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Visiting The Ruins of Ephesus, Turkey

When people come to Turkey, many have one destination in mind – the Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus, Turkey. This structure is legendary for its historical importance, and beauty.

From Kusadasi, we headed to Ephesus, which has been high on our list for years! Originally a Greek city, it later became a Roman outpost boasting nearly 300,000 inhabitants. This was one of the original 12 cities in the Ionian League during the Classical Greek period and was home to one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis (since destroyed). 

Ephesus also has an important role in the Bible because Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians was written to the inhabitants of the city and was delivered in the amphitheater that still stands.

View of the Library of Celsus and the Ephesus ruins from Curetes Street
Library of Celsus and Ephesus ruins from Curetes Street

We arrived here slightly later than expected (about 10:00 am) and the temperature was already climbing. We picked up our tickets and then headed into the archaeological site. We opted to use the upper entrance, and it made for an easier entrance but a long, hot walk out. We used our battery-powered fans left over from our Egypt trip (brought for just this occasion) and were the envy of the other tourists.

The first stop in Ephesus from the upper entrance is the Odeon and gymnasium, which looks like a small amphitheater. From there we walked down the Curetes Street seeing the smaller sites. 

The Library of Celsus at Ephesus, Turkey with tourists
Library of Celsus at Ephesus

The highlight of Ephesus is the Roman Library of Celsus, an iconic, multi-story edifice that is strikingly beautiful. The library was built to honor the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus and house the library of 12,000 scrolls. It is perhaps the finest library outside of Rome.

The Great Theater was under construction and was being renovated, so we couldn’t move down beyond the upper terraced level. It was a sight to behold – seating for over 24,000 and the largest amphitheater in the ancient world. It was a long walk from the Celsus library out to the theatre and anyone visiting in the summer months should be prepared for the heat.

Semi-circular ancient amphitheater at Ephesus
Great Theater in which St. Paul is said to have delivered his Letter to the Ephesians

On the way out, one hillside is all enclosed, and the houses (complete with many ancient frescos) are being renovated inside. The area is called The Terrace Houses or Hillside Houses and there is a supplemental admission to enter.

It was interesting to see how people lived at that time and we felt the Terrace Houses were worth it, although it was extremely hot in the buildings under the summer heat.

Restored lion mosaic
Lots of mosaics were being restored

As the sun climbed high in the sky, temperatures soared and it was time to leave (or pass out from dehydration!). After extensively exploring the site for the better part of a day, it is easy to see how the complex has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural importance.

Have you visited the ruins of Ephesus? What were your impressions?

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Friday 27th of April 2018

We are making this trip in June of 2018, but going from Marmaris to Pamukkale (overnight) to Ephesus to Bodrum destination via rental car over 2 days. Time is tight, so can you recommend anythign to skip in Pamukkale or Ephesus? Also, anything we must check out at night in Pamukkale?

Thanks for sharing your experience!


Saturday 9th of September 2017

Hi, this post really helps me in my planning for my trip! I've got a few questions if you'd be able to share your experience.

I'm also planning to rent a car from Izmir and drive to Ephesus then Pamukkale. Did u drop off your car at Pamukkale?

Lance Longwell

Sunday 10th of September 2017

No, we did the full roundtrip. So, Izmir to Ephesus, then we went to Kusadasi and spent a day on the beach (resort). From there, we headed south on the D515 to the D525 (which is a nice scenic drive) and then back out to the E87. From there it's a long grind out to Pamukkale. The E87/D320 is a kind of a slow road. It's highway and then you hit stoplights. But Pamukkale is really worth it. We only spent about 36 hours there and I kind of wished we'd spent more time there. The drive back to Izmir is the same E87/D320 and is just as uninteresting the second time. A tip if you plan to do the Izmir rental car: there's only one petrol station just outside the airport and there can be a bit of a queue to refill. Allow a little extra time. Good luck and enjoy the trip!


Tuesday 15th of September 2015

Hi just wondering if driving is recommended than train. Planning to do these in a day as well then head to Cappadocia

Lance Longwell

Tuesday 15th of September 2015

We like driving overseas and enjoy the flexibility it offers. At the time we went, there were train disruptions, which meant the only other option was the bus. For budget travelers, both the bus or the train are fine options (check to make sure the train is actually running). The train from Selçuk (Ephesus) takes you to Denizli, where you transfer to buses to get to the Pamukkale. We've heard horror stories of people getting stuck in Denizli for long periods of time and needing to take expensive taxis. If we had it to do over again, we'd probably rent a car again. In Cappadocia, we would strongly recommend renting a car. While there are buses in the region, you really need private transport to explore off the beaten path.


Wednesday 10th of September 2014

How did you find driving around Turkey? Not sure if I should rent a car...

Lance Longwell

Thursday 11th of September 2014

Helen, piece of cake. The drive on the right side of the road, roads are well maintained, broad shoulders and well sign-posted. Yes, we did hit some traffic, but no worse than home. Frankly, Turkey was a lot easier to drive around than Italy or Ireland, plus it gave us a LOT more flexibility.


Friday 21st of March 2014

Recently visited Ephessus and I have to say it's great, very impressing! Thank you for sharing your story!


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