Ephesus is one of the most complete and awe-inspiring historical ruins in the world. Once the largest city in Asia and a major commercial port on the Mediterranean, you can still experience the grandeur of this Turkish heritage site today.
A popular jumping-off point for many visitors to Ephesus is the city of Izmir. The problem is that getting from Izmir to Ephesus can be a confusing task. Yes, there are all-inclusive tour groups and direct buses you can take, but the costs can add up.
Believe me when I say that there’s a slightly less direct but WAY more cost-effective way to get to this incredible place. Read on to find out.
Step 1. Take the Train from Izmir to Selçuk
The first thing you need to do is get to Basmane Gar (gar being similar to the French gare, for train station). It’s located pretty centrally and you may even be able to walk to it if you’re staying in the trendy Konak neighborhood.
This being covid, they are going to stop you inside the entrance and check both your passport and your HES code (current as of December 2021, I don’t know if they’re still doing it). You’ll also have to walk through a metal detector.
Once inside, you go to the round ticket counter right in front of you and ask for a train ticket to Selçuk (pronounced “sell-chook”). The Turkish people are by and large very friendly and helpful, but the Turkish language can be very finicky, so it’s easier if you just ask “Selçuk?” The specific train you want is the Izmir to Denizli route. Selçuk is about a third of the way down the line.
Another thing you can do is open up Google Translate and type out what you want to say, then show the translated text to them. The ticket guy will more than likely write down the price in lira and the time (in military time) on a piece of paper for you. I took the 12:30 train and I believe they have about 5 trains a day. I remember going earlier rather than later to make sure you have enough time in Ephesus.
My train ticket cost 15 lira (about $1.25). Things are very affordable in Turkey.
The train itself was nice and modern with comfortable seats and an automated voice calling out the stops in both Turkish and English. The ride down takes about an hour and a half, and will go by even quicker because the scenery is gorgeous. You pass by the old district of Izmir, houses heaped on top of each other on a hill, and plenty of mountains and agricultural areas. You might even get vendors who come on board selling bread rings (think like stretched-out bagels) and ayran, a popular drinkable yogurt. You can get a bagel and ayran for 6 lira (50 cents).
Sit back, pop in some music, and enjoy the ride!
Step 2. Get a Dolmus in Selçuk
A dolmus is a minibus, kind of like the Turkish equivalent of the Latin American colectivo or combi.
When the train lets you off in Selçuk, you’ll be greeted by a sweet Byzantine aqueduct, kind of like an appetizer for the epic experience you’re about to have in Ephesus. Selçuk is itself a cool little town to visit, home to the Ephesus Archaeological Museum.
Go to the little Selçuk bus station, located about a 5-minute walk from the train station. It’s just a few turns, and you can ask locals for the dolmus.
The ones in Selçuk are blue and white, and will say the places they go to on the side. Please keep in mind that in Turkey, Ephesus may also be called Efes.
Dolmus between Selçuk to Ephesus/Efes are 5 lira each way (less than 50 cents) and the ride is literally only about 5 minutes.
Step 3. Get Out and Enjoy Ephesus!
The Dolmus will let you off at the “top” or northern gate to Ephesus, which means you’ll technically be going “backwards” through the ruins, but they really can be enjoyed either way. You’ll actually be closer to the real treasures of the ruins, like the Grand Theater and Library of Celsus, this way.
And there you have it! How to get from Izmir to Ephesus in 3 easy steps. I guarantee you you’ll have an excellent time both at the ruins and on your journey there and back. Enjoy!