Terrace Houses

Sirince, Aegean Coast, Turkey Book from Eur150

Four delightfully restored cottages, in the leafy hill town of Sirince, near Ephesus
This place charmed us to bits. Why? Firstly, the houses: a quartet of 19th century cottages built by the Greeks before they abandoned this pretty hill town, and restored with lashings of love and personality by Anglo-Turkish owners Charlotte and Omer. You'll find reclaimed marble basins and claw-footed tubs, vast sleigh beds and snuggly sleeping lofts, cool Chinese lanterns and wrought iron chandeliers, strings of drying red peppers in the kitchens and clutches of fresh pink oleander by the bedside. These are cosy homes with character and history (which Omer can, if you want, tell you all about).

Secondly, the town: Sirince (pronounced shirinjé) is a cool, pine-ringed Eden perched 500m above (and several degrees below) stifling Seljuk and concrete Kusadasi. Admire stately crumbling townhouses, explore cool footpaths, barter for lace doilies, fruit liqueurs and painted ceramics with the gentle townsfolk - one of whom, the charming Aysel, serves silver-domed dinners and savoury breakfasts on the magical terrace. Oh, and one more reason: you're just 10km from the eastern Med's most impressive ancient city, Ephesus.

Highs

  • Its proximity to Ephesus is reason alone to stop over here; but come for a week, explore the beaches of Dilek and the markets of Tire, and you will really get under the skin of this fascinating area
  • You could not feel better cared for: Omer and Charlotte offer fresh lemon juice on arrival, all manner of sightseeing advice (including Ephesus info packs to borrow), and personal introductions to Sirince's most trustworthy shopkeepers
  • Skip the self-catering: Aysel's breakfast menemen sets you up for the day, and her baked aubergines, stuffed peppers and tragana round it off perfectly
  • The Heritage cottage can be booked exclusively or by the suite; allowing flexible accommodation options for couples

Lows

  • Some cruise-boat coaches visit Sirince for lunch and souvenir-hunting, but mornings and evenings are all yours
  • The lanes round here are donkey-sized, so you can't drive to the front door (but you do get help with bags)
  • You need to go downstairs for night-time pees
  • Rooms are snug and a bit wonky, but that's part of their charm (and of the strict preservation laws)
  • This is village living: no swimming pools, no high-tech kitchens, but you do get plenty of CDs, books and even WiFi

Best time to go

Spring (April-May) and autumn (September-October) are ideal for, respectively, wild flowers and leafy hillsides, and warm seas without the crowds. Summer is also quite pleasant up here (500m altitude), though you do get more day trippers. And don't rule out winter: all houses have heating, and Olive in particular would make a cosy couples' bolthole.

If you do come in winter, try and coincide with the January camel wrestling competition (no kidding) in Ephesus' ancient theatre: after processing through Selcuk to musical accompaniment, pairs of ceremonially decorated male camels wrestle for a female in heat! If you want to know how they win, see our Local Info.

Our top tips

Stay for anything from 3 days to a week, depending on whether you just want to visit Ephesus (allow the best part of a day for this, plus a day of leisure in and around Sirince), or to explore the area in depth (add a day for Dilek beaches/hiking, a day for Tire, and a couple more for some serious relaxation).

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Cottages
  • 4 cottages
  • Seasonal meals + basic self-catering
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Cooking lessons
Room:

Rooms

Olive is a 2-storey house is next to the main terrace (which operates as a small-scale café during the summer months - very handy for breakfast and drinks, but not so private in high season) sleeps 2-4 in 2 double bedrooms. Inside is a cosy sitting room with thick stone walls and a hearty fireplace. The well-equipped kitchen is used for the café in summer (guests get a fridge and tea/coffee equipment instead), but reverts to the Olive House in winter. The master bedroom has a grand four-poster bed, a scattering of rugs and pretty trinkets. The second bedroom is small with just enough space to get around the bed. The bathroom is downstairs, and features an unexpected corner tub and lions-head spout (which we spurned because of a water shortage) and a limestone-faced wetroom (which more than made up for it). Overall we were very happy here as a couple in autumn, but for a longer stay as a family, or in midsummer, we would recommend one of the other houses.

Fig is also a 2-storey cottage that sleeps 2-6. It’s a stone's throw above the terrace café and has 4 handsome shuttered windows looking out over the town. You enter via a private, fig-shaded terrace, set on 2 levels with sunbeds and a dining area; then walk into a lovely living-dining room on the ground floor that features a kitchenette. The bathroom, leading off it, is a good size with a claw-footed tub and a beautiful marble basin. There are 2 double bedrooms; lovely touches include a glass-beaded chandelier, a wardrobe with inlaid meander-pattern tiles and an old studded chest.

The largest cottage is Grapevine (sleeps 4-6), and is slightly more secluded. It’s reached via a suitably vine-shaded terrace overlooking a leafy terraced garden. A covered walkway divides the sitting room from the rest of the house. The highlight here is the vast bathroom, reminiscent of a hammam with its cushioned seating, widely spaced basins (no couple can need that much elbow room!) and cymbal-sized shower hanging from a retrieved door panel by a smooth wall of pencil-grained marble. The kitchen is the best equipped of the 4, and cosy too. Upstairs the bright main bedroom evokes an Orthodox church, its panelled walls reminiscent of a wooden rood-screen. Across the way is a second bedroom with twin wrought-iron beds and a ladder up to a snug kids' lair.

The newest additions, which we’re yet to see, are Garden House and Heritage cottage (located next to Olive), which can be rented exclusively, or by floor (if rented separately, guests only share an entrance hall). Upstairs is the Harem Suite, which has a gorgeous claw-foot bath and a living area (with a single sofabed), while downstairs is the Hamam Suite which features a basic kitchen and a shower bathroom. Both appear to have good-sized double bedrooms and share a terrace.

Features include:

  • Internet access
  • Wifi internet
  • Cd player
  • Radio
  • Internet access
  • Wifi internet
  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Fireplace
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Coffee tea making

Eating

The cottages do have kitchens of varying sorts - from a basic kitchenette in Fig and Heritage to a decently-equipped kitchen-diner in Grapevine, while Olive has a winter-only kitchen (note that if booking just the Harem Suite in Heritage, you will not have access to a kitchen). But given the delicious breakfasts and dinners available (in season) at their terrace café, and the choice of restaurants in town, you'll probably end up, like us, preparing little more than the occasional coffee or snack.

We emailed ahead for dinner on our arrival day (you're asked to give a day's notice) and, sitting down at the candlelit terrace table, with the sun setting behind an amphitheatre of tiled townhouses, and a gleaming spread of muffin dishes and painted ceramic plates in the foreground, we knew that self-catering had gone out of the hayiati window. Aysel, the smiling magicienne of the kitchen, lifted the lids and - hey presto! We were assailed by wafts - soon followed by delicious mouthfuls - of baked aubergines, stuffed peppers with rice, tender lamb with beans, fresh picked greens (bitter samphire, milder semirotzu in yoghurt sauce), not to mention homemade trahana pasta and a classic salad. Even if there's one dish you don't like, there are 5 you will (but, since they discuss menus with you in the morning, that's unlikely).

Breakfast, also offered on the terrace, is a fresh and savoury start to the day - nothing fancy, just carefully sliced tomatoes and cucumbers sprinkled with oregano, a star of cheeses (we loved the crumbly cökelek), ramekins of olives and jam, warm corn bread and brioches, plus Aysel's irresistible menemen (scrambled eggs with pepper and tomato). If that doesn't fuel you through Ephesus, nothing will.

If you fancy eating out one night, Sirince has lots of restaurants, from the pretty terrace of Ocakbasi (delicious ravioli and stuffed pumpkin flowers) to the grander Artemis, housed in an old school on the edge of the village (pine-shaded gardens, home-made wine, but beware tour groups at lunchtime). Ask Charlotte and Omer for their latest recommendations.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Cooking Classes
  • Coffee tea making
  • Walk to restaurants
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Ephesus is what you've probably come for, and it's worth every mile of the journey: a huge rambling ruin of a 2500-year-old city which once stood on the seashore, boasting a huge theatre where St. Paul preached (and 2 smaller ones), the famous façade of the Roman Celsus library, fabulous mosaics in the separately housed patrician villas, plus countless temples, statues and monumental gates. Allow at least half a day
  • The nearest decent beach is at Pamucak, 5km beyond Ephesus - sandy, shallow and child-friendly, with drinks, snacks and showers available at the Dereli campsite (whose owner is, handily, a friend of Charlotte and Omer's)
  • But, if you have the energy, it's worth driving the extra 45 minutes to the peninsula and national park of Dilek, which has 4 secluded, pebbly beaches, as well as signed hiking trails through dense pine forests and across a mini-canyon
  • In and around Sirince, you can take a cooking lesson, go pony trekking, take a ride on a tractor, follow footpaths past fields and friendly farmers to the headspring, taste fruit liqueurs, browse beautiful ceramics, and (our favourite) invest in some "genuine fake Rolexes"
  • Midway from Sirince to Ephesus is the town of Selcuk - but don't drive straight through: stop to visit the castle of St John, the 6th century basilica of St. John the Apostle, the museum (if you're keen), and the storks nesting on telegraph poles
  • Nearby is House of the Virgin Mary, a popular pilgrimage for devout Christians and Muslims alike, who believe she came here with John after Christ's death and lived in this now-restored house until her assumption; and that the spring which flows from beneath the house has miraculous properties (it certainly perked us up on a sweltering, site-weary afternoon)
  • Another short detour takes you to the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, whose interest lies principally in the legend behind it - a nice story (which we won't relate now, just google it), but the cave itself is now fenced off
  • Further afield, the Ottoman architecture and the fascinating felt factory at Tire, a bustling and totally un-touristified market town 1 hour away, make a worthwhile trip, especially on a Tuesday to coincide with the weekly market (a great place to stock up on olive oil, cheese, fabrics etc. without the hassle or the prices of, say, Kusadasi)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking Classes
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Sailing
  • Snorkeling
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Kite/windsurfing
  • Shopping

Kids

Children are welcome in all of the houses.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

One of the Suites (Harem) can fit an extra child, Olive and Fig would suit a couple with 1 or 2 children, while Grapevine and Heritage (exclusive rental), could take 3 or even 4 children at a squeeze.

Baby equipment:

Baby cot available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Families Should Know:

There is 1 cot available but bear in mind that they are not really toddler-proof: no doors on the stairs, some stone edges etc. There is a very safe beach at Pamucak (25km), and Turkey is a very child friendly country generally.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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