Turkey: Kusadasi, Ephesus, and Istanbul


We were in Kusadasi in late 2019 and again in November 2022 and were so impressed with the cleanliness and safety. In 2019, we toured with Magical Steps tour and were very pleased. The tour included a wonderful luncheon at a restaurant outside the city. The city of Kusadasi is interesting and the visitor may get some bargains, but the haggling is unreal!  Vendors try to lure you into their stores. Stay strong and don’t even acknowledge them.

Review of Kusadasi, Turkey December 2019

Before our trip, I have to admit to being a bit concerned about our safety in Turkey. We hired a great company Magic Steps Tours for their “Enjoy Roman Ephesus and Its Christian Heritage” tour at 55 Euro per person. That included a full day and a delightful buffet lunch at a Turkish restaurant. All tickets were included. We had a great guide name Ugar Duman who met us promptly at the terminal.

We went first to the House of the Virgin Mary, where tradition says Mary went to live after Jesus died. Then, we spent several hours at the ruins of ancient Ephesus and the Terrace Step Houses. After that, we went to the Basilica of St. John, which is an amazing ruin with a baptismal area with steps for full emersion.

Friends who went on the ship excursions usually saw just the main ruins but just walked or drove past the Terrace Steps and Basilica and didn’t go to the House of the Virgin Mary. We got it all on this tour!  Excellent guide!

April 2022 update: When choosing a tour for Ephesus, there are three sites that would be helpful to understand. The House of the Virgin Mary is based on an 1800-century vision a nun had, and the archaeology and history don’t support its validity. Believing is a matter of faith and might be better suited for those who follow the Roman Catholic Faith. The Temple of Artemis, while interesting, has been largely dismantled as people in the last 2000 years have looked upon it as a great source of fine stonework to repurpose. All that is left are a few pillars and stones.

The Terrace Steps are a wonderful experience and usually cost extra. Be aware that the stairs leaving the Terrace houses are for the sure of foot, and there is no railing.

In 2022, we returned to Kusadasi to see Ephesus and had much less time. We arrived by ship at 6:30 and had to be back onboard by noon. Our tour was through the cruise ship, and the guide was ill-informed about the biblical history.



Other companies to consider:




Istanbul November, 2022


We selected this tour because it addressed all the sites we hoped to see and was priced right. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the Blue Mosque because most of it was under rennovation. Hagia Sophia had a huge line, but once the doors are reopened, the line begins to move. The ancient Hippodrome is really just a park now with two pillars. To see a better hippodrome, go to Caesarea Maritima.

There were only about 3,000 people on the two ships in port on November 10th but the sites was very crowded. The traffic going back to the ships was absolutely gridlocked. Everyone, including the guide, got off the van upon seeing that no vehicle was moving. We fast walked to the ship. Every tour we heard about had major problems with the people getting separated from their groups to being abandoned by their driver!  I learned from the crew that the tram was the best way to see Istanbul. It just whizzed past the incredible traffic. Do some research on how to take the tram! Based on my experience that day, I would not recommend any tour such as the one below.