Being a tour guide for 23 years and a traveler for a lifetime, I have seen my share of ruins. I have watched the sunrise in Anghor Wat, the sunset in Tikal, chased the lamas in Machu Pichu, been chased down by the vendors in Chicken Itza, swum in the bays of ancient cities and hiked around hidden temples, and I still think Ephesus is the best ancient site to visit.Of course when you visit the ruins of Ephesus for more than 2000 times it is not easy to be biased about it but let me try to explain you, item by item, why I think Ephesus is the best as objectively as possible.
One, it is older; Ephesus is older than most of the ruins you see. The Ephesus everybody visits was founded in 4th.century B.C., but the first city-it is believed there has been at least 5 cities- dates back to 10th century B.C. Half a mile away from the ruins of Ephesus, in Cukurhoyuk, which is a mound, archaeologists unearthed artifacts dating back to 6200 B.C.
Two, it lasted longer. Even if we only focus on the city visited by the tourists today, I cant help being amazed by the fact that it existed between 4th century B.C and 15th century A.D. despite all the eathquakes, wars, deseases, fires it had to endure.
Three, it played a more important role in world history. Ephesus served as the capital city of Asia Minora neokros at least twice, was visited by Aleander the great, Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, became a home to St Paul, St John and Virgin Mary. It was so wealthy that the temple of Artemis - one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world-, the third biggest library Celsus Library, the second biggest gymnasium of the ancient world, the largest theater of Asia Minor were all built there.
Four, has more to see around it. Within a ten minute drive from Ephesus, there are amazing places to visit such as The House of Virgin Mary, as where she is believed to spend her last years, The Basilica of St John, where St John the apostle was buried, The Temple of Artemis and a beautiful Ephesus museum of archaeology. There are beaches for beach lovers, factory outlets for shoppers, and local restaurants for foodies.
Five, It is easier and cheaper to see. Ephesus is located in the town of Selcuk which is 45 minutes away from the International airport of Izmir, and only 20 minutes away from Kusadasi Cruise port. You can take public transport, a taxi or a tour from both destinations and the cost is very low. The entrance fee of Ephesus at the moment is only 11 usd, House of Virgin Mary 5, St John’s Basilica and the Museum is about 3.
Six, better ruins. When you walk along the marble streets of Ephesus, it feels like you hve travelled back in time. It is not bits of ruins here and there, most of the city center has been ezxcavated and re-erected. You get to see most of the state and social buildings and thanks to the hard work of the Austrian team now you are able to see the interior of the houses of the wealthiest citizens of Ephesus.
Seven, better guides. As guiding is a well paid and respected job in Turkey, a lot of youngsters want to become guides. As a result most of the guides have great education and speak languages fluently. Seing sites with a guide makes a great difference and some of the best guides in the country work in Ephesus area
To sum up; almost every single ancient city that I have seen has enriched and improved my life but if I was to choose, Ephesus is “the one” for me.
Tour Guide Tane Kara