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Introducing Ephesus (Efes)

The best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean, Ephesus (892 6010; admission/parking €5.50/1.65; 8am-5pm Oct-Apr, 8am-7pm May-Sep) is the place to get a feel for what life was like in Roman times.

Ancient Ephesus was a great trading city and a centre for the cult of Cybele, the Anatolian fertility goddess. Under the influence of the Ionians, Cybele became Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon, and a fabulous temple was built in her honour. When the Romans took over and made this the province of Asia, Artemis became Diana and Ephesus became the Roman provincial capital.

To avoid the heat of the day, come early in the morning or in the late afternoon, when it’s less crowded with tour groups. If you can, avoid public holidays altogether. Note that the terrace houses cost an extra €8.35 (and take about an hour) to visit. Though they were closed at the time of writing for restoration, they should reopen soon.

If your interest in ruins is slight, half a day may suffice, but real ruins buffs will want to make a day of it. Bring water with you as drinks at the site are expensive.

Try and borrow an illustrated guide from your pension or hotel; it will really enhance the experience. Or you can hire one of the 15 Ephesus guides (two hours for two to 20 people for €39) that hang around the ticket barriers. Between them, they speak six European languages.

There are also new (and quite good) one-hour audio guides (adult/student €4.45/2.25) available. Note that only Turkish lira are accepted for the admission fee. An exchange office operates opposite the ticket office if you need to change money.