Kusadasi, located on Turkey’s western Anatolian coast, is a major stop for cruise ships whose passengers then tour Ephesus, perhaps the finest ancient ruins in the world. For Europeans, the city is also a large resort destination because of its attractive seafront, beaches, hotels, restaurants, and vast bazaar.
What We Love
Pigeon Island: Connected to the mainland by a causeway, the island has a Byzantine Castle and the remains of an Ottoman Empire fortress to explore, and cafés for relaxing by the sea. It is easily walkable from the cruise ship pier via the waterfront promenade.
House of the Virgin Mary: It is thought that Mary spent her last days here, and a small shrine was found dedicated to her among the ruins. Catholics consider it a holy site, and mass is conducted daily.
Best Known For
Ephesus: The site for a major harbor settlement was established well before the Christian era; the Romans then developed it into what we see today. The commercial importance collapsed when the port silted up, and it is now some five miles from the sea.
Grand Bazaar: The sheer number of merchants here rivals the bazaar in Istanbul, and there are Turkish-made fabrics, carpets, pottery, copper, and sculpture for sale. Never pay the asking price; do bargain in good faith.
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Who It's Best For
Ancient History Buffs: The past really comes to life in Ephesus, which contains some exquisite ruins, including a theater, a library, multistory houses, and, yes, latrines.
Repeat Visitors: If you’ve already seen Ephesus (or have no interest), there’s still plenty to do in Kusadasi. The city itself has great shopping as well as top restaurants to keep you busy.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Standing-Room Only: If several large ships are in, you can expect a packed house at Ephesus with everyone moving in the same direction from the entrance gate down to the exit. The bazaar is likely to be crowded, too.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.