Last Updated on August 1, 2022 by Soumya
Wondering how to get from Istanbul to Ephesus? Does the train work best or should you look for an Istanbul to Ephesus bus? What is the best Ephesus tour that you could sign up for? Do they even have Istanbul – Ephesus tours?
Tough questions, I know. Especially when you are short on time but want to make the most of your Turkey trip and that means visiting the ruins of Ephesus. Don’t worry, we are here to help.
In this complete travel guide on getting to Ephesus from Istanbul, I talk about 5 different ways to do that. Flights, trains, buses, cars, and tours – we have everything listed down here.
The thing is not everything is suitable for everyone. What mode of transport works for me may not work for you. It really depends on your budget, time, and interests.
If you are short on time, getting a flight from Istanbul to Izmir and then a taxi from Izmir to Ephesus is helpful. In case you are traveling on a tight budget, an Istanbul to Ephesus bus makes sense. If you wish to see more on the way to Ephesus from Istanbul, such as the city of Bursa or the ancient ruins of Troy, then renting your own car would help. And finally, if you are strapped for time but not for money, then signing up for a full-day Ephesus tour from Istanbul is the best.
So, let’s get started with our article on the 5 best ways to get to Ephesus and see what works best for you.
How to get to Ephesus from Istanbul – 5 different ways
There are 5 different means to get to Ephesus from Istanbul – flight, train, bus, car, and guided tour. Some of them are pretty straightforward whereas others, not so much. The distance between Istanbul to Ephesus is around 230 miles (370km). So, it’s going to take you a bit of a time to get there.
In any case, first, you’ll need to get to the city of Izmir, take the train or bus to Selcuk, and then take public transport to the ancient city of Ephesus or drive there. Let’s have a look at all our travel options below.
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Flight to Ephesus
The closest airport to Ephesus is the Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir. You can take a flight from Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) or Istanbul Airport (IST) to Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport (ADB). Flight journey takes about 1hour 10minutes.
Both Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines have early morning flights departing from Sabiha Gokcen. Pegasus also has return flights from Izmir after 9:00pm in the night. That makes Pegasus the perfect choice for planning a day trip from Istanbul to Ephesus. That’s why, you’ll notice that most guided tours also have them listed on their itineraries.
Refer to our section on how to get to Ephesus from Izmir for next steps.
Istanbul to Ephesus train
Unfortunately, there is no direct train from Istanbul to Ephesus or Selcuk or Izmir. So, if you wish to get to Ephesus by train, you’ll first need to get to Bandirma City from Istanbul by ferry and then take a train from Bandirma to Izmir.
You can take a fast ferry between Istanbul’s Yenikapi Ferry Terminal to Bandirma through the Sea of Marmara. The ferry ride takes around 2.5 – 3 hours and costs about $15.
The company that operates these ferries is called IDO (Istanbul Deniz Otobusleri which literally translates to Istanbul Sea Buses). You can book your ferry tickets online on the IDO website here. Ferries usually depart thrice during the day: 9:00am, 1:30pm, and 7:45pm.
Once you get to Bandirma, you can take the 6 September Express train from Bandirma to Izmir. The train, however, is not coordinated with the ferry and you’ll have to wait for a long time in Bandirma. You can also take a bus from Bandirma – Izmir (duration 4 – 4.5 hours).
In my opinion, Istanbul to Ephesus by train/ferry is not the best way to get there. Flight, bus, car, and tours are better options, any day.
Bus from Istanbul to Ephesus
Taking a bus to Ephesus from Istanbul is the cheapest and the most direct way to get there, though not the most convenient option. Nonetheless, bus is one of the most popular choices among budget travelers.
Note that buses will take you to Selcuk bus stop and from there, you can take a dolmus (minivan) to get to Ephesus Ancient City. Bus rides from Istanbul to Selcuk can take anywhere between 7 – 10 hours, depending on the number of stops and the amount of traffic you encounter. The bus usually stops at a rest station midway for toilet and food.
Overnight buses are popular among tourists – you save one night of hotel charges. Plus, you get from Istanbul to Ephesus (Selcuk Otogar) in the process.
Popular bus operators in the Istanbul – Selcuk route are Kamil Koc, Metro Turizm, and Pamukkale Turizm. The two main stops where you can board buses to Selcuk are the Istanbul Esenler Otogar (the main bus terminal) and the Alibeykoy Bus Station.
We traveled a lot on Kamil Koc buses in Turkey and found them to be comfortable and clean. They also offer snacks and drinks during the ride. You can book Kamil Koc tickets on Flixbus here. Just enter Istanbul in “From” and Selcuk in “To” and select your preferred date of travel.
You can also book your tickets on Obilet, Turkey’s online ticketing platform. Bus tickets from Istanbul to Selcuk cost between $25 – $30.
Istanbul to Ephesus by car
Getting to Ephesus by car is definitely the most convenient option if you prefer renting a car and driving it on your own. The distance between Istanbul and Ephesus is around 320 miles (520km) and a car journey should take 6 – 7 hours, per Google Maps.
For the road trip between Istanbul to Ephesus, you’ll have to take Otoyol-5 or O-5 which is Motorway-5 in English. It connects Istanbul Metropolitan Area with Izmir via the historical city of Bursa and Balikesir. If you wish, you can sightsee in Bursa or take a detour (2.5 hours) from Balikesir to see the Ancient City of Troy.
Apparently, O-5 is the most expensive motorway in Turkey. So, be prepared to shell out some $$ for the tolls.
Do keep in mind that Istanbul traffic is crazy. Be sure to leave early in the morning if you are planning to drive so that you can get out of Istanbul before 9:00am.
Istanbul to Ephesus tour
If you are short on time, then I highly recommend that you sign up for a full day Ephesus tour from Istanbul so that you can enjoy your excursion while the organizers take care of the logistics. Here are some of the best tours available in the market.
- On this full-day trip to Ephesus from Istanbul, you’ll explore the spectacular Ephesus ruins and visit the House of Virgin Mary & Temple of Artemis. The tour includes return flight tickets from Istanbul to Izmir, airport transfers, lunch, and admission to Ephesus archaeological site. They’ll pick you up and drop you if you are staying in the Sultanahmet or Taksim area of Istanbul. Guests absolutely love the knowledgeable guides on this tour as well as the fact that the entire tour is meticulously planned, leaving no room for mistakes.
- Here’s another highly-rated day trip from Istanbul that includes a tour of Ephesus ruins and a visit to the charming village of Sirince where you’ll taste some locally produced wine. You’ll also stop at the House of Virgin Mary and the Temple of Artemis. The tour includes entrance fees, lunch, a professional tour guide, flight tickets (Istanbul-Izmir-Istanbul), and airport transfers.
Is an Istanbul to Ephesus day trip worth it?
A lot of my readers always ask me this – Is a day trip to Ephesus from Istanbul really worth it? My answer is – well, it depends.
It depends on what exactly you are looking from your trip to Ephesus and how much time you have.
The Ancient City of Ephesus is spread over a large area and has many different sections such as the amphitheaters, the Library of Celsus, a State Agora, and Terrace Houses. It can easily take you 2-3 hours to see it all. Plus, there are several other things to do in Selcuk (the closest city to Ephesus) such as visiting St. John’s Basilica and the Isa Bey Mosque, paying your respects at Virgin Mary’s House, and checking out the remains of an ancient world wonder, the Temple of Artemis.
I recommend spending at least one night in Selcuk to be able to explore Ephesus and nearby to your heart’s content.
But I also understand that not everyone has the privilege of time on every trip. Therefore, the good news is that an Istanbul to Ephesus day trip is very much doable and absolutely worth it. Ephesus is one of Turkey’s best world heritage sites and a must-have on every Turkey itinerary. The availability of early morning flights from Istanbul to Ephesus + great tour operators make an Ephesus day trip absolutely worth it.
How to get from Izmir to Ephesus?
Once you arrive in Izmir from Istanbul, Ephesus is just an hour away. The distance between Izmir and Ephesus is about 35 miles (55km). There are several ways of getting to Ephesus from Izmir including train, bus, car, and tour. You can surely rent your car and drive to Ephesus. But here are a couple of other options that you can also look at.
Izmir to Ephesus by train
If you are flying in to Izmir, you can take an Izban train from Izmir Airport to Selcuk. You’ll need to take the Izban train from Adnan Menderes Airport to Tepekoy and change into another one from Tepekoy to Selcuk. The change is not very difficult and right across the platform that you arrive at in Tepekoy. Find out the departure and arrival times on Izban website here. For the first train, input departure station as Adnan Menderes Airport and arrival as Tepekoy. For the second train, input departure station as Tepekoy and arrival as Selcuk. The entire journey is one trip and covered under one ticket (cost us about 18 TL each) which you can buy at the Izmir Airport station.
If you are arriving in Izmir City, you can take a train from Izmir Basmane station to Selcuk train station (1.5 hours by train) and then take a taxi or minivan from the Selcuk Otogar to Ephesus (10min journey). Selcuk Otogar is a 10-minute walk from Selcuk train station.
Be sure to board the Izmir – Denizli train from Basmane station and get off at Selcuk Station. 6 Izmir – Denizli trains run every day and you’ll find their schedules here. I highly recommend getting the 7:10am train from Basmane so that you can reach Selcuk by 8:34am, take a dolmus to Ephesus, and start exploring the ruins by 9:00am.
Izmir to Ephesus by bus
If you are arriving in Izmir by flight, you can take a Havas bus from the airport to Selcuk. Board the Havas bus in the direction of Aydin – Kusadasi and get down at Selcuk. According to latest information from Havas website, there are about 10 buses (picture above) running every day from Izmir Airport to Aydin – Kusadasi.
If you are arriving in Izmir city, you can take a bus to Selcuk from Izmir Otogar or bus station. Kamil Koc and Metro Turizm buses ply on this route. Minivans or the dolmus are more frequent. You can buy tickets at the counter at the Otogar.
Once, you arrive at Selcuk Otogar, you can take a dolmus to Ephesus Ancient City from there. Dolmuses are plenty and ply as soon as they get filled up which is about 10-12 people. Buy your tickets at the ticket counter (pictured below) in Selcuk Otogar. For more details on how to get to Ephesus from Selcuk, you can refer to my detailed guide on how to visit Ephesus ruins.
Izmir to Ephesus by tour
There are several wonderful tours from Izmir to Ephesus. And I am sure you’ll agree that getting a tour is probably the best way to keep the stress out of the trip. So, in case you are looking for the best Ephesus tour from Izmir, here are a couple of really good ones.
- This full-day Ephesus tour from Izmir takes you to Virgin Mary’s House, Ephesus ruins, Temple of Artemis, and the charming village of Sirince. Guests absolutely love the meticulously planning and knowledgeable tour guide. Therefore, this is one of the highest rated tours in the market.
- Here’s another highly-recommended tour of Ephesus from Izmir that gets done in half-a-day and is perfect for travelers who are looking to see just the Ephesus ancient city.
- If you are looking for the best private tour in town, check out this one. And if you are looking for someone to pick you up directly from the Izmir Airport, then this tour definitely fits the bill.
Travel tips for visiting Ephesus
- I highly recommend spending at least a day in Selcuk to be able to see Ephesus ruins and all other Selcuk attractions without rushing through them.
- Visiting the ruins of Ephesus will take at least 2-3 hours and some more if you decide to do the Terrace Houses.
- If you are strapped for time, and wish to visit Ephesus as a day trip from Istanbul, this guided tour comes highly recommended.
- If you’d like to visit Ephesus from Istanbul on your own, I highly recommend taking a flight to Izmir, then taking the train to Selcuk, and finally a dolmus to Ephesus ancient city. That’s the most efficient public transport option available out there. In case you are looking for a more cost-effective solution, take the bus from Istanbul to Selcuk.
- Be sure to check out my Ephesus ancient city guide and Selcuk travel guide before planning your Ephesus trip from Istanbul.
- Wear something light and airy to Ephesus because it’s going to be hot, especially after 10:00am in the morning. Shorts and dresses are fine. Get a good pair of walking shoes because the ancient roads of Ephesus are made of marble and can be slippery. Get water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and your hat.
Getting to Ephesus FAQ
Where do you fly in for Ephesus?
You fly in to Adnan Menderes Airport (ADB) in Izmir for Ephesus because ADB airport is the closest. From Izmir, you can take a train, bus, taxi, or drive a rented car to get to Ephesus Ancient City or the nearby town of Selcuk.
How much time do you need in Ephesus?
You need at least 2-3 hours to explore the ancient city of Ephesus as well as see the Terrace Houses with their magnificent murals and mosaics. If you want to see more around Ephesus, then having at least a day is highly recommended.