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Ephesus, Turkey: Immerse Yourself In An Ancient World
As nice as it is to visit a museum or even walk through a regular open-air museum, not many of them actually allow you to immerse yourself completely in history. Ephesus does offer that, and more.
At this ancient site, you might feel like ghosts from the past are watching you, or that the wind, which occasionally and very randomly whips up out of nowhere, really is the past reminding you that this place is still very important, even today.
Located near Izmir, just outside of the town of Selcuk, Ephesus used to be an ancient port city. You might hear the word ‘ancient’ and assume that it’s in bad condition, but upon walking into the excavation zone, I challenge you to not let your jaw drop.
The huge amphitheater is easy to walk around and explore. You can look down at the central “stage” and imagine gladiator fights happening right before you.
This fantastically preserved site is still being discovered and unearthed, showing you a full scale city that once was the most important city in the Greek Empire. Throughout the entire Mediterranean area, Ephesus was the epicenter of everything, and even though many tried to conquer it, the city remained standing.
These days, Ephesus is not only an important open-air museum, but it’s also a pilgrimage destination for Christians. Ephesus is mentioned several times in the Bible and, additionally, it’s also the last resting place of St. John.
You could easily wander around the area all day and not get bored. When you turn one corner, you think you’ve seen it all, only to see another Roman road heading off in another direction.
Best Time To Visit
Additionally, it’s also worth mentioning that it might be a good idea to try and avoid the peak summer months if at all possible. Ephesus is one of the most popular sites in all of Turkey and its close proximity to many beach resorts means that day trips are totally doable.
This means large crowds of summer day-trippers. And crowds and heat do not make for the most enjoyable day!
May, June, late September, and October are ideal, and if you’re visiting during the winter months, head over on a sunny day to enjoy a far quieter experience at this stunning ancient city.
What To See At Ephesus
You’ll be able to see old temples, libraries, statues, houses, and of course, the huge amphitheater.
The Library of Celsus is probably the most iconic picture of Ephesus you’ll see when you Google it. This is a place you need to spend a good portion of time at, looking closely at the intricate decorations, the Roman and Greek inscriptions on the walls and the sculptures. Words really do not do this place justice.
The Temple of Hadrian is another highlight, as is the Temple of Artemis, which draws huge crowds.
Additionally, there’s also a less “serious” side to Ephesus. For example, you can see the old toilets, which are certainly eye-opening given that they’re in public view, as well as a brothel that dates back to the 4th century BC.
Now protected and preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ephesus served as a prominent and prosperous city in the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Eras, before falling into disrepair under Ottoman rule.
This is certainly a city that has many stories to tell. We’ve already mentioned that it’s an important site in Christianity and that is not only because of the Basilica of St. John. The House of the Virgin Mary is also situated in Ephesus, although you will need to pay an extra supplement on top of the regular entry price if you want to visit.
It’s said that the Virgin Mary lived in this small stone house until she died, aged 101. She was taken here by St. John himself.
Top Tips For Visiting Ephesus
Ephesus is not a place you can visit in just a few hours. So, let’s check out some of the top tips to get the most out of this stunning site.
- Try and visit outside of the peak season months if you can
- Wear comfortable shoes and avoid flip flops. A lot of Ephesus consists of marble pathways and these go up and downhill. Flip flops are a recipe for a slip and fall!
- Make sure you wear a hat and sunscreen during the summer months. There isn’t a lot of shade in Ephesus and the Turkish summer sun can be unforgiving
- Take your time, make sure to sit down, and have a drink of water every so often. It’s surprising how many people try and motor their way around, only to become tired and run out of steam
- You will need to pay extra if you want to visit the House of The Virgin Mary, so bear this in mind when budgeting. Ephesus isn’t the cheapest place to visit, but it’s certainly worth it
- Stop for breakfast as you enter Selcuk. There are some fantastic roadside restaurants in town, many of which offer a stunning view of the mountainside and serve a delicious, traditional Turkish breakfast
- Clear out your camera memory card. You’re going to need the space!
- Arrive early to make the most of the whole day
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