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Ephesus: The Best Roman Ruins in Turkey

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Last summer, I spent 8 days in Turkey. While I had ample time to explore the amazing city of Istanbul and the otherworldly region of Cappadocia, I was frustrated that I didn't get to see the rest of the country. So when Amanda Lobell and Neil Roach planned their Turkey trip in July so that after Istanbul and Cappadocia they would head over to the coast and travel south, I couldn't wait to hear about what I missed. Amanda told me that Ephesus was incredible, so I figured we'd start with that.

So, what is Ephesus? Ephesus was a port town that housed different populations over time: Lydians, Greeks, Romans. The main ruins are Roman, although the Ephesus Museum in nearby Selcuk has artifacts from the other civilizations as well. The thing I thought was the coolest about Ephesus is that it's more intact and accessible than most of the other ruins I've seen, perhaps with the exception of Pompeii or Herculaneum.

Pillars_turkey
When you visit Ephesus, can get a feeling of what the city would have been like by walking down the roads, into buildings and through rooms. The library is the most impressive building there- the facade is two stories tall and very ornate. We also really enjoyed visiting the terrace houses, where wealthy people lived.

Mosaic_turkey Visiting this area costs extra, but it was worth it because the houses have many intact mosaics and frescoes which were really spectacular to see. Those structures are also covered by a modern roof, making it a little cooler in there than around the rest of the site!


Ephesus_path How long did you spend at Ephesus?
We flew into the Izmir from Kayseri (the closest airport to Cappadocia, where we had just spent three days). Ephesus was an easy one-hour drive from Izmir on well-marked roads. We arrived around 3pm and spent about three-and-a-half hours there. I think we arrived at the ideal time because it wasn't too crowded — supposedly the bigger tour groups come in the morning. It was very hot when we were there, and it had cooled off a bit by the time we left.

Ephesus_selcuk Three hours gave us enough time for a thorough visit, walking around and consulting our guide book on and off. Those who are extremely interested in classical history might want a little longer.

Where did you stay? We stayed in Selcuk, which is the closest town to Ephesus at just 3 km away. We spent the night at the Australia-New Zealand Guesthouse, which is an inexpensive place that caters to the backpacking crowd (it has a dorm downstairs and private rooms upstairs). It has friendly service, WiFi in the rooms and offers a nice breakfast.

We didn't spend much time in Selcuk (we arrived in the evening, after seeing Ephesus and left early the next morning after visiting the Ephesus museum), but I liked the time I spent there. We had a nice dinner in town followed by ice cream at Roma, which is a local ice cream shop with a lot of unique homemade flavors. We shared a cone of mulberry and honey nut, and both flavors were excellent.

Amphitheater_ephesus We were there on Saturday morning, so we were able to go to the huge, outdoor Selcuk Market (which occurs only on Saturdays, behind the bus station) to get a picnic lunch the morning we left. We easily got a bunch of fresh, inexpensive fruit, cheese, bread, and olives to bring with us on the road.

Where did you go next? After spending the night in Selcuk, we drove all the way down to Fethiye (about a 5-hour drive), stopping at the nearby Dilek Peninsula National Park to take a swim in the Aegean Sea and to eat the delicious lunch we had bought at the Selcuk Market.

All photos by Amanda Lobell and Neil Roach

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8 Responses to Ephesus: The Best Roman Ruins in Turkey

  1. Mike Shubic August 5, 2010 at 1:27 am #

    Looks amazing! Turkey is a place that would be top on my “dream” travel list.

  2. Caitlin @ Roaming Tales
    Twitter: Niltiac
    August 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    It IS amazing – I was there in 2004. I recommend going in a donkey-drawn cart to the top entrance and then walking down hill through the ruins. There are also ancient latrines, which are pretty funny! The library was built by Emperor Hadrian.
    Also near Solcuk you can see the nearby site of Aphrodisius, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, though now mostly in ruins.

  3. Jeff August 8, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    You could have called this post, Ephesus : The Best Roman Ruins Anywhere. It is such an amazing place. I loved my time there. I would recommend to others that while in the area, go visit Pummakale which are the old Roman baths. You can do a day trip from Selcuk or stay there. And, then moving on to the south coast is must. Great pics. You reminded me why I loved it there so much.

  4. Vera Marie Badertscher
    Twitter: pen4hire
    August 8, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    We loved Ephesus, too. I just finished reading Ionia by Freya Stark, which talks about Ephesus in the early 50’s when it was not restored and the tourism office advised people not to waste their time going there!
    The most amazing thing to me is that so little of it has actually BEEN uncovered. It was a truly enormous site. I did not know when I was there that Anthony and Cleopatra spent the winter there once, so we’re in good company when we visit. (Not to mention St. Paul).

  5. Mybestfarefindr August 9, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    I totally agree, Ephesus is spectacular and way better than Pompeii where most of the good stuff has been carted off to far away museums. Ephesus is more intimate, yet there is so much to see and learn. I used our camera’s whole memory card there! We visited while on a cruise with Regent Seven Seas. After our full day excursion to Ephesus, we had the opportunity to go back in the evening for cocktails and a symphonic concert at the Celsus Library… spectacular to say the least! I believe that Crystal Cruises also offers a similar experience. Any way, whether by land or by sea… you must visit Ephesus!

  6. Peter Carey August 9, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Nice post and thanks for including the great photos! I’ll add it to my long list. :)

  7. nateniale August 15, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    Totally agree with Amanda that Ephesus is amazing! Was there last October and it was definitely my favourite Roman ruins! Mainly because most of the ruins were mostly intact which was easy to imagine the lives during those times. Unlike the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) which is now left with only one pillar!

  8. Natalie - Turkish Travel Blog
    Twitter: turkishtravel
    August 23, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    I am fortunate in that I live just two hours away from Ephesus and i can visit it any time I want. Do you know that there are so many tourists that come to this side of Turkey year after year and they have never been to see Ephesus.
    I understand that they want to build up their sun tuns however to miss the experience of walking around Ephesus! They don’t know what they are missing.

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