Ancient Ephesus and lively Kuşadasi are two sides of Turkey (or the Republic of Türkiye, as it's now officially known) that each offer unique and fulfilling experiences. Step back in time and walk where the Ancient Greeks and Romans once did via the many ruins and historical landmarks, or soak up the sun while wiggling your toes in the soft, golden sands of Kuşadasi's beaches. Discover why Kuşadasi and Ephesus, just 25 minutes apart, get over a million visitors each year, some of whom come back again and again to these magical destinations.
Ephesus, or Efes to give it its proper name, was once a major Ancient Greek city and mere minutes away from one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: The Temple of Artemis. Today, it still offers tourists some of the most well-preserved ruins in the world, including the imposing and surprisingly intact Library of Celsus, plus the spectacular Great Theater.
Ladies Beach in Kuşadasi got its name for being the place where the women who worked in the olive groves went to cool off after a hard day of fruit picking. Today, it's popular with both locals and tourists thanks to the long sandy stretch dotted with shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, and more. If relaxing on a sunbed isn't doing it for you, get active in the water with some paddleboarding or jet ski action.
Half an hour from Kuşadasi and about 20 minutes from Ephesus lies a very important pilgrimage spot for many religious people: the house where the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, supposedly spent her final days. As well as being a highly spiritual place, the surroundings here are lush, green, and tranquil, making it a beautiful spot for respectful visitors.
If you've never been on a boat in the Aegean Sea, Kuşadasi is a great choice to depart from. This is a truly unique way to discover the gorgeous, rugged coastline, discovering coves and caves you simply can't access via land. Sail out over jewel-blue waters, indulge in some snorkeling, or leap from a boat to swim in the warm waters. You might even spot a dolphin!
If you've got your haggling head on and some money to spend, get yourself down to the street markets in Kuşadasi. Immerse yourself in the culture and explore locally crafted goods, all the while bartering for the best price. Markets run on various days throughout the week, so always check with your tour operator or a local guide.
Make a splash on your holiday and slide into adventure at Aqua Fantasy Water Park. This family-friendly park combines 30 waterslides with a lazy river, outdoor pools, and a treasure island area for the younger kids. When you've had enough fun in the water, take a break at one of the six popular restaurants right there in the water park.
Known locally simply as Milli Park, Dilek Peninsula National Park lies south of Kuşadasi and is a must-see for nature lovers. Walk right by wild pigs, gasp at bright flowers, and listen out for exotic birds. It's also home to some of the best beaches in the area. You can get the local dolmuş shared taxis here or simply book a car from your accommodation.
If you didn't get your fill of history at the Ruins of Ephesus, don't worry; there's so much more to see at this museum based in Selçuk. As well as numerous items from the ruins, the museum houses items from the Temple of Artemis, the Basilica of St. John, and more.
Food is one way to the heart of Turkey's culture! Grab some street meat, only here it's not a hot dog but delectable kebabs made with fragrant spices and served with yogurt. Drink some green apple tea, or indulge in the national spirit, Raki.
A Hamam visit is so much more than a bath or sauna. It's a full ritual, taking you through a hot room, then warm water, followed by a massage and a scrub while lying on warm marble. A purifying and relaxing experience that exemplifies the local culture.
We've already mentioned this temple, and the good news is you can still visit it! This once grand structure devoted to the Goddess of the Hunt now lies in ruins but is a must-see for history and culture lovers.
View Kuşadasi from an entirely different angle, jumping in tandem with an instructor for a safe yet exhilarating adventure through the skies. If you're brave enough, this is the ultimate way to see Turkey's unique countryside.
Şirince Village is just less than 20 minutes from the Ruins of Ephesus and well worth the detour. Nestled in the hillside, this traditional village is a showcase of local architecture and culture without being as "touristy" as some of the major resorts. A great way to discover traditional Turkish life.
Look out for venues offering traditional Turkish nighttime experiences, with live music, dancing, and open-air feasts. Between June and September, you may be able to book into the Caravanserai and hear some Turkish folklore—a rare treat indeed.
Pamukkale is home to milky-turquoise thermal pools and hot springs, and there really is nowhere else like it. Take a full day here—it's almost three hours from Kuşadasi—and revitalize yourself in the waters of this UNESCO World Heritage site.