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The Ruins of Ephesus and the Travertines of Pamukkale, Turkey

Library of Celsus at Ephesus

When people come to Turkey, many have two destinations in mind – the Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus and the white travertine cliffs of Pamukkale.  We did both in one day.

From Kusadasi, we headed to Ephesus, which has been high on our list for years!  Originally a Greek city, it later became a Roman outpost boasting nearly 300,000 inhabitants.  Ephesus was one of the original 12 cities in the Ionian League during the Classical Greek period and was home to one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis (since destroyed).  Ephesus also has an important role in the Bible because Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians was written to the inhabitants of the city and was delivered in the amphitheater that still stands.

We arrived at Ephesus slightly later than expected (about 10:00 am) and the temperature was already climbing.  We picked up our tickets (Lira 25 for the tickets and Lira 5 for parking) and then headed into the archaeological site.  We opted to use the upper entrance, and it made for an easier entrance but a long, hot walk out.  We used our battery-powered fans left over from our Egypt trip (brought for just this occasion) and were the envy of the other tourists.

The first stop in Ephesus from the upper entrance is the Odeon and gymnasium, which looks like a small amphitheater.  From there we walked down the Curetes Street seeing the smaller sites. 

Library of Celsus and Ephesus ruins from Curetes Street

Library of Celsus and Ephesus ruins from Curetes Street

The highlight of Ephesus is the Roman Library of Celsus, an iconic, multi-story edifice that is strikingly beautiful.  The library was built to honor the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus and house the library of 12,000 scrolls. It is perhaps the finest library outside of Rome.

Library of Celsus at Ephesus

Library of Celsus at Ephesus

The Great Theater was under construction and was being renovated, so we couldn’t move down beyond the upper terraced level. It was a sight to behold – seating for over 24,000 and the largest amphitheater in the ancient world. It was a long walk from the Celsus library out to the theatre and anyone visiting in the summer months should be prepared for the heat.

Semi-circular ancient amphitheater

Great Theater in which St. Paul is said to have delivered his Letter to the Ephesians

On the way out, one hillside is all enclosed, and the houses (complete with many ancient frescos) are being renovated inside.  The area is called The Terrace Houses or Hillside Houses and there is a supplemental admission of Lira 15 to enter. It was interesting to see how people lived at that time and we felt the Terrace Houses were worth it, although it was extremely hot in the buildings under the summer heat.

Restored lion mosaic at Ephesus

Lots of mosaics were being restored

As the sun climbed high in the sky, temperatures soared and it was time to leave (or pass out from dehydration!).  After leaving Ephesus, we hit the highway and made the long drive to Pamukkale. The highway was nice, but then it turned into a local road with tons and tons of stoplights.  We grabbed a quick lunch at Marla Restaurant just outside of Nazilli. Interestingly, the large restaurant is inside a BP gas station and seems to be a stopover for tour buses making the same long drive we were. They had an extensive buffet lunch and numerous kinds of Turkish delight to sample (and buy to take with you, of course). We grabbed a quick panini, used the sparkling clean restroom and were on our way.

On arriving in Pamukkale, we were chased down by a guy on a moped, but we didn’t fall for the scam, which we thankfully had read about in our guidebook. He wanted us to stop so he could try to sell us something.

We got checked into our hotel, the Richmond Pamukkale, which sits on the high plain beyond Pamukkale.  The guidebook said this hotel is the best there is in the area.  That may be the case, but it left us wanting a lot more. The beds were rock hard and the whole building had a college dorm-like ambiance.  The breakfast was served in a large cafeteria and had an institutional feel.

We drove to the travertine pools and hiked up the “cotton castle” from the town at dusk. We had to remove our shoes for the hike, so the water ran cool (but not cold) on our feet.  Some people brought swimsuits and lounged in the pools. Others smeared mud on their faces. But we just hiked up and took pictures.  As we walked down, bats took to the skies by the thousands.

Travertines of Pamukkale Turkey

The hike up the travertines is long but easy

Ridges in the travertines of Pamukkale Turkey

The water leaves patterns in the calcium as it flows

Water flowing over the travertines

The view gets even better as sunset nears

Pools in the travertines in Pamukkale Turkey

In places, the flow of the calcium-enriched water has formed pools

Couple in Santa hats in the water

It was the middle of August in Turkey, but that didn’t stop this couple’s photo shoot

Sun setting over the travertines

Yellow spots are still visible but that doesn’t diminish the view

Sunset over the travertines in Pamukkale Turkey

The water looks like glass and the travertines gleam at sunset

After lots of Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine, we were craving something with some spice.  So, we had dinner at Lamuka’s Lokanta – a little Japanese and Korean restaurant on a side street in town.  For Lira 40, I had the chicken with vegetables and an Efes beer, while Laura had the teriyaki chicken. Both were very tasty and a nice change from the grilled meats of Turkey.

After dinner, we took a dip in the hotel’s pool.  The indoor pool is like a nicer spa, but they ask you to wear shower caps.  I get the requirement of bathing before the pool, but shower cap was weird.  We were able to soak in the warm water completely alone for about 20 minutes before it got too warm. The indoor pool closed at 10:30, so we moved it outside to the two mineral pools, which were very nice.  We were treated to some entertainment at the nearby bar – a belly dancer, who was ok and a singer who was a little off-key.  It was a quirky but relaxing way to end the evening.

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What do you think about The Ruins of Ephesus and the Travertines of Pamukkale, Turkey?

  1. mary February 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    How were you able to get photos of Ephesus without masses of people in the shots? When we were there it was stifling hot and there were scores of people everywhere which just added to the heat! Don’t you just love Turkey!!

  2. Lance @ Travel Addicts February 22, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    Hey Mary, thanks for visiting. We were there in September 2012. It was brutally hot (in some ways, I think it might have been even hotter than Egypt). Our photos of Ephesus were a labor of love. For some shots, we waited it out until there wasn’t anyone in the picture (and there was nobody in the Terrace Houses area with us, so that was no problem). In other shots (namely Celsus), we crouched down and shot up, going over people’s heads. There’s a few feet of image lost on the bottom, but the upside is no people. And yes, we loved Turkey!

  3. Andrew February 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Wow, two big things in one day. That is a really big trip. We were there in April of 2012 and the Terrace Houses were closed, unfortunately.

    We stayed a few nights in both Selcuk near Ephesus(which we really liked) and Pammukale town. Pammukale was really awesome, but we probably didn’t need the second night there.

    Sunset picture is pretty amazing. Also impressed that you walked up the hill. The long walk from the upper entrance through the city wasn’t fun, but I think walking up the travertines would have been hard. I was happy to go to the hotel after we were done walking down.

  4. Lance @ Travel Addicts February 25, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    Andrew, Thanks for stopping by the blog (I’ve enjoyed reading yours). That was a really big day, but totally worth it. Looking forward to Prague (thanks for the advice!).

  5. Wandering Carol March 11, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

    I loved Pamukalle. I found that once the tour buses leave for the day you can be the only one on the white travertine hillside. Hard on the feet walking down, though.

    • Laura Longwell March 14, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

      It really was beautiful. It was amazingly hot while we were there, so we were grateful for the water running over our feet while walking up and down.

  6. Alex March 21, 2014 at 4:45 am #

    Recently visited Ephessus and I have to say it’s great, very impressing! Thank you for sharing your story!

    Happytreavelling!

  7. Helen September 10, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    How did you find driving around Turkey? Not sure if I should rent a car…

    • Lance Longwell September 11, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

      Helen, piece of cake. The drive on the right side of the road, roads are well maintained, broad shoulders and well sign-posted. Yes, we did hit some traffic, but no worse than home. Frankly, Turkey was a lot easier to drive around than Italy or Ireland, plus it gave us a LOT more flexibility.

  8. Lorraine September 15, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    Hi just wondering if driving is recommended than train. Planning to do these in a day as well then head to Cappadocia

    • Lance Longwell September 15, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

      We like driving overseas and enjoy the flexibility it offers. At the time we went, there were train disruptions, which meant the only other option was the bus. For budget travelers, both the bus or the train are fine options (check to make sure the train is actually running). The train from Selçuk (Ephesus) takes you to Denizli, where you transfer to buses to get to the Pamukkale. We’ve heard horror stories of people getting stuck in Denizli for long periods of time and needing to take expensive taxis. If we had it to do over again, we’d probably rent a car again. In Cappadocia, we would strongly recommend renting a car. While there are buses in the region, you really need private transport to explore off the beaten path.

  9. Stephanie September 9, 2017 at 11:34 pm #

    Hi, this post really helps me in my planning for my trip! I’ve got a few questions if you’d be able to share your experience.

    I’m also planning to rent a car from Izmir and drive to Ephesus then Pamukkale. Did u drop off your car at Pamukkale?

    • Lance Longwell September 10, 2017 at 11:02 pm #

      No, we did the full roundtrip. So, Izmir to Ephesus, then we went to Kusadasi and spent a day on the beach (resort). From there, we headed south on the D515 to the D525 (which is a nice scenic drive) and then back out to the E87. From there it’s a long grind out to Pamukkale. The E87/D320 is a kind of a slow road. It’s highway and then you hit stoplights. But Pamukkale is really worth it. We only spent about 36 hours there and I kind of wished we’d spent more time there. The drive back to Izmir is the same E87/D320 and is just as uninteresting the second time. A tip if you plan to do the Izmir rental car: there’s only one petrol station just outside the airport and there can be a bit of a queue to refill. Allow a little extra time. Good luck and enjoy the trip!

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