3 days in Selcuk, Turkey
Most people whizz through Selcuk in a day or two, taking in the wonders of the ruins of Ephesus and a whirl round the other sites and monuments in the town. With a driver it is possible to see the main sites in one day. However, I recommend taking your time, chill out for at least three days. There are a few day trips further afield which will keep you occupied for four or five days with Selcuk as your base.
Selcuk itself is a lovely rural Turkish town. The people are among the friendliest and most helpful in all of Turkey.
It only takes about 20 minutes to walk around town. I did this a few times, got to recognise a few people and was often invited for tea, coffee or to play backgammon. You’ll also get close to the ruins of the aqueduct dotted along the roads between Ayasoluk Hill and the train station.
Here are a few places you can see. With some energy, all of them can be reached by walking, bicycle or public transport.
If you’re going to Ephesus without a guide, armed only with a guidebook and the signage provided, then I recommend a visit to the Ephesus Museum first. The museum is a modern building next to some old roman baths (now closed) and mostly houses statuary discovered in various Ephesus digs.
It’s a good way to get an insight into the history of Ephesus as well as the rise, decline, rise and final decline of the city. The statues and images of where they were found give you an idea of what small details to look for when you’re at the site and among the large stones themselves.
The ruins at Ephesus (pictured at the top of the page) are the best preserved and reconstructed I have ever seen. It began life as a Greek city and eventually became the third largest city in the Roman Empire, with a likely population of about 250 000. Ephesus is truly amazing and should not be missed on a trip to Turkey. Only a couple of kilometres out of town, the site can easily be reached by cycling or even walking.
Meryemana – Virgin Mary’s House
The Virgin Mary’s House is a popular pilgrimage. Set high on a hill above Selcuk, the small house has been rebuilt into a small chapel. You can see the top of the hill from down in the town but it’s steep and you’ll probably need a driver to get there.
Artemis Temple/ Artemision
There’s not much left of was once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ducks and geese now dominate the green where a few stones and a single column are all that’s left of the once immense temple to Artemis.
The temple is very close to town (you can walk there in about five minutes from just about anywhere) and won’t take up too much of your time so why not stop in on your way to Ephesus and walk where many have tread before. Just watch out for the man relentlessly trying to sell you postcards.
Isa Bey Mosque
Isa Bey is just down the hill from St John’s Basilica so it’s very easy to get to if you’re staying in town. It only takes a few minutes of your time but the courtyard is really peaceful and the mosque welcomes visitors (obviously, be respectful and cover up).
The other good news is it’s free.
St John’s Bascillica & Selcuk Castle
John the Baptist spent much of his life in Selcuk and the ruins of his cathedral sit atop Ayasoluk Hill. It’s an enormous structure, almost completely in ruins. A model reconstruction helps match the ruins with what it would have been like. If fully reconstructed today, St Johns would be the seventh largest cathedral in the world.
Above the cathedral is the newly reconstructed Selcuk Castle. There’s not much too it, you can see the ruins of cisterns, a mosque and old castle walls but the views across the fields are lovely.
Sirence is an old Greek village in the mountains, about 8 kilometres from Selcuk. There’s regular public transport or you could cycle the distance (beware of the hills!). The village has some lovely architecture and is famous for its grape vines and subsequent wine.
There’s plenty of shops offering tastings of local tipples. Fruit wines are particularly popular. The ancient Klise Church is at the top of the hill which also has great views over the valley and an old wine cellar for tastings and purchases.