Buy a guide or come prepared with downloaded information. You cannot get lost as it is a walled city. Shops, churches, squares, etc all so quaint and picturesque. Make sure you walk the city walls...........not too strenuous and afford marvellous views. Stop off for a coffee.........a city to be enjoyed!
The trip back to the ship should have been better organised as it turned out to be more of a scrum! Te Costa staff were at hand but seemed to be useless not giving any information or instruction. Many of the Italians were very annoyed & vented their anger on the staff with public displays. Such a shame as with a little bit of forethought & planning it could have been avoided.
The tram ride to the Blue Mosque is short & you really get a feel for the city when riding up front with the locals. Again you can purchase effective city guides or download information from the Internet before your trip. The city has a lot of sights to see so either relax & just take in a few or plan ahead & cover as many as you can. The Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Spice Market, Grand Bazaar are key sites not to mention the Baths & many other splendid mosques. Ours was a route march and we did many! One tip re postcards........they are plentiful as are the stamps but the only place you can post them are as post offices which are scarce! In the end I had to hand my postcards over to the security guard at the port with a plea that he post them for me..........and he did! Eating & drinking in the city is easy as there are many cafes & restaurants..........many of these do take euros. Make sure you have plenty of film or room on your memory card as the photo opportunities are legion! And save some lira to pay for the tram ride back to the ship
Taxis wait just by the port gates & again the fare for a half day trip is around 100 euros for the cab. Reduce by costs by getting another couple to share the cab with you. Most of the cab drivers speak English. It is a fairly long drive to Ephesus. Make sure the driver includes a visit to Mary's House which is quite near to Ephesus. The house itself is worth seeing and by taking a cab & setting off in advance of the ship's excursion coaches you get there earlier than the crowds!
At Ephesus the cab driver did call in at a local stall but we declined any purchases & told him we wanted to maximise our time at Ephesus itself! The taxi will drop you at one end of the ruined city & arrange to pick you up at the other end. Just make sure you identify both the driver & the cab [take it's number] as there will be a host of cabs waiting their clients at the other end. Pay you admission fee which has to be in Turkish lira or by credit card, euros or any other currency not accepted. You can hire a tour guide or an audio tour. The individual sites have number markers which relate to the audio guide. You can also download various walking guides in advance of your trip from the Internet but the ones I had did not seem to relate to the numbers on the site itself.
The city is inspiring with lots to see. Wear comfortable shoes & take drinking water with you, also rain protection if visiting during the winter months. Gaze in awe at the library, the colonnades, the temples, the mosaics, etc. It can get very crowed as the excursion coaches arrive! It still has the stage in its arena where St Paul preached to the Ephesians! Marvellous for all history buffs!
As you exit the site the roadway is lined with stalls selling souvenirs, postcards, refreshments, etc. Our taxi driver was there ready & waiting......we had agreed a time to meet up which was around 2.5 to 3 hrs. This gave us enough time to be driven back to the port. Maybe we could have fitted in a wee bit of shopping but the heavens opened & it poured so we hightailed it back to the ship.
I understand that Izmir itself was an interesting place to visit with several historic sites, mosques & markets
We decided against the ship's excursion and took a private taxi. Make sure you are amongst the first to get ashore.....do this by getting to the disembarkation point early. There were several taxis waiting just outside the port gate and the charge seemed to be the same for all......around 100 euros for the taxi. If we had found another couple to share the taxi with us we would have halved our costs! Still, the ride to Olympia was fine with the driver pointing out points of interest along the way. If you have an interest in sport, the Olympics, ancient ruins then you won't be disappointed. You can download information from the Internet which takes you on a tour of the site, or you can pay up for a tour guide at the entrance to the site. As the son of an Olympian I was fascinated by the ruins & enjoyed the trip. But do wear comfortable shoes as there is a fair bit of walking. Also if in summer make sure you take drinking water with you, and if later in the year an umbrella or any other protection from possible rain.
The taxi was waited for us for around 2 to 2.5 hours & then took us back to Katakolon. The town itself is small with one main street lined with tourist shops selling soaps, jewellery, rugs, trinkets & the general run of souvenirs. There is a post office where you can buy stamps & send your mail. Interestingly the prices at the road end nearer the port are more expensive & at you continue up it to its end the prices get lower!
There are several cafes & restaurants where you can stop off for a meal / drink. Choose one on the road that faces the water as you will then have nice views of your ship & the fishing boats.
There is a small shop in the port area which has a selection of souvenirs, wines, etc. We found some excellent virgin olive oil at a very good price here. If you do purchase any liquids [wine, spirits, etc] or foods do put them in a carry bag etc otherwise there is a fair chance the security staff will retain them until the end of the cruise!