Like many people, we traveled to this part of Turkey primarily to visit one place – Ephesus. It’s one of the most well-preserved Roman ruins in the world and a top tourist destination in Turkey.
Drawing in over two million visitors annually, it’s no surprise that much of the activity in this small town revolves around Ephesus. But as much attention as the ruins get, we were pleased to find that there is much to love in the town of Selçuk itself. It’s a charming laid back town with a rustic country feel. Simple and slow-paced, we enjoyed getting lost in its meandering cobblestone streets doing little more than whiling away the time.
If you’ve already made the rounds at Ephesus and have some time to spare, then I suggest doing the same. Ephesus may be the draw, but the atmosphere of Selçuk is what I appreciated the most.
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GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
HOW TO APPLY FOR AN E-VISA TO TURKEY
If you’re eligible, then applying for an e-visa to Turkey should be a cinch. The application is done online so once you submit and make payment, you can get approved and have your visa within minutes. Just print it out and you’re good to go. Check out my post on how to apply for an e-Visa to Turkey for a step-by-step process.
SELÇUK AT A GLANCE
Selçuk is a small town in İzmir Province. It has a few notable attractions though it probably wouldn’t get as much attention if it weren’t for its proximity to Ephesus. As described, the ancient city of Ephesus is one of the most well-preserved ruins in Turkey. It’s one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations so if you’re reading this guide and planning a trip to Selçuk, then chances are you’re looking to visit Ephesus.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SELÇUK
January-February is the coldest time in Selçuk with temperatures dropping down to around 8°C/46°F. On the opposite end is July-August when the mercury reaches 34°C/93°F. Temperature-wise, the best time to visit Selçuk is from April-May, followed by October-November. It’s neither too hot nor too cold.
However, April-May is also high season in many parts of Turkey, including Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Selçuk. Many hotels will be fully booked and prices will be at their highest. It’s for this reason why I think October-November is the ideal time to go. It’s the shoulder season so prices are lower and crowds thinner. The temperature may not be as favorable as Spring, but it’s just the start of winter so it isn’t too cold yet.
We went in early November and I was fine walking around in just a light sweater and t-shirt. The rainy season is from October till April but it didn’t rain once when we were there. We had clear blue skies the whole time.
Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Selçuk
To help you better understand the weather in Selçuk, I’ve included average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below. Suggested months to visit are colored in orange.
TRAVELING TO SELÇUK
There are many ways to get to Selçuk depending on where you’re coming from. But for the purpose of this guide, let’s assume you’ll be coming from the popular tourist destinations of Istanbul, Pamukkale, and Cappadocia, and interested only in the fastest and/or cheapest options.
Depending on which airport in Istanbul you’ll be flying out from (Ataturk or Sabiha Gocken), several carriers — Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, and Onur Air — can take you from Istanbul to Izmir Adnan Menderes, which is the closest airport to Selçuk. From Izmir Airport, you can then take a one-hour train ride to Selçuk. The gar (train station) is conveniently located across the street from the airport. Follow the link for the train schedule.
Only Pegasus Airlines has direct flights from Kayseri to Izmir. There are none from Nevsehir. From Izmir Airport, you can then take the same train to Selçuk as described above.
The cheapest and most reliable way to travel from Pamukkale to Selçuk is by train. It takes about three hours to go from Denizli to Selçuk. Just catch a minibus from Pamukkale to Denizli’s otogar (bus station), then walk to the gar (train station) which is on the other side of the highway. Follow the link for the train schedule.
You can take a bus from Denizli to Selçuk as well but I don’t recommend it. Though comfortable, they sometimes wait to fill up their buses with passengers so the three-hour ride can become four or five. That’s what happened to us when we took the bus from Selçuk to Denizli.
WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY
The unit of currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TL). As far as I know, there are no currency exchange offices in Selçuk. You’ll need to change your money at a bank or the post office. I’ve read that a few jewelry shops in town will exchange your currency as well, though I’m not sure about this.
Instead of exchanging currency, you might want to consider withdrawing TL from an ATM instead. That’s what we did. Some people swear that the exchange rate is even better. Just be sure to inform your bank that you’ll be using your ATM card abroad so you don’t run into any problems. In my experience, my ATM card works in some machines but not in others.
WHERE TO STAY IN SELÇUK
If the purpose of your trip is to visit Ephesus, then it’s best to stay in the town of Selçuk. It’s centrally located and the most convenient place to stay. From there, you can easily visit Ephesus, Meryem Ana Evi, and Sirince. But if you’re a partier and want to stay by the coast, then the resort town of Kusadasi may be the better option.
We loved Selçuk for its simplicity and authenticity. It doesn’t have much of a nightlife but we didn’t care. We liked it just the way it was – rustic and undeveloped with a charming small town vibe.
We stayed in five different hotels during our 2-week trip to Turkey and Amazon Petite Palace was easily our favorite. It’s comfortable, centrally located, and teeming with charm and personality. Check out my post on Amazon Petite Palace in Selçuk for more pictures and information.
You can book a room at Amazon Petite Palace through Booking.com or Agoda. If Amazon Petite Palace isn’t the right place for you, then you can follow these links for alternate listings in Selçuk: Booking.com | Agoda.
Approximate Room Rate: 37 Euros per night (as of July 2018)
Kuşadası is a resort town on Turkey’s Aegean coast. If you’re on a cruise, then this is where your ship will dock. It’s farther away from Ephesus than Selçuk but still close enough (about 30 mins) to make it a good jumping off point to visit the ruins. Beach- and party-goers will probably want to stay in Kuşadası. It has a vibrant nightlife with large resorts and many bars and restaurants. You can check these sites for listings in Kuşadası: Booking.com | Agoda.
THINGS TO DO IN SELÇUK
1. Explore the Ancient City of Ephesus
As described, Ephesus is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations. Built in the 10th Century BC, this ancient city was a key seaport that was once the center of trade and commerce in the ancient world, as well as being a hub for early Christianity. If you were to visit just one archaeological site in Turkey, then this should probably be it. Check out my post on the ancient city of Ephesus for more pictures and information.
You can easily visit Ephesus on your own from Selçuk or Kuşadası. There are audio guides available for rent and they do a good job of explaining all the different sites at Ephesus. But if you’d rather go on a guided tour, then you can do so through Get Your Guide. They offer a full day tour that’ll take you to the Ephesus archaeological site, as well as İsabey Mosque, Meryem Ana Evi, and the Temple of Artemis. It includes buffet lunch as well. Follow the link for more information and to book the Ephesus Full-Day Archeological Site Tour with Get Your Guide.
Suggested Length of Visit: 2-3 hrs / Admission: 40TL
2. View Ancient Artifacts at Ephesus Archaeological Museum
No visit to Ephesus can be complete without a stop at the archaeological museum. In a newly renovated building just minutes from the otogar (bus station), remnants of the Temple of Artemis and finds from Ephesus’ most glorious Hellenistic and Roman periods are among the exhibits on display here. Check out my post on the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selçuk for more pictures and information.
Suggested Length of Visit: 1-2 hrs / Admission: 10TL
3. Visit the Basilica of St. John & İsabey Mosque
Located in the heart of Selçuk, the Basilica is believed to be the burial site of St. John the Apostle while İsabey Mosque is regarded as one of the oldest and most impressive surviving examples of Anatolyan beylik architecture. Both are monuments to faith located just minutes from each other on Ayasuluk Hill. Check out my post on the Basilica of St. John and İsabey Mosque in Selçuk for more pictures and information.
Suggested Length of Visit: 1-1.5 hrs for both / Admission: Basilica of St. John — 10TL / İsabey Mosque — FREE
4. Say a Prayer at Meryem Ana Evi
Meaning “Mother Mary’s House” in Turkish, Meryem Ana Evi is said to be the last house where the Virgin Mother lived before Her Assumption. It’s believed that she was taken here by John the Apostle shortly after the Crucifixion. Located on Mt. Koressos just 7 km from Selçuk, you can hire a taxi to take you here from the otogar. Check out my post on Meryem Ana Evi for more pictures and information.
If you’d like to visit Meryem Ana Evi on a guided tour, then you can do so through Get Your Guide. It’s one of the stops on the same full day tour that takes you to the Ephesus archaeological site. Follow the link for more information and to book the Ephesus Full-Day Archeological Site Tour with Get Your Guide.
Suggested Length of Visit: 30-45 mins / Admission: 25TL
5. Pay your Respects at the Temple of Artemis
What a sad sight this was. The Temple of Artemis is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but all that’s left of it is this lonely column and a few sculptural fragments. Rebuilt three times before its ultimate destruction in 401 AD, any surviving pieces are now on display at the British and Ephesus Archaeological Museums. The temple is located just a short walk from the otogar. It’s on the way to Ephesus so you can make a quick stop here on the way or coming back from the archaeological site.
Suggested Length of Visit: 15 mins / Admission: FREE
DAY TRIPS FROM SELÇUK
1. Enjoy the Sunset over a Glass of Wine in Şirince
Just 8 km east of Selçuk and accessible via minibus, Şirince is an exceedingly charming hill town famous for its olive oil, fruit wines, and other natural products. We enjoyed this place so much that we wished we had an extra day in Selçuk, just so we could spend a night here. Check out my post on Şirince for more pictures and information.
It’s worth noting that there are a growing number of boutique hotels in Şirince. I was considering adding it to the WHERE TO STAY section of this guide but it may not be the most convenient place to stay for first-time visitors. But if you’re staying in the region long enough, then you may want to stay here for one night. It’s a lovely little town. Follow the link for accommodation options in Şirince.
Suggested Length of Visit: At least half a day
2. Lay on the Beach in Kuşadası
As described, Kuşadası is a beach resort town about half an hour from Selçuk. If you’d like to spend some time lounging on the beach or enjoying the area’s vibrant nightlife, then you can get to Kuşadası by minibus from Selçuk’s otogar. From what I understand, minibuses back to Selçuk run till 10PM, maybe later in the summer.
3. Spend the Day in Pamukkale
Pamukkale is an ancient spa city in Denizli province that’s home to the ruins of Hierapolis and these famed calcium travertines. The travertines are formed by naturally occurring hot springs that gush water supersaturated with calcium carbonate. The calcium carbonate is deposited as a soft gel which then crystallizes into these terrace-like formations. It’s a remarkable sight and one of the most unforgettable places we visited in Turkey. Check out our Pamukkale travel guide for more pictures and information.
Pamukkale was our next destination after Selçuk, but you can easily go there on a day trip. It’s just three hours away by train so you can leave in the morning and be back in Selçuk by early evening. Follow this link for a train schedule between Selçuk and Denizli.
If you’d rather go on a guided tour, then you can do so through Get Your Guide. They offer this full day Pamukkale tour from Selçuk or Kuşadası that takes you to the calcium travertines as well as the ruins of Hierapolis. Follow the link for more inofrmation and to book the full-day Pamukkale tour on Get Your Guide.
Suggested Length of Visit: Full day
TURKISH FOOD GUIDE
Turkish food is uh-mazing! We fell in love with it the first day we were there. It’s considered one of the world’s greatest cuisines because of its diversity, long history, and the legacy left behind by an imperial kitchen. Check out my post for a list of 27 delicious things to eat and drink in Turkey.
WHERE TO EAT
1. Ejder Restaurant
Ejder Restaurant is one of the highest-rated restaurants in Selçuk on TripAdvisor. They served us the best lamb we had during our entire Turkey trip, which is saying a lot with lamb being such as important ingredient in Turkish cuisine! We had lunch here on a beautiful day and had great views of the Roman Aqueduct.
If you eat here from April to September, then there’s a good chance you’ll find storks nesting on top of the aqueduct columns. Can you see the nests there? Made entirely of sticks, each of those giant nests can weigh up to 250 kilos.
2. Mehmet and Ali Baba Kebab House
Mehmet and Ali Baba Kebab House is also on TripAdvisor’s top restaurants list. It’s located just around the corner from Ephesus Museum, making it an ideal spot to enjoy a meal before or after viewing the exhibits. We enjoyed this place so much that we wound up eating two meals here.
Be sure to get the grilled lamb kebabs. They’re delicious.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN SELÇUK
To help you get your bearings, I’ve created this map so you get a better sense of where everything is. Most of the places recommended in this guide are pinned on this map.
HOW TO GET AROUND SELÇUK
Selçuk is a small town so it’s easy to get around on foot. If you download Sygic Travel and have GPS switched on, then you should have no problem finding anything.
You can easily get to the Ephesus archaeological site, Şirince, and Kuşadası by minibus from Selçuk’s otogar. As far as I know, no minibuses go to Meryem Ana Evi, so your best bet would be to go by taxi. You can hire one at the otogar to take you to Meryem Ana Evi, wait for you there, then drop you off at the South Gate of Ephesus. You can then take a minibus back to Selçuk after you’re done exploring Ephesus.
HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / SAMPLE ITINERARY
Selçuk is a small town. You should be able to do most everything in this guide in two days. If you want to make a return trip to Pamukkale, then make it three. Here’s a sample 2-day itinerary to help you plan your trip.
| DAY ONE|
• Meryem Ana Evi
• Ephesus Archaeological Site
• Temple of Artemis
• Ephesus Archaeology Museum
• İsabey Mosque
• Basilica of St. John
| DAY TWO|
BUDGET / SUMMARY OF EXPENSES
The unit of currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TL), though Euros and US Dollars are widely accepted as well. But just because you can pay for things with Euros or USD doesn’t mean that you should. Some things are better off paid in TL because they can turn out to be more expensive when converted to Euros or USD. Basically anything that was quoted in Euros or USD — like hotels and tours — I paid for with USD, and everything else — like meals, souvenirs, transportation, entrance fees, etc. — I paid for with TL.
Assuming you’re staying two days and sharing a hotel room with one other person, then a budget of around 430-450TL for the entire 2-day trip should be enough. This takes into account your hotel room, entrance fees, transportation, meals, and pocket wifi rental.
This varies from person to person. We booked a room at Amazon Petite Palace for about 37 Euros a night. Expect to pay much less if you’re staying in a dorm room.
This is also subjective but based on our experience, I’d say around 100TL per person for the entire two days should be good.
| POCKET WIFI RENTAL|
If you’re sharing the cost with one other person, then you’ll each be paying about 28TL for two days.
| ENTRANCE FEES|
The total cost of admission to Ephesus (with Terrace Houses), the archaeological museum, and St. John’s Basilica is 80TL. I left off Meryem Ana Evi because it’s expensive to go there and not everyone may be interested.
It’ll cost you 80TL to go to Meryem Ana Evi so I left that off my estimate. Other than that, you’ll only need to take the minibuses which aren’t expensive, around 3.50TL per ride. A transportation budget of around 20TL for the entire two days should be enough.
That comes out to about 428TL for the entire 2-day trip. If you’d like to go to Meryem Ana Evi, then add 105TL to the total budget. Ren and I are middle of the road travelers who enjoy good food and drink, so this is a budget that works for us. Feel free to adjust based on your own travel habits.
1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel (formerly Tripomatic)
I’ve been using this free trip planning app to create all our itineraries for several years now. It allows me to visualize all the places we want to visit on a map, so I can see exactly how far they are from each other. That way I can group places by day to minimize travel time and maximize what little time we have. It makes travel planning so much easier. Check out my post on the Sygic Travel app for more information.
You can also download our entire 2-week Turkey itinerary in editable Word format from our EAT-ineraries page.
2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device
It goes without saying that having internet access is a must these days, all the more when you’re trying to make your way through a foreign country with a language barrier. You’ll need it to do research, check for exchange rates, and figure out where to find the best kebabs in Selcuk. We simply don’t feel comfortable traveling without it.
We rented a pocket wifi device from Alldaywifi and used it all throughout Turkey — from Istanbul to Selçuk to Pamukkale to Cappadocia. The signal was always strong and we never experienced any interruptions in service. Follow the link to rent a pocket wifi device from Alldaywifi. I suggest booking at least a week before your trip to make sure they still have devices.
3. Meryem Ana before Ephesus
If you’re planning on visiting Meryem Ana Evi, then you should go there before making a trip to Ephesus. Taxis will charge you about 80TL round trip. You’ll pass the south gate of Ephesus on the way back to Selçuk so it’s customary for them to drop you off there. You can then make your way from the south to the north gate of Ephesus, which is the ideal route to take. From the north gate, you can then walk (3 km) or catch a minibus back to Selçuk for around 3.50TL.
4. Check for Discount Passes
I use several different websites to buy travel vouchers, but for Selçuk, I suggest checking out Get Your Guide and Viator. They’re solid, reputable companies that seem to have the biggest selection in Selçuk. If you’re looking for deals on tours, transfers, and other activities, then you may want to search through the Get Your Guide and Viator websites for a list of attractions deals in Selçuk.
5. Get Travel Insurance
Some people will tell you that getting travel insurance is a must, while others will say it’s an unnecessary expense. For us, it’s a case-to-case basis. If all we’ll be doing is staying in the city and stuffing our faces with kebabs for a few days, then we may not get it. Our credit cards give us free (but limited) travel insurance anyway. But if we plan on doing any physical activities, something that could get us hurt, then we’ll definitely pick up a policy.
When we do feel like we need it, we get insurance from World Nomads or SafetyWing. They’re both trusted travel medical insurance providers used by many long-term travelers. Check out my article on why we buy travel insurance for more information. You can follow the links to get a free quote from World Nomads or SafetyWing.
6. Wear Comfortable Shoes with Good Traction
Most of the paths at Ephesus, Basilica of St. John (especially the fortress), and Şirince are rough and/or uneven so it’s important that you wear comfortable walking shoes with good grip. Many of the stones are marble so they can be slippery as well.
7. Know When and How Much to Tip
Tipping is generally modest in Turkey. Try to tip in TL as much as possible and give it directly to your server. At inexpensive restaurants, around 5% is enough. At fine dining establishments, 10-15% is expected. For porters at hotels, airports, or train and bus stations, 2-3TL per bag should suffice. Taxi drivers usually aren’t given a tip, but you should round the fare up to a convenient amount (ie 27.20TL to 28TL). Tips to tour guides and drivers are at your discretion. If you were happy with the day’s tour, then a total group tip of around 20TL for the guide and 15TL for the driver will be appreciated.
8. Bring the Right Power Adapter
9. Consult Turkey Travel Planner
This is the website to check for the most in-depth travel information to Turkey. Tom Brosnahan is an American travel writer who’s been visiting Turkey for the greater part of 40 years. He’s about as knowledgeable and well-connected as any non-local can possibly be. If you need more information about Turkey, then be sure to check out turkeytravelplanner.com.
By no means am I an expert on Selçuk but I do hope you find this guide useful. I’m only sharing some of the things I learned from our time there. If you have any questions, then please feel free to ask us in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.
Thanks for stopping by and have fun walking back in time at Ephesus!
These are some of the things we brought with us to Selçuk. For more on our travel gear, check out our “What’s in Our Backpack?” post. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon affiliate links.)
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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.