How To Get From Istanbul to Ephesus: Is A Day Trip Feasible?

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Written By Sean Lau

Co-Founder of The Turkey Traveler. Globetrotter, Adventurer, and Frequent Traveler to Turkey!

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One of the most historic and breathtaking monuments in Turkey is the Ancient City of Ephesus, located in the Izmir province. Those who are on a short vacation to Turkey may be wondering if it’s possible to take an Ephesus day trip from Istanbul, and the answer is absolutely!

Although a great distance of 550 kilometers (342 miles) separates one of the most vibrant cities in Turkey and the UNESCO Heritage site of Ephesus, it is possible to go from Istanbul to Ephesus on a day trip because it’s so iconic, that flight times between Istanbul and Izmir have been added to make it possible.

But if you’re wondering how to get from Istanbul to Ephesus and back in a day, then this guide is for you. While it’s possible to do it yourself, it involves lots of planning, which is why we have written this guide to show you how it’s done.

Alternatively, you can take out all the stress of planning and go with a tour company. There are plenty of Ephesus day tours from Istanbul that allow you to visit this site without you planning anything.

In a hurry?
Check out our recommended Ephesus day trip to Istanbul tour here!

Istanbul to Ephesus Distance

Istanbul to Ephesus Distance

With around 550 kilometers (342 miles) separating Istanbul and Ephesus, these two historic landmarks in Turkey aren’t exactly neighbors. If you look at the map, it almost looks like you’ve traveled half the height of the country, and driving there and back will take all day.

That is exactly why doing an Istanbul to Ephesus day trip isn’t exactly an easy feat. There are also plenty of interesting sights along the journey such as Izmir and Bursa, which you’ll miss out on if you take a day trip.

But we understand that not everyone has all the time in the world for a long Turkey itinerary. Maybe you only have a few days in Istanbul and still want to see everything you can – Cappadocia, Ephesus, Pamukkale, and maybe more.

That is totally fine. We just want to give you a heads-up on the long journey you’ll be taking so you can mentally and physically prepare yourself!

Taking An Istanbul To Ephesus Day Trip (Flying)

Just a quick warning, taking a day trip to Ephesus from Istanbul involves LOTS of planning, and if you miss a transfer, you might be stuck somewhere! This is a quick summary of how to get there and back:

  1. Take an early flight from Istanbul to Izmir
  2. Get the train from Izmir Airport to Selcuk (or take a 1-hour taxi to Ephesus directly)
  3. Walk from Selcuk Train Station to Selcuk Bus Station (10 minutes)
  4. Take the minibus from Selcuk Bus Station to Ephesus (Could substitute this step for a taxi ride)
  5. Explore Ephesus Archaeological Site
  6. Reverse all the steps to get back to Istanbul!

On the surface, it might not look too complicated, but timing is everything when you want to take this day trip. Here are the steps you need to take to make it happen.

Step 1: Fly from Istanbul to Izmir

If you want to take a day trip to Ephesus from Istanbul, you’ll need to fly. There is no debating it. The two main airlines connecting Istanbul and Izmir are Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

The flight time from Istanbul to Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport is one hour and 10 minutes, so we recommend getting the 8.00 a.m. flight which lands at 9.00 a.m., allowing you plenty of time to get to Ephesus and explore. There are flights back to Istanbul from as late as 10.00 pm at night, so you could easily spend an entire day exploring Ephesus and its surrounding attractions all day.

The best place to find flight schedules and prices is directly on the Pegasus and Turkish Airlines websites, but do try to book in advance to avoid disappointment and high prices.

Most flights depart from Istanbul SAW Airport to Izmir Airport, which is the main domestic airport in Istanbul and is located on the Asian side of the city. Don’t confuse that one with Istanbul Airport, which is probably going to be the one you arrive in if you are flying internationally.

Flights depart daily and frequently, but it is worth knowing the earliest one departs at 5:55 AM and is operated by Pegasus, which at 7:05 AM in Izmir.

Note that you need to find a way to Istanbul SAW Airport early in the morning, and SAW Airport isn’t exactly one of the easiest airports to get to. You can catch the train from Istanbul to Pendik, and from there catch a taxi to the airport, or book an airport transfer.

Step 2: Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport to Ephesus

The closest airport to Ephesus is Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport, which is still about an hour’s drive from Ephesus Archaeological Site.

Because it’s possible to spend an entire day in the region, we recommend renting a car for the day so you can drive to other attractions in Izmir and the surrounding province. It only takes a couple of hours to see Ephesus, and a car gives you the freedom to explore more of the area with ease.

Side note, some other attractions nearby to visit are the village of Sirince, House of the Virgin Mary, Isa Bey Mosque, and Kusadasi.

However, travelers don’t have to drive if they don’t wish to because there is a TCDD Turkish Railway that runs between Izmir Airport and Selcuk (a town situated 3.5 km away from Ephesus).

Actually, the railway line’s final stops are Izmir city center (Basmane Gar) and Denizli (near Pamukkale), which is why most travelers visit Ephesus from Izmir.

Selcuk Town Ephesus Day Trip
Selcuk is sometimes called Ephesus’s town because it is located 10 minutes away from the archaeological site

The most CRUCIAL part is catching the train from Izmir Airport to Selcuk. There are only 6 departures from Izmir Airport to Selcuk daily, and sometimes the train schedule changes.

The earliest train departing from Izmir Airport to Selcuk is at 7:32 AM. HOWEVER, the earliest flight that arrives in Izmir is at 7:05 AM, so you may need to run to catch the first train of the day.

You have 25 minutes to navigate through the airport and find your way to the train station if you don’t get delayed. If you know exactly where to go at the airport, 25 minutes is actually enough time.

Here is the TCDD Turkish Railway Timetable from Izmir Airport to Selcuk. Note that the schedule can change, and the most up-to-date schedule can be found on the official website here.

Departure Time (Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport)Arrival Time (Selcuk Train Station)
7:31 AM8:34 AM
11:07 AM12:10 PM
12:55 PM1:56 PM
2:47 PM3:49 PM
5:07 PM6:12 PM
7:13 PM8:16 PM

But to be on the safe side, you might want to catch the next train at 11:08 AM (yes, almost a 3-hour difference). We actually recommend you try to catch the 7:32 AM train, and if you miss it, no big deal. Just chill out in Izmir Airport until the next train arrives. 

The last resort is to get a taxi from Izmir Airport to Ephesus if you end up missing the train and don’t want to wait for the next one. 

If this is all too much fun for you, just know the fun doesn’t stop there. Because getting back to Istanbul is almost as complicated as getting to Ephesus. 

Step 3: Bus from Selcuk Train Station to Ephesus

The good news is it gets much easier from here on. Once you arrive at Selcuk Train Station, you can either get a taxi to Ephesus, which is quite affordable since it’s only a 5 to 10-minute drive, or you can take a dolmus (minibus) from the Selcuk Otogar (Selcuk Bus Terminal).

The bus station is a 10-minute walk from the railway station to the minibus station and is located here. Buses depart every 15 minutes or so and the journey takes only 7 minutes to reach Ephesus.

Ephesus Tour From Istanbul

An Ephesus tour is the best way to take a day trip from Istanbul to Ephesus

Though we enjoy doing things ourselves (and to help us write guides like this one), we actually recommend taking an Ephesus Tour from Istanbul, because everything is planned for you.

It is the easiest and probably most practical way to have an Istanbul to Ephesus day trip.

Here is a quick layout of a day tour of Ephesus from Istanbul:

  • Pick up from your hotel in Istanbul and transport to Istanbul SAW Airport
  • Round-trip flight from Istanbul to Izmir included
  • Air-conditioned transportation from Izmir Airport to Ephesus
  • A guided tour inside the famous archaeological site of Ephesus, including a visit to the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and the House of Virgin Mary 
  • A lunch buffet at a local restaurant in Selcuk
  • Transport back to Izmir, flight to Istanbul, and transport back to your hotel

This tour also has a maximum of 15 people, meaning each and every one of you gets individualized attention from the professional tour guide. No question goes unanswered on this Ephesus day trip tour.

The best part is that you can get a FULL refund up to 24 hours before the start of your tour if your plans change. If something happens or you change your mind, you can easily get all your money back. That is why we cannot recommend this Viator tour enough!

The benefit of full-day tours is that the tour price includes everything, from pick-up at your hotel, the fee for entrance tickets, lunch, and the cost of the guide and driver, so you don’t have to worry about a thing. But you may want to bring some cash so you can tip your guide if you enjoyed the experience.

Can You Take A Bus From Istanbul to Ephesus?

You could take two buses to get from Istanbul to Ephesus, but we wouldn’t recommend it (Credit: WikiCommons via C.C 2.0)

If you want to take a day trip from Istanbul to Ephesus, going by bus is not a good option. The bus from Istanbul to Selcuk takes around 9 hours (during the day), so if you leave early in the morning (the earliest bus is around 7 AM), you’ll arrive at 4 to 5 PM. 

From Selcuk, you’ll need to take a taxi or a minibus to Ephesus, and by the time you arrive, either Ephesus will be closed, or you won’t have enough time to fully enjoy it.

HOWEVER, there is one way you can take the bus from Istanbul to Ephesus and still have enough time to enjoy it. This is for the youngins who don’t mind a little bit of a restless night.

Travelers can take a night bus from Istanbul to Selcuk, which leaves at around 1 AM and arrives at 9 AM. Then with the minibus or a taxi, you’ll be in Ephesus before 10 AM. 

When you are done seeing Ephesus, you can take a day bus from Selcuk to Istanbul, which leaves at 1:20 PM and arrives in Istanbul at around 9:20 PM.

This gives you about 2 to 3 hours to explore the ruins of Ephesus Ancient City, which is just enough time to see it. This isn’t the best plan, because you’ll literally spend 16+ hours on a bus, but it is definitely feasible if you want it bad enough.

There are also night bus options that leave later in the day from Selcuk and arrive in Istanbul in the middle of the night.

Can You Take A Train From Istanbul to Ephesus?

There is no direct train from Istanbul to Izmir, but it’s an option for travelers who don’t mind traveling through the night and don’t enjoy buses.

If you do want to travel by land, there are two options to travel by train from Istanbul to Ephesus. The first is to get the train from Istanbul Pendik to Eskişehir (3 hours), and from here there is a night train to Izmir (10 hours).

It’s possible to get the 6.00pm train from Istanbul, and be in Izmir at 9.45am. From Izmir Basmane, you will need to catch the morning train to Selcuk

The train times from Izmir Basmane to Selcuk are as follows:

Departure Time (Basmane Train Station)Arrival Time (Selcuk Train Station)
7:05 AM8:34 AM
10:49 AM12:10 AM
12:30 PM1:56 PM
2:15 PM3:49 PM
4:40 PM6:12 PM
6:40 PM8:16 PM

You can catch a ferry from Istanbul Yenikapi to Bandirma Sehir (2.5 hours), and then catch a train to Izmir Basmane, but the times don’t work out to make it possible for a day trip. If you have more time, this is a more scenic way of traveling between Istanbul and Izmir.

Driving From Istanbul to Ephesus With a Rental Car

With a rental car, you can drive from Istanbul to Ephesus much quicker than a bus, though it’ll still take you about 6 hours minimum. As we’ve mentioned, 550 kilometers (342 miles) of Turkish roads are between these two sites.

Though it is possible to get to Ephesus at a good time, especially if you start driving in the middle of the night, you’ll need to drive at least 12 hours for a round trip.

We generally don’t recommend this, but this might be the option for you if you have multiple people who can take turns driving.

There are also plenty of beautiful stops along the way, and it is a shame that you won’t be able to stop to enjoy some of them.

Getting Back to Istanbul From Ephesus

If you’ve decided to DIY your day trip to Ephesus from Istanbul, you need to know how to get back from Ephesus to Istanbul.

Getting the flight from Izmir to Istanbul is the easy part because there are so many departing flights. However, getting back to Izmir Airport from Selcuk is more difficult because there are only a handful of trains that go from Selcuk to Izmir Airport.

This is the timetable for trains going from Selcuk to Izmir Airport (note that the schedule can change, the up-to-date schedule can be found on the official website here):

If you don’t miss your train to Izmir Airport, then you are pretty much all set!

Departure Time (Selcuk Train Station)Arrival Time (Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport)
7:49 AM8:58 AM
9:01 AM10:10 AM
12:09 PM1:09 PM
1:38 PM2:47 PM
3:50 PM4:59 PM
7:46 PM8:58 PM
9:47 PM10:44 PM

Before you go, make sure you check out our full Ephesus Guide so you don’t miss anything!

From Istanbul to Ephesus FAQs

Where do you fly into for Ephesus?

The closest airport to Ephesus is Izmir, which is located about 62 kilometers (38 miles) away. It takes about one hour to drive from Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport to Ephesus Archaeological Site.

Is Ephesus worth visiting?

Ephesus is perhaps one of the greatest landmarks in Turkey. Its gorgeous and well-preserved historical wonders make you feel like you are in the classical era.

Final Thoughts

We hope our guide will help you get from Istanbul to Ephesus, on a day trip or not! To wrap things up, if a day trip is what you are looking for, seriously consider this Viator tour that we cannot recommend enough!

Any questions? Leave them in the comments!

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