Ephesus is an ancient city in Turkey with a rich history dating back thousands of years. With so many amazing places to experience in this part of the country, Ephesus is not to be missed! From the Temple of Artemis to the amphitheater and famed Library of Celsus, there is so much to explore at Ephesus. Here’s 8 fun reasons to visit Ephesus Turkey, a breakdown of the history, and all about our experience here.
8 Reasons to Visit Ephesus Turkey
1. Ephesus is Easy to Get to
One reason to love Ephesus Turkey is that it’s not so difficult to get there. Our recent trip with Celestyal Cruises took us to the popular port of Kusadasi. Although this was primarily a cruise through the Greek Islands, we were making one exciting stop in Turkey.
Lucky for us, the port was also close to the ruins of Ephesus! Knowing that we were stopping here, we booked a guided tour in advance.
This allowed us to get to Ephesus right when it opened and tour the archeological site. Honestly, we couldn’t believe that it was only 19km (12 miles) away from the cruise port.
The bus drive took about 25 minutes, and before we knew it we were pulling up to the ancient city of Ephesus. There are public buses that make the route as well and plenty of parking if you go by car.
2. The Fascinating History of Ephesus Turkey
There’s no doubt about it. Ephesus Turkey is home to one of the world’s most incredible historical sites! From the moment we entered the gates, we were blown away by the vast historical grounds.
The history of Ephesus dates back to 10th Century BC when humans are thought to have first inhabited the area. However, it was at its peak from 129 BC to 395 AD under Roman rule. It’s from this time where most of the remnants of the city can be seen today.
Ephesus was once home to a thriving trade community with its close proximity to the Aegean Sea. It was also one of the most important early sites for early Christianity as it is mentioned several times in the New Testament.
The ancient city of Ephesus was home to one of the first churches built in the name of Virgin Mary. The mother of Jesus is said to have spent her final days in Ephesus accompanied by Saint John. Saint John was responsible for the rise of Christianity here which grew sizably with the arrival of Saint Paul.
We could go on and on about the history of Ephesus and ancient times of this special place. Yet as you’ll see, walking through Ephesus Turkey is one giant outdoor museum!
3. Temple of Artemis
Unfortunately, you will have to use your imagination to picture some of Ephesus’s greatest accomplishments. This especially goes for the famous Temple of Artemis.
Named after the Greek goddess Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World once stood here. Its gigantic size was estimated to be 350 feet by 180, making it one the largest Greek temples of its time.
It once housed great artwork from some of the most prominent sculptures in Greece. The temple reportedly took over 100 years to complete and drew pilgrims from all over the region.
The Temple of Artemis was eventually destroyed by the invading Goths in 262 AD. Today you can only see a small piece of the Artemis Temple in the form of one single column.
4. Experiencing Roman Life in Ephesus Turkey
One of our favorite parts of exploring Ephesus Turkey was the artifacts left over from the Roman times. These are some of the most well-preserved sections of this important site.
Funny enough, the first place our tour guide showed us were the public latrines. This is where the citizens of Ephesus handled their business, and apparently would gossip together about the ongoings of Roman life.
Yes, we know they’re just toilets! Still, it was interesting to see that people during this period had already developed a modern sewage system.
There are also multiple Roman bathhouses to see on your visit. The Baths of Varius are probably the most well-known. The ancient baths give you a one of a kind look at the popular part of daily life.
Another place we loved experiencing was the wide open area of Agora. This was where most of the commercial activity and local market was held since the Hellenistic period. The terrace houses were also very cool to see as they were the luxury villas which Ephesus’s most wealthy citizens lived in.
We are always so impressed with the Roman sites like this in the Eastern Mediterranean. Can you believe Ephesus was the 2nd largest largest city in the Roman Empire in its heyday?
5. Temple of Hadrian
Although Artemis lays in ruins, there is another spectacular temple to experience in Ephesus Turkey! This one was dedicated to Emperor Hadrian who ruled Rome for over 20 years. He was known as one of the “Five Good Emperors” of Rome for his numerous building projects and how he strengthened the empire.
We were drawn right away at the sight of Medusa which is sculpted into the rock above the doorway. As you go inside the famous temple, you’ll see depictions from Greek Mythology featuring Apollo and the goddess Athena.
Know that the friezes you’re seeing inside the Temple of Hadrian are actually copies of the originals. The real artifacts from this part of the ancient city ruins can be found at the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk, Turkey.
6. Library of Celsus
The long downhill slope of Curetes Street will bring you to one of the most intact and unique sites at Ephesus. This is what you may have seen pictures of that brought you here in the first place!
The great Library of Celsus was built in 2nd century AD in honor the Roman emperor Tiberius. It’s imposing stature standing at 56 feet high, will have you taken aback from the very first glimpse walking down the main street.
After getting some photos, we couldn’t wait to get inside the Celsus library. Entering this beautiful structure from the Roman period was easily a highlight for us in Ephesus Turkey!
The Library of Celsus once held over 12,000 scrolls making it one of the largest of its time. Sadly, the interior of this great place of learning was destroyed by either invading forces or a massive earthquake.
You should know that Ephesus was struck by a series of earthquakes over the last few thousand years. It is because of these devastating quakes that much of the ancient ruins have yet to be excavated and uncovered.
7. Great Theater of Ephesus Turkey
The Library of Celsus was absolutely stunning. Yet, one of the best places in Ephesus was saved for last on our tour! The size of the great theatre of Ephesus is sure to shock you as you come around the corner.
It was built in 1st Century AD on Panayir Hill and at one point played host to 25,000 spectators! The best part is you can right into the grand theatre and walk up the steps to the top.
Getting the different views from in and around this incredible amphitheater was the perfect end to our time at Ephesus. It’s also amazing that they still hold concerts for musicians from around the world here.
8. Does Garfield Live at Ephesus?
Now that you’ve learned a bit about the history of Ephesus, there’s something else you should know about this spectacular world heritage site. Living inside Ephesus ancient city is one of the most famous animals in Turkey!
Our tour guide was quick to point out Garfield, the orange cat that roams around famous archeological area. Incredibly, Garfield even has is own Instagram account with over 3,000 followers.
When we came across Garfield he was lying right in front of the amphitheater. Keep an eye out for this funny cat on your trip to Ephesus Turkey!
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Is Ephesus Turkey Worth Visiting?
Yes! As we mentioned, this important place in Western Turkey was a planned stop on our cruise itinerary. However, know that it is worth the trip regardless of how you get there. We recommend taking a guided tour and going first thing when it opens in the morning.
Ephesus can get very busy during the summer months. However, it’s such a large complex you should have no problem enjoying your trip there.
Have any questions about this article our want to share your own tips for visiting Ephesus Turkey? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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Turkey Travel Planning
Rental Car: Discover Cars is our company of choice when abroad. It is especially popular to rent a car and explore the famous Turquoise Coast.
To pre-book long distance buses check Omio for the best routes all over the country.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for fun activities all over Turkey. You can book everything from a Hot Air Balloon ride in Cappadocia to a Turkish Dance show in Istanbul and even take a Full-Day Jeep Safari in Kusadasi to the National Park!
Travel Insurance: Never travel internationally without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.