Strabo, the Greek geographer once wrote that Izmir was the most beautiful Ionian city of the time, even rivaling nearby Ephesus. After reading up on all the “must-visit-cities” in Turkey, we decided to spend some time in Izmir. It’s also relatively easy to get-around Ephesus, Pamukkalle and other historic sights from Izmir.
We hopped on an early morning Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Izmir and checked into the Mövenpick Hotel. It’s in the heart of the city with an amazing view of the Izmir Bay. With 185 rooms, a Fitness Centre and indoor pool, the hotel is also a few miles away from the shopping centres. I can’t really comment on the Fitness Centre since I spent my evenings trying out Turkish food. (Obviously).
We commenced our full day tour of Ancient Ruins in Ephesus from Izmir. The archeological site of Ephesus is a must-visit destination for culture lovers and archelogy enthusiasts alike. An important city to the Roman Empire, we spent an entire day exploring its ancient sites including the Temple of Artemis, the Great Theater, The Library of Celsus, The Fountain of Trajan and the House of the Virgin Mary.
The Temple of Artemism, rising to the clouds is the most famous structure in Ephesus and once known as one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Built between the 6th and 4th century BC, it was destroyed by a fire and replaced a few years later by another more imposing temple.
We then moved to The Library of Celsus, built to hold over 12,000 scrolls and at the time, one of the largest libraries in the world. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful examples of Roman architecture left standing. We entered the library, passing the four female statues representing wisdom, character, judgement and experience. A lovely reminder of the value we have always placed on learning and knowledge.
The Great Theatre of Epehsus was next. A well-preserved building that could accommodate over 24,000 spectators back in the day. Sounds impossible, but if you look down from the top, the size of the theatre becomes more prominent. The theatre is even used to-date with crowds witnessing performances by Elton John, Sting and Diana Ross to name a few.
If you fancy learning more, you can always visit the Museum of Ephesus. Displaying the pieces found in and around the ruins of Ephesus, it costs around 10 Liras (380 rupees), but we preferred strolling through the market place staring at the beautiful carpets (which we didn’t end up buying).
Our final stop for the day was the House of the Virgin Mary. Religious experts agree that Saint John, Saint Paul and the Virgin Mary spent time living in the city of Ephesus. Driving up the winding roads, the house is humble in appearance and small in size. You can also find metal taps and local legend has it that each tap reflects an aspect of life; wealth, health and fertility. Whichever one you drink from, that gift will come your way. It’s a quiet and serene place where you can also share your messages on their “wishing wall”. The entrance fee is around 1250 rupees and well worth the visit.
If you’re wondering where to eat, you can always try Margaux Restaurant at the Mövenpick Izmir, or if you are not too tired, enjoy a cool walk outside and make a reservation at Korfez. Located on bay’s restaurant row, the service is excellent, and the food is fresh and tasty. It’s NOT cheap, but it’s a lovely dinner to end your evening (and their selection of Turkish wines – AMAZING!)
While you are in Izmir, don’t forget to spend a day in Pamukkale! It will take you around 3 hours by car with an entrance fee of just 500 rupees. The “Cotton-Palace”, one of the most beautiful attractions. While we visited Pamukkale and Hierapolis just because it looked stunning in pictures, most visitors go there with the purpose of rejuvenating and for wellness benefits.
Known to cure many illnesses, it’s made up of mineral forests, waterfalls and terraced basins. You can bathe in the warm mineral rich waters and easily spend an entire day here. It’s a bizarre, beautiful sight, now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many centuries ago, the Romans, aware of the powers of Pamukkale’s water, decided to construct a big spa city called Hierapolis nearby. Translates to “Holy City” in Turkish, it has a well-preserved Amphitheatre seating 12,000 people.
So, there you go – An amazing time in Izmir. Don’t believe the weather Gods. Even During September – October, the weather was certainly not warm. We landed from Istanbul and checked into Izmir in our shorts but walked out with umbrellas and cardigans. It doesn’t dampen your experience at all though.