Selçuk is a town located in Western Turkey and the gateway to Ephesus, an ancient city that draws in millions of tourists each year. Selçuk is about a 5.5-hour drive from Istanbul or a short flight. It can also be visited by bus, but naturally, your quickest options will be by car or plane (unless you are coming from Pamukkale where it’s a short, 3-hour train ride). Despite the town primarily attracting visitors there because of the ancient city, there is also a lot to do and see in the area on top of just Emphesus.
A day is never enough in any town, but you can cover a lot of ground in just 1 day in Selçuk so here is my one-day itinerary suggestion.
1-day itinerary for Selçuk, Turkey:
Early Morning: Ephesus
Since Ephesus is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist spots and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’re going to want to visit as early as possible. It is open from 8 AM to 6:30 PM daily and until 8 PM during the summer months. If you are visiting during the summer, or even the shoulder season, the ancient city can become incredibly hot with little to no shade to hide from the summer heat so visiting early (or late in the day) is key to beat not only the crowds, but also the heat.
Ephesus was an ancient port city with now, well-preserved ruins. The city was once considered the most important Greek city and a really important trading centre for this region. The ancient city has survived multiple attacks and changed hands many times between conquerors. Today, you can explore the ruins, and take in the magnificent amphitheater, and the Library of Celsus.
Allow 2-3 hours to visit Ephesus. You can totally visit on your own and rent an audio guide, or you can book a tour guide to take you through. Depends on your preference.
Tourist sites of Selçuk
When you get back to Selçuk, you can easily do a few of the key tourist attractions. Pick and choose what interests you or do them all. It is entirely possible to fit the below into your one day, however, it’s completely dependent on how long you spend at each of these sites.
House of Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Evi)
Meryem Ana Evi (translated to Mother Mary’s House) is supposedly 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. The house is located on Mt. Koressos which is about 7 km from Selçuk so you will likely need to hire a taxi if you do not have a car with you. You can easily spend about 30-45 minutes here.
The Basilica of St. John & İsabey Mosque
Both of these attractions are located in the heart of Selçuk, so depending on where you are staying they could totally be walkable. The Basilica is said to be the burial site of St. John the Apostle, and the Mosque is one of the oldest (and most impressive) examples of Anatolian Beylik architecture. Both are located just minutes from one another. When I was visiting, the basilica was actually closed, unfortunately. To visit these, allow yourself about an hour (max) for both.
Stork Nests: One thing I found really cool in the town of Selçuk was all the stork nests that are around the town. These were put up by the municipality and you can find them on top of a lot of poles when you look up. They were really neat to just watch and there were so many baby storks when we were visiting!
Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, so in theory, this should be a top site to see. Sadly, the reality is that all that is left of this temple is one single column and a few fragments. The temple was rebuilt three times before its destruction in 401 AD. Any surviving pieces are now at the British and Ephesus Archaeological Museums. For obvious reasons, we skipped this site in our short time here but you could totally make a stop here on your way to Ephesus.
Ephesus Archaeological Museum
Another spot located very centrally in town is the Ephesus Archaeological Museum. Here you can find findings from the excavations at Ephesus, but also artifacts from Cukurici Mound, the Basilica of St. John, and the Temple of Artemis. Personally, I’m not one that really loves seeing artifacts in museums, so I skipped this entirely but if this is something of interest to you, you’ll want to allow yourself some additional time in your day for this.
Optional: Evening in Şirince
I wish I would have had more time to spend in the village of Şirince. At the end of our busy day doing the above attractions, we headed to Şirince for an evening wine tasting and a walk around the cute little town. Şirince is about a 15-minute drive (or 20-minute minibus from the bus station) from the city centre and is a charming hill town that is famous for olive oil, fruit wines, and other natural products. You’ll find several wine shops offering tastings, cute restaurants, and endless shops to shop in.
Even if you only have an evening to spare, I would head up here for a few hours to shop, sip wine, and have dinner.
If you decide not to head to Şirince, then you can choose from a selection of restaurants in Selçuk. I highly recommend Old House Restaurant. It is family owned and you can get a lot of great local food here. They also have an adorable garden patio you can eat on.
There you have it. A very full, but great day in Selçuk. You can definitely pick and choose from this itinerary based on your interests and how much time you spend in each spot.
When is the best time to visit Selçuk? The best time would be the shoulder season when the weather is nice but not unbearably hot. This would be in the spring (April-May) and the fall (Sept-Oct). However, of course you can visit all year round.
Where to stay in Selçuk: I stayed in Hotel Akay and it was absolutely adorable, and family-run. They have a really nice pool too which was so nice to cool off in after visiting Ephesus but there are a lot of cute hotels in this area as well.
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