Turkey: Stories from Ephesus and Hierapolis

Turkey: Stories from Ephesus and Hierapolis

The sleepy town of Selcuk was my first stop in Turkey. I wanted to see the ancient Greek city of Ephesus. After my 12 hour direct flight to Istanbul, I hopped on another 1 hour flight from Istanbul to Izmir. I waited for almost 2 hours at the train station because their train time intervals are insane (make sure you check the schedule beforehand to avoid wasting your time like I did). I finally arrived in Selcuk after another 1 hour of train ride from Izmir. It was quite a journey. Selcuk is a quiet sleepy town that looks like a movie set. Everything looked rustic and charming, I felt like I was in a movie studio the whole time I was there. Even the people, they looked like the ones I’ve seen from the movies. The heavily lined handsome faces of old Turkish men, each wearing beret caps. The way the old Turkish women wear their head scarves and sit in one corner while knitting. Selcuk felt surreal.

Travel Tip: Turkey is vast. Its a big country and you will need to take domestic flights if you want to visit other cities aside from Istanbul. This is how I did mine: Istanbul-Selcuk-Pamukkale-Cappadocia-Istanbul. Domestic flights in Turkey are cheap, its around the same price as the bus fares. It’s a lot faster too than going on a 7-8 hour bus rides. I got my Istanbul-Izmir and Cappadocia-Istanbul flight from Turkish Airlines for 94.99 TRY or 1395 PHP for each flight. I’ll discuss my itinerary in full details on a separate post.

Turkey

My first glimpse of the Mediterranean sunset in Selcuk

I arrived at around noontime and after I settled at the quaint and lovely Petite Amazon Boutique Hotel, I explored the ruins of St. John’s Basilica. It was believed that John the Apostle came to Ephesus together with the Virgin Mary, somewhere between 37 and 48 A.D. because Jesus entrusted his mother to St. John when He was crucified. It was said that they spent the remaining part of their lives in Ephesus. It was even believed that The Gospel of John and The Book of Revelations were written here. I walked around for almost an hour exploring the ruins. There’s a fortress at the back of the Church of St. John and it has breathtaking views of the town.

Turkey

Ruins of St. John’s Basilica

Turkey

Ruins of St. John’s Basilica

I then went on a 20 minute bus ride to a quaint old Greek village called Sirince, on top of a hill. I instantly fell in love the moment I got off the bus. The hilly cobbled stone streets, the charming old houses perched on top of the hill, the wisterias in full bloom hanging on the roofs of cute souvenir shops, the old ladies sitting in one corner knitting, gossiping and watching tourists like me, the shop owners tending to their own stores while their friendly dogs and cats roam the streets and getting all the attention and affection from tourists who will try to pet them; every little thing in this village look adorable. There are a lot of souvenir shops in Sirince and I read that its supposed to be cheaper than the souvenirs sold in Istanbul, but I didn’t buy anything because Selcuk was my first stop and I still have a lot of cities to visit in Turkey. I really don’t want to carry a lot of heavy souvenirs with me while travelling.

Sirince

The Greek Village of Sirince

Sirince

One of the many well behaved dogs I’ve met in the streets of Turkey. They have a lot of cats too. =)

Sirince, Turkey

Quaint cobbled stone streets of Sirince

Sirince, Turkey

Souvenir shops

Early the next morning, I went to Meryem Ana Evi (House of the Virgin Mary) which is said to be the last place where she lived until her Assumption. It was a scenic 7 km drive on top of a mountain. I paid around 70 TRY or 1028 PHP to the taxi driver which was the normal rate. He waited for me for about 30-40 minutes while I explored the place. I then asked him to just drop me off at Ephesus on our way back. The drive to Meryem Ana Evi was so beautiful especially in the early spring morning when the air is crisp and cool. I was the only one there when we arrived because it was still so early.

Travel Tip: Meryem Ana Evi and Ephesus has to be done together because they are on the same route. You can just ask your taxi driver to drop you off at Ephesus south gate after you’re done with Meryem Ana Evi and then you can take the public transport or minibus at Ephesus north gate for 3 TRY back to Selcuk once you’re done touring the ruins.

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The scenic drive to Meryem Ana Evi

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Modest chapel in Meryem Ana Evi

The Ruins of Ephesus is so ridiculously vast. Be prepared for a lot of walking. It was once a Greek City and it houses the ancient Roman building, The Library of Celsus. I was literally at a lost for words when I first saw the library. All I could do was gape in awe at the details of the towering Roman columns and ancient architecture before me.

Ephesus, Turkey

Library of Celcus

Ephesus, Turkey

Details of the Library of Celcus

It was already 5:30pm when I finally left the town of Selcuk. I took another 2.5 hour train ride to Denizli (closest city to Pamukkale) for about 15 TRY or 220 PHP. It was already dark when I arrived at Denizli and I was dead tired. I just wanted to get to my hotel as soon as I can, so I took a taxi from Denizli to Pamukkale which I later regret. I honestly thought these 2 towns were just a few kilometers away. But it turned out that it was still a 30mins drive. There’s a minibus from Denizli to Pamukkale for only 5 TRY or 73.27 PHP but I was stupid enough to take the taxi and ended up paying 60 TRY or 879.20 PHP instead. Me and my poor choices sometimes. Lol!

Based from what I saw on the internet, I thought the calcium travertines weren’t that big. I got a little overwhelmed when I got there. It was so vast and so white. I’ve never seen anything like it. To think that its all natural and not man made, it just blows my mind. Nature truly is full of wonders. I couldn’t stop taking photos when I got there. It was so beautiful and you can see the gorgeous snow capped mountains from afar when you get to the top. They say that sunset there is amazing too. It’s such a shame that I didn’t get to experience it. I was there early in the morning to avoid the crowd. The place gets really crowded starting 10:30am onwards.

Pamukkale, Turkey

Calcium Travertines in Pamukkale

Pamukkale, Turkey

Pools of mineral-rich spring water

Pamukkale, Turkey

Those snow capped mountains!

Pamukkale, Turkey

You can paraglide here too!

Pamukkale, Turkey

It can get really crowded so be early.

You have to walk through the travertines barefoot to preserve the calcium deposits. It’s not slippery, in fact the texture is really rough and hard. After a few hours of walking, the soles of my feet were all sore but it was bearable. There’s a constant cascade of calcium-rich spring water dripping along the vast limestone and creating pool terraces where people can swim. Some of the pools have dried up and some are restricted because they’ve suffered enough erosion and water pollution from the tourists. It’s really sad when ignorant tourists don’t know how to respect the environment.

Travel Tip: Bring your swim wear or you can wear shorts so you don’t have to pull your pants up because it will get wet. Also bring a plastic bag so you can put your shoes inside instead of holding it while climbing up the travertines. I also suggest to have some sunblock ready because the sun can be unforgiving and there are no shades if you are exploring the travertines.

Pamukkale, Turkey

There’s a lake at the foot of the travertines but you can’t swim here.

Pamukkale, Turkey

Only ducks can swim here. Lol!

Pamukkale, Turkey

Beautiful ducks only, by the way! =)

After I got enough of the calcium travertines, I spent the rest of the day exploring the ruins of the ancient city Hierapolis. It’s on a plateau above the travertines. The 25TRY or 366.97PHP entrance fee that you pay includes both travertines and Hierapolis. I honestly didn’t finish touring the ruins because it seems to go on and on forever. I tried but the place is just so huge, I felt like its endless. Unlike the touristy Ephesus, Hierapolis is actually really quiet and peaceful. Most of the crowd are concentrated on the travertines and the ancient baths. Yes, there are ancient baths in Hierapolis. You can get in for free but you have to pay extra if you want to swim. One of the antique pools is called Ceopatra’s Pool because Cleopatra was said to have bathe in this pool. According to legends, it was said to be constructed as Marc Anthony’s gift to Cleopatra. Its now a hot spring and the water was said to have healing minerals that are good for the skin. The coolest thing about this pool are the massive columns and the ruins that were left at the bottom of the pool when the surrounding buildings were struck by an earthquake in the 7th Century, so you’re literally swimming in history here.

Pamukkale, Turkey

Hierapolis

Pamukkale, Turkey

Still can’t get over of those snow capped mountains.

Pamukkale, Turkey

The peaceful surroundings of Hierapolis

Pamukkale, Turkey

Cleopatra’s Pool

I would have loved to stay longer in Pamukkale but I needed to go back to my hotel to pack up and get ready for a 10 hour overnight bus ride to Cappadocia. I wrote all about my Cappadocia experience here and here. If you prefer to watch my Cappadocia travel video instead, its on the films section of this website. Stick around for my Istanbul stories soon.

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Ephesus, Turkey

 

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2 Comments

  1. Sandra Marion

    Great Blog and photos. You just lived my dream trip. I hope to visit Turkey next year and your blog just brought it closer. Thanks.

    REPLY
    • Getz

      Thanks Sandra. Have fun on your trip next year.Turkey is amazing.

      REPLY

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