The ancient city of Ephesus, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, is rich in Roman and Greek history. The most incredible thing about this visit was that I had the place practically to myself. Friction between Turkey and other countries, as well as fear have kept the visitors away. To me, this is one of the best times to visit because there are no crowds and you meet the most avid travelers.
History of Ancient Ephesus
It was founded by the Greeks during the 10th century BC, but the Romans took control of the city in 129 BC. At its peak in Roman times, more than 50,000 people lived in the city. Many ruins that you will see at Ephesus were built during the Roman times such as the Temple of Artemis, the Temple of Hadrian, the Library of Celsius.
One of the most impressive sites that still remains mostly intact is the Ephesus amphitheater. This arena could hold up to 25,000 spectators and was used for gladiator shows.
From 1304 to 1425, the city of Ephesus was part of the Ottoman Empire. It was during this time that the Isa Bey Mosque was built which still stands today.
Christianity has also played a major role in Ephesus’ history. It is said that Paul the apostle lived in Ephesus for two years and wrote 1 Corinthians while imprisoned in a tower close to the harbor. The apostle John apparently wrote the Gospel of John here between 90 to 100 AD.
Many Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary spent the last years of her life in Ephesus. The House of the Virgin Mary is a popular pilgrimage destination for Catholics and has been visited by three popes.
Other important sites worth seeing at Ephesus include the Temple of the Sebastoi, the Basilica of St John and the tomb of John the Apostle.
Where is Ephesus?
Ancient Ephesus was a Greek city on the Ionian coast of Turkey, three kilometers southwest of the present-day city of Selçuk in Izmir Province.
How to get to Ephesus
The easiest way is to book a tour through your hotel or guesthouse. Or like I did, you can rent a car and drive yourself. It’s well signposted and easy to park.
Alternatively, if you prefer public transportation, from Izmir or Kusadasi, take a bus to Selcuk. Once in Selcuk, there are minibusses from there which will take you to the entrance of Ephesus.
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(I spent one night in Kusadasi, which is a more of a scruffy British holiday than a genuine Turkish experience, and quickly moved on the Selcuk. Selcuk is much more enjoyable and closer to the ruins.)
If coming from Istanbul, there are plenty of flights to Izmir which takes one hour. It’s also possible to take a bus from Istanbul to Izmir but allow at least ten hours.
How much is the entrance fee for the Ruins of Ephesus?
Adult 40 Turkish Lira
Children under 12 free
Opening Hours for Ephesus
April to October 08:00 – 19:00
November to March 08:00 – 17:00
When is the best time to visit Ephesus?
You can visit Ephesus any time during the year but bear in mind, summers can be very hot, and winters can be very cold. Best time to visit would be springtime during April and May or late autumn, in October and November.
Top Tips for visiting Ephesus
- Although the day I visited was very quiet, Ephesus can get busy. If you want to escape the heat and the crowds, but still experience Ephesus, head to the fascinating Ephesus Archaeological Museum which features many well-preserved artifacts.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Bring water.
- If you are traveling independently, arrive early before the tour buses arrive.
- Don’t rush, take your time.
- Take lots of photos.