The Ancient Wonder of Ephesus

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

It’s easy for Pete and I to become jaded at seeing ancient archaeological sights given that we have been traveling for so long.

They all fundamentally carry a pretty repetitive story: People lived here long ago!Β Look! They left stuff behind! After awhile, centuries blur and artifacts become indistinguishable.

But then there are some sights that are so staggering that they serve to ignite the spark. They transport you back thousands of years and leave you longing for more information and understanding of how and why.

Ephesus is such a place.

With no prior knowledge before arriving to this wonder of the ancient world, its grandeur simply stunned us. Our conversations were quickly reduced to one word exclamations along the lines of: wow and amazing.

But most of the time, we were left completely speechless.

Established by the son of a Greek king in 10 BC, the city of Ephesus changed hands many time during history, sustained damage from earthquakes and fire, and played an important role in early Christianity.

One of the most impressive structures, the Celsus Library once held more than 12,000 scrolls.


The Street of Curetes was one of three important streets in Ephesus and led to the Celsus Library. On either side were shops, fountains, homes, monuments and statues.


The Temple of Hadrian is one of the best preserved in Ephesus, built before 138 A.D.


Some artifacts appear randomly scattered in open fields, although many still have well preserved, intricate details.



Arcadian Street was a half kilometer long and led up from the port. Marble slabs and colonnades decorated the street, shops and galleries lined either side.


Arcadian Street led from the port to a massive theater with a capacity of 25,000 people. It housed speeches, plays, gladiator fights, and more. One of the most famous speeches was given by Saint Paul who had spent two years there, converting pagans to Christianity. During his final speech, Paul declared that “gods made by human hands are not gods at all,” essentially causing an uproar among silversmiths who manufactured shrines and idols of the pagan goddess Diana. He left soon after (some reports say his exit was by force).


And the best part? Keeping guard of the grand Theater, and many parts of Ephesus, are a band of kitties, often looking quite statuesque themselves…


74 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • April 16 2012

    These pictures are delightful! I would never guess this was in Turkey and not Greece!

    • April 17 2012

      I am ashamed to admit that I had no idea of the extent of the ruins around Turkey. This is just one of the many amazing sites.

  • April 16 2012

    I was lucky to visit Ephesus last year. It’s amazing huh?! Totally recommended.

    • April 17 2012

      Agreed! I had no idea the scale of it before getting there – so impressive.

  • April 16 2012

    When I was in Turkey, I didn’t visit this site. Looking at those photos, I’m really bummed I skipped it.

    • April 17 2012

      Well Diana, you will just have to get back here now then, won’t you!

  • Abi
    April 16 2012

    I watched a stranger get down on one knee and propose here…When the girl started crying, everyone in the amphitheatre applauded! That just added to the experience, really πŸ™‚

    • April 17 2012

      AHHH! That would have been amazing to see! Kudos to the guy for picking that spot!

    • Barb
      June 27 2012

      I just returned from a trip that included a stop in Ephasus. Our beautiful tour guide told us that her tour guide boyfriend proposed to her at the amphitheater while both were conducting tours. She looked up to see his tour group holding a banner asking her to marry him. I wonder if that is the engagement you saw!

  • Yowza, these are some great photos – I have a soft spot for ruins. πŸ™‚ And seriously, that amphitheatre looks WAY bigger than the Roman Colosseum!

    • April 17 2012

      The amphitheatre is HUGE, although I just googled it and it says that the Colosseum is bigger. πŸ™‚

  • Kieu
    April 16 2012

    Ephesus is one of our fave while we were in Turkey! One of the most well preserved sites I’ve ever seen. You can really get a sense of how the city once was and worked. Did you get to see the terrace houses? Stunning. Gerard got a kick out of the outdoor shared toilets. Haha. Beautiful photos!

    • April 17 2012

      Thanks Kieu! We didn’t make it into the terrace houses, unfortunately (we were taking SO LONG exploring everything else that we had to cut it out – haha!)

  • April 16 2012

    Wonderful photos (as usual!).
    I went to Ephesus 25 years ago and was enchanted by its beauty. Overall, I liked much more the archaeological sites in Turkey rather than in Greece. But that was me πŸ™‚
    Simon recently posted..Fishing Boats on the Brazilian Coast

    • April 17 2012

      Well now I will just have to go to Greece so I can compare for myself too (we have never been)!

  • April 16 2012

    Absolutely gorgeous photos! You guys inspire me every day! Thank you!!

  • April 16 2012

    Wow…I love these all!

  • Ter
    April 16 2012

    I love it when people recognize the worth of preserving THINGS. Even though the people have come and gone, they are still very much present.

    Kinda makes you wonder what we’re leaving behind as ‘ruins’ for future generations to look at.

    • April 17 2012

      Unfortunately I think our legacy will be floating islands of plastic garbage. πŸ™

  • A Montrealer Abroad
    April 16 2012

    Love the kitty! There are so many stray cats in Europe, it’s one of my favorite things to photograph.

    Ephesus really seems like an outstanding place – I usually hesitate before visiting a historic place because I kind of grew tired of them, but I don’t think I could overlook Ephesus if I ever go to Turkey.

    • April 17 2012

      Yes, PLEASE don’t overlook it if you are here. We tend to be kinda “sneh” on them now too, but it really blew us away.

  • April 16 2012

    I don’t think I can get tired of places like these. Granted, I considered going to school for archaeology. πŸ˜›

    • April 17 2012

      Then you would go a little nuts here I think – there is SO much to explore.

  • April 16 2012

    Hmmm, a good few years since we were last at Ephesus and, looking at your photos, I think it’s time we went back there. Forgotten how impressive it is.

    • April 17 2012

      Julia – have you been to Bergama? Have had some people tell us that it is as good (if not better) than Ephesus…

      • April 17 2012

        Ha ha, that place has been on our ‘really need to get there right now’ list since we first came to Turkey and we’ve still never been. The photos look amazing. One for the hiking boots with ruins in the hills and fantastic views. Suspect we may be admiring your photos of your time there on here before we make it. πŸ˜‰
        Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Fethiye Harbour Under Construction

  • Soooooo cool! Excited to be there next month!
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..Scammed at the Great Pyramids of Giza: How You Can Avoid Being Bamboozled!

    • April 17 2012

      You will love it Aaron! πŸ™‚

  • Emily in Chile
    April 16 2012

    What an incredible place! If you’ve seen some of the photos I’m putting up on Facebook right now of my trip to Greece, you’ll know that I kind of have a thing for columns, so these pics are right up my alley πŸ™‚

    • April 17 2012

      Well now you had better make it to Turkey to see all of the columns here! πŸ™‚

  • Abby
    April 16 2012

    WOW. Just… wow.

  • April 17 2012

    Holy cow, this place looks AWESOME!

    Now I’m bummed I won’t be going to Ephesus while in Turkey this summer. πŸ™
    Amanda recently posted..The Hidden People (Elves) of Iceland

    • April 17 2012

      Well, we’ve got a few more things coming up to probably bum you out with further… (sorry) πŸ™‚

  • April 17 2012

    Great photos! I’m in the process of picking date for my first trip to Turkey so I’m really enjoying your posts. πŸ™‚

    What time of day were you at Ephesus to avoid the crowds? And were you recently there, i.e. during the off-season? In most photos I see the place is swamped.

    • April 17 2012

      We were just there a few weeks ago! And we got there fairly early, almost right after it opened although we visited the nearby House of the Virgin Mary first. The crowds weren’t that bad at all and visiting at this time of year also ensured it wasn’t too hot as well.

  • Laura @Travelocafe
    April 16 2012

    I love Roman and Greek history. Ephesus is on my travel list. But I did not expect for it to have such a beautiful cat. LOL. Love the ending of the photo reportage.

    • April 17 2012

      There are so many cute kitties at Ephesus! I wish we had taken some food with us.

  • Mom
    April 16 2012

    Awesome pics. I can never wrap my head around the amt. of labor it must have taken & with primitive tools. Just wow!

    • April 17 2012

      I KNOW! And how they moved those giant pieces of marble without even wheelbarrows. Amazing. No wonder their life span was so short.

  • April 17 2012

    I’ve been to Ephesus twice and loved it both times –the theatre was my favourite.
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Travel Photo of the Week β€” Cockles & Mussels, Alive, Alive, Oh!

  • April 17 2012

    Wow. I have a brief trip to Turkey next month but unfortunately just won’t have time to track down this fantastic place. Wonderful photos, as usual!

    • Pete
      April 18 2012

      Thanks Hayley. Turkey really has so much to offer. We feel 3 months isn’t enough time, so we will have to come back… Have a good trip next month πŸ™‚

  • Awesome pics! I was just talking about how to fight off the jadedness with a fellow traveler. He seems to think you can’t, it hasn’t hit me yet, I hope it never does and I can prove him wrong.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Andi’s Pick: Pousada Maravilha

  • Margyle
    April 17 2012

    These are unreal! I have to admit, with every post you do my desire to go to Turkey goes up. Any idea how Ephesus or other sights in Turkey fair for crowds and busy seasons?

    • Pete
      April 18 2012

      Margyle, from what we know it can get very busy and hot in the busy seasons (summer of course). Our pictures look like there were a lot of people there, but from what we were told, it was not very busy. Cheers!

  • Laurena
    April 17 2012

    Awesome pictures! Its funny I have the same ones (yours are much better though) LOL.

    When we were there a few years back, the tour guide mentioned that Bono was there and through a charity concert to excavate more at the amphatheatre however, they brought their whole sound system and they actually deterioated it a bit. Who would have thought!

    • Pete
      April 18 2012

      Hey Laurena, thanks for the comment! I can’t believe that they would allow a concert like that. No shit it deteriorated a bit. We find it amazing how you can pretty much walk anywhere, including up and on the rocks.

  • April 18 2012

    I know you feel about relics, I cannot stand looking at pottery. I know it’s old but it’s also boring!

    But I have always wanted to go to Turkey so I could see the ruins, just not the pottery.
    Ayngelina recently posted..The Pineapple Express

    • Pete
      April 18 2012

      I never had a clue how many ancient wonders of the World were here in this country. Something like 9. I hear you on the pottery…

  • April 18 2012

    I remember ambling through Ephesus a long time ago on a very hot day with a too hot and slightly bored 4-year-old. Should go back on my own to appreciate it properly. If only the Temple of Artemis were still there…

    Bergama is beautiful, but not really in the same league, I think. I also really liked Aphrodisias.
    Sophie recently posted..Looe and Polperro: two Cornish villages

  • April 18 2012

    I too am rendered speechless just by looking at these photos. What more if I went there for real? Just beautiful.
    Alexa Meisler recently posted..Organic Hair & Skin Care On the Go with Intelligent Nutrients

    • Pete
      April 19 2012

      Thank you Alexa πŸ™‚ It truly was an incredible place.

  • One of the few archaeological sites I have been to! And my first international trip after college. Ah, the memories.

  • April 19 2012

    I agree…Ephesus does break through the unfortunate long-term traveler ‘wall’ of having seen so much already. I loved walking down that main street to the library. Quite the sight. I hope you sat on the ‘old’ toilets as well. Always the fun tourist snap. πŸ™‚ Turkey has more ancient sites than other expected places…it’s amazing!
    Lisa | LLWorldTour recently posted..Kejimkujik National Park Seaside, Nova Scotia

    • Pete
      April 20 2012

      We unfortunately missed these toilets πŸ™‚ We were off wondering where people weren’t (and got scolded at a few times by security). We are definitely aiming to find more of these ancient wonders. Thanks Lisa!

  • April 24 2012

    Ah, I can so relate to the sentiment of things wearing off, and the need to keep the wonder alive. There are only so many temples the brain can cope with. Or, geological explanations that start with “once upon a time, everything you see here was under water”. This looks awesome though, plus.. free kitties! You can never go wrong with cats πŸ˜‰
    Laurence recently posted..Things I didn’t know about Barcelona!

    • Pete
      April 25 2012

      yes, how many times we have heard or read that. Never can go wrong with cute cats, except maybe the fact Dalene wants to take them all home.

  • April 25 2012

    wow, the Celcus Library looks breathtaking! Yet another reason to put Turkey into ‘to visit’ list. Thank you for the photos and story!
    Alona @ Etiquette Tips recently posted..Dress Code: Women Travelling To The Middle East

    • April 28 2012

      Thank you Alona, that library was staggeringly beautiful, couldn’t believe what amazing shape it was still in.

  • April 25 2012

    “People lived here long ago! Look! They left stuff behind!” – this totally had me nodding and laughing in agreement! It’s amazing how quickly we become unimpressed by historic ruins when we’re traveling for an extended period, isn’t it?

    Great photos by the way. I too visited Ephesus and was thoroughly blown away.
    Wanderplex recently posted..Don’t let the weather put a damper on your vacation: 17 ideas for a rainy day

    • April 28 2012

      I hate to be so callous about ruins like that, but it is totally true!

  • Chrystal McKay
    April 29 2012

    These photos are fantastic. They make me drool. Gosh I LOVE ancient Ruins! Fantastic Photos!

    • April 30 2012

      Thanks Chrystal! Glad you do, because we have plenty more to come… πŸ™‚

  • Ali
    April 30 2012

    I loved Ephesus! I didn’t really know much about it before we got there either, and I was blown away.

    • May 1 2012

      I think sometimes it’s better to go in not knowing anything…then a place like that is almost guaranteed to knock your socks off! πŸ™‚

  • May 6 2012

    Beautiful photos! It’s on my bucket list!

  • Wow, Ephesus looks like a great place to visit. The story about Paul is pretty cool too.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..GLOBAL CULTURE: The History & Influence of Jamaican Music

    • May 19 2012

      Ephesus is AMAZING. And there are so many incredible stories around here…could spend a lifetime learning about them.

  • June 6 2012

    Oh god, this brings me back to my Classics classes in university. JOYGASM. One of my top “must see” items from the ancient world. The Greeks were unreal. (Still are.)

    • June 7 2012

      I would rank it up there as some of the most impressive ruins we’ve seen. And just down the road, the ruins at Bergama, were pretty spectacular as well.

  • Ashwin
    March 31 2013

    Beautiful pictures…at what time of the day did you visit Ephesus?

    • March 31 2013

      We probably got there about 10am? Before the real heat of the day kicked in. πŸ™‚

  • Monika RΓΆlke
    May 28 2015

    We just visit Ephesus last week !! Unbelievable experience πŸ™‚ We felt like we are still in ancient age because Turks are really demonstrating there perfect ! We booked our tour via and they made our day unforgottable !!


  • June 1 2017

    I’m one of the lucky one who has been there once.

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