Şirince is a beautiful hill town only 8 km (5 miles) east of Selçuk, near Ephesus, in the Aegean hinterland south of İzmir (map). It’s famous for its olive oil, fruit wines, other natural products, and its atmospheric boutique hotels.
A dozen small restaurants cater to day-trippers, hotel guests, and locals alike.
Here are the sounds of Şirince: birds chirp, donkeys bray, goats baa, mourning doves coo, dogs bark, roosters crow, children play. A tractor passes.
The call to prayer from the village’s single minaret is a scratchy recording.
Tourism has arrived, however, and on any pleasant weekend in the warm months, so will thousands of local and foreign visitors.
Weekdays are not so crowded, but in any case, Şirince becomes a village again in early morning and evening, when the day-trippers are gone.
Planning Your Visit
During the day in the warm, busy tourism months, it’s easy to miss that Şirince is a village. Buses roar and hundreds of cars zoom up the hill, disgorge their occupants, who then wander clicking cameras and jingling money.
In the warm months I strongly urge you to avoid visiting Şirince on weekends—especially Sundays, especially in the afternoon—when thousands of local tourists will crowd its streets. If you have a car, consider parking it near the Selçuk Otogar and taking the minibuses that shuttle from there to Şirince and back every 20 minutes throughout the day. The minibus goes right to the center of the village. Cars must park, for a fee, on the outskirts, sometimes quite a walk from the center.
Overnight in Şirince
A number of village houses have been nicely restored and opened as inns, with comfortable double rooms, as well as suites for families, and even rental houses for longer stays.
If you don’t stay overnight, go to Şirince for a stroll, photography, a bit of cooler air, a lunch or dinner in one of the many small restaurants, sampling the local fruit wines.
Shopping in Şirince
Besides wines, you’ll find many local and organicproducts: vinegar, honey, soaps, and traditional sweeteners called pekmez made from a variety of fruits. Nar ekşisi is a tasty vinegar substitute made from pomegranate juice.
A Bit of History
Some say the Orthodox Christian Greeks who lived here during the Ottoman Empire were famed for the excellence of their wine. The Muslim Turks who moved here from Thessaloniki in 1924 re-started wine-making using local fruits, including apple, apricot, banana, blackberry, blueberry, creamberry, mulberry (black, and white), mandarin orange, melon, orange, peach, quince, sour (Morello) cherry and strawberry. You can taste the results and judge for yourself when you visit. They sell red, white and rosé, dry and sweet.
A few local producers have switched from the local vines, which in fact produce table grapes, to Turkey’s better wine grapes such as Narince.
The story goes that Şirince was formerly inhabited by Ottoman Greeks and named Kırkınca (“Forty-ish”), which the locals pronounced Çirkince, which means “sort of ugly” (which it certainly is not).
During the exchange of populations following World War I, Turks from Thessaloniki, Greece were moved here (1924). They changed the name to Şirince (shee-REEN-jeh, “sort of sweet, charming”).
—by Tom Brosnahan