrace Houses Ephesus

To enter the Terraced Houses, you do have to pay 85 TL additional to the entrance fee into Ephesus.

#2 House of the Virgin Mary

This is the place where Mary may have spent her last days. She may have come here with Saint John, who spent several years in the area to spread Christianity. It is now a place of pilgrimage for Christians and has been visited by several Popes.

House of Virgin Mary

#3 The Basilica of St. John

The Basilica of St. John was built in the 6th century AD over the believed burial site of John the Apostle. John preached about Christianity in Ephesus, where he lived out his final days.

St John Basilica

Basilica St John

Turkey Travel Guide

#4 Isa Bey Mosque

This mosque was built between 1374 and 1375. It was constructed asymmetrically, on purpose, with its windows and doors not matching up.

Isa Bey Mosque


#5 The Temple of Artemis

This is one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. One pillar out of 127 remains standing in a boggy marsh in Selcuk. It was built around 323 BC as a shrine to the goddess Artemis. The Isa Bey Mosque and the Basilica of St. John can be seen nearby, and Ephesus is only one mile away. There is so much history right here in such a small geographical area!

Temple of Artemis

#6 Cave of the Seven Sleepers

According to Christian and Muslim tradition, in the third century AD, a group of young men sought refuge in a cave to escape religious persecution. They emerged 300 years later. Learn more here. 

Cave of the Seven Sleepers

Cave Seven Sleepers

#7 Sirince

Sirince is the “Tuscany of Turkey.” Enjoy views of the green mountains, wander the cobblestoned streets, and have lunch or dinner here. This also makes a nice spot to spend the night if you want to get out of touristy Selcuk.

Sirince Turkey

Sirince Street

Entrance Fees and Hours of Operation

Get updated hours and pricing here.

Where We Stayed

Saint John Hotel in Selcuk. This is a charming, small hotel just a short drive from Ephesus.

More Information for Your Trip to Turkey:

TURKEY ITINERARY: Learn how to plan your visit to Turkey with our 10 day Turkey Itinerary, which includes Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus.

CAPPADOCIA: In our 3 Days in Cappadocia itinerary, learn how to plan your visit here, with daily itineraries, hotel and restaurant recommendations, and helpful tips. And learn more about taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, one of our favorite experiences in Turkey.

ISTANBUL: For things to do on a visit to Istanbul, read our article Best Things to Do in Istanbul.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: For more information about the camera gear we carry, check out our Travel Photography Gear Guide.

Planning a trip to Turkey? Read all of our articles in our Turkey Travel Guide.


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Comments 12

  1. Avatar for Shan

    Hi Julie,

    Really appreciate all the travel tips. I’m planning to go from Cappadocia to Izmir airport (arriving around 7am) and from there to Ephesus and then try to get to Pamukale. Not sure if that’s too much to do in 1 day.

    I don’t really want to drive (coming from Australia). Would you recommend any taxi/private driver companies. Is it easy to drive in that area?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, driving in that area was easy and we had no problems. As far as adding on Pamukkale, it really depends on when you flight arrives in Izmir. You will need about 4 hours (or more) to see the sights in Selcuk, so if you get in in the morning, you could visit Ephesus midday, and that evening drive to Pamukkale. But if your flight gets in midday, then you won’t have enough time to visit Ephesus and drive to Pamukkale. We flew from Cappadocia to Izmir, getting in midday, spent some time visiting Izmir, then drove to Selcuk. The following day, we visited Selcuk and late afternoon flew to Istanbul. As far as a driver, I do not have a recommendation but if you have a hotel booked they might be able to make suggestions. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Shan

        Thanks so much Julie!
        Your advise has been great for planning my other trips in the coming month to France and Italy too! Looking forward to reading more of your great advise!

  2. Avatar for Senri

    I’m glad to come across your blog. I’m visiting Selcuk with my elderly parents next week and will stay 2 nights there. My parents are 82 and 72, both are in great shape for their age. Do you think its doable to visit the Ephesus ruins with them?
    The other thing I would need a tip is the transportation from Izmir airport to Selcuk? What would be the most sensible way to reach Selcuk other than taxi or private car?
    Thanks a lot and please keep posting and share your experience.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Senri. Yes, your parents should be able to visit Ephesus. There are some small hills, but nothing too bad. I don’t know much about getting around without a car, but there is a train that connects Izmir and Selcuk. Here is link to a website with more information. I hope you have a nice trip! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Denise Mccafferty
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello, thanks for the info. There are two versions of the history of the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, a Christian version and a Muslim version. So, the sleepers could have been Muslim or Christian. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Vincent

    I don’t drive and I don’t want to spend money on a driver and car. I’m relying totally on public transport. With this in mind, will spending 4 nights (coming from Marmaris via Rhodes) in Selcuk be sufficient to see the more important sites? Thanks.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  5. Avatar for Dagmara

    It all looks so incredibly beautiful!
    Does it cost anything to enter those places? Can a person enter alone, or is a tour guide needed? 🙂

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Everything on this list can be visited without a guide. Several sites (Ephesus, Isa Bey Mosque, and St. John’s Basilica) all have entrance fees. Ephesus is the most expensive on the list at 40 TL per person but it is worth it. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Kathy (mom)

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