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Turkey

Main attractions

Air ballons over Cappadocia, Turkey
Air ballons over Cappadocia / Michael Day, / CC BY 2.0

Turkey is located at the crossroads of civilizations (even in two continents - Asia and Europe) and has one of the richest and most diverse arrays of archaeological and architecture landmarks. Few countries in the world have experienced the rise and fall of that many distinct cultures as present-day Turkey did. Highlights of Turkey are:

  • Hellenistic heritage. Hellenistic civilization was comparatively short-lived - it lasted for few centuries but had immense influence on the development of modern civilization. Greeks and successors of their cultural traditions, such as Phrygians, Lycians, Carians left numerous amazing and even mysterious landmarks in Turkey - Pergamon, Ephesus, Lycian rock-cut tombs and many others.
  • Neolithic settlements. In Turkey are found remnants of some of the oldest towns in the world (Çatalhöyük), oldest temples (Göbekli Tepe and Nevalı Çori) and other unique landmarks.
  • Rock cut structures in Cappadocia. Truly unique is the cultural landscape of Cappadocia, where in the soft volcanic rock have been cut houses, churches, monasteries and whole towns and cities - more than 200 cities! As if this is not surprising enough - these rock cut churches are adorned with some of the best frescoes ever!
  • Byzantian heritage. During the times of Byzantine Empire - for more than 1000 years - İstanbul City (Constantinople) was one of most important centres in the world - politically, in religion and culture. Some of most outstanding architectural landmarks of all times were created here, mostly in Constantinople. Especially high achievement was Hagia Sophia - one of most important architecture landmarks.

Natural landmarks

Travertine terraces in Pamukkale, Turkey
Travertine terraces in Pamukkale / Antoine Taveneaux, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Cennet and Cehennem sinkholes - Mersin. Two interesting sinkholes. Cennet (Paradise) sinkhole is 70 m deep and 200 m long, contains ruins of the 5th century Byzantine chapel. Cehennem (Hell) sinkhole is just 70 m wide but 120 m deep.
  • EGMA (Peynirlikönü) - Mersin. Deepest known cave in Turkey, 1,429 m deep and 3,118 m long.
  • Göreme fairy chimneys - Nevşehir. Thousands of amazing, 8 - 22 m tall rock spires, formed from soft volcanic rock - ignimbrite, overlaid with boulders of harder lava. In these rock spires often are hewn premises - houses, household rooms, churches and even whole cities.
  • Karaca Cave - Gümüşhane. 1,550 m long cave, used as a settlement by prehistoric people. Contains a set of rimstone pools which towards the end of cave are up to 1 m deep.
  • Pamukkale - Denizli. Some of the best known travertine terraces in world, colored in bright white, 2700 metres wide and up to 160 metres high. It has been shaped by 17 hot springs.

Man made landmarks

Hattusa, city gate, Turkey
Hattusa, city gate / Maarten Dirkse, / CC BY 2.0

Prehistoric monuments

  • Çatalhöyük - Konya. One of the earliest towns in the world, this Neolithic settlement had some 1,000 inhabitants already around 7000 BC and, possibly, up to 10,000 sometimes around 6500 BC. During the excavations have been found multiple valuable items - sculptures, frescoes, home utensils.
  • Göbekli Tepe - Şanlıurfa. This oldest place of worship in the world (the 10th millenium BC, late Mesolithic - early Neolithic) has several monolithic stone pillars, up to 3 meters in height with carved reliefs and pictograms.
  • Hattusa (Hattusha) - Çorum. Ancient Hittite city, established as urban centre in the Late Bronze Age before 2000 BC, although inhabited since at least 6000 BC. Flourished in the 14th century BC, when here were living some 40 - 50 thousand inhabitants. Destroyed around 1200 BC.
  • Nevalı Çori - Şanlıurfa. Remnants of early Neolithic settlement with some of the oldest temples in the world. Now inundated under the dammed Euphrates.
  • Yesemek Quarry sculpture garden - Gaziantep. One of the oldest sculpture industries in the world. Here, near the basalt quarry are located more than 300 sculptures, mostly made in 900 - 800 BC for Hittites.
Library of Celsius in Ephesus, Turkey
Library of Celsius in Ephesus / Ken & Nyetta, / CC BY 2.0

Ancient Greek heritage

  • Aphrodisias - Aydın. One of most interesting ancient Greek cities in Turkey, built next to important marble quarries. High quality architecture was created in the city, using this excellent construction material.
  • Ephesus - Izmir. Ruins of ancient Greek - Roman city, with remnants of many outstanding buildings. Little remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - Temple of Artemis, but beautiful are the remains of the Library of Celsius (177 AD), Theatre of Ephesus with 24,000 seating capacity was the largest known outdoor arena of antiquity.
  • Hierapolis - Denizli. Ancient Greek and Roman resort city, built at hot springs, which have formed the famous Pamukkale terraces. City developed since the 2nd century BC and had such impressive structures as theatre, the mysterious Ploutonian, other temples, necropolis, pools.
  • Perga (Perge) - Antalya. Impressive ruins of once beautiful city. Founded by Greeks around 1000 BC. Most presently visible buildings were constructed in Roman times after 188 BC. Early Christian centre in the 5th and 6th centuries.
  • Pergamon - Izmir. Ruins of ancient Greek city, former capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon in 281 - 133 BC. Contains ruins of numerous unique and beautiful structures - impressive theater with a place for 10,000 seats, library, sanctuary of Asclepius (Asclepion) - a predecessor of hospitals and others.
  • Ploutonian at Hierapolis - Denizli. Ancient temple dedicated to the god Pluto. Temple is built over the cave which emits toxic gases and was seen as entrance in the underworld. Cave is filled with carbon dioxide - thus it is deadly for those who try to breathe in the cave. Due to this cave was used for rituals, e.g. sacrifice of animals. Temple was founded around the 2nd century BC and was abandoned in the 6th century AD.
  • Troy - Çanakkale. Ruins of legendary city, which was rebuilt in this place nine times, from the 3rd millenium BC (Bronze Age) to the 4th century AD. The site has special importance as the central place where the legendary Trojan War took place, as described by Homer.
Lycian tombs in Myra, Turkey
Lycian tombs in Myra / Caleb Maclennan, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Lycian, Phrygian, Pisidian heritage

  • Dolchiste in Kekova - Antalya. Ruins of ancient town which is partly submerged in Mediterranean after an earthquake in the 2nd century AD.
  • Gordium - Ankara. Ruins of the ancient capital of Phrygia. Flourished in the 12th - 8th century BC. Very impressive are the burials of royalty - mounds or tumulus. The largest - the Great Tumulus is more than 50 m high and it is possible that here was buried king Midas or his father Gordias.
  • Letoon - Antalya. Lycian site - sanctuary of Leto, one of most important religious centres in Anatolia. The shrine was active since prehistoric times till the late 6th century BC. Later here was developed Roman sanctuary, site includes rock-cut tombs. Important trilingual incription, which helped to decypher Lycian writing.
  • Lycian thombs near Dalian - Muğla. Group of architectonially impressive rock cut Lycian thombs from sometimes around 400 BC, located in vertical cliff. Rock cut tombs is one of characteristic monuments of this culture.
  • Myra Lycian tombs - Antalya. Ruins of Lycian and Roman town, mostly buried under river sediments. Most interesting are two groups of rock-cut tombs in vertical cliffs.
  • Termessos - Antalya. Some of most impressive ancient ruins in Turkey, located high in the mountains in beautiful natural setting. City started to develop before the 3rd century BC by Pisidians. Ruins include rock-cut tombs, amphitheatre, six temples and other buildings.
  • Xanthos - Antalya. Ruins of ancient Lycian city, former centre of commerce and culture. Established around the 8th century BC, known due to the description of Herodotus about the desperate fight of Lycians agains Persians in 425 BC. City was inhabited until the 7th - 8th century AD. Remnants of acropolis and other public structures.

Armenian heritage

  • Nemrut Dağ - Adıyaman. 2,134 m tall mountain with a group of enormous, ancient statues near its summit. It is assumed that these statues belong to a royal tomb of Antiochus I from the 1st century BC. Statues represent enormous heads of heroes, eagles, lions. Burial mound itself is 49 m tall, with a diameter of 152 m.
  • Tushpa and Van Fortress - Van. Ruins of the ancient capital of Urartu - Iron Age Armenian kingdom, flourished in the 9th century BC. City was built on a steep sided bluff, later turned into enormous fortress.
Amasya, Turkey
Amasya / acizane nacizane, / CC BY 2.0

Ottoman towns and villages

  • Amasya - Amasya. Historical city in river canyon. Along the river are lined traditional Ottoman houses but further up in the cliffs are carved tombs of the kings of Pontus and other rock cut structures.
  • Beçin Citadel - Muğla. Ruins of town and fortress, which was built on flat topped cliff monolith in ancient times. South from the citadel in the 13th century developed a medieval town, a capital of Menteşeoğulları Sultanate.
  • Cumalıkızık - Bursa. Authentic early Ottoman village with some 270 historical houses.
  • Harran - Şanlıurfa. Ruins of very old and once important city. It is known that important centre in Harran existed already by the 19th century BC, later it was important Assyrian and Persian city. Some of the first dedicated Christian churches were built here. Here evolved the world's first Islamic university in the 8th - 9th centuries.
  • Mardin - Mardin. Nearly unique, beautiful historical city with rich collection of Artuqid architecture - Turkmen architecture from the 11th - 12th centuries. This settlement is inhabited for some 6 thousand years and contains numerous very valuable buildings.
  • Odunpazarı - Eskişehir. One of the best preserved Turkish historical cities with numerous historical buildings along cobblestone streets. Houses here have specific local design, urban landscape has colourful, harmonious character.
  • Safranbolu - Karabük. Historical city with more than 1000 houses which have authentic Ottoman architecture.
  • Şanlıurfa, old town - Şanlıurfa. One of most authentic old towns in Turkey with romantic passages, bazaar and historical acrhitecture.
Winery in Derinkuyu underground city, Turkey
Winery in Derinkuyu underground city / José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Underground cities of Cappadocia

  • Derinkuyu Underground City - Nevşehir. Historical underground city which could sustain up to 20 thousand people. Tunnels with premises extend up to 60 m deep. City can be closed with enormous stone disc. Development of city started in the 8th - 7th centuries BC, it often served for refugees. In total in this area are some 200 such underground cities.
  • Kaymaklı Underground City - Nevşehir. One of the historical subterranean cities in Central Anatolia, with more than hundred tunnels and rock-hewn houses around them. These underground premises are used for practical purposes up to this day.
  • Özkonak Underground City - Nevşehir. Historical underground city, built in ten floors up to 40 m deep. Here could live up to 60 thousand people. Rediscovered in 1972.

Medieval fortifications and castles

  • Alanya Castle and Kızıl Kule - Antalya. Large castle with 6.5 km long walls and 140 watchtowers. Constructed in the 13th century. Last tower was Kızıl Kule - beautiful, massive tower built from red brick, symbol of city.
  • Diyarbakır city walls and citadel - Diyarbakır. Almost intact medieval fortification wall around the old city, 5.5 km long and 10 - 12 m high. The massive wall has four gates and 82 watchtowers.
  • Galata Tower - İstanbul. Amazing medieval stone tower, built in 1348 by Genoese. Tower is 66.9 m high, with nine floors.
  • Mamure Castle - Mersin. Impressive seaside castle with 39 towers and bastions, three courtyards. Developed since the Roman times, largely extended by Seljuk Turks.
  • Rumelihisarı - İstanbul. Large medieval castle, built in 1451 - 1452. Well preserved structure, which forms a part of cultural landscape at Bosphorus.
Dolmabahçe Palace, Turkey
Dolmabahçe Palace / Patrick G., / CC BY-SA 2.0

Palaces

  • Dolmabahçe Palace - İstanbul. Administrative centre of Ottoman empire in 1856 - 1922. Large palace in Eclectic style, built in 1843 - 1856. Adorned with 14 tons of gold, many rooms have opulent interiors. Contains the largest collection of crystal in world.
  • Ishak Pasha Palace - Ağrı. Ottoman palace, built in 1685 - 1784. Now partly in ruins but still beautiful, adorned with intricate stone carvings.
  • Palace of the Porphyrogenitus - İstanbul. One of the few remaining secular buildings in Byzantine style in the world. Constructed in the late 13th - early 14th century, now in ruins.
  • Topkapı Palace - Istanbul. Important historical landmark, a seat of Ottoman Sultans in 1465 - 1856. Constructed in 1459 and later modified. Contains numerous relics, such as Muhammed's cloak and sword, huge amount of art values. Consists of numerous buildings, with four main courtyards.
Frescoe on the ceiling of Tokali Kilise church, Turkey
Frescoe on the ceiling of Tokali Kilise church / Andrea Ciambra / CC BY 2.0

Churches

  • Chora Church - İstanbul. One of the best examples of Byzantine architecture, built in the early 5th century AD, largely rebuilt in 1077 - 1081. Adorned with fine mosaics and other decorations.
  • Hagia Sophia - İstanbul. Former Orthodox basilica, now museum. Possibly - highest achievement of Byzantine architecture, largest cathedral in world for nearly 1,000 years. Built in 532 - 537.
  • St. Peter Church near Antakya - Hatay. One of the oldest churches in the world, constructed the latest in the 3rd or 4th century AD. Rock hewn buildings, with fine facade built by Crusaders sometimes around 1100 AD. Rock-cut passages extend from the church.
  • Tokalı Kilise and other rock churches of Göreme (Karanlık Kilise, Çarıklı Kilise and others) - Nevşehir. Rock hewn churches in unusual cliff formations - fairy chimneys. Churches were built here mainly in the 9th - 11th century, contain some of the best Byzantine frescoes in world.

Christian monasteries

  • Mor Hananyo Monastery - Mardin. Founded in 493 AD, seat of Syriac Orthodox Church from 1160 to 1932. Monastery got 365 rooms - one for each day of year.
  • Sümela Monastery - Trabzon. Very old monastery, founded in 386 AD. Enormous building high in the cliffs in the front of cave. Monastery contains frescoes of superior quality.
  • Zelve Monastery - Nevşehir. Underground, rock-cut monastery with its passages opening to three valleys. Developed since the Roman times, important religious centre during the 9th - 13th centuries. Contains three rock-cut churches.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Turkey
Sultan Ahmed Mosque / Rev Stan, / CC BY 2.0

Mosques

  • Divriği Mosque and Hospital - Sivas. Interesting mosque with impressive architecture, built in 1228 - 1229. Buildings are adorned with some of most intricate stone carvings in this region.
  • Great Mosque of Diyarbakır - Diyarbakır. One of the holiest sites of Islam, built in 1091. Ornate building of huge cultural and historical importance.
  • New Mosque in Istanbul (Yeni Cami) - İstanbul. Enormous mosque, built in 1597 - 1665. Building has 66 domes and semidomes, rising up to 36 m high.
  • Selimiye Mosque - Edirne. One of most beautiful Ottoman mosques, built in 1568 - 1574. Adorned with some of the best Iznik tiles.
  • Süleymaniye Mosque - İstanbul. Largest mosque in İstanbul, built in 1550 - 1558. This domed structure is 53 m high, with four 72 m tall minarets.
  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) - İstanbul. One of the largest mosques in the world, completed in 1616. In many respects it is modeled after the Christian Hagia Sophia, which is nearby. It was an imperial mosque of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Zeyrek Mosque - İstanbul. One of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. Presently this is mosque, but it is made of two former churches and chapel. Churches were built in 1118 - 1124 and after 1124, chapel was built between them.
Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey
Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul / Esteban Romero, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bridges

  • Bosphorus Bridge - İstanbul. Steel suspension bridge, longest span is 1,074 m long, pylons are 165 m high. Opened for traffic in 1973. The 4th longest suspension bridge at the time of construction. 5 km from it is even large suspension bridge - Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, longest span is 1,090 m, constructed in 1988.
  • Bridge near Limyra - Antalya. 360 m long Roman built bridge, could be constructed in the late 3rd century AD. One of oldest segmented arch bridges in the world, amazing achievement of ancient engineering.
  • Karamagara Bridge - Elâzığ. Late Roman built bridge, possibly the oldest pointed arch bridge in the world. Constructed in the 5th or 6th century AD, span - 17 m.

Other man made landmarks

  • Column of Constantine - İstanbul. Monumental Roman column, built in 330 AD. This monument commemorates the designation of Byzantium as the new capital city of Roman Empire. Originally 50 m tall, now - 35 m tall.
  • Grand Bazaar - İstanbul. One of the largest covered markets in the world, built in 1455 - the 18th century. Structure includes 61 covered streets and more than 3000 shops. Rich social life and traditions have evolved in this enormous building.
  • Sultan Han - Aksaray. The largest caravanserai in Turkey, one of the best examples of Seljuk architecture. This fortified structure was built in 1229. Not too far is another beautiful caravanserai - Agzikara Han.

List of described attractions by provinces

Turkey is divided into 81 provinces. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Adana
Adıyaman
Afyonkarahisar
Ağrı
Aksaray
Amasya
Ankara
Antalya
Ardahan
Artvin
Aydın
Balıkesir
Bartın
Batman
Bayburt
Bilecik
Bingöl
Bitlis
Bolu
Burdur
Bursa
Çanakkale
Çankırı
Çorum
Denizli
Diyarbakır
Düzce
Edirne
Elazığ
Erzincan
Erzurum
Eskişehir
Gaziantep
Giresun
Gümüşhane
Hakkâri
Hatay
Iğdır
Isparta
İstanbul
ArrowHagia SophiaChurches, Mosques, Museums
İzmir
Kahramanmaraş
Karabük
Karaman
Kars
Kastamonu
Kayseri
Kırıkkale
Kırklareli
Kırşehir
Kilis
Kocaeli
Konya
Kütahya
Malatya
Manisa
Mardin
Mersin
Muğla
Muş
Nevşehir
Niğde
Ordu
Osmaniye
Rize
Sakarya
Samsun
Siirt
Sinop
Sivas
Şanlıurfa
Şırnak
Tekirdağ
Tokat
Trabzon
Tunceli
Uşak
Van
Yalova
Yozgat
Zonguldak

Map of Turkey

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