Historic Ephesus sites attract millions
Previously an ancient Greek city and later a major Roman settlement near present-day Selçuk in the coastal İzmir province, Ephesus boasts a rich cultural heritage dating back to the first people to call it home in 6500 B.C.
Apart from the ancient city of Ephesus, the Ephesus archaeological site contains the Celsus library, the fabled House of the Virgin Mary, the Church of St. John the Evangelist, and the prehistoric Çukuriçi mound.
The Ayasuluk Hill is known as the first place Ephesus was established before moving to its current location. It is home to important structures of both Christianity and the Turkish-Islamic era.
Considered one of Christianity’s holiest sites, the House of the Virgin Mary merited a trio of papal visits: Pope Paul VI visited the shrine in 1967, Pope John Paul II in 1979, and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.
The House of the Virgin Mary is a Catholic and Muslim shrine located in Bülbüldağı, near Ephesus, 7 kilometers from Selçuk.
Legend says Jesus’ mother was taken to this stone house by St. John where she lived until her assumption (her body rising to Heaven, according to Catholic doctrine) or dormition (according to Orthodox Christian belief).
He said the first excavations started in the field in 1863, which was very important in terms of the history of archaeology.
Topal said many archaeology methods in Turkey took Ephesus as an example.
He said culture tourism had also begun with the beginning of excavations, which made Ephesus one of the oldest tourism spots in Turkey.
“Ephesus was included in the prestigious list in 2015. There are some criteria such as restoration, city use and obligation to make a management plan. The visitor potential of the region is about 2.5 million annually. Visitors have different characteristics; some spend a few hours in Ephesus and some a few days. Tourists from all geographies come here,” he said.