On the one hand the fertile soil of Anatolia, and on the other the sapphire beauty of the Aegean, Turkey. Seferihisar’s three-thousand-year-old story has been shaped by both earth and sea and influenced by many of the cultures which have succeeded one another. Here there is a 15th-century medrese (theological school), there the weary ruins of a Roman bath, and beyond you encounter the still splendid remnants of an Ionian temple. Olive groves and vineyards stretch in one direction, and in the other the sea laps long sandy beaches and tranquil bays where yachts lie at anchor. It is a town 35 kilometers southwest of Izmir on the Kusadasi road. Although its population is just 20,000, in summer this is swollen to over 50,000 by holidaymakers attracted by the many fine beaches, and throughout the rest of the year, many walkers and cyclists come to enjoy the beautiful countryside. The small harbor, new reservoir, and pine-clad hills are favorite destinations for weekend escapees from the city.
Squirrels make their home in the pines, planes, oaks and ancient olive trees which surround the villages of the district. In autumn the vines blaze with color and delicious large amber colored grapes are sold in village markets and at roadside stalls. Mandarine oranges also grow in abundance here, accounting for 35% of Turkey’s total production. The 400,000 trees of a satsuma variety grown here since the 1960s give a crop of 20,000 tons of fruit. Walking along the lanes in the hills around the villages of Godence and Beyler gives you glimpses into the traditional rural life of this area. You pass stone houses in the shade of green trees, lean-to sheds for livestock, pastures with grazing horses, women boiling pans of grape juice for grape molasses in their yards, a rope seller with his horse, and beekeepers collecting honey from their hives. In this hilly district horses are still widely used means of conveyance. You may also come across an abandoned olive oil factory or a mill now used as a barn.
Then suddenly you catch sight of the sun-washed waters of the Aegean shimmering gold in the far distance behind wooded hills. The history of this beautiful part of the world goes back three thousand years. Although it is thought that the Carians were the first people to settle in the town, its known history begins with Teos, one of the 12 cities of the Ionian Federation. Founded in 1050 BC, Teos quickly grew into a center of trade, art, philosophy, and science. The Temple of Dionysus built by Hermogenes of Priene is just one of the magnificent buildings among the ancient ruins of Teos near Sigacik west of Seferihisar. None of the other Ionian settlements further south have so much left to show of their former splendor. Of Myonnesus on the headland of Doganbey Burnu and Lebedos south of the town, only sections of the ancient city walls survive above ground. The cisterns and other ruins at Myonnesus, today known as Cifit Kale and in the 15th century as Cuneyd Kalesi, all date from the Ottoman era.
At the village of Beyler are Roman aqueducts, and the remains of a Roman bath can be seen near the thermal springs of Karakoc to the south. When the Romans, successors to the Carians and Ionians, occupied Asia Minor in 30 BC, the Roman general Tysapherin liked Teos so much that he settled here, and it became known as Tysapherin Castle. When the Seljuks conquered the city in the 11th century they continued to call it by this name, which changed slightly over the centuries to become the modern Seferihisar, ‘hisar’ being the Turkish for castle or fort. Seljuk and Ottoman buildings are numerous throughout the area, one of the oldest and best preserved being the 14th-century bath and medrese with domed arcades and cells with fireplaces. They lie on the road to Azmak Bay, famous for its sand and sea. At the nearby village of Duzce, formerly Hereke, are many carved stones which may indicate the existence of an ancient settlement here.
Another Ottoman building is Ulu Mosque in the town of Seferihisar itself, located in the old quarter known as Turabi Mahallesi. The prayer niche and fountain of the mosque are its most famous features, the latter in particular being regarded as the town’s landmark. As you explore the narrow streets, the traditional scene suddenly comes alive with a small circumcision parade and musicians. The most important of all the Ottoman buildings in the district is the 15th-century castle at Sigacik, beneath whose walls small fishing boats rock gently in the harbor. Around the castle are fish restaurants with their tempting displays of gilthead bream, white bream, and red sea bream. Liberation Day on 11 September is celebrated every year with triathlon and mountain bike races which attract large numbers of competitors and spectators. The course around the reservoir is challenging but thoroughly enjoyed by competitors of all ages.
So a visit to Seferihisar at any time of year holds plenty of interest, whether your preference is for natural scenery or history. And if it is the latter, you can pick your period from three thousand years.