It wasn’t what I expected.
Just 8 km east of Selçuk, Şirince is an atmospheric hill town famous for its olive oil, fruit wines, and other natural products. Legend has it that the village was settled in the 1400s by freed Greek slaves who named it Çirkince — meaning “ugly” in Turkish — in the hopes of keeping it to themselves. Word of this small mountain paradise eventually spread, and the village’s name was later changed to Şirince — meaning “pleasant” — by Turks who came to occupy the region.
A hilly town of tiled roof houses connected by a network of cobblestone pathways, Şirince looked every bit the sleepy, isolated village I envisioned it to be, except for one thing. It wasn’t so sleepy.
Flooding down the hill on the main road was a steady stream of tourists — both local and foreign — who had come to Şirince to shop, drink wine, and soak up its atmosphere for the day. The crowds felt so thick in parts that cars could barely pass.
Yet crowded as it was, it wasn’t unpleasant.
Despite its influx of visitors, Şirince retains its isolated feel. Yes, merchants and restaurants catering to tourists do line the streets, but they operate within once-occupied homes and spaces that don’t detract from the town’s rural charm.
We fell in love with it instantly.
A scenic 20-min ride away, you can catch one of these minibuses that leave from Selçuk’s otogar (bus station) every 20 mins or so. Apologies if my memory is a little hazy, but I believe the fare was 3TL each way. These minibuses are cheap. We never paid more than 5TL to go anywhere.
There’s no shortage of souvenir shops and restaurants in Şirince.
If you plan on doing any souvenir shopping in Turkey, then Şirince is a good place to do it — especially for olive products and fruit wines. Prices are cheaper than in bigger cities like Istanbul.
It’s hard to tell from my photos but many of these pathways are steep and slope upward, some at a 30° incline or more! Not the easiest place to get around if you have mobility issues.
The lower you are, the flatter the terrain is.
Bags, lamps, jewelry, and some guy deep in meditation.
Ren’s got her eye on some evil eyes. One of the most popular souvenir items in Turkey, evil eyes are talismans created to protect the bearer against curses cast by malevolent glares. 👿
We did most of our gift shopping here in Şirince — keychains, soaps, lotions, etc.
Turkish trivets, mugs, evil eyes, and whirling dervish figurines.
A constellation of Turkish lamps
Colorful plates and bowls
L: An ocean of blue ceramics
R: This was delicious. Salep is a flour made from orchid tubers containing a nutritious, starchy polysaccharide called glucomannan. It’s commonly enjoyed as a hot dessert beverage in winter.
Dusted with cinnamon, salep is sweet and intensely rich with a unique, somewhat floral flavor. It’s served piping hot too so be careful. This little cup went for 5TL.
One of several restaurants in town. This one was partly covered but many had al fresco seating. Nice right?
Pomegranates are ubiquitous in Turkey. You’ll often find them sold at stands like this as freshly-pressed juice. It’s good — tart and sweet but slightly chalky.
Alleyway leading to a more residential part of town. With more time, I would have loved to get lost here.
I didn’t have time to find a better vantage point to photograph the tiled houses so this is the best I could get. Sorry, I know it sucks.
Here’s a better one Ren took with her iPhone.
And here’s one borrowed from Wikimedia Commons. Beautiful right?
If we could do our trip over, we would spend one night in Şirince. There are a few bed and breakfasts in town. Because as lovely as this village was even with the deluge of tourists, I can only imagine what it’s like without them. Early in the morning with the sun rising or later in the evening when the day trippers have gone must be pure magic here. Follow the link for accommodation options in Şirince.
Şirince, İzmir Province, Turkey
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Selçuk, go to the otogar (bus station) and catch one of the minibuses that leave for Şirince every 20 mins or so. Just 8 km east of Selçuk, it’s a scenic 20-min ride away. If I remember correctly, the fare each way was just 3.50TL.
Keep in mind that the last minibus back to Selçuk leaves Şirince at 8PM. It’s best that you confirm this when you get there since schedules may change with the seasons. It’s also a good idea not to wait for the very last minibus since seats are limited.
For more Selçuk travel tips, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Ephesus in Selçuk-Izmir, Turkey
JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.