Selcuk, Izmir: Not Just Another Turkish Town

Selcuk, Izmir

Selçuk (in Turkish alphabet) or Selcuk, Izmir is known as one of the closest town to the more famous Ephesus ruins and travertines of Pamukkale.  As such, Selçuk is a perfect base if you want to get to these attractions.  However, some visitors just pass Selçuk by and stay someplace else. Find out more about places to see in Selcuk and why I liked my stay in this charming little town. 

 

Selcuk, Izmir: History

 

The history of Selcuk in Izmir Province dates back to as early as 1400 to 560 BC, based on archaeological finds indicating settlement in this period. Selcuk is home to the Basilica of St. John, built during the 6th century.  From the Byzantine period, Selcuk was named Agios Theologos, Greek name for John the Theologian, who lived in this town during the time when Christians were persecuted.  Selcuk was then named as Ayasoluk (which means Divine Theologian) in the Ottoman period, and became Selcuk named after the Seljuk Turks that invaded the town from the 12th century AD.

Selçuk today is home to Ephesus Museum, the ruins of Basilica of St. John, and the ruins of one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis.  Likewise, as mentioned, it’s close to the Ephesus ruins, House of Virgin Mary, the coastal town of Kuşadası and the equally charming little village of Şirince.

Selçuk might not be for nightlife seekers, but I like it just the way it is – quiet, historic, traditional and hospitable.  Read on to find out more about some of the places you can visit within and a little outside the little town of Selçuk.

Selcuk, Izmir

Selcuk, Izmir

Selcuk, Izmir Selçuk Turkey

 

Map of Selcuk (Ephesus Included)

 

Here’s a map of Selcuk, Ephesus ruins also included and nearby sights, for your reference.

 

Places to See In and Around Selcuk

 

Isa Bey Mosque

 

The patron of this mosque, Isa Bey, is known as a scientist and a patron of scientists.  The architecture of Isa Bey Mosque was inspired by The Great Mosque or Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, and is uniquely asymmetrical.  Columns and stones from the ruins of Ephesus City were incorporated in the structure.

Isa Bey Mosque Selçuk Turkey

Isa Bey Mosque viewed from Basilica of St. John 

Isa Bey Mosque Selçuk Turkey

Isa Bey Mosque Selçuk Turkey

Isa Bey Mosque Selçuk Turkey Isa Bey Mosque Selçuk Turkey

The mosque being one of the Islamic centers for scientists and scholars bears some calligraphy inscriptions on stone

Isa Bey Mosque Selçuk Turkey

 

Basilica of St. John

 

As a Christian, the visit to Basilica of St. John was very meaningful for me.  After Christ’s death, St. John, often referred to as the “Evangelist” or the “Beloved” fled to Ephesus from Jerusalem to avoid the persecution of King Herod.  Having entrusted the Virgin Mary to St. John before Jesus died on the cross, it is believed that St. John brought the Virgin Mary with him to Ephesus (more about the House of Virgin Mary in Ephesus on my next blog).

St. John lived his last days in Ephesus.  As a memorial, the Basilica of St. John was built over his grave at the foot of Ayasoluk Hill.

St. John Basilica, Selçuk, Turkey St. John Basilica, Selçuk, Turkey

St. John Basilica, Selçuk, Turkey St. John Basilica, Selçuk, Turkey St. John Basilica, Selçuk, Turkey

A pillar inscribing symbols of Christianity

St. John Basilica, Selçuk, Turkey St. John Basilica, Selçuk, Turkey

St. John Basilica, Selçuk, TurkeySt. John Basilica, Selçuk, Turkey

 

Ayasoluk Castle

 

Ayasoluk Castle was built during the Byzantine era at the time when Ephesus ancient city has started to decline due to siltation of its harbors.  The castle is perched at the top of Ayasoluk Hill, north of the Basilica of St. John.  Siltation of the Ephesus harbor has converted the area into a swamp and has led to the spread of malaria.  This caused people from the harbor to migrate towards Ayasoluk.

It is believed that St. John wrote his gospel and letters on this hill. Also worth noting is that The Seven Churches mentioned in St. John’s Book of Revelations are all in Turkey.

St. John Basilica, Selçuk, Turkey

The way up to Ayasoluk Citadel, the highest point of Ayasoluk Hill, north of the Basilica.  

 

Temple of Artemis

 

The Temple of Artemis, considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, used to be a massive temple for the worship of Artemis, the goddess with many breasts signifying fertility.  The oldest finds trace back to the Mycenaean age or the 14th to 13th century BC.  The temple, also called the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, used to be surrounded with columns in the center of the sanctuary.

The temple was badly destroyed three times, the first one due to a flooding in the 7th century BC.  The temple was rebuilt during the Lydian occupation, but was again destroyed in 356 BC due to an act of arson by Herostratus, believed to put the temple on fire, in pursuit of fame.  Coincidentally, the date the temple was set on fire is also the birthdate of Alexander the Great.

Today, only a single column remains standing in the now swampy area.  The statue of Artemis is now exhibited in the Ephesus Museum.

Temple of Artemis, Selcuk, Izmir Temple of Artemis, Selcuk, Izmir Temple of Artemis, Selcuk, Izmir

 

Ephesus Museum

 

Ephesus Museum (Efes Müzesi) is in Selçuk, Izmir across the Selcuk otogar or bus station.  The museum houses the archeological objects excavated at the ancient Ephesus city.  It is best to visit first the Ephesus Archaeological Site before going to the museum for a better appreciation of the ancient items displayed there.  Read my guide on a self-guided tour in Ephesus here.

Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Izmir

Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Izmir

Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Izmir

Statues of Artemis 

Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Izmir Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Izmir

Sarcophagus (ancient stone coffin)

Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Izmir

Medical instruments excavated from ancient Ephesus city

Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Izmir Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Izmir Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Izmir

 

Selçuk Market

 

The Selçuk market, located just behind the Selcuk Otogar (bus station) is open only during Saturdays.  We went here in the afternoon after our visit to Ephesus and the House of Virgin Mary.  We found some of the fruit and vegetable vendors were close to calling it a day as their products are almost sold out.  An early morning visit would have been more ideal.

Nevertheless, the Selçuk market is my kind of market.  It truly represents the vibe of the town. It’s not the kind that caters to tourists.  In this market, you’ll see locals selling their produce from village farms.  It’s amusing to see fruits, vegetables, cheeses and other products that are typically what’s served on a Turkish table’s meals, especially breakfast.

Selçuk market Selçuk market

A Turkish breakfast wouldn’t be complete without olives.  After Turkey, I will never again think that olive only comes in black.

Selçuk market

Selçuk’s version of a “bayong” (woven basket) in the Philippines is this steel cart with plastic container

Selçuk market Selçuk market Selçuk market

In case you run out, no problem

 

House of Virgin Mary (Meryemana Evi)

 

The House of Virgin Mary or Meryemana Evi in Turkish is beautifully located at the top of a hill in Ephesus.  The ancient Ephesus city is said as the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary spent her last years.  Jesus Christ entrusted the Virgin Mary to St. John before He died on the cross.  It is, hence, believed that St. John came to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary to escape persecution in Jerusalem.

House of Virgin Mary

The front yard of the Mary’s house, with a baptismal pool

House of Virgin Mary

Mary’s house – a statue of Virgin Mary stands inside, with pews for praying

House of Virgin Mary

The House is now a chapel revered by Muslims and Christians alike.  Our guide, a Muslim, told us that the Virgin Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran.

House of Virgin Mary

The site beside the House where Holy Masses are held

 

Mary’s house was discovered through a German stigmatized nun named Catherina Emmerich who had visions of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The visions had been transcribed into a book, where she described so vividly the House of Virgin Mary.  Two scientific expeditions were organized in 1891 and found that this place perfectly matched the nun’s description.  Her description, based solely in her visions, was apparently amazingly accurate to think that she’s invalid and never left Germany.

As she had described, between Blessed Virgin Mary’s house and the Ephesus city runs a small stream.  It was said that the stream used to flow in the room where the Virgin Mary slept.  The waters from the stream is now a source of three drinking fountains below the house.

House of Virgin Mary

The three drinking fountains

House of Virgin Mary

Beside the drinking fountains is a wishing wall where devotees could tie their personal intentions written on paper or fabric. I pinned my prayers using a free pin with the small evil eye (can you spot in the photo?) given to me by a vendor in Cappadocia where I bought a ref magnet.

Down the hill from Meryemana towards the way to the Ephesus ruins is a large statue of the Virgin Mary.  Daniel, our guide, told us that there is a plan to build a larger statue, to be situated at the summit near Meryemana Evi where the statue overlooks the hills to Ephesus and the sea, much like Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer.

House of Virgin Mary

 

Kuşadası

 

North of Selçuk is Kuşadası, a resort town in Turkey’s Aegean coast.  From the Selçuk otogar, we got a public dolmus (something in between a mini van and mini bus) ride to Kuşadası, which took around 30 minutes.

For visitors of the more popular Ephesus, Kuşadası is the closest place to enjoy nightlife along the coast.  There are old houses near the seafront, but in the same way, there are plenty of bars and cafes.  Nearby are also large hotels and resorts.  We met other travelers staying at Kuşadası for the beer and nightlife but to each his own because we prefer the quieter (and to some, the boring) Selçuk.

Kusadasi, Aegean coast

We had to seek refuge from a heavy rain before we even reach Kusadasi’s Aegean coast.  Luckily, we were rewarded with a fine view after the short downpour.

Kusadasi, Aegean coast Kusadasi, Aegean coast Kusadasi, Aegean coast

I did not see any turtle on the shores but good thing that they are placing importance on the protection of these beautiful animals

Kusadasi, Aegean coast Kusadasi, Aegean coast

Just earlier in the day when I took this photo, I was marveling at the beauty of sunrise along the Mediterranean coast of Antalya.  Now, I’m watching sunset over the Aegean coast of Turkey

 

Getting to Selcuk

 

From Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir, we took a one and a half hour train ride to Selçuk town.  Fare is 5 TL, one way (March 2016).  Check train schedule here.  Buses and minibuses are also available connecting Izmir to Selcuk and Kuşadası.

 

Accommodations in Selcuk, Izmir

 

Find accommodations in Selcuk, check reviews and compare prices of different booking sites with just one search using Hotels Combined. Check it here.

Related Books from Amazon

 

You may want to check out these books to supplement your Selcuk visit.



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19 thoughts on “Selcuk, Izmir: Not Just Another Turkish Town

  1. Pingback: My Impressions of Turkey in 28 Photos - Finding Jing

  2. Jessi

    How beautiful! We passed through Selçuk very quickly while visiting Kusadasi, Ephesus and the surrounding areas – after seeing your photos I wish we’d stopped to explore more.

  3. Pingback: Sirince Village: Quaint and Rustic - Finding Jing

  4. Pingback: Pamukkale Travertines and the Hierapolis - Finding Jing

  5. Joanna

    I have never been to Turkey but this cute town reminds me of my home country of Romania. We have the same farmers markets where the farm people come to sell their products, places that are non-touristy. They are the best though as you know you can get fresh products. I like history so I would love to visit the Temple or Artemis. I didn’t know that Turkey had roots in the history with the Greek Gods.

    1. findingjing Post author

      Thanks for sharing about Romania. I would love to visit your country, too. As for history, yes, the Greek gods were worshipped in Turkey, too before others were converted to Christianity.

  6. Suzanne

    Turkey is such a beautiful country and I have yet to visit. I would definitely want to visit the religious buildings in Selcuk and check out the markets. Also, if I ever visit, I would love having olives every day. They’re my favorite!

    1. findingjing Post author

      Turkey is a very beautiful country and the people are very friendly, too, making it a must visit country. I actually am not of fan of olives before I went to Turkey but then I discovered that olives are in fact delicious. You will surely love Turkey.

  7. Abigail Sinsona

    First off, allow me to comment you for your photos. They are all so wonderful! The ruins and architecture are beyond stunning – especially the mosque. I need to add this to my bucket list!

  8. Jen C.

    Selcuk seems to be rich in history. It’s the Selcuk Market that fascinated me the most! So many produce and like you’ve said, it represents the town’s vibe.

  9. vishvarsha

    Seems so rustic and oldish, and history is so well preserved here! You surely got the attention of a history lover here – Selcuk just got added to my turkey bucket list of Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale :D. Just like you said – it really is a cool town.

  10. Yukti

    Visiting small little rustic towns are also my favorites. Selcuk looks such a beautiful and peaceful place with ancient treasures. Temple of Armetis which was in seven wonders of the world looks like a Greek architecture type. Sunrise along the Mediterranean coast is also worth watching.

  11. Rahul Khurana

    The town really looks very calm and peaceful. Loved the old style architecture of the buildings. It would be nice to explore the historical sites that you have mentioned including the mosque and temple. Such places always fascinate me. 🙂

  12. asoulwindow

    I love visiting ancient places which still have ruins strewn all over. Turkey sure has many of those. You have listed some offbeat places not found in guidebooks. Architecture photography is not easy. You have done a good job by capturing these well. Kudos.

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