On a Greek island cruise, you may be more familiar with destinations like Santorini and Mykonos, but cruises to Ephesus, Turkey and the port town of Kusadasi will give you a look at thousands of years of history. When your Kusadasi cruise ship docks in port, you’re perfectly positioned to head further inland to the ruins of Ephesus, where you’ll discover an off-the-beaten-path approach to Turkey.
Ephesus, home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is known for its significance in early Christianity. Visit the House of the Virgin Mary, where it’s said that the mother of Jesus Christ lived out her final days. Venture to the city of Priene on a day trip, where the ruins of the Temple of Athena are the main attraction. Because the excavation of Ephesus is just beginning, who knows what marvels are still buried?
The Temple of Hadrian, built in the first century AD, was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Today, it’s one of the best-preserved temple ruins in all of Turkey and provides a glimpse into what life was like under Roman rule during the reign of the “five good emperors”. Explore the ruins, take a guided tour, and discover the rich history that made Hadrian such an interesting political figure of the day.
This incredible library structure has some of the earliest records of human activity in what we now know as Turkey. The facade of the Celsus Library has become synonymous with Ephesus over the years, and it’s considered a must-see excursion for history buffs. As the sun sets, the ruins of the library are illuminated with a beautiful golden light.
It’s said that the mother of Jesus Christ, known as the Virgin Mary, lived in her own home near Ephesus. Thousands of people make a pilgrimage to this site each year.
These ruins date back over 2,000 years and make for an exciting afternoon of exploration. The ruins of the Temple of Artemis were deemed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Head south to Priene, an ancient Greek city, to experience thousands of years of history and fascinating records of early civilization. The ruins and city plans are astonishingly complex given the time period. Tour the grounds with an expert guide, or stroll through solo on a leisurely afternoon.
If you need a break from exploring Turkish ruins, head to Ladies Beach to relax on the beachfront and go swimming. Take a break at a nearby cafe or sample Turkish seafood at a local eatery.
On a cruise to Ephesus, you’ll discover the best of Turkey’s culinary scene. Even if you stick close to the Kusadasi cruise port, you’ll still be within walking distance to restaurants serving classic Turkish delicacies. Turkish desserts make an easy gift to bring back home.
Head to Bulbul Restaurant to try authentic Turkish mezes and kebabs. Mingle with locals at the waterfront eatery Ferah and sample fresh seafood. Explore the fish market, called the balık halı.
Ephesus has been a hub for arts, trade, and culture throughout its history. The city was taken over by the Romans during the second century B.C. Their rule lasted for hundreds of years and contributed to Ephesus’ status as a trade center. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the port city was frequented by Byzantine and Venetian traders. The city traded hands between the Italians, the Greeks, and Turkish armies, and in the 20th century, Turkey claimed the region of Ephesus. The ruins of Ephesus have captivated travelers for generations and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Kusadasi cruise terminal is fairly easy to navigate. You’ll pass through a covered walkway on the way to shops, an accessible exit, and the area where tour operators wait to pick up passengers.
It’s a short walk from the Kusadasi cruise port to the main attractions in town. If you’ve arranged a shore excursion to Ephesus, you won’t have to worry about organizing transportation yourself. If you’re heading to Ephesus independently, you can take a taxi or rent a car. Once you’re in Ephesus, the area is easily explored on foot.
The Kusadasi cruise terminal may remind you of a mall, offering a variety of familiar chain restaurants as well as Turkish delights and other regional delicacies for purchase. If you prefer sticking close to the terminal, there are plenty of Turkish shops, American-style restaurants, and pizzerias to keep you occupied.
The currency of Turkey is the Turkish lira. Most currency exchange stations are available at ATMs and in banks. You can also use euros in many restaurants and bars, but be mindful that the exchange rate from the euro to the lira fluctuates. Don’t forget to ask if taxi drivers, restaurants, and tour providers accept credit cards. It’s recommended you carry a little bit of cash to cover small expenses. Tipping in any capacity is considered polite and welcomed by service workers.