For our day trip to Ephesus, we elected to fly to Izmir, and then rent a car to reach Ephesus. Izmir Adan Menderes International Airport is located about 60 km from the Ephesus archeological site, and the drive is less than an hour via the E87 highway. Izmir is served out of both Istanbul airports by Turkish Airlines with multiple flights per day, and we were able to tag the Istanbul-Izmir segment onto our Washington Dulles-Istanbul award ticket for no additional miles, and only a few extra dollars in taxes. That left us just needing to purchase a one-way ticket from Izmir back to Istanbul, which cost us less than $50 per person, making for a relatively cheap day trip. Other options for getting to Ephesus from Istanbul include taking a bus or driving, which provides a more scenic, but much longer trip. Because we only had one day to go to Ephesus and come back, we opted to fly.
On the day of our trip, we left the hotel early in the morning, taking a taxi to the domestic terminal at the Istanbul airport, for our 9:00 AM flight. Check in was fast and easy, especially since we were just traveling with a couple of camera bags, and we had plenty of time to grab breakfast and coffee in the terminal before our flight boarded.
Once on board, service on the short, 65 minute domestic Turkish Airlines flight was quite pleasant. We were seated in business class, and the flight attendants welcomed us with a choice of tea or lemonade as a pre-departure beverage. Once airborne, we were served a full hot breakfast, which was rather tasty. It seemed like no time at all before we were on final descent into Izmir.
Upon arrival at Izmir’s airport, we proceeded to the Avis counter to pick up our rental car. We were given a nice Mercedes sedan for our trip. When renting a car at the Izmir airport to drive to Selçuk and Ephesus, you should consult with the rental car agency about how to rent an electronic tollway tag for the drive. We did not know to do this, and found out by mistake that the E87 tollway does not allow for cash collection of tolls. As a result, on the drive down, we were forced to drive through a tollbooth, which generated an alarm. Fortunately we were not stopped by the police (at one tollbooth this was a legitimate concern, as a police officer was stationed there), and never received any citation from Avis. However, it is best to just avoid being put in this situation, and after returning the car to Izmir that night, we learned we could have rented an electronic toll tag for the car that would have allowed us to pay the toll.
For our return trip to Istanbul, we elected to map out a more scenic drive from Ephesus back to the Izmir airport, staying off the main highway and instead making the trip via smaller roads along the coastline. This trip was slower, but allowed us to enjoy a drive along the coast and through several small towns. This drive can still be made in about an hour, and provides an alternative to the faster, but tolled, E87 highway.
Back at the Izmir airport, we had plenty of time to grab a dinner of pasta from a restaurant before the check in counter opened for our flight. Check in for the flight back to Istanbul was easy, and we were given access to the Turkish Airlines lounge at the airport, where we waited for our departure. Our flight back to Istanbul was booked into Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, Istanbul’s secondary airport. The cab ride from this airport back to our hotel was about the same length as the ride to Ataturk International, the primary Istanbul airport, and we were back at our hotel before 10:00 PM that evening, wrapping up an incredible day.