Cruise Port Atlas | Izmir, Turkey Day Trips | Attractions

Izmir, Turkey Day Trips | Attractions

With limited time in port, planning is the best way to make the most of your time. Should you strike out on your own? Should you hire a local guide? Or should you book a shore excursion offered by the cruise line or an international tour company? Below we have listed the attractions and activities that many other cruisers have enjoyed. This information should help you plan.

The advantage to cruise line tours is that they are timed for your visit and give you flexibility to change your mind after your trip begins. The advantage of using a large international firm is that tours are often less expensive than cruise sponsored tours. The advantage to using a local tour company or guide is that prices can be significantly lower or you may be able to get a customized trip just to see the attractions that interest you most.

Cruise lines that visit Izmir: Voyages to Antiquity, Crystal, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Cunard, Costa, MSC Cruises, Norwegian

Recommended Attractions: Agora, Asansor, Kadifekale (Castle), Kordon, Konak Square, Cesme Castle, Ilica, Alacati, Ephesus, Terrace Houses, (Virgin) Mary's House, Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Pergamum (Bergama)

Izmir Attractions

Izmir Port to Konak Square - 3 KM, 5 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

One of the most popular sites in Izmir is the thoroughly modern Kordon, a park created along the water where locals and tourists promenade beside the beautiful bay. The historic sites of Izmir are limited, but a few remain. Kadifekale Castle was built during the rule of Lysimachos, successor to Alexander the Great, as the new center of the city. The high promontory offers incredible views of the city and bay below. The Agora was the center of commercial and political life during the Classical Greek era. In combination with a visit to the Izmir Archaeological Museum, the city's vibrant past comes to life. Several synagogues of the 19th century are part of the Karatas district. The nearby Asansor Tower offers a popular and free elevator to great views of the city and several restaurants. The central meeting place for the city is Konak Square with the Ottoman clock tower. Nearby is the Kemeralti Market.



Photo of Kadifekale (Castle) by JoJan

Cesme Attractions and Beaches

Izmir to Cesme - 85 KM, 65 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Though there is a lovely fortress that has been converted to a museum in Cesme, its primary attraction is the warm waters, wind and sand. Nearby Ilica (Turkish for hot spring) is the spa area where traditional spa treatments are available at several hotels. The beach has warm and clear water as a result of the springs, making it very popular. Along with nearby Alacati, this area tends to be windy. For that reason the area is very popular with windsurfers. The beaches in this area are gaining in popularity but are not yet as crowded as those near Kusadasi.



Photo of Alacati Windsurfing Beach by Orcun Dalarslan


Izmir to Ephesus, Selcuk and Mary's House - 80-85 KM, 65-75 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Beginning in the Bronze Age, Ephesus was an important harbor for the region, but through a slow silting process the remains of the city are now several kilometers from the Aegean. The original Greek settlement was east of the main ruins tourist visit today, nearer the city of Selcuk. In Selcuk you can visit the spot where the Temple of Artemis once stood. Though virtually nothing remains, this was one of the world's largest temples and was built, destroyed, and rebuilt over many centuries. About 15% of the Ephesus site has been excavated thus far, but in this area are some of the Mediterranean's most impressive ruins. The most important attractions in the main site are the Celsus Library (built during the 2nd century AD), the theater (once the largest in the world) which still hosts concerts, the baths (including a public toilet), the terrace houses (where the wealthy lived) with their mosaics, the Odeon theater, and the Temples of Hadrian and Domitian. Another important attraction from the 6th century AD is the Basilica of St. John, near the center of Selcuk and the museum.



Photo of Ephesus Terrace Houses by Rita1234

Ephesus Museum

Izmir to Ephesus, Selcuk and Mary's House - 80-85 KM, 65-75 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Though a good number of the artifacts from Ephesus were moved to the Ephesus Museum in Vienna early in the 20th century, more recent discoveries are housed in nearby Selcuk in a small but impressive exhibit. The most famous items in the collection are two statues portraying a many breasted Artemis (sister of Apollo and named Diana in Rome). Outside in a courtyard are more monumental items including a reconstruction of the Temple of Augustus built with the original sculptures from the frieze. When we visited, there was a special display of gladiator artifacts and explanations of the sporting events (some very sporting by today's standards) in which they participated.



Photo of Artemis Statue by JM

Mary's House

Izmir to Ephesus, Selcuk and Mary's House - 80-85 KM, 65-75 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Many Christian and Muslim pilgrims consider Mary's house a mystical site. Numerous Popes have also visited, starting in the late 19th century. Whether or not this is the actual last home of Mary is a point of debate, but it is certainly a lovely spot with great views and an air of mystery. The story behind the house is fascinating. Jesus is reputed to have asked Paul to take care of Mary and around 50 AD Paul probably lived in Ephesus. In the early 19th century a German Roman Catholic nun was visited with visions which she narrated to an author who published his transcriptions of the visions after her death. She said that Mary had lived in a small stone house on a hill above Ephesus. About 50 years later a French priest went searching for the house and found a stone building fitting the description and declared it to be the real thing. Over the years more and more people have come to regard the legend as true. Interestingly, the foundation of the house has been dated to the 1st century AD. The area is beautiful and really worth a short visit, no matter what your faith.



Photo of Mary's House by Mfryc

Pergamum (also Pergamon)

Izmir to Pergamum - 105 KM, 1 hour 40 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Though its era of significance was brief, the golden age of Pergamum (also spelled Pergamon) was an important center of learning and healing. After Alexander divided his conquests among his generals, Egypt and Anatolia were ruled by rivals. In Alexandria, the Ptolemaic Pharoahs built the Museum and Library which would eventually house the greatest of all collections of ancient texts. Pergamom was its rival and in the battle for supremacy, Egypt banned the export of papyrus made from the reeds grown in the Nile. In response, the librarians of Pergamum created their own paper from animal skins which was named after the city and is still called parchment on which they copied the second greatest collection of ancient texts. Around the library on the top of an impressive Acropolis, the Greeks built an impressive city with temples and a large amphitheater. Nearby was the healing center of Aschlepius. The ruins that remain here are not as complete as those in Ephesus. Like Ephesus, some important artifacts were removed during the 20th century, including the Great Altar of Pergamum which is now located in Berlin.



Photo of Pergamum Acropolis

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