Lots of people enjoying another beautiful day in Istanbul, Turkiye.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Antalya, Turkiye.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Paris, France on May 1st.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The ancient city of Ephesus

Monday was a busy day for us, so I'm going to break it into two separate blog posts again. Check back later today for part two!

The ancient city of Ephesus is the most visited archeological site in Turkey. In 2019, two million people passed through the turnstiles. That's an average of 5,500 people per day. Many of them are on cruise ship day trips because the port of Kuşadası is nearby.

Covid has obviously dropped the numbers way down, so we were fortunate in that regard. Still, we wanted to arrive right when it opened because we feel these types of places are so much more special when there's nobody else around. I had read that it opened at 8:00am, so we were up just after 5:30am to have breakfast and do the 50 minute drive to the ruins site.

We got there at about 8:10am and there wasn't anybody in the booth where you pay for parking! So we just drove right in and parked. We went to the entrance booth, and it was closed. There was a security guy who told us it opens at 8:30am. So we went back to the car to stay warm... it was still a bit chilly at that hour!

At 8:30am, we went and paid our entrance fee. Ephesus is popular, so I don't blame them for charging a high tourist price. The basic entrance is 100 lira, and the terrace houses are an extra 45 lira but you can buy a combo ticket that includes the terrace houses which are located on site, and the St. John Basilica and the Ephesus Museum which are both located in the nearby town of Selçuk.

We splurged on the combo ticket at 185 lira ($31.50 CAD, $24 USD).

One of the prime reasons for going to Ephesus is the terrace houses. I can't see why anybody would go to the site and miss that part of it. So really, it will cost you minimum 145 lira to properly visit Ephesus.

We were the first people on site.

At 8:35am, the sun has not yet risen over the nearby hills.

Our first stop was the Church of Mary.

Does Ruth look a bit chilly?
The temperature was about 8C (47F) but it warmed up quickly as soon as the sun made an appearance.

They made floors to last back then.
The remains of the church dates from the 2nd to the 7th century.

The baptismal room.

The back of an Eurasian Jay.

We've seen several of this type of bird, but they don't sit still for very long and this is the best photo I could get so far. I'll keep trying!

I think Ephesus is our seventh ruins site so far on this trip, so we sort of knew what to expect. But given how much others have raved about it, we didn't want to set our expectations too high for fear of being disappointed. From what I had read about it to plan our visit, there were two highlights... the facade of the library, and the terrace houses.

As we rounded the corner to the library and it came into view, I exclaimed "wow" out loud. It truly is spectacular.

Can you see Ruth sitting on the front step?

Between 1970-1978 they did a great job reconstructing the facade of the library, which was just a pile of rubble. Many of the fragments used in the reconstruction are original, but many are not. And the statues are all fakes, with the originals in museums in Vienna.

But it is still impressive, nonetheless.

One thing I noticed compared to other ruins sites is that they really didn't have a lot to work with at Ephesus. When I compare it to our visit to Aphrodisias, I think that Aphrodisias was in better overall condition when they began excavating.

By this point, there was one other couple who had the same "get there early" idea that we did.

We decided to go directly to the terrace houses to beat anybody else. 

They say Julius Caesar visited Ephesus over 2,000 years ago.
He probably walked along this street!

Looking back at the library.

The terrace houses were originally built around 20 AD, and they served as some form of luxury high end accommodation for the next 400 years. A series of massive earthquakes in the 3rd and 4th centuries buried much of the structure where it lay undisturbed until excavation in the 1990's brought to light what lay beneath.

Because of the number of visitors, they had to build a protective cover and walkway through that area.

Wall decorations.

The protective walkway.

We were the only ones there other than two employees.

Incredibly well preserved.

Lion mosaic floor. Wow.

Another mosaic.

Wow... again.

In our opinion, there is no point in visiting Ephesus without seeing the terrace houses.

Turkey has over 18,000 registered protected archeological sites. Ephesus is the most visited, and has had the most excavation performed. 

Yet, only 15% of the site has been excavated.

Amazing stuff.

We wandered the rest of the site for a total of about three hours. By this time, a few tour buses had arrived, and some smaller group tours. Lots of people with guides, but we like to explore on our own. Besides, there are lots of informational signs in both English and Turkish.

The main drag.

It's all Greek to me.

View from higher up.
Notice the crane in the top left corner.

Ruth, all masked up!

Heading up into the council house.

It has been mostly restored.

This is what it looked like in the year 1900.

And it's a similar story with the main theater and the stadium. There was very little left of either one of these venues, and you can't even access what's left of the stadium. We get the impression that there's not much to see there anyhow. The main theater has undergone extensive renovations that continue today.

The latrine!
There would have been a constant flow of running water under your seat. 
Where that water went? Not sure...

Can't help another photo of the library.

There are cats everywhere.

Very little of the theater is original.

Renovations continue today.

What it looked like in 1900.

What it looks like today.

Stork nest!

The main road that would have led down to the port.

That road was closed off though. I took the picture while standing at the rope. Out of all the sites we have visited, Ephesus had the most things blocked off. I know, they have to do that given the number of people who go there. But we thought it detracted from the experience given how much freedom we have had to wander at the other sites.

Looking back at the theater.

Final thoughts...

If you are not going to visit any other ruins sites in Turkey, then you definitely need to visit Ephesus. In trying to compare Ephesus with Aphrodisias, our favorite site so far, in an ideal world you would want to visit both of them. They both have different things to offer. Aphrodisias is much cheaper, there will be far less tourists, it is less developed, and more original.

If you can visit Ephesus without the crowds as we were fortunate to be able to do, then it is worth the price just to see the impressive library facade and the terrace houses. The rest of Ephesus doesn't match up to Aphrodisias in my opinion. And if you have to deal with the crowds... well I'm not sure we would have enjoyed the experience even with the two main attractions.

In part two, we will have a look at the Ephesus museum, the remains of the huge St. John Basilica, and the Selçuk Castle.


And in Canada...


  1. Sure would have been a sight to see when it was all new! Now where did I place those keys to the H G Wells time machine?

    1. It certainly would be a sight to see! If you find those keys, let us know and we will come along with you. :-)

  2. Amazing, I was there in 1976 and totally amazed then, but how much more they have discovered and they have only discovered 15%. Wow must of been a huge city. And the apostle Paul would of walked those streets.

    1. I remember you taking that cruise in school and stopping in Turkey. I bet Ephesus has changed a lot since you were there back then. They say that about 200,000 people lived here at one time. The Apostle John, Virgin Mary, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were also said to have been to Ephesus. The St. John Basilica was named after the Apostle John and is said to have been built over his burial site.

  3. Love the History. Sad how much of that was destroyed by Earth Quakes. The high cost helps contribute to the reconstruction by paying the workers wages.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. There is definitely lots of history here in Turkey! Let's hope that all the work that they are putting into Ephesus doesn't get destroyed again because of an earthquake.

      The entrance fees at all the ruins go towards the upkeep, restoration and excavation work along with monies from the government, foundations and donations and the workers get paid at all the sites. The only reason the prices are higher at Ephesus, is because it is a huge tourist destination and people will pay it, so we don't blame them to charging more because of that!

  4. Does anybody ever get Hurt with falling debris? Amazing to me how they could have built something like that in heavy stone etc. and no big blue cranes. You are so lucky to be there with such few tourists. And another earthquake could make another pile of rubble. Amazing.

    1. We have no idea! That could be why certain areas are roped off because there is more of a possibly for falling debris. I would imagine that more workers get injured than tourists.

      We did see diagrams of wooden wheels and pulleys that they just back then to move the stones and of course lots of manual labour. Google "ancient Greek or Roman crane" and then go to images to get an idea of what they would have used.

      Yes, we are lucky to be here with so few tourists around, it also helps that it is off season to start with.

      You are right, you just never know when another earthquake could come along and take down everything that they have rebuilt. Hopefully that won't happen, plus the fact that there is a lot more reinforcing going into the reconstruction than there would have been back in the day.

  5. When we visited the Terrace Houses, we too were the only ones there. Mui was chatting with one of the guards as I was taking photos. The next thing I know, Mui gives my P&S to the guard and off he went to take photos of the mosaics in the areas not open to visitors due to ongoing restoration work. The photos he came back with weren’t great ... but wow!

    I don’t remember so many places being blocked off, so excavation/restoration work must have picked up. I know there used to be a project to bring “the water” back to the harbor. I thought that it had been scrapped but maybe it’s on again.

    1. Wow, I would love to have seen those rooms! I just went back into your blog to find the post to see if you had posted the pictures that he took and I see that you did. I think they turned out well and yes, the mosaics and paintings on the wall are gorgeous.

      We have found that at many of the sites that we have been able to walk around a lot of the undeveloped parts and and even in some of the areas where they were working on excavations but at Ephesus, they let to wander around certain parts but other parts were roped off or locked up. We have no idea whether the harbour project is on or not, but we were not allowed to walk down that "street".

  6. Today's post is so rich and informative! Seeing through your eyes and reading you makes me wish to visit Ephesus (and Aphrodisia also) some day! Thanks1

    1. Thank you for that lovely comment, we are glad that you enjoyed the pictures and the post.

      We never realized that there was so much to see in Turkey, especially regarding the Greek and Roman ancient cities, that has really surprised us. We definitely wouldn't hesitate to recommend a visit to Turkey, we don't think you would be disappointed.

  7. Epheses library and latrines were two of my favorites. Much different experience when the cruise ships were in which was mine.

    1. The Library and the Terrace Houses were definitely our favourites. We did enjoy the latrines too, lol.

      We were so happy to have the place almost to ourselves for the first hour and a half or so, it certainly made it a very enjoyable experience than if we had hordes of people all around us.

  8. Jaw dropping photographs! I'm in awe. I can't imagine being there in person. For me, this is your best country yet. On to part two.

    1. Thanks Chris! You would absolutely love it here, and although the pictures capture the place pretty good, nothing is as good as being here in person.

      Turkey definitely rates up there near the top that is for sure, it is still hard to bet Mexico though. :-)

  9. We were there about 17 years ago and we couldn't understand why they didn't have any type of protection from tourists. Of course, there weren't a lot of tourists at that time.

    1. Well it looks like they do now, at least in some areas, other areas have pathways or wooden walkways for you to stay on. I guess at the lesser known ruins sites they don't have enough visitors to worry too much about it. There are definitely some areas that are closed off but for the most part we are able really wander around. With the amount of visitors Ephesus gets we understand why they have to do that.

  10. The bird is bullfinch. We use app "lens" to check out anything we're not sure what it is.

    1. I'm afraid that your "lens" app is incorrect, it is too large for a finch of any kind. It is actually a Eurasian Jay. Google both of these birds and you will see the differences between the two.

      I also am in a group on facebook called "What's This Bird" and they are fantastic at helping me out anytime I can't find what a bird is on my own and I almost always get a reply in less than a minute.

  11. Wow. Wow. WOW. thanks again! safe travels!


There are more comments on our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TravelwithKevinAndRuth

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.