My family has finally arrived in Turkey and we are about to start our 2 week tour of the Greek Isles. But before taking off from Turkey, we wanted to make a couple of stops, including one at Ephesus. Located a couple of hours outside of Izmir, Ephesus is a ruined city first built in the 10th century BC (1000 BC). To be honest, I didn’t really know much about this site prior to the trip and I wasn’t really that excited about it. But I am so happy my family pushed me to visit, because it was well worth a stop and was actually one of the highlights of my trip so far.
One of the best preserved ruins in all of the former Roman Empire, I was really impressed by this expansive site. It reached a population of 200,000 at its height and was actually named the capitol of the Roman Empire in Asia under Constantine. Largely made out of white local marble, this site only has 15% excavated right now and it still takes over 2 hours to walk through. It’s huge! You start the tour in the political part of the city at the south end. There, you encounter the political agora, public baths, and small amphitheater. Archaeologists have rebuilt some of the sites but many are still in their original condition.
As you continue to walk through the site, you will pass the terrace houses. Although it is an additional entrance fee, I recommend taking a look. These houses were occupied by the wealthiest members of society, and are in good shape due to the installation of a protective roof. Once inside, you will see fresco paintings, private courtyards and beautiful marble wall art. However, the highlight (at least for me) was the city’s Library of Celsus. Carefully reconstructed, the front of the library stands towering above a small square near the original mouth of the river and has survived since 200 AD. The library was originally built to hold 12,000 scrolls although unfortunately few survive today. However, the beautiful facade is still well detailed and the original statues of goddess are still in front.
The final stop on the tour is the ancient amphitheater in the city, where there were of course gladiator fights. Designed to hold almost 20,000 people, this is an impressive structure with still great acoustics. Ephesus is also home to the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the destroyed seven wonders of the ancient world. Although there is hardly anything still left today, it was fascinating to learn about the history of this site. Apparently the remains lie in a British museum and the former glory of the site has been all but lost.
Before making a stop at Ephesus, be warned that there is little to no shade throughout the site and the temperatures get well into the high 90s & 100s. With a hot Mediterranean sun, it can feel oppressive. Be sure to back lots of water (probably 2 bottles at least), sunscreen and a good shade hat.