The town lies at an altitude of 125 meters from the sea level. Its advantageous location, smooth and busy intercity connections and the fertile soil allowed Salihli to develop extremely well in recent past.
Four streams, namely Alaşehir, Gümüş, Kurşunlu and Sart cross the district area to join the River Gediz, which flows westward. The climate type is Mediterranean climate. To the north of the city is Demirköprü Dam, used for irrigation, prevention of overflows, energy production and fishing, and which was built between 1954 and 1960.
The population figures in the 2000 census were 149,150 for the whole district and 83,137 for the urban center of Salihli.
Aside from the city of Salihli, the district counts 8 townships with own municipalities. These are (Adala, Durasıllı, Gökeyüp, Mersinli, Poyrazdamları, Sart, Taytan and Yılmaz). Of these Sart corresponds to the location of ancient Sardes, the capital of Lydia.
The district area is surrounded by the neighboring districts of Ahmetli to the west, Gölmarmara to the northwest, Gördes and Köprübaşı to the north, Demirci to the northeast, Kula to the east, Alaşehir to the southeast and Ödemiş to the south.
The distances from Salihli to the seat of neighboring provinces are as follows:
Salihli is a city with a long history. The fossile footprints discovered near the villages of Sindel and Çarıklar, estimated to be between 10000 and 26000 years old, are the first traces of prehistory in the region. However, the region came to foremost importance with the establishment of the city of Sardes, which is located west of Salihli center and where the most remarkable historical artifacts and remains of the region are found.
Sardes was the capital city of Lydia until 547 B.C., at which date it was captured by the Persian Empire and governed by satraps until 334 B.C.. After the Persians, the region was governed successively by the Macedonian Empire, the Kingdom of the Attalids, Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire. In the beginning of the 14th century, Turks under the Beylik of Saruhan captured the city and the region and ruled it for a century from their base in nearby Manisa. In 1400 the region passed over to the Ottoman Empire under which Manisa preserved its position as a primary regional center. In the beginning of the Ottoman rule, Salihli was a village of the kaza of Sart, depending the province seat of Aydın, situated more to the south, and was called Evlâd-i Salih (meaning "the children of Salih" in English). In the 19th century, with the construction of İzmir-Uşak-Afyon railway, Salihli demonstrated a much more rapid pace of progress compared to Sart and gained township status in 1872, when it became a kaza of the sancak of Saruhan (Manisa). The city was occupied by the Greek forces between 24 July 1920 and 5 September 1922. After the war, Salihli became one of the biggest and the most important districts of Manisa.
It is not always easy to make estimates on Salihli's population before the establishment of the Republic of Turkey due to the lack of adequate sources. However, a population of 500 people was confirmed for Sart during the 1831 census. The city grew quite fast after the construction of the railway until the Turkish War of Independence. In the yearbook of 1891, 3000 people and in the yearbook of 1908, 4400 people were documented to be living in Salihli.
In the first Republican census of 1927, 7191 people were recorded. The city had suffered a heavy toll during the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), especially during the rapid retreat of the Greek army in its final days, with up to 65 per cent of the center town recorded as having been destroyed. The departure of the town's minority populations also caused the population to decrease.
Salihli has always been an attractive destination for immigrants. In the Ottoman era, the region was a favorite stopover for nomad clans (aşiret). Today, it is still possible to trace the names of some of the region's villages to the original aşiret names such as Karayahşi, Araplı, Burhan, Beylikli, Çökelek, Eldelek, Dombaylı, Durasıllı, Sindel etc. Moreover, some aşiret names refer to unsettled localities, such as Sığıralcısı, Bayındırlı, Karatekeli, Kuşdoğanlı, Kacar, Taras, Karakeçili. After the 1890s until the the 1950s, Salihli also attracted many immigrants moving into Turkey from the Balkans, from Yugoslavia and Bulgaria particularly. Many refugees fleeing the disturbances in Eastern Turkistan also chose to live in Salihli.
By considering the population increase rate according to 1985–1990 census, as of 1995 an approximate number of 170000 people were living inside the boundary of the city. According to the census of 1997, the population in Salihli was 143956 where 79837 people were recorded in the city center.
This part of the population, mainly Kazakhs and known as Türkistanlılar in the city came to Salihli between 1954 and 1955 in the following years. After the 1970s, some immigration from Eastern Anatolia also came to strengthen the ranks of the previous immigrants. Counter movements in the population were towards Turkey's big cities and to Europe, especially to Germany and France).
The main agricultural products are seedless Sultana grapes, wheat, barley, cotton, tobacco and maize. The fertility of the region's soil also allows for the cultivation of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Cherries known as the Napoleon breed grown especially in the villages of Allahdiyen and Gökköy and the potatoes locally known as Bozdağ potatoes are particularly famous.
Stockbreeding is another source of income for rural inhabitants, of rising importance especially in the last decade.
The recent building of Salihli Organized Industrial Zone (in Turkish Salihli Organize Sanayi Bölgesi), extending over an area of 111 hectares in a triangular zone between the close district centers of Salihli, Alaşehir and Kula, became a great opportunity to provide new employment opportunities in the region and accelerate the pace of industrialization.
Smaller industrial enterprises are concentrated in Salihli self, where there are 32 brick works and tileries drawing on the region's rich reserves in raw materials for bricks, 2 flour mills, 2 valonia oak factories, 10 cotton gin factories, 2 grape operating works, 1 feed grain factory, 1 industrial tube factory, 1 tomato dressing factory, 2 olive oil mills, 2 beverage factories, 1 water bottling factory, 1 mineral water company and 1 emery rock factory.
The remains of Sardis, which notably includes the Lydian King named Giges's tomb, the Artemis Temple and a Marble Court with Gymnasium built by the Romans, as well as other historical vestiges are widely visited by tourists, nationally and internationally.
To the 5 and . south of the town, there are lead and mud baths named Kurşunlu Kaplıcaları, which are famous across the region. These thermal springs are visited especially to treat rheumatic disorders, sciatica, lumbago, arthritis, neuralgia, orthopaedic disorders, several skin diseases, some gynecological conditions and kidney disorders. Moreover, a recent geothermal energy production project intends to use these thermal sources and provide heating for the city of Salihli.
There are also many excursion possibilities around Salihli. 'Bozdağ' summits and the Lake Gölcük located near the top of one of the summits at a very high altitude is an area of great natural beauty, as well as a prized ski resort in winter. The restaurants and cafes situated on the hills around Bozdağ offer a beautiful overview of Salihli.
Sports activities are also quite developed in and the city was represented for a long time in the Turkish Second League by Yeni Salihlispor. Today, nearly 1500 licensed sportsmen are competing in various sports activities in Salihli, such as football, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, judo, wrestling, oil wrestling, folk dance and chess. There are 10 football clubs representing Salihli in amateur league of Turkey and 1 female volleyball club is in the 2nd league. Under Salihli Municipality's structure, Turkish folk music, Turkish Classical Music and Children's Chorus organizations also have a place and modern ballet and other dance schools, folk dances, piano, drawing and theater lessons are also supported.