A Hater of Ruins Explores Ephesus

Library of Celsus Ephesus

I don’t like ruins.

I mean, I really don’t like ruins.

Years and years of being dragged from ruin to ruin by my parents on family holidays has generated a deep rooted desire to avoid anything mildly related to wandering in scoorching temperatures, staring at centuries-old piles of rocks.

Rocks that looked a little bit like this.

ruins at ephesus

So when Dave and I decided to spend six weeks travelling around Turkey this summer, I knew that a lot of our time was going to be spent exploring ruins. Unfortunately for me, Dave is a complete classics geek and loves anything that’s old and rocky.

I was going to have to put aside my expectations and force myself to enjoy doing something I’d usually avoid.

I was going to have to pretend I like staring at old rocks.

First stop, Ephesus. 

ephesus engraving

Before coming to Turkey, Ephesus was one of the few places I’d read about and although the photos made it look incredible, I was still apprehensive about spending hours wandering around in 40 degree heat with tens of thousands of other tourists.

We’d heard from others at our guesthouse in Selcuk that the best way to see Ephesus is either in the early morning or late afternoon. Assuming that arriving at 9:30am would be early enough, we set off towards the entrance only to see it absolutely packed with tour buses, tourists and touts.

Maybe we should have waited until late afternoon…

Crowds at Ephesus

Despite the heat, and despite the crowds, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of excitement as we started to explore the ruins. Ephesus was unlike any other place I’ve visited.

These ruins were seriously impressive. 

Ephesus ruins
Ephesus ruins

Not only were the ruins impressive, but the surrounding landscape was absolutely stunning too. Surrounded by forest-clad mountains and hills, the plain of Ephesus is blanketed with fragrant pines and groves of olive trees, fields of cotton and tobacco stretching out towards the sea.

Ephesus mountains
Ephesus scenery

Like the rest of Turkey, cats were absolutely everywhere and these ones were only too happy to make their home among the ruins where they can spend all day being fed and petted by tourists.

Kitten at Ephesus
Kitten at Ephesus

The highlight of my day was the gorgeous, and ridiculously impressive, Library of Celsus, one of the largest libraries of the ancient world. Visible from almost anywhere in Ephesus, it was understandably the busiest and most chaotic part of our time spent there.

However, it was well worth fighting through the crowds to spend ten minutes wandering around the incredible structure and it definitely had me rethinking my original opinion of ruins being “just a pile of old rocks”…

Library of Celsus Ephesus
Library of Celsus Ephesus
Library of Celsus, Ephesus

With the temperatures rising to the mid-thirties, I was rapidly losing energy yet reluctant to stop exploring. Thankfully, we then reached the Great Theatre.

Originally holding 25,000 people, the theatre was the one place in Ephesus that wasn’t overrun with tourists. Gritting my teeth and forcing myself to climb to the highest point, I was rewarded with a brief moment of quiet and solitude, something I was desperately craving after the chaos of the past few hours.

Ephesus amphitheater

I was enjoying my peace and quiet when all of a sudden loud cheering and applause broke my chain of thoughts. A crowd had gathered just outside the theatre and were jumping up and down in excitement at the people in badly-fitting costumes charging down the hill.

Who could possibly be causing such a stir?

Why, it was only good old Mark Anthony and Cleopatra!

As we sat in the searing heat and cringed while we watched two gladiators battle each other in a terribly choreographed fight, I knew it was time to leave…

Yes, Ephesus was ridiculously hot, and yes, it was absolutely packed with people, but seeing the ruins up close was a wonderful experience and 100% worth the chaos.

It even has me craving to explore more ruins while in Turkey…

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  1. December 5, 2012

    I absolutely LOVE ruins, and Ephesus has been on my list for a long time as something I want to see. I’m glad it was able to capture you interest despite the tourists and heat :)

    I’ll definitely keep the top of the amphitheatre in mind as a refuge when I visit though – I’m not the greatest crowd person either.

    • December 6, 2012

      Hi Lindsey!

      Yes, I was surprised at just how much I loved Ephesus. I expected that I’d take a couple of photos and then be ready to leave. I could have stayed for hours and hours!

  2. DebbZie
    December 5, 2012

    Yes! Library of Celsus is also my favorite, it’s stunning! I love the cats in Turkey, most of them are very friendly :p

    • December 6, 2012

      The library was SO beautiful! The cats? Well, I didn’t get that close to them.. :)

  3. Ele
    December 5, 2012

    What time do they open? I’m sure you were late :-) I’ve seen the pictures before, this is an iconic landmark, but most of all I liked the cats.

    • December 6, 2012

      They open at 8am, so yep, we were definitely too late. I shouldn’t have assumed the tour buses would be arriving at midday!

  4. December 5, 2012

    YES! Ohmygod I loved Ephesus when I went there. I headed there for the earliest possible time (I can’t remember what time exactly) and it was pretty empty when I arrived, but the tour buses came in a couple of hours later.

    There was no sign of Antony and Cleopatra when I was there, though…not too sad I missed them. Unless Antony was shirtless.


    • December 6, 2012

      Ah, jealous! I would have loved to have wandered around while it was empty!

      HA! Anthony was unfortunately all covered up. Ah, you would have found it the funniest thing in the world. It was RIDICULOUS!

  5. wana
    December 5, 2012

    hey ur pics all so gorgeous! mind telling me what camera you use? :D

    • December 6, 2012

      Hi Wana,

      I use a Canon 550D with a 50mm f/1.8 lens.

  6. December 5, 2012

    Nice! I love ruins!! Ephesus is on my To-Do-Go list with other sites in Turkey. May be next year ;) Thanks for еру introduction! Great pics!

    • December 6, 2012

      I think you’ll love Ephesus, it was one of my highlights of Turkey! :)

  7. Amanda
    December 6, 2012

    You’re not to first hater-of-ruins who has admitted being a fan of Ephesus! If it looks half as good in person as it does in your photos, then sign me up!

  8. Natalie
    December 6, 2012

    Ephesus hooks even the most hard core haters although not sure I would enjoy those crowds though

  9. December 6, 2012

    This looks like my kind of place. I am a bit of a history buff and old ruins fascinate me. Thanks for the post.

  10. December 6, 2012

    As the child of a historian, I was dragged from battlefield to battlefield on family “vacations,” so I understand the sentiment! Had a similar experience at Hagia Sophia this summer — hot, packed full of people, but good that we arrived as early as we did because it just got worse. Was already hoping to make it to Ephesus next time, but your post makes me want to go even more. Thanks!

  11. December 6, 2012

    Wow! Gorgeous photos – I love the color of the sky against the ruins :)

  12. Kieu
    December 7, 2012

    Did you sit on the toilets?! Lol, I love the ruins of Ephesus, the terrace houses were impressive too. Really got a sense of how it once was during its heyday. Great photos, L!

  13. Rajesh
    December 7, 2012

    Lovely images. I love Ephesus.

    • December 7, 2012

      Thank you, Rajesh!

  14. nomadic translator
    December 7, 2012

    I am one history buff, so thanks for making me drool all over my keyboard. Oh my God

    – Maria Alexandra

  15. cashflowmantra
    December 7, 2012

    Fabulous pictures. I love historical stuff like this as I am kind of geeky myself, but was surprised by the number of people. I am also confused by all the cats. What’s up with that.

  16. 2 Digital Nomads
    December 7, 2012

    Can’t wait to go there, very nice story Lauren. I think we can make it to Turkey around 2014 maybe!

  17. Koren @ City Gal
    December 10, 2012

    Those ruins are stunning!

  18. Bill DeGiulio
    December 12, 2013

    Hi Lauren,

    We visited Ephesus in October, 2013 and was this place not amazing? Did you get to se the Terrace houses? The Clesus Library was beyond incredible. For me, I like this stuff adn look forward to the next big pile of rocks :) Love the photos, well done.

    • December 13, 2013

      I’m starting to like ruins too… I never thought the day would come! ;-) And yep, it really is an incredible place! The library was my favourite part :-)

  19. Ellen
    March 16, 2022

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I will be stopping here on a cruise in a few months, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can. When walking around the ruins, is it very hilly with stairs, or is it relatively flat?

    • March 17, 2022

      It’s pretty flat! A few gentle slopes, but I don’t remember any stairs.