İzmir, Şirince village

Turkish town of the doomsday, now a refuge against the pandemic

Visited by millions of tourists every year, Şirince became famous in 2012 as the place that would survive the Mayan apocalypse.

Şirince is a picturesque town located in the mountains of the Selçuk district, in the Turkish province of İzmir, which in 2012 became famous all over the planet because it was said that it would be the town that would survive the doomsday. As in the end the Mayans were wrong – or rather we were wrong interpreting them – both Şirince and the rest of the planet still stand; but now it has become a haven for those trying to flee the coronavirus pandemic.

When media around the world listed this Turkish town and another town in France as the only two places that would survive the Mayan apocalypse, hundreds and even thousands of people gathered on December 21, 2012 in Şirince hoping to be saved from Armageddon. Apocalyptic anecdotes aside, Şirince is a very quaint and peaceful town of about 500 inhabitants that normally makes its living off rural tourism and is full of boutique hotels.

It is precisely the inhabitants of the cities who normally come to this place escaping from the pollution, stress and bustle of large cities such as İzmir, Ankara or Istanbul; many of these boutique hotels are old houses over a century old that welcome tourists from not only Turkey but from all over the world, especially on weekends and in summer.

In fact, it is surprising that a town of about 500 inhabitants has accommodation for the same number of tourists in the 45 hotels and inns that are registered in it. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has forced restrictions and curfews in large cities across the country, many are fleeing to places like this trying to escape the coronavirus.

About 2 million tourists visit Şirince every year

Mustafa Ozan, owner of one of the accommodations in Şirince, confirms that reservations have skyrocketed since the national curfew was implemented in Turkey due to the COVID-19 pandemic; he says that they follow all the regulations against the coronavirus, and that guests are delighted with Şirince. One of these tourists is Sevgi Yılmaz, from the Turkish city of Aydın: “Instead of staying in the city, we have opted for a rural life. This is really beautiful,” she confesses.

It is not because there is no curfew in Şirince – as in the rest of Turkey, after 9 o’clock at night it is forbidden to go outside – but because many of the hotels have gardens, courtyards and terraces where you can walk freely; also, the tranquillity, the beauty of the landscape surrounded by olive trees, and the feeling of freedom found here cannot be compared to being locked in a flat in the city.

With a history dating back to the 5th century BC, it is estimated that some 2 million national and foreign tourists visit this town every year, about 4,000 a day. Şirince may not have been the only place to survive the doomsday in 2012; but what is certain is that today is one of the best places to survive the coronavirus pandemic.