If you’re looking to discover historic sites in Turkey then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.
There’s a fantastic selection of historic sites in Turkey and you can plan some great things to see on your trips by browsing our selection. Once you’ve explored the historic sites in Turkey you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan out your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook.
Our database of historic sites is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other historic sites in Turkey, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.
Top Historic Destinations in Turkey: Historic Sites in Istanbul
Aizanoi houses ancient Roman ruins including a stadium, gymnasium, theatre and an impressive Temple of Zeus.
Aizanoi is a Turkish archaeological site housing mostly Roman remains from this ancient city’s peak in the second and third centuries AD.
Amongst its ruins, Aizanoi has five ancient and still used bridges, two Turkish-style baths, column-lined promenades, a stadium, a gymnasium, a theatre and its great Temple of Zeus.
With Hellenistic foundations, this magnificent Seljuk ruin sits atop a 250m high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean sea.
Alanya Castle is a magnificent Seljuk ruin which sits atop a 250-metre high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean sea. With walls stretching over 6km, Alanya Castle – sometimes called Alanya Fortress – encloses a number of fascinating sites and structures which are well worth exploring today.
The origins of the city today known as Alanya date back thousands of years. References to the ancient city of Coracesium, the name for the early settlement, can be found from the 4th Century BC. During much of antiquity, Alanya notoriously sheltered pirates thanks to its perfectly designed bay and harbour. However, during Pompey the Great’s famous campaign to rid the Mediterranean of pirates, Alanya was the site of an important battle in which the pirates were defeated. For the remainder of the Empire period, the city remained under Roman and subsequently Byzantine control but it was not one of the region’s more prominent settlements during this time.
It wasn’t until 1221 that the city really rose to prominence. After the city’s conquest by the Seljuk Turks, Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat I decided to make Alanya his winter home and the city entered its zenith.
The harbour and port that shielded Cicilian bandits and pirates in the 3rd Century BC, referred to as the Tersane or Dockyard, was turned into the main naval base of the Seljuk navy; defensive walls were restored and the Red Tower, perhaps the most striking of monuments that remain at the site, was constructed. From then until the 18th Century Alanya, incorporated into the Ottoman empire in 1471, became an important port for trading with other Mediterranean countries, particularly Egypt, Syria and Cyprus. Today Alanya is the best preserved dockyard of the Mediterranean basin.
The Red Tower (sometimes referred to as Kizilkule) ranks among the most impressive elements of Alanya Castle and stands 29 meters high. The Castle walls start here and pass through the middle battlements (Ehmedek), the Citadel or Inner Castle (Ickale), the Arab Saint bastion (Arap Evliyasi), the Esat bastion, the arsenal (Tophane) and the historic shipyard (Tersane) before finishing once again at the Red Tower.
Inside the Castle walls are a number of interesting buildings and monuments, including the palace of Alaaddin Keykubat, as well as several Mosques (including the 16th Century Suleymaniye Mosque) and even a church, proof of the often diverse and tolerant nature of the city.
Opposite the Suleymaniye Mosque is a covered Bazaar or Bedesten, used during the 14th and 15th centuries as a trading base. There are numerous other buildings and fortifications surrounding the Castle, including the Ehmedek (middle battlements), an arsenal (or Tophane) and a Mint (Darphane), although interestingly not a single coin was minted there. There are also many sea caves that can only be reached by boat. The Castle Citadel (or Ickale), dating to the 6th century, contains a platform that today offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean peninsula.
That Alanya Castle is currently on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list is testament to its diverse and sprawling history. With over 6km of defensive wall reinforced by 140 bastions and 400 cisterns, Alanya was perhaps one of the best-defended cities in the Mediterranean.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
Part of Alanya Castle, the Citadel (or Ickale) dates back to the 6th century and offers magnificent views.
The Alanya Citadel (or Ickale) dates back to the 6th century AD and is the oldest part of the Alanya Castle complex. Most of the fortifications you can see today date to the 13th century.
Inside the Citadel are the remains of Seljuk cisterns, the palace of Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat, the ruins of a Seljuk bath and an 11th Century Byzantine church.
Among the attractions of the Citadel is its high platform which offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean peninsula and the Taurus Mountains but also has a much darker history. According to legend, this platform was ominously referred to as the ‘Throwing Platform’ where prisoners condemned to death met their fate. Accordingly, prisoners were given the chance to reprieve themselves if they could throw a stone into the sea without it hitting the cliff. Unfortunately for the prisoners, this was an impossible feat and many met their end by being tied into a sack and thrown over the edge.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
Anadolu Hisari was built by the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid I in 1395.
Anadolu Hisari (Anadoluhisari), translated as the Anatolian Castle, was built by the great grandfather of Mehmet the Conqueror, Sultan Beyazid I in 1395.
Anadolu Hisari is not open to the public. However the fifteenth century Rumeli Fortress, which sits just across the Bosporus, is open to tourists.
The Antalya Museum contains thousands of ancient and prehistoric artifacts.
The Antalya Museum (Antalya Muzesi) is an archaeological museum in one of Turkey’s most popular resorts. It contains thousands of ancient and prehistoric artifacts and good explanations of their history. It is one of Turkey’s largest museums.
The pieces at the Antalya Museum come from a variety of sites around Turkey and are divided thematically into ’halls’ each relating to a different period. The museum includes a wealth of statues and sculptures from the Roman period, the majority of which were found during the excavations of nearby Roman cities such as Perge. These astonishing ancient statues are among the top highlights of the museum and have brought international renown to the institution.
There is also a collection of sarcophagi from the Roman period, Roman and Byzantine era mosaics and a charming children’s section.
Anzac Cove was the landing site for Australian and New Zealand troops in the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I.
Anzac Cove in Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula was the site where Australian and New Zealander troops landed on 25 April 1915.
The Anzac Cove landings were part of the Gallipoli Campaign, an effort by the Commonwealth and by the French to remove Turkey from World War I. In fact, the troops were meant to land elsewhere, but were erroneously dropped at Anzac Cove, which was a steep and difficult terrain.
Anzac Cove continued to be the main base of Australian and New Zealand forces throughout the eight month campaign and until Allied forces were evacuated from Gallipoli, having failed to take Turkey out of the conflict.
Today, there are several memorials at Anzac Cove and it is the site where Anzac Day ceremonies are held. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
The ancient city of Aphrodisias was named after the Goddess of Love; Aphrodite. Established in what is now modern day Turkey in the 6th century BC, it expanded into the thriving capital of the surrounding region.
Aphrodisias was once a thriving Hellenic and Roman city in what is now modern day Turkey. Today it is an archaeological site, whose ruins include the remains of a beautiful ancient stadium.
Established during the late Hellenistic period, Aphrodisias became a prosperous city under Roman rule from the 1st to the 5th century AD. In the 1st century BC, the city came under the personal protection of the Roman Emperor Augustus and many of the structures which can still be seen today date from that period and the following two centuries.
The city became an artistic centre as a result of its location near a marble quarry; the city is now littered with sculpture. Artists even travelled to Aphrodisias to take part in annual sculpting competitions. However the city fell to ruin after a series of earthquakes and was eventually abandoned in the 12th century.
Upon arrival to the ruins you will be greeted by the renovated Tetrapylon, a gateway of Corinthian style columns decorated with reliefs of the god Eros and goddess Nike.
The Temple of Aphrodite would have been in the busy heart if the city. Originally over forty columns of the temple would have stood, a number of which have been realigned today, giving a great sense of the scale of the original building. The Temple was converted into a Basilica in the 5th century AD with the Roman conversion to Christianity.
The stadium, dating as a far back as the 1st century BC, is beautifully preserved and is one of the biggest ancient constructions still surviving with a capacity of 30,000.
There is also an onsite museum featuring thousands of pieces of Aphrodisian art including busts, decorative and religious sculpture, ceramics and a unique figure of the goddess Aphrodite herself.
Other features of the ruins include the Odeon, the baths of Hadrian and the 8,000-seater ancient theatre which was adapted for gladiatorial combat in the Roman period. Also, look out for some of the over 2,000 Roman inscriptions still decipherable around the ruin.
Contributed by Rebecca Carman
Ari Burnu Cemetery is a World War I Commonwealth cemetery in the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
Ari Burnu Cemetery in Gallipoli in Turkey was originally established in 1915, during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I. It houses the graves of 252 Commonwealth soldiers who died during the eight month attempt to remove Turkey from the war. Of these graves, 42 are unidentified. Ari Burnu Cemetery also has several memorials to those believed to be buried there, but whose graves are unidentified.
Aspendos Roman Theatre is a large and beautifully preserved Ancient Roman site in Turkey.
Aspendos Roman Theatre is a beautifully preserved Ancient Roman site in Turkey. In fact, it seems to be almost completely intact.
Still able to seat up to 15,000 people this Roman amphitheatre was once part of the city of Aspendos, which was founded by Ancient Greeks from Argos and was first written about by the Hittites in 800 BC.
Under the Romans, the city grew even more prosperous and Aspendos Roman Theatre was built there during the mid-second century AD.
Visitors can wander around Aspendos Roman Theatre and it even plays host to an annual summer festival. Nearby are also the remains of an Ancient Roman aqueduct. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
The city of Assos was founded by Ancient Greeks from the 7th century BC. The ancient ruined city is crowned by an impressive temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena.
The city of Assos on the Aegean coast of modern Turkey was founded by Ancient Greeks sometime around the 7th century BC. Today the site, whose modern name is Behramkale, is a beautiful seaside resort littered with ancient ruins dating from the ancient Greek and Roman periods.
The city passed through many hands during its long existence, the Persians took Assos from the possession of the Ancient Greeks during the 4th century BC only to be driven out a few years later by Alexander the Great. Later, the city came under the control of the nearby Kings of Pergamum, until it was engulfed by the Roman Empire in 133 BC. The prosperity of the city dwindled after the Roman period and it remained just a small settlement throughout the Byzantine period and through to modern times.
The most famous of Assos’ ancient inhabitants would likely be Aristotle, who founded a school of philosophy here and married the niece of the city’s most famous king, Hermeias. St Paul was also a reputed visitor to the city.
Perhaps the best known ancient site at Assos is the Temple of Athena, which is situated on the crest of a dormant volcano. It offers beautiful views of the area stretching as far as the island of Lesbos, which is just 12km across the sea, and also of other nearby ruins such as Pergamum. For the best views, stay until dusk or get up early to see the sun rise. Although little remains of the temple, it is the only Doric example in the Anatolian region.
Other sights to see in the town include the impressive ancient city walls, the Hellenic city gateway - consisting of two massive towers - a Roman theatre, gymnasium, agora and the necropolis (cemetery). Some of the ruins have been reconstructed. Sights at Assos from other periods include the Ottoman era mosque and fortress which date from the 14th century.
Contributed by Rebecca Carman
Beylerbeyi Palace is a nineteenth century palace built to house important guests.
Beylerbeyi Palace (Beylerbeyi Sarayi) was built during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz in the 1860s.
Serving as the residence of visiting dignitaries, Beylerbeyi Palace has played host to kings, shahs and princesses. It was also at Beylerbeyi Palace that sultan Abdulhamid II was kept captive for six years before he died in 1918.
Guided tours are available.
Bodrum Castle is a 15th century citadel built by Christian knights and houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Bodrum Castle (Bodrum Kalesi), also known as The Castle of St. Peter, in Bodrum, Turkey was built by the Knights Hospitaller in 1402 in order to offer protection from the invading Seljuk Turks.
Constructed according to the highest standards at the time, it remained an important Christian stronghold for over a century, serving as a focal point in Asia Minor. Bodrum Castle incorporates many pieces from the nearby Mausoleum of Mausolus, including sculptures and building materials, the latter of which were used to strengthen Bodrum Castle from invasion by Sultan Suleiman in 1522.
Today, Bodrum Castle is open to the public and houses the world renowned Museum of Underwater Archaeology founded in 1962. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
The Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Bodrum exhibits treasures from underwater excavations including one of the earliest shipwrecks ever found.
The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Turkey exhibits historical treasures uncovered through underwater excavations.
Some of the treasures at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology include the finds from the Bronze Age Uluburun Shipwreck, believed to have sunk in 14th century BC and discoveries from a 5th century ship, most of which includes glasswear, lending it the name of “The Glasswreck”.
The Museum of Underwater Archaeology also has other departments, including its “secret museum” which explores ancient forms of medicine.
Even the building in which the Museum of Underwater Archaeology is housed, Bodrum Castle, has a history of its own. In fact, it is a 15th century fortification built by Christian Hospitaller Knights. The exhibitions are dotted around its halls and towers, allowing visitors to explore underwater finds in a fascinating environment. The Museum of Underwater Archaeology itself was founded in 1962.
The Cappadocia Underground Cities are incredible Christian subterranean fortified cities in Turkey protected by UNESCO.
The Cappadocia Underground Cities, found mostly in the Nevsehir region in central Turkey, are a series of magnificent subterranean cities built by the Troglodytes or ‘cave goers’. Of the almost forty known Cappadocia underground cities, some in Nevshir are open to the public, including Kaymaklı, Derinkuyu, Özkonak, Mazi and Ürgüp.
These Cappadocia underground cities were built by early Christians persecuted for their faith. It is unclear as to when the Cappadocia underground cities were constructed, but the earliest Christians were believed to have settled in the area in the fourth century.
The most incredible aspects of the Cappadocia underground cities are their sheer scale and complexity. Some of these cities delve eight levels underground, with comprehensive living quarters and facilities for making grape juice, cooking, drainage and plumbing and even stables for horses. Of course, these underground cities were also vital forts, protecting their citizens, and the Cappadocia made provisions for this, including sturdy doors and even holes in the ceilings through which to pour hot oil over any intruders.
Visiting the Cappadocia underground cities is an exciting, authentic and fascinating journey. The Cappadocia underground cities have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
Carrhae Battlefield was the setting for one of the most crushing Roman defeats, inflicted at the hands of the Parthians.
Carrhae Battlefield near the modern town of Harran in Turkey was the setting for one of the most crushing Roman defeats, inflicted at the hands of the Parthians.
The battle took place in May 53 BC and was the culmination of a Roman invasion of Parthia, led by the wealthy Roman aristocrat and Triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus. Leading his army directly into Parthian territory, Crassus was defeated – largely due to the Roman inability to deal with the Parthian horse archers and heavy cataphract cavalry – and Crassus himself was killed during the ensuing negotiations.
There is no precise location for Carrhae Battlefield, but it is thought to have been sited to the east of ancient Carrhae, now the modern city of Harran.
Catalhoyuk is the site of an important Neolithic town in Turkey.
Catalhoyuk is the site of a Neolithic town in Turkey dating back to between 7400 and 6000 BC.
Containing some of the earliest ever known mural art, Catalhoyuk is considered to be vital in learning about the country’s origins. Catalhoyuk also has a visitor centre with exhibits, although most of these are replicas, the originals having gone to museums around Turkey.
One of the oldest surviving churches in the world, this church and museum looks at the life of Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus.
The Church of Saint Nicholas at Myra - also called St Nicholas Museum - is an ancient Byzantine church which charts the life of this famous Christian Saint and is one of the oldest surviving churches in existence.
Saint Nicholas was born in Patara in the 3rd Century AD, and is said to have been raised in a wealthy Christian family. He became Bishop of Myra at a young age, and this position was his initial source of fame. He was imprisoned by the Emperor Diocletian, who persecuted the Christian faith, and attended the famed council of Nicaea, a gathering of the notables of Christendom, after his release.
It is Nicholas' life and deeds which spawned the myth of Santa Claus and accounts for the way in which he is venerated in the Christian world. Nicholas was particularly well known for the accounts of his acts of kindness towards children. One narrative recalls three daughters, whose father was too poor to be able to afford a dowry. Ordinarily this would have resulted in the daughters being sold into slavery. However, three bags of gold appeared in stockings in mysterious circumstances, thus sparing the daughters their fate. In some northern European countries, St. Nicholas day is celebrated by children leaving shoes or stockings out overnight, to find gifts in the morning.
As well as being patron saint of children, Nicholas was also the patron of sailors, a result of Myra being an important port. Ironically, given that he was associated with kind deeds, he also became the patron of pirates, after they stole his relics. Nicholas died in circa 345AD, and stories of his good deeds and acts of kindness spread rapidly. His church became a popular place of pilgrimage, and the beatification of Nicholas occurred soon after his death. He was the Eastern world's most famous saint, and was also adopted by the rest of Europe, being imagined by northern Europeans as wearing a cape and furs and riding a sleigh, despite residing in a Mediterranean climate during his lifetime.
Though there may have been a church constructed on the present site shortly after the death of St. Nicholas, the church which exists now has its roots in the 9th century. It has undergone two separate major renovations. Constantine IX rebuilt the church in 1043, and Tsar Nicholas I had the church renovated in 1862. Some restoration work has also been carried out more recently by Turkish archaeologists.
Despite its relatively modest size the Church of Saint Nicholas is nonetheless spectacular, and is popular with pilgrims and tourists alike. Particular highlights are the magnificent vaulted rooms, and the small gallery nearby containing the remains of some wonderful mosaics and frescoes.
There are a number of sarcophagi contained within the church, firstly in a gallery adjacent to the first chapel. The most notable sarcophagus is located in a separate, narrow gallery, which is said to be that of St. Nicholas himself, although his remains are more likely to have been stolen – apparently by Italian sailors who whisked them away to Bari where they built the Basilica of Saint Nicholas. There are further mosaics in the main apse, which also contains the altar of the church and some white marble steps.
The church is open to visitors all year round, with reduced opening hours during the winter months.
Contributed by Chris Reid
Derinkuyu Underground City is the most famous of the Cappadocia subterranean cities built by early Christians and protected by UNESCO.
Derinkuyu Underground City is the largest and most popular of the Cappadocia underground cities in Nevsehir, Turkey.
As with the other underground cities in this region, Derinkuyu was built by early Christians to escape religious persecution. The result is an astounding network of subterranean houses and communal facilities, including food and drink preparation areas, mass storage rooms, stables, wine presses and a church all spread over eight levels.
Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Derinkuyu Underground City is incredibly well preserved and offers an in-depth insight into the lives of these troglodyte or ‘cave dwelling’ people. For those who are not too claustrophobic or frail, this is one of the most interesting sites in Turkey.
Didyma in Turkey contains the ruins of the temple of Apollo, which was one of the most important oracles of the Hellenic world.
The archaeological site of Didyma in Turkey contains the remains of the ancient Sanctuary of Apollo, one of the most important oracles of the Hellenic world.
The oracle, second only to Delphi in importance, was linked to the Greek city of Miletus by the 17km long Sacred Way and the site is believed to date back as far as the 8th century BC. The original temple was destroyed by the Persians but Alexander the Great had the oracle rebuilt in around 334BC.
Today visitors to the site can explore a range of ruins from the oracle, including several structures, columns, decorative friezes and even the remains of ancient tunnels.
This article is a stub and is currently being expanded by our editorial team.
Dolmabahce Palace is an opulent nineteenth century palace which twice served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire.
Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi) is an opulent nineteenth century palace on the Bosphorus which twice served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire.
Begun in 1842 under Sultan Abdulmecit I, Dolmabahce Palace was completed in 1853 and first became the base of the Ottoman Empire as well as the home of Sultan Abdulmecit from 1856. It would remain as such until 1922, except for a twenty year period from 1889, when the seat was moved to Yildiz Palace.
Even after the beginning of the Turkish Republic, Dolmabahce Palace did not lose its stature. In fact, it became the residence of its first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who died there on 10 November 1938.
With its grand size and appearance both in it colourful interiors and ornate neoclassical exterior, Dolmabahce Palace is quite something to see. One of its most impressive rooms is the Throne Hall, with its elaborate chandelier gifted by Queen Victoria.
Today, Dolmabahce Palace is a museum. Entry by guided tour only and if you’re planning to visit all the sections, a tour can take up to two and a half hours.
Ephesus in Turkey represents some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in the Mediterranean.
Ephesus or "Efes" was a vibrant classical city, now bordering modern day Selçuk in Turkey and representing some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in the Mediterranean.
Thought to have been founded in the 10th century BC by an Athenian prince named Androklos, Ephesus grew into a thriving city until 650BC when it was attacked and damaged by the Cimmerians. However, the settlement was reconstituted and soon the city began to thrive once more, eventually being conquered by the vast Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great.
The city was involved in the Greco-Persian wars but then fell back under Persian rule until its liberation by Alexander the Great. Fought over continuously by Alexander’s successors and their descendents, Ephesus, like so much of the region, was eventually absorbed into the Roman Republic, in the late second century BC.
Sights at Ephesus
Today, Ephesus is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of Ancient Roman and Greek history, allowing them to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums.
Ephesus was once famous for its Temple of Artemis, built in around 650 BC. Sadly, this was destroyed and is now represented by just a solitary column.
Some of the most impressive sites at Ephesus include the Library of Celsus, the ruins of which stand two storeys high, the Temple of Hadrian which was built in 118 AD, the classical theatre where it is believed Saint Paul preached to the Pagans and the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, so called because legend has it that the Romans locked seven Christian boys there in 250 AD, who only awoke in the 5th century.
The cross shaped Basilica of Saint John is also nearby, as is the fourteenth century Isabey Mosque, which is an impressive structure built from the remains of Ephesus.
A trip to Ephesus usually takes at least half a day - some tours include other local sites such as Priene and Miletus - but history enthusiasts will probably want to enjoy this site for a whole day. There is also a great Ephesus Museum displaying artifacts found in the old city. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
Galata Tower is a medieval turreted tower first built by the Genoese in 1348.
Galata Tower is a medieval turreted tower built by the Genoese as a defensive structure in 1348 and since rebuilt several times. One such occasion was following an earthquake in 1509 which caused great damage to Galata Tower.
Known by the Genoese as the Tower of Christ (Christea Turris), over the centuries, Galata Tower has been used for several purposes. For example, in the sixteenth century it is said to have acted as a jail under Suleiman the Magnificent and an astrology observatory. There is also a story which says that an aviator by the name of Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi took off from the tower using artificial wings in 1638.
In 1794, Galata Tower was devastated by a fire. This was somewhat ironic given that it was serving as a fire watchtower at the time.
The latest main restoration of Galata Tower occurred in 1967. The main thing inside this tower is the restaurant, although people also go to the top for the views.
This astonishing museum features thousands of square feet of lovingly restored mosaics from the Roman town of Zeugma.
Forming part of the Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology, the Zeugma Mosaic Museum contains a superb collection of lovingly restored mosaics from the ancient Roman town of Zeugma. The museum itself is an impressive modern construction and a great many of the artefacts it features were excavated from ancient Zeugma, which is located about 45km away.
Zeugma was one of the most important cities of the Roman Empire in the East. Originally founded around 300BC by Alexander’s general Seleucus Nicator, the city was a vital military and commercial point across the Euphrates river, with as many as 70,000 people living in the city at its peak. However, a devastating attack in 256AD by Sassanid king Shapur I led to the city’s decline. Though Zeugma remained an important Roman and subsequently Byzantine city well into the 6th century, the mounting pressure on the Empire’s borders led to its eventual abandonment.
The remains of Zeugma are located on the bank of the Euphrates and now lie mostly underwater due to the construction of a number of modern dams. Before the dams were built, great conservation efforts were put in place to preserve the ruins of the city. Everything that could be moved was excavated, not just portable objects but wall paintings, mosaics and frescoes – with many of the finds move to the Zeugma Mosaic Museum. An unimaginable amount of work has gone into removing, restoring and reassembling these mosaics.
The Zeugma Mosaic Museum itself is among the largest mosaic museums in the world, exhibiting thousands of square metres of truly awe inspiring mosaics, originating from the Roman and Byzantine periods. Alongside this there are other excavations including the frescoes, fountains, sculptures and an intimidating bronze statue of the God Mars.
Sadly, the archaeological site from which the artefacts were excavated was subject to looting over the years. Some of the mosaics are therefore incomplete, due to the market for these artefacts which grew after Zeugma’s discovery. The museum today attempts to raise awareness against the looting and trafficking of artefacts such as these.
Despite this, some of the most impressive mosaics in the museum are vast works, depicting famous characters such as Poseidon, Dionysus and Achilles. Indeed, many of the mosaics have grained world renown; the haunting eyes of the “Gypsy Girl” are widely renowned. When in-situ, the mosaics would have adorned the walls of the Hamam (Turkish Bath) and many of the villas of the richer inhabitants of the ancient city. Archaeologists have recreated these decorated rooms, allowing you to get a feel of what they really would have looked like, thousands of years ago.
Contributed by Rebecca Carman
A tiny island located just off the Turkish mainland, Gemiler Island is packed with Byzantine remains including a number of ancient churches.
Beautifully situated in a mountain-girt bay, Gemiler Island is packed with c.1,500 year old Byzantine remains. The island, just 1km long, has been surveyed by Japanese archaeologists who have revealed the existence of a thriving small town clinging to the northern shore. Unlike the classical cities of the region, there are none of the typical public buildings, no theatre, no baths, no gymnasium, no colonnaded streets, no agora, just a dense collection of houses, cisterns and four main churches.
Described on Italian medieval maritime charts as St. Nicholas Island, Gemiler seems to have thrived as a key stop on the Christian pilgrimage route to the Holy Land. Pilgrims sailing to Jerusalem would put in at this safe harbour, replenish water and supplies and pray for their safe journey. Today, one can explore the remains of these early churches, decorated with mosaics and frescoes, discover a huge public cistern and walk in a unique processional passageway up to the cathedral church and the island’s summit with its stunning 360-degree views.
Contributed by Peter Sommer. Peter is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, travel writer and one time archaeologist who now heads a specialist tour operator, Peter Sommer Travels, offering expert-led gulet cruises and archaeological tours in Turkey, Greece and Italy.
Göbekli Tepe is a fascinating Neolithic site said to be home to the oldest temple in the World.
Six thousand years older than Stonehenge, seven thousand years older than the Great Pyramids and a thousand older than the walls of Jericho, formerly believed to be the world’s most ancient monumental structure, Göbekli Tepe in south-eastern Turkey close to the city of Sanliurfa has literally rewritten human history.
Thanks to this sensational twelve thousand year old discovery by a team from the German Archaeological Institute led by Professor Klaus Schmidt, Göbekli Tepe is regarded as a find of such profound importance that it may well change our current understanding that agriculture and permanent settlements came first then religion followed, a paradigm shift in the knowledge of a crucial stage of our societal development.
Academics are calling Göbekli Tepe the ‘world’s first temple’ and it’s an example that huge complexes were well within the capabilities of early hunter-gatherers, an assumption never previously considered. Göbekli Tepe may very well be the very first thing human beings every built. It pre-dates pottery, domesticated animals and agriculture and Professor Schmidt postulates that Göbekli Tepe was the catalyst for these things to follow. He called it ‘the Rome of the Ice Age’. The discovery is that important.
There are at least 20 installations each enclosed by a wall as well as T-shaped pillars between three and six metres high weighing 40-60 tons, some with human-like appendages and some with carvings of animals such as foxes, snakes, boars and ducks.
Similarly to Stonehenge, questions remain as to how the huge monoliths got to their locations, how intricate carvings were made when even rudimentary hand tools were rare, how they were stood up on end when complex engineering of that type was centuries away, as was farming, the ability to create blueprint for construction and even permanent settlements. The next temples of this size and complexity date from five thousand years after Göbekli Tepe.
Gordion is an ancient Phrygian city which today contains the astounding burial mound said to belong to King Midas.
Gordion, also spelt Gordium, in the modern Turkish village of Yassıhöyük is home to what is popularly said to be the tomb of the famous King Midas. This ancient city was once the capital of the Phrygian Empire, who ruled the region from roughly 1200BC-700BC.
Founded in an important strategic location in what is now central Turkey, Gordion was also famous as the place where Alexander the Great cut the Gordian Knot – with the legend stating that whomever achieved this feat would become king of all Asia.
Gordion itself saw many rulers and empires through the centuries. After the fall of the Phrygian Empire, Gordion was conquered by the Lydians, the Persian Empire and Alexander’s Macedonians. It later became a Roman city and survived through to the Byzantine era.
Today visitors to Gordian cannot miss the huge burial mound, or Tumulus, associated with Midas. Visitors can enter the mound through a modern tunnel and view information about the site and the remarkably well preserved burial chamber. However, there’s not much scope to explore the burial mound as the chamber itself is only viewable through the entrance bars.
Across the road from the Midas Tumulus is the Gordion Museum which hosts interesting displays of archaeological finds from the area and gives a background and overview of Gordion’s history. The museum also has a number of other items, as well as mosaics and a Hellenistic tomb.
Also worth exploring is the city’s acropolis, which includes the main excavation area and the ancient palace, temples and public buildings of the city. Don’t miss the looming Phrygian-era gate, which still stands over 10m high, at the south-east side of the Acropolis.
Be warned, exploring Gordion can be a hot and taxing experience – take lots of water and a good hat to keep out the sun!
Located in the picturesque Goreme Valley, Goreme’s open air museum is one of the most accessible ways to explore the region's ancient rock-cut churches.
The Goreme Open Air Museum in Cappadocia includes a collection of around 30 ancient churches, and feels about as far from a traditional museum as it’s possible to get.
Easily accessible to visitors, the Goreme valley was the first historical site to be discovered in Cappadocia. The roughly cut rock churches are quite breath-taking; an unsuspecting visitor to the area would find it difficult, on first sight, to ascertain their purpose. It’s a stunning, almost haunting, landscape. The church interiors, particularly those of the Dark Church and the Buckle Church, contain some of the most beautiful and well preserved frescoes of the region.
By the end of the 2nd century AD, the Goreme valley had been transformed into a hub of Christian activity – converts to the new religion had been drawn to the valley’s natural defences as they fled persecution. During the 3rd century, Christianity began to take on a more organised form in the region as priests ‘of good character’ began to transform the area. Indeed, by the 4th century Cappadocia became to be known as the ‘Land of the Three Saints.’ These saints comprised St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Kayseri; his brother, St Gregory of Nyssa; and St George of Nazianzus. St Basil initiated worship within the community, and it was in Goreme that this practice was begun.
The name ‘Goreme’ is actually the fourth name by which it has been known throughout history. The Byzantines named the valley Matiana, and the Armenian Christians named it Macan. The valley was then named Avcilar by the Turks, who then bestowed upon it the name Goreme, meaning ‘unseen’, in honour of the churches of the same name which marked the valley.
Perhaps best described as a collection of monastic complexes, each monastery in the Goreme Open Air Museum contains its own church and there are some notable highlights among the list including the Dark Church, the Snake Church and the Apple Church. The Tokah Church, or ‘Church with the Buckle’ is one of the best preserved of the valley. This church contains an atrium, which was formerly a church itself, and is notable for the striking blue paint that is used in the frescoes that depict various scenes from the life of Christ.
Finally the Dark Church contains some of the most beautiful frescoes in the valley. Recently restored, the frescoes are a mixture of ochre, red and navy blue, which combine to fantastic effect. They portray the life of Christ, as well as the four evangelists.
Probably the most accessible way to view these ancient rock-cut churches, the Goreme Open Air Museum is also therefore quite a bit busier than other similar sights. A virtual tour can be explored here.
Contributed by Chris Reid
Hadrian’s Gate is an Ancient Roman monument in Antalya built in honour of the Emperor Hadrian.
Hadrian’s Gate is an Ancient Roman monument in Antalya built in honour of the Emperor Hadrian.
Hadrian was one of the most famous and important Roman Emperor's and ruled from 117 - 138 AD. He famously travelled far and wide across his empire, and spent far more time in the provinces than most of his predecessors.
Comprised of three arches, Hadrian’s Gate probably dates back to around 130AD, when the emperor himself visited Antalya.
Hagia Sophia is a world famous sixth century church turned mosque in Istanbul.
The Hagia Sophia, or ‘Ayasofya’ in Turkish, is a world famous sixth century church turned mosque in Istanbul, which now operates as a museum.
Whilst the original Hagia Sofia was built in the fourth century AD by Constantine the Great, very little remains of this structure nor the one built after it in the fifth century. The current building dates back to between 532 and 537 AD, during which time it was constructed under the order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
The architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles designed the Hagia Sophia in the Byzantine style, with typical features such as its impressive dome, and Hagia Sophia served as a central religious home for the Eastern Orthodox Church. The building was converted to a mosque in 1453 under the orders of Sultan Mehmed II when Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and thus it remained until 1935, when it became a museum.
However, it was during its time as a mosque that several dominant architectural features were added, such as the minarets at each of its four corners and the mihrab. Visitors to Hagia Sophia can view remnants of the first two Hagias Sophias as well as touring the current building with its stunning mosaics and ornate Muslim altars and chapels.
Outside, cannonballs used by Mehmet the Conqueror during his invasion of the city line the paths and there is an eighteenth century fountain for ritual ablutions. Hagia Sophia is a beautiful mixture of Muslim and Christian influences and architecture, including the Byzantine mosaics, which can only really be seen in the higher galleries for a further fee. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
A thirteenth century church, a fifteenth century mosque and a twentieth century museum, the Trabzon Hagia Sophia has a fascinating history and boasts a wealth of ancient art and frescoes.
The historic Hagia Sophia in Trabzon, Turkey, is an impressive 13th century Byzantine church which now operates as a museum boasting a range of fascinating ancient frescoes.
Originally constructed under the direction of Trebizond Emperor Manuel I between 1238 and 1263 AD, the Hagia Sophia was originally built to serve as a Church and its design reflects late-Byzantine architecture. It acted as such until 1461 when it was converted into a Mosque under the authority of Sultan Mehmed II after the Ottoman conquest of Trabzon, but during the next 400 years or so the building deteriorated rapidly.
By the mid-nineteenth century the Mosque was in desperate need of repair and restoration work began in 1864. However, with the advent of the First World War the once-grand Mosque was subject to a more utilitarian purpose; it was used both as a storehouse and hospital by Russian forces. In 1964, thanks to international co-operation and restoration efforts, the Hagia Sophia was finally opened to the public.
Today the Trabzon Hagia Sophia operates as a museum and visitors can explore the unique art and architecture found withing.
The building itself stands as an example of outstanding Byzantine architecture, containing three naves and three porticoes as well as numerous frescoes depicting Biblical scenes such as the birth, crucifixion and ascension of Jesus Christ, the twelve apostles and the frieze of angels. These frescoes had been covered after the Ottoman conquest and were only revealed during the 20th century restoration. Perhaps the most outstanding piece of decorative art within this group is the bas-relief frieze of Adam and Eve, located to the south.
In addition to the Christian decorative art that can be found throughout the Trabzon Hagia Sophia, there is also an abundance of Islamic art and architecture, including a domed and tiled roof and geometrically designed interlocking medallions, indicative of the Seljuk period. There are also tiles containing the crescent moon and stars as well as other motifs.
The tower was a later addition, when the Church was being converted into a Mosque. Little of the decorative art that was once installed into the Tower remains, although effort has recently been made to restore the paintings on the walls.
[Update Aug 2013: The museum has now closed and the site is now operating as a mosque]
Contributed by Ros Gammie
The Haidar Pasha Cemetery in Turkey is the final resting place of thousands of Crimean War soldiers.
The Haidar Pasha Cemetery near Istanbul, Turkey was the burial site of approximately 6,000 soldiers who died during the Crimean War at the Selimiye Barracks, a then British military base and hospital. It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Conditions at the Selimiye Barracks were terrible at the beginning of the war until the British nurse Florence Nightingale famously transformed them and dramatically improved soldiers’ mortality rates. As such, many soldiers died of preventable diseases such as cholera.
Most of the Haidar Pasha Cemetery Crimean graves are unmarked. There are also First and Second World War Turkish graves as well as those of civilians.
The Haidar Pasha Cemetery includes a memorial to Nightingale as well as to those who died at the Selimiye Barracks hospital during the Crimean War. There are also memorials to the First World War soldiers who died whilst in action in Georgia, South Russia and Azerbaijan as well as a cremation memorial to Indian Army soldiers killed in 1919 and 1920.
The usual route is to start by visiting the nearby Florence Nightingale Museum at the Selimiye Barracks and then Haidar Pasha Cemetery.
Hatay Museum in Antakya explores the history of the famous ancient city of Antioch. Among a host of other artefacts is a collection of exquisite Roman mosaics.
Hatay Museum in Antakya, Turkey, is a fascinating institution dedicated to the history of the famous ancient city of Antioch.
Antioch is now known as Antakya, in the province of Hatay, which borders on Syria. The ancient city was the capital of the historic Kingdom of Hatay, and, along with Rome, Constantinople and Alexandria, was one of the pre-eminent centres of the Roman Empire. Its history is fascinating, notably as an important conduit in the spread of Christianity – St. Peter and St. Paul both stayed in the city - but it also played host other notables of the day, such as Anthony and Cleopatra.
Founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, it was eventually conquered by the Romans in 64BC and became an important Roman city. At its peak, Antioch contained approximately 500,000 inhabitants. The city was an important centre for early Christianity, indeed, the name ‘Christianity’ itself is said to have originated in Antioch, from the local word ‘Cristianos.’ Both Saint Peter – who established a church in the city – and St. Paul, who preached there – were onetime residents. Although initially persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian, Christians in the city were able to flourish later under the rule of the Emperor Constantine.
The Persians conquered Antioch in the 6th century, but it was retaken by Emperor Justinian shortly after. Antioch fell into Arab hands in the 7th century, remaining there until the Byzantines captured the city circa AD 1000. Over the next centuries the city became a strategically important prize during the Crusades, was captured by the Mamluks and was eventually incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.
Hatay Museum itself - also known as the Antakya Archaeological Museum - was founded on the instruction of the French archaeologist Monsieur Prost, as a result of the successful excavations that had begun in 1932. The excavations had unearthed numerous beautiful artefacts, ancient art – in particular Roman mosaics – as well as historical documents, stretching as far back as the Palaeolithic Age. Antioch was conquered and re-conquered a number of times over the centuries, which explains the array of different artefacts in the museum. The magnificent collection is located across seven different rooms and two halls, and is ordered according the locations in which the artefacts were found.
Construction of Hatay Museum was completed in 1938, and is perhaps best known for housing a number of famous Roman mosaics, in particular the Megalopyschia (‘greatness of soul’) Hunt. This mosaic is an important historic discovery, as the border portrays a number of landmarks from Antioch and Daphne (where the mosaic was discovered) as well as daily activities of the time. The mosaics occupy the first four rooms, and depict mostly mythical scenes.
Other notable mosaics depict the Boat of Pysches, Narcissus and Echo, and although incomplete, perhaps one of the finest mosaics of the museum, Oceanus and Thetis. Artefacts can be found from the Hittite and Byzantine period, as well as beautifully crafted Assyrian and Roman statuettes. Unfortunately the vast majority of building structures from ancient Antioch no longer survive, which adds to the importance of the mosaics, as an historical record of the city.
Contributed by Chris Reid
Hattusha is one of Turkey’s great ruins of the capitals of the Hittite Empire and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Hattusha (also known as Hattusa or Hattuşa) is one of Turkey’s great ruins of capitals of the Hittite Empire and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Hittite Empire reached its peak in the second millennium BC, most prominently in the thirteenth century BC, at which time much of Asia Minor was under their control. Existing at the same time as the Ancient Egyptian civillisation, evidence from Hattusha has shown a peace treaty having been signed between Hittite leader Hattushili III and Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II (the Great).
Hattusha was founded in around 1600 BC and, despite the fact that it was conquered and mostly destroyed after 1200 BC, the remains of this great imperial capital are well preserved. From ornate gateways such as the Lion’s Gate, and temples to royal homes and ancient fortifications complete with underground passageways, there is much to see at Hattusha.
Much of the site was excavated by German archaeologists in 1906, a subject of some controversy in more recent times due to the non-return of a sphinx from the site (this can now be seen at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin).
The city is split into an upper and lower level, the latter containing the site of the Great Temple, one of the highlights of Hattusha and believed to have been dedicated to the deities of storms and the sun. Another highlight is the Yerkapi ramparts, a vast stone structure.
Not far from Hattusha, around 2km away, one can see the incredible Yazillkaya Sanctuary, a rock temple which still contains evidence of the artistry for which the city was renowned, including depictions of various deities and reliefs of humans and animals.
Hierapolis was once a thriving, multicultural ancient city and spa, the remains of which can now be seen in modern day Turkey.
Hierapolis was once a thriving, multicultural ancient city and spa, the remains of which can now be seen in modern day Turkey.
It is said to have been founded by the rulers of Pergamum, the Attalid Dynasty, and is usually attributed to their King Eumenes II (197BC-159BC). However, it is thought by many that Hierapolis was actually in existence a couple of centuries earlier.
Whatever the case, part of what made - and still makes - Hierapolis such an attractive site were its hot springs, once thought to have had miraculous healing properties. Visitors would travel to Hierapolis to dip in them, something which visitors still do today.
Most of the ruins at Hierapolis date from the Roman period. The Romans occupied Hierapolis in 129AD and the city grew into something of a multicultural haven, with Romans, Jews, Greco-Macedonians and others living there side by side. Of course, Hierapolis was not a complete utopia. In fact, it is said that Philip the Apostle was crucified there and the city suffered from earthquakes, particularly in the first century AD.
There’s plenty to see at Hierapolis today, including its theatre, Hellenistic layout and streets, many standing columns, the nymphaeum and a large necropolis to name a few sites. As mentioned above, visitors can also take a dip in the hot springs, a unique experience.
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Hierapolis is paired with the stunning natural site of Pamukkale, known as the Cotton Palace, which is nearby.
The Hill 60 Cemetery is a Commonwealth World War I military cemetery in Gallipoli.
The Hill 60 Cemetery in the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey is a Commonwealth Graves Commission burial site for 788 soldiers who died during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I. The Hill 60 Cemetery is located on the site of the Battle of Hill 60.
The Gallipoli Campaign was an eight month effort by the Commonwealth and the French to remove the Ottoman Empire – Turkey – from the war and open supply lines to Russia. The west coast of the Gallipoli Peninsula, where the conflict took place, became known as Anzac as it was where the Australian and New Zealand forces were based. Hill 60 was a vital link between Anzac and the area of Suvla.
On 22 August 1915, Commonwealth forces launched an attack with the aim of capturing Hill 60, a clash known as the Battle of Hill 60. Amongst those involved were the Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifles, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, the 13th, 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th Australian Infantry Battalions, the 9th and 10th Australian Light Horse division and the 5th Connaught Rangers. These forces successfully wrested Hill 60 from Turkish control and held it until the later evacuation of the Allied forces.
Only 76 of the graves at the Hill 60 Cemetery, which nestles amongst the trenches established during the conflict, are identified, the rest remaining unknown. There are also four memorials to the New Zealand forces who died in the campaign, one of which is known as the Hill 60 New Zealand Memorial.
The Ihlara Valley is famous for a number of rock-carved ancient churches known for their ornate frescoes depicting biblical events.
The Ihlara Valley near the historic heart of Cappadocia, in central Turkey, is famous for both its natural beauty and for a number of rock-carved ancient churches and dwellings known for their ornate frescoes depicting biblical events.
The valley was probably first inhabited in the 4th century AD, initially by hermits and priests as a place of solitude; but the natural defences of the gorge attracted new converts to Christianity, some fleeing persecution by the Romans.
At its peak Ihlara Valley was host to up to 80,000 inhabitants with a huge number of dwellings cut into the rock walls and churches decorated by frescoes which pay testament to Ihlara’s history. The frescoes are interesting as they document the spread of Christianity. As the religion spread amongst diverse populations, the message of Christianity was spread using imagery. Therefore the frescoes which adorn the valley’s churches portray the life of Jesus, and other themes found in the Bible.
The main entrance to Ihlara Valley is by Ihlara village, at the southern end of the valley, where the churches dating from the 6th century display a Persian and Syrian influence. As one travels further down the valley, one finds a large number of Byzantine churches and domestic dwellings.
At the northern end of the valley stands the majestic Selime monastery. Cut out of the rock walls of the valley, the Selime monastery is quite a sight to behold, not looking at all like the European preconceived image of a monastery, but nevertheless, gazing upon this monument, which was commandeered as a fortress by the Byzantine and Seljuk armies between the 10th and 12th centuries, is a truly breathtaking moment.
As well, as the historic attractions, the natural scenery is spectacular as well; wild olive trees, and poplars are found in the fertile valley, next to the clear green, sometimes shallow, sometimes deep, Melendez river. Taking up residence among the vineyards, poplars and pistachio trees are a number of lizards, frogs, and the occasional eagle.
In all, the valley contains a great many of these ancient churches – most of which date to the Byzantine era – with frescoes depicting a whole host of biblical scenes. Most people visit with an organised tour and, though they mostly cover the same sites, tours will differ as to exactly which churches and dwellings they will visit.
Contributed by Chris Reid
The Istanbul Archaeology Museum houses around a million artefacts from an impressive range of cultures and periods.
The Istanbul Archaeology Museum (İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri) houses around a million artefacts from an impressive range of cultures and periods, including some of the world’s most remarkable pieces. Split between three buildings - the main archaeology museum, the Ancient Orient Museum and the Tiled Kiosk Museum - the Istanbul Archaeology Museum has much to offer the history enthusiast.
The Alexander Tomb and Other Funereal Pieces
The most impressive item at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is often cited to be the Alexander Tomb, which was found in Sidon in the nineteenth century. Indeed, this fourth century BC tomb with its friezes of Alexander the Great is incredible and, although it is no longer thought to be this great leader’s original resting place, it is still a fascinating find.
Yet, the Istanbul Archaeology Museum has so much more to offer. For example, it has much more in the way of funereal items, such as the celebrated Sarcophagus of Mourning Women with its depictions of eighteen grieving women. In fact, as soon as the visitor steps through the door they are met with another important piece, the statue of a lion from one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Another great collection at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is from the Ottoman period. From its vast exhibits of coins and medallions to decorations and a whole library of books, this really is a great place to see Ottoman pieces.
This is really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the works at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. There’s a good Troy exhibit, a collection of classical statues, a Thrace-Bithynia and Byzantium exhibition and plenty of art from a variety of ancient civilisations such as Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Arabic and Anatolian.
The Istanbul Maritime Museum exhibits a variety of ships, weapons, works of art and artifacts relating to Turkey’s naval history.
The Istanbul Maritime Museum (Istanbul Deniz Muzesi) exhibits a variety of ships, weapons, works of art and artifacts relating to Turkey’s naval history.
Among the exhibitions on display in the Istanbul Maritime Museum are collections highlighting ship design and weaponary, naval uniforms, navigational instruments and artwork focusing on naval themes.
The Istanbul Mosaic Museum contains the amazing remains of mosaics excavated the Great Palace of Constantinople built during the Byzantine period.
The Istanbul Mosaic Museum, located near Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul, contains the amazing remains of mosaics excavated from the courtyard of the Great Palace of Constantinople.
First discovered in 1933 and later fully excavated in the 1950s, the mosaic floors were found under the modern Arasta Bazaar and now form the core of the Istanbul Mosaic Museum. The floor was originally part of a peristyle courtyard in the Great Palace and is one of the very few elements of this Byzantine palace to have survived. The mosaics themselves were probably commissioned under Justinian I during his major renovations of the palace in the 6th century.
The museum itself is on the northern side of the courtyard ruins and houses mosaics that made up the pavements outside the original palace as well as the floor of the courtyard. The original mosaic is believed to have been far larger than the remnants on display, and it is thought much of this ancient treasure remains hidden beneath the surrounding buildings.
The Great Palace mosaics that make up the museum have been dated between 450 and 550 AD and depict scenes from daily life, hunting nature and mythology rather than religious figures. Visitors can walk around and above the excavated mosaics and read detailed information points which describe the content and history of each mosaic section.
Located next to Sultanahmet Square, Hagia Sophia and the Boukoleon Palace, the Istanbul Mosaic Museum is in the heart of Istanbul’s historical district, within easy walking distance from all the famous sights of the city.
Contributed by Isabelle Moore
Kabatepe Museum in Turkey is dedicated to the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I.
The Kabatepe Simulation Center or Kabatepe Museum in Gallipoli in Turkey is houses a collection of historic items relating to the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I.
The Gallipoli Campaign saw French and Commonwealth forces engage in a war with Turkey – then the Ottoman Empire - in order to remove the country from the First World War. One of the main reasons for this was that Turkey was an important route by which to supply Russia. It was also hoped that this would end the deadlock on the Western Front.
Whilst small, the Kabatepe Museum has an interesting collection ranging from uniforms and weaponry to letters and even bullet-pierced skulls.
Kaunos contains the remains of an ancient Carian city and includes a host of Hellenic, Roman and Byzantine remains – particularly its impressive theatre.
Kaunos archaeological site in Turkey contains the remains of this ancient city which has witnessed the rise and fall of several empires, cultures and civilisations over almost 3,000 years of history. Though not as spectacular as many ancient cities in Turkey, it has the advantage of being quieter, tranquil and picturesque.
Founded around the 9th century BC, Kaunos was a Carian city and an important trading port which bordered Lycia and was culturally influenced by its neighbour. Later conquered by the Persian Empire, the city was also altered by the increasing influence of Hellenic culture in the region leading to many ancient Greek-era structures, the ruins of which can still be found in places within the site.
As with the rest of the locality, Kaunos was incorporated into the Roman Empire and later was part of the Byzantine territories. With the Muslim invasions and later the rise of the Ottoman Empire, Kaunos was re-fortified and walls were constructed on the Acropolis.
Ancient writers attested the Malarial nature of Kaunos and it was this, along with earthquakes and the gradual silting of its harbour, which eventually led to the city’s abandonment.
Today, the ruins at Kaunos include a well preserved theatre, which displays both Roman and Hellenistic features, a temple dedicated to Apollo, a Byzantine basilica and Roman baths as well as the spectacular rock tombs - known as the Kings' Tombs - which are situated just outside the archaeological site.
Just to the north-west of the main settlement are the 4th century BC city walls which stretch for 3km – in places they are very well preserved.
Excavations at the site are still continuing and may lead to further areas being opened to the public at a later date.
Contributed by Victoria Haughton
The abandoned town of Kayakoy bears witness to the 1920s population swap between Greece and Turkey. Today visitors can explore this deserted town, including its houses and churches.
The curious deserted town of Kayakoy in Turkey bears witness to an early 20th century upheaval that saw hundreds of thousands of people uprooted in a population swap between Greece and Turkey which followed the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922).
Abandoned and ignored for almost a hundred years, the site was saved from developers to now stand as an historic attraction which is beginning to draw visitors from across the globe.
Described by some as a ghost-town, this once-lively Greek settlement perched on a hill now consists of almost five hundred decaying houses along with the forlorn remains of two derelict churches, mostly dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
While the houses are run down and abandoned - with natural decay taking its toll on wooden doors, windows and upper coverings of buildings - the majority of the structures themselves are still intact, leaving an eerie atmosphere weaving through the ruins.
In more recent times, Kayakoy has risen to prominence due to its connection to the novel Bird Without Wings, by Louis de Bernières. The novel is set in the fictional town of Eskibahçe, which is based on Kayakoy.
Contributed by Victoria Haughton
Kaymaklı Underground City is a large subterranean city in central Turkey built by early Christians and part of a UNESCO site.
Kaymaklı Underground City is one of the most famous of the Cappadocia underground cities in the Nevsehir province of central Turkey. Built by early Christians to protect them from religious persecution, Kaymaklı Underground City is an elaborate labyrinth of tunnels and caves and is probably the widest of the underground cities.
Like all of these underground cities, the most impressive aspect of the Kaymaklı Underground City is the organised, structured and comprehensive nature of the complex. It had everything from living space, stables and communal kitchens to a church and a graveyard as well as being well fortified to protect its inhabitants. The Kaymaklı Underground City also has an inordinate number of storage rooms.
Kaymaklı Underground City is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is unclear when the city was actually constructed, but the earliest Christians were living in the area from the 4th century. Incredibly well-preserved and maintained, this is a fascinating site to visit and the tour takes around 2 hours.
Part of Alanya Castle, the Kizilkule or Red Tower was built in 1226 and stands 29 meters high.
One of the most impressive elements of Alanya Castle is the Kizilkule, or Red Tower. Commissioned in 1226 and standing 29 meters high, it served its purpose as a defensive measure to stop the harbour from sea-born attack.
Located in the tower is a museum displaying works of art from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. Many Turkish and Islamic works of are also housed at the museum, including marble, terracotta, mosaic and glass artefacts as well as coin collections dating back to Antiquity.
The oldest artefact dates to 625BC and is a stone inscription in the Phoenician language. There is also a bronze statue of Heracles, produced in the 2nd century BC.
In addition the Ethnography section of the museum exhibits hundreds of items ranging from tableware, jewellery and embroidery to manuscripts and writing tools. The Red Tower has five storeys and is 85 steps.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
The picturesque remains of the ancient city of Knidos are a popular tourist attraction, as much for the beautiful coastal views as for the archaic ruins.
The remains of the ancient Greek city of Knidos, near the modern Turkish town of Datça, are among the most picturesque historic attractions in the region. Perched upon a steep hilltop, looking out over its natural harbour, Knidos boasts stunning views alongside its ancient ruins.
Founded by Greek settlers, Knidos was an important cultural and political centre by the 5th century BC and, with its large natural harbours, the city was also an ancient trading hub. Throughout this period, Knidos was a member of the Dorian Hexapolis - a federation of six cities of Dorian Greek origin - along with Halicarnassus and Kos among others.
The city was famed for its association with Aphrodite and for its famous statue of the goddess, sculpted by the renowned classical sculptor Praxiteles of Athens. While this statue has not survived, a number of copies exist, one of which can be found in the Vatican Museums. At Knidos itself, the ornate marble pedestal that the Aphrodite statue stood upon can still be seen.
Along with the rest of the region, Knidos was later absorbed into the Roman world and the city survived into Byzantine times – as evidenced by the remains of a number of churches on the site.
During the initial excavations in the 19th century a number of impressive statues and artefacts were discovered among the ruins, many of these are now found in the British Museum including the famous Lion Statue and the Statue of Demeter.
Other ruins found at Knidos include temples to Apollo, Dionysus and Aphrodite, ancient theatres, the agora and the remains of Byzantine-era churches. The site also includes a large ancient necropolis spread out over a wide area, much of which has yet to be fully excavated.
Overall, it’s worth pointing out that the ruins of Knidos are not particularly well-preserved compared to other ancient cities in Turkey, and today most visitors come for the views as much as the history.
Contributed by Victoria Haughton
Laodikeia was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which is now represented by a set of ruins.
Laodikeia, also known as Laodicea, was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which is now represented by a set of interesting ancient ruins.
Said by some to have been founded by Antiochus II Theos of the Seleucid Kingdom in the third century BC, many of the buildings and monuments at the Laodikeia site date from the first century BC onwards. Laodikeia later became an important Roman city, continuing to be inhabited even after it was damaged by an earthquake in 60AD.
Among the ruins of Laodikeia are the remains of the ancient theatre, which would originally have held up to 20,000 spectators. A few of the other ruins which can still be seen include the stadium and gymnasium (both 79AD), a baths complex and a Temple of Zeus.
Lone Pine Cemetery is a Commonwealth graveyard for soldiers who died during the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I and also a battle site.
Lone Pine Cemetery in the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey is the final resting place of 1,167 Commonwealth troops, 504 unidentified, who fought in the Gallipoli Campaign, an eight month effort during World War I to remove the Ottoman Empire from the war.
Named after a single tree that grew there and stood throughout the conflict, Lone Pine Cemetery is located on the site of the Battle of Lone Pine. At the beginning of the conflict, in April 1915, Australian forces had briefly managed to take this strategically important location before Turkish forces recaptured it and held it for several months.
On 6 August 1915, Australian forces made a second attempt at taking Lone Pine. The attack was successful and by 10 August, they had captured the area. They would hold it until they were evacuated in December.
Lone Pine Cemetery is also the home of the Lone Pine Memorial.
The Lone Pine Memorial commemorates Anzac soldiers who died during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I.
The Lone Pine Memorial in Gallipoli in Turkey commemorates over 4,900 New Zealand and Australian soldiers who perished in the Anzac area and who have no known grave during the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I.
The Gallipoli Campaign involved troops from throughout the Commonwealth and from France. It was an eight month effort to open supply lines through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea through to Russia and to remove the Ottoman Empire from the war.
The Lone Pine Memorial is within the Lone Pine Cemetery and stands before the front lines of one of the battle sites of the Gallipoli Campaign.
The Mausoleum of Mausolus was one of the most impressive tombs of its time, but has since been entirely destroyed.
The Mausoleum of Mausolus, also called the Mausoleion, was once the magnificent tomb of the Caria ruler and eldest son of Hecatomnus, Mausolus.
Built between 353 and 350 BC at Halicarnassus, which is now modern day Bodrum in Turkey, the Mausoleum of Mausolus was such an impressive structure that the word “mausoleum” is derived from its occupant’s name and is now used to describe most large tombs. It was also considered one of Pliny’s Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Unfortunately, the Mausoleum of Mausolus was almost entirely destroyed by tomb robbers and earthquakes, leaving visitors today without any particular sense of its former grandeur.
The Mausoleum of Mausolus does contain some exhibits however, such a model of the mausoleum, but most of the structure itself is long gone. A trip to the Mausoleum of Mausolus usually accompanies one to Bodrum Castle, which houses the Museum of Underwater Archeology.
Miletus was an important ancient Greek then Roman city, which still has an impressive theatre, but relatively few other ruins.
Miletus was an important ancient Greek then Roman city, which still boasts an impressive ancient theatre among its ruins.
With a history thought to date back as far as the 16th, perhaps even the 17th, century BC, Miletus eventually became a thriving hub from the 8th to 7th centuries BC until suffering significant destruction during its capture by the Persians in the 5th century BC. It was rebuilt on a new site after this and once again became an important centre.
During Alexander the Great’s campaign against the Persian Empire, in 334 BC, the Macedonian conqueror undertook a short siege of the city before its capture. Another great leader, Julius Caesar, also visited this city when, upon his release after being kidnapped by pirates in 75 BC, he headed to Miletus to raise a fleet to pursue his former captors, whom he swiftly defeated and executed.
In its heyday, Miletus was a magnificent city, renowned for its great philosophers. The city’s success was due in large part to its port, which eventually silted up, contributing greatly to its decline. Sadly, today’s ruins of Miletus are barely a shadow of its former glory.
The 15,000-seater Roman theatre is definitely the star attraction. One fascinating aspect of this theatre, other than its excellent state of preservation are the inscriptions which are said to reserve seating for certain groups, including one for "Jews and G-d fearers". This is said by some to show Miletus to be a tolerant, multicultural society. Make sure you explore the covered walkways within the theatre, which are great fun to wander through.
Though the site has suffered greatly through the centuries, there are a handful of other highlights to be found at Miletus. These include the small remains of a colonnaded covered walkway, the Baths of Faustina and a reasonably well preserved temple to Apollo.
With a collection spanning around 10,000 years housed in two magnificent Ottoman buildings, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is a must-see for any visitor to Ankara.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations was the first museum to be established in Ankara in 1921, and over 90 years later it still stands at the heart of the city as a top tourist attraction. Located on the south side of Ankara Castle, artefacts are housed in the historical buildings of the old Ottoman Mahmut Paşa bazaar storage building and the Kurşunlu Han, a fifteenth-century inn for travelling caravans.
The bazaar has stood on this spot since it was built by Mahmut Paşa, one of the ministers of Mehmed II the Conqueror, the Sultan best known for conquering Constantinople and ending the Byzantine Empire. Unfortunately there are no inscriptions to date this construction exactly, but it is known to have been between 1464 and 1471. The impressive structure is made up of 10 domes covering a rectangular building which held over 100 shops; it is thought that much sought after Angora wool garments were traded here. Next to it, the Kurşunlu Han is believed to have been built by Mahmut Paşa in the same period and served as an inn for travellers. Its design, with a central courtyard and arcade surrounded by two-storey rooms, was typical of Ottoman period hans, which offered rest for trader and animal alike.
This historical setting is just one small aspect of the story that visitors to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations can explore. The museum is best known for its archaeological treasures exhibited in the old bazaar building – particularly its extensive collection of Hittie artefacts. However, it also spans a number of other periods which chart history through the Paleolithic era, the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian trading colonies, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq and Ottoman periods. And if this extensive collection isn’t enough to wear you out, visitors can also delve into the museum’s unique assortment of coins, with examples ranging from the first minted money to modern times.
With so much to see, it’s no wonder that the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations was elected as the first European Museum of the Year in 1997, and continues to be one of the most important museums in the world.
Contributed by Siobhan Coskeran
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is a site through which visitors can explore both the cultural and political history of Turkey.
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts hosts a rich collection of artistic artefacts that can cater for everyone from an interested amateur to a seasoned expert.
Wandering through the Ottoman Palace in which the museum is housed, visitors can see remarkable examples of Islamic calligraphy, tiles, rugs and one of the largest collections in the world of antique Turkish carpets and kilims in an array of styles. Various Turkish cultures, too, are brought to life through a number of displays recreating dwellings from a range of different time periods and regions – from a fully-furnished nomad's tent to a 19th-century Ottoman parlour.
The former palace also tells a story of its own. Only part of the original structure now remains, built by the Grand Vezir to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in 1524, but it is enough to provide a snapshot into a lavish Ottoman lifestyle. In fact, so lavish was the palace of the Grand Vezir, İbrahim Pasha, that it proved to be his undoing. Süleyman’s wife, Roxelana, worried that the splendour of İbrahim’s palace rivalled that of his sovereign. Also suspicious of the power that İbrahim held over her husband, Roxelana took drastic action. Denouncing İbrahim as a traitor, she plotted his demise and on 14th March 1536, after dining with the sultan in Topkapı Palace, İbrahim was strangled. The imperial government was then able to seize İbrahim’s palace and the wealth that had been so threatening.
Aside from its slightly murky past, the palace is an exquisite building, with stone walls bordering four internal courtyards. Perhaps Roxelana was right to be suspicious – a number of sources describe İbrahim Pasha’s palace as the largest of all of the Vizers’ palaces, and even more magnificent than the Sultan’s Topkapı palace.
Contributed by Siobhan Coskeran
Myra has one of the best-preserved collections of ancient ruins, and is a perfect place to experience an illustrious period of Greek and Roman history being brought back to life.
The ancient town of Myra in Lycia gives a unique insight into Turkey’s history and the many different civilisations which influenced the area.
Today a collection of mostly Roman ruins remain which give visitors the opportunity to envisage the bustling centre that is thought to have been established up to 2,500 years ago. Strolling through the Acropolis, the amphitheatre and the Roman baths, visitors can get a tangible feel for daily life in the ancient world.
According to Strabo, Myra was once a large city, making up one of the most influential parts of the Lycian League in the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. This League brought self-rule and semi-independence to Lycia under permission from Rome.
Among the most impressive structures of the ancient city are the two necropoli of Lycian rock-cut tombs carved into Myra’s vertical cliff faces. The most remarkable tomb is known as the ‘Lion’s Tomb’ or the ‘Painted Tomb’, which still has eleven life-size figures in relief on its wall. And these tombs are likely to have been even more extraordinary in the past; when the traveller Charles Fellows visited the site in 1840, all of the tombs on the cliff face were painted in the bright colours of yellow, red, and blue.
Myra’s history has also been marked by a number of notable visitors. In around 60 AD, Saint Paul stopped at the city’s port on his journey to Rome, where he was to face trial after having been arrested for inciting a riot in Jerusalem. In 131 AD, the Emperor Hadrian paid a visit to Myra and built a large granary at Andriace. This granary can still be seen today by driving along the D400 highway into Demre.
However, Myra is perhaps best known for its Byzantine-era Church of St Nicholas (often associated with Santa Claus), who was bishop of Myra in the 4th century AD. Placed on the outskirts of Demre, the church has been a popular site of pilgrimage since it was built in the 6th century and remains a fascinating place of historical and religious interest today. Such was the church’s popularity that it played a role in Myra becoming the leading city for religion and administration in Lycia. Unfortunately Myra’s notability wasn’t to last; in 808 AD Myra was besieged and captured by Abbasid Caliph Harun ar-Rashid, after which it fell into decline. In the 11th century, Myra was once again subjected to invasion, this time by the Seljuk Turks, at which time the relics of St Nicholas were also taken from the city.
The ancient features of the city thankfully survived these invasions, and now help to make Myra an unmissable destination for anyone with an interest in developments in the area from the Ancient Greek period right up to the Byzantine Empire.
Contributed by Siobhan Coskeran
Nemrut in Turkey is the site of the eminently impressive 1st century BC tomb of King Antiochus I Epiphanes.
Nemrut is the site of the eminently impressive first century BC mountain-top tomb of King Antiochus I Epiphanes.
Also known as or Nemrud or as Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dağı in Turkish), the site is famed for its 10-metre-high statues depicting various heads, both mythical and real in nature.
Antiochus may have been descended from Darius the Great and Alexander the Great, but his own Commagene kingdom is far less well known. Indeed, the grandeur of Nemrut has proved such a draw over the years that this UNESCO-listed site is often credited with putting his realm on the map.
Today, Nemrut is usually visited at sunrise or sunset, the times considered best for admiring its still-life population.
Olympos is truly a stunning destination, a playground for pirates; these ancient ruins tell a story that blurs the line between myth and reality.
Nestled amongst undisturbed white beaches and plush, tropical forest terrain, the trek to discover the ruins of ancient Olympos is an adventure in itself. Vibrant with wildlife and greenery the site, originally attracting exclusively backpackers, is now popular with couples and families alike.
Dating back far into antiquity, Olympos had risen to prominence by at least the second century BC, when it formed part of the important Lycian league. Later used as a base by powerful groups of pirates, Rome was forced to take the city in order to counter this threat. Olympos remained an active settlement throughout the Roman period but gradually declined thereafter and was abandoned entirely by the 15th century AD.
The ruins themselves are quite large and much of the original Lycian city remains. However, most of the ruins are Roman and there are remnants of a theatre, harbour, temple and roman baths. A particular highlight that attracts visitors is the huge stone entrance gate which was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius c172AD during his campaigns in Germania and the Danube. Accents of Byzantine artwork also complete the visual journey through the site’s history.
One of the most important attractions of a trip to Olympos is to observe the natural gas-fuelled dancing flames that burn eternally on the nearby mountainside - Çakaltepe. Tales have attributed the phenomena to the myth of the Chimera and Homer’s Iliad depicts the creature as a fearsome beast of ‘race divine, made up of lion, dragon and of goat, her jaws emitting dreadful flames.’ Whether you believe the myth or not, the flames are a spectacular sight and well worth the visit.
Furthermore, Olympos was also the famed home of the renowned pirate Zeniketos who controlled much of the Lycian coastline. Its location meant the town became an important hub for piracy during the Graeco-Roman period and visitors can experience this through a visit into the caves where Captain Eudomus’ sarcophagus awaits their discovery.
Olympos is a site of both natural and historical beauty. Journey back through time while en-route to take in some water sports and activities. If you time your visit right you may even see some native Caretta turtles at the nearby Çıralı beach; there’s something for everyone - eco-lovers and history buffs alike.
Contributed by Rebecca Lewis
Ozkonak is one of many examples of an underground city in Cappadocia which was carved into the mountains in ancient times. It is smaller but far quieter than many of the other underground cities in the region.
Özkonak Underground City in Cappadocia is one of several ancient settlements which were carved out of solid rock in late antiquity to provide shelter and defence in times of trouble. As much a city carved into the hillside as a city dug underground, Özkonak is smaller but quieter than many of the other underground cities in the region.
Underground cities like that found at Özkonak were scattered all over Byzantine Cappadocia and formed an important aspect of defence for a civilisation that was prey to raids from nearby enemies. Although the cities were undoubtedly utilised by the people of Byzantium, there is great debate as to whether the sites actually originate further back into antiquity, with some suggestions dating the towns to as far back as the Bronze age. The extent of Byzantine excavation and expansion has made ascertaining the dates of the original structures difficult and certainly the Özkonak visited by tourists today can tell us more about the Byzantine culture than any other.
The city itself was built across many levels and these would have housed both families and livestock. Carved into the rock itself, the primary tunnels would have also been used to trap intruders. Moreover, thick millstones propped up from behind made accessing certain tunnels difficult and the city’s residents could direct enemies to their death by leading them down certain more treacherous routes. Indeed, one fascinating aspect of the remains at Özkonak are the narrow holes carved into the ceiling of certain chambers and passageways. These were used not only for ventilation and communication but could also have been utilised by the occupants on upper floors to attack and pour hot oil onto any attackers in the rooms below.
This particular site also boasts a well, a winery and a ventilation shaft – all essential features for a civilisation that could be forced to flee into the mountains for long periods.
Ozkonak was only discovered in 1972, so many of the city’s ten floors are still undergoing cleaning and preservation but there is more than enough open for the eager tourist to explore. A good tip is to visit the website to take the virtual tour and see first-hand what exciting wonders await!
Contributed by Rebecca Lewis
Patara not only has a rich and varied history, the former Lycian port town is situated in a beautiful corner of Turkey, alongside a 20km long white sand beach.
Located on the Mediterranean coast, and boasting a beautiful white sand beach, the ruins of ancient Patara nestle behind the sand dunes and combine that truly idyllic mix of sun, sea and wonderful history.
This ancient city was originally a Lycian settlement and then served as an important naval base during the wars of Alexander the Great’s successors. It later became part of the Lycian League and then a thriving port within the Roman Empire. In fact, Patara was originally considered as simply an extension of next door Xanthos and, despite its size, Patara was only the city’s second port.
However, over the centuries the harbour of Patara eventually silted up – sometime during the Middle Ages. Until recently the site had been completely abandoned, before excavations were begun in 1998 led by Akdeniz University Antalya.
Patara’s most famous son is perhaps St. Nicholas, born in the city in the 4th century AD. Better known today as Santa Claus, St. Nicholas was known to contemporaries as the Bishop of Myra. Patara was also notable in antiquity as the home of the temple and oracle of Apollo. The Greek god of the sun was said to spend the winter in the nearby Xanthos valley. Although no evidence of such a temple has been found in Patara’s ruins, legend attributes it as a rival to the oracle at Delphi.
Part of the Empire for hundreds of years, Patara also played a role in Roman history. One anecdote recalls the capture of the city by Marcus Junius Brutus – he of stabbing Caesar fame. The Roman general and politician threatened to massacre the Patarans if they did not surrender to his forces. The Patarans initially refused, but in a piece of diplomatic manoeuvring, Brutus released all the hostages he had taken from his recent conquest of Xanthos. As the Xanthians and Patarans had such close ties, this act of clemency endeared Brutus to the Pataran population, who promptly opened their gates to him.
Today, while the ruins of Patara are a little jumbled and have not survived in the best state of preservation, the location of the city itself is particularly spectacular. Flanking the white sand beach, the ruins are partially covered by tall grass, bushes and sand; and the overall effect is simply beautiful. While there are certainly more intact Roman ruins elsewhere, the simple beauty of Patara is hard to beat.
In terms of what there is to explore at Patara, one of the best elements is a 1st century AD Roman triumphal arch, which once marked the entrance to the city, and the colonnaded main street, which is also worth a look.
Nearby, under the shadow of the palm trees, lie the Roman baths as well as a Byzantine basilica. There’s also a second set of baths at Patara, which were built by the Emperor Vespasian. Located alongside Vespasian’s baths are the ruins of a reasonably well preserved theatre, erected in honour of Antoninus Pius, which is marked by a Greek inscription, still visible today. This is perhaps the most beautiful of Patara’s ruins.
To the west of the basilica, one can see the best preserved sections of the city walls and a picturesque temple dating from the second century, which is undergoing restoration work. . Visitors to the site can also follow a path up the hill to the city’s acropolis and view the remains of Hadrian’s granary.
Contributed by Chris Reid
Pergamum was a thriving ancient Greek then Roman city, home to famous sites such as its Asclepion, theatre and library.
Pergamum, which is also spelt Pergamon, is a famous archaeological site in Turkey which developed under the Attalid dynasty following the death of Alexander the Great.
When Alexander died, one of his generals, Lysimachus, took control of the region. When Lysimachus died in 281BC, Pergamum and the surrounding area fell into the hands of the man he had charged with protecting it, Philetarus.
Through a series of successions, Pergamum fell under the rule of Attalus I and then his son Eumenes II. Both of these kings were part of the Hellenistic Attalid dynasty and it was during this time that the majority of Pergamum’s most celebrated buildings and monuments were constructed, especially under Eumenes II (197-159 BC). Pergamum thrived, becoming the centre of the Pergamese kingdom.
In 129 BC, Pergamum became part of the Roman Empire, accounting for the presence of Roman artwork and temples, and later became part of the Byzantine Empire. It remained an important city (later a metropolis) throughout both of these periods. Indeed, Julius Caesar himself once visited the city and it was here that Caesar imprisoned and executed the very pirates who had kidnapped him in 75 BC, after he had hunted them down following his release.
The historic ruins of Pergamum are split into three main areas. In the Acropolis, one can find sites such as its library, gymnasium, very steep theatre and arsenal as well as the Roman Temple of Trajan. This was also once the site of the incredible Altar of Pergamum, now controversially located in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Now only its base remains at Pergamum.
The other two areas of Pergamum are its lower city and its stunning health centre or Asclepion, where a variety of treatments were offered, such as mud baths.
Pergamum has a small archaeological museum, with some of the finds excavated from the site.
Perge is a Turkish archaeological site containing mostly Roman ruins, but has a history dating back to Ancient Greece.
The ancient city of Perge near Antalya in Turkey is now an impressive archaeological site containing a wealth of ancient ruins, mostly dating back to the Roman period, though the city itself has a history dating back well into antiquity.
The current city is said to have been founded in circa 1000BC, though settlements may well have existed here earlier; in fact Perge was mentioned in a Hittite tablet discovered in 1986. Though the early history of Perge is more obscure, it is known that the site was captured by the Persians and then later by the armies of Alexander the Great in around 333BC. It then became part of the Seleucid Kingdom.
The Romans arrived in Perge in approximately 188BC and built most of the sites seen there now, including its once 15,000-seat theatre, the agora, gymnasium, baths and necropolis. During its time under Rome's control the city went on to become an important Roman city and later Byzantine centre. During this period Perge underwent what would probably be its golden age, with a wealth of new public and private buildings and monuments being constructed. Indeed, in the later Roman period Perge became an important Christian city and it is believed that Saint Paul spent time here. During and after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the city was subjected to a number of attacks and was abandoned during this time.
Today, though Perge may not be as well-known as many ancient Roman cities, there is plenty to see and it’s not far from the popular resort of Antalya. Among the ruins visitors can explore the wonderful colonnaded main streets, the ancient theatre and the 12,000 seat Roman stadium. Also found at the site are the remains of Roman baths, the city’s imposing gates and a number of other ruins, including the impressive 2nd century AD Nymphaeum.
In addition, many of the statues and other finds excavated at Perge can now be found in the Antalya Museum.
Phaselis is an exquisite ancient site, where the ruins lie scattered amongst pine trees and the beautiful Mediterranean coast.
The ruins of Phaselis lie to the west of Antalya on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, boasting a beautiful contrast of a mountain backdrop and an attractive white sand beach. The site is distinguishable by three natural harbours, and is located in the Olympos National Park.
Phaselis is said to have been founded around 700BC by settlers from Rhodes. Legend states that these newcomers bought the land from the locals by answering a demand for dried fish. Whatever the truth of the tale, the city's location lent itself to trading - Phaselis had trade links stretching as far as Egypt, and the inhabitants even accepted Persian rule in order to gain additional lucrative trading posts. The city's great wealth has been attributed to the pragmatism of its many able merchants, but it also had a reputation as a greedy and corrupt city. As a means of raising funds, Phaselis offered citizenship for 100 drachmas, which had the result of attracting many disagreeable characters from across Asia.
Phaselis changed hands numerous times during its history. The city was ruled by Persia on several occasions, being ‘liberated’ by Athens in 469BC, albeit against the wishes of its inhabitants who enjoyed the benefits of Persian rule. After returning to the hands of the Persians, Phaselis was then conquered by Alexander the Great in 334BC. In the second century BC Phaselis became a member of the Lycian League, before falling victim to attacks from pirates, notably Zeniketes who was eventually killed by the Romans in 78AD. By then however, Phaselis had been reduced to a shadow of its former glory.
The city recovered under Roman rule and on into the Byzantine period and enjoyed several hundred years of stability and growth. In 129 AD the Emperor Hadrian visited the city and several monuments were erected in his name. In the seventh and eighth centuries AD, like much of the region Phaselis suffered due to the turmoil of the period and repeated attacks from the Arab armies. The struggling settlement was eventually abandoned in the thirteenth century AD after earthquakes destroyed the area.
Today, the beautiful scenery and extensive pine forests are at risk of overshadowing what is left of the ruins. One of the best preserved ancient structures on the site is the Roman aqueduct, which runs alongside the bay by the north port. Another highlight is the main avenue leading into the heart of the city, a wonderful ten metre wide road stretching for some distance.
There are also a number of beautiful mosaics which can be seen in the Roman public baths, as well as a basilica dating from the Byzantine period in the sixth century AD. At the end of the main avenue, the main plaza still retains some of its original marble covering. There is little remaining of the city's main port, which one enters through the remains of Hadrian's gate, although there is a beautiful beach there. Ships weighing up to 100 tonnes would once have docked in this harbour, a stop on the important trade route running between Greece and Syria. There is also a second century AD theatre, which would have accommodated up to 1,500 people.
A small museum can be found within the Phaselis Archaeological Site and showcases a number of artefacts found among the ruins. The site is open to visitors throughout the year.
Contributed by Chris Reid
Priene is a quiet, picturesque ancient Greek city in Turkey which boasts some amazing historical remains without the crowds of the nearby sites.
Priene is an ancient Greek city which lies between the popular holiday resorts of Kusadasi and Bodrum.
It is one of many important ancient sites in the area and is close to both Miletus and Ephesus. However, though smaller than other nearby historical attractions, the real charm of Priene lies in its quiet appeal and off-the-beaten-track atmosphere.
The original origins of Priene are unknown, though legend dates the city’s founding to Athenian settlers in the 11th or 10th centuries BC.
Although Priene itself may have never been a major power, it’s location in the heart of a region that constantly witnessed the clashes of empires ensured it saw an almost continual flow of conquerors, occupiers and ‘liberators’.
Originally an ally of Athens, Priene was conquered by the Lydians and then by the Persians in the 6th century BC. The city fought in the ill-feted Ionian Revolt against Darius (which would eventually lead to the Persian invasion of Greece and their defeat at Marathon) and, to punish the rebels, Priene was devastated. This destruction prompted one of many re-locations of the city that took place over the centuries, and the new Priene was founded in around 350 BC.
Built on a steep hillside to an innovative grid-pattern design, Priene was a more ordered construct than many contemporary ancient settlements. However, this new incarnation of Priene did not have to wait long for the next regime change, with Alexander the Great conquering the region in around 334 BC. In fact, Alexander himself dedicated a temple to Athena, the remains of which can still be seen at Priene today. A stone inscription recording this event can be found in the British Museum.
Further rule by the Seleucids and Pergamon followed, before Priene was incorporated into the Roman Republic and Empire. The city suffered during the invasions of King Mithridates of Pontus in the first century BC but recovered to prosper in the early Imperial period under the Emperor Augustus.
In the Byzantine era Priene became the seat of the local Bishop and an important local Christian centre. However, after the Muslim conquest, Priene began a gradual decline which, combined with the slow silting of the coast and harbour led to the eventual abandonment of the city.
Today the ruins of Priene are located next to the modern village of Güllübahçe near the town of Söke. The site remains relatively free of tourists, though several tour companies offer trips from local resorts.
Visitors to Priene can view the Temple of Athena, the ancient theatre and the well preserved council chamber (Bouleuterion). Also found at the site are the remains of Roman baths and gymnasiums, the ruins of an ancient Synagogue and the ‘House of Alexander the Great’ - where it is reported that the young conqueror stayed during his siege of Miletus in 334 BC.
As well as these historic sites, visitors to Priene can simply wander the side streets and houses of this Hellenistic city to explore the ruins in peace and quiet.
Quinn’s Post Cemetery is a World War I Commonwealth cemetery in the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
Quinn’s Post Cemetery is a Commonwealth World War I graveyard for those killed during the Gallipoli Campaign. Quinn’s Post was a vital strategic point for the New Zealand and Australian forces which saw fierce fighting throughout the eight month Gallipoli Campaign.
Quinn’s Post was named after Major Hugh Quinn of the 15th Battalion, who died there on 29 May 1915 in the course of one such attack. Quinn himself is actually buried at Shrapnel Valley Cemetery.
Today, the Quinn’s Post Cemetery is managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and houses 473 graves, most of which are Australian and 294 of which are unidentified. Several memorials at Quinn’s Post Cemetery commemorate those missing soldiers or those with unknown graves.
The Rumeli Fortress was built by Mehmet the Conqueror as part of his campaign to capture Constantinople.
The Rumeli Fortress (Rumelihisari) was built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1452. At the time, Mehmet was preparing to lay siege to Constantinople, trying to conquer it from the Byzantines. He built the Rumeli Fortress as a way of blocking the city’s supplies.
Over 3,000 people toiled to create the Rumeli Fortress and it was completed in the staggeringly short period of four months. It was located along the Bosporus, across from the Anadolu Hisari, a fort built by Mehmet’s great grandfather and on the site of a former Roman fortification.
Mehmet was finally successful in capturing Constantinople in May 1453 and is known as Mehmet the Conqueror.
Today, the historic Rumeli Fortress and museum is open to the public, who can enjoy great views from its towers.
Sagalassos is an active archaeological site in southwest Turkey which contains mostly Hellenistic and Ancient Roman ruins, some of them very well preserved.
Sagalassos is an active archaeological site in southwest Turkey which contains mostly Hellenistic and Ancient Roman historic ruins, some of them very well preserved.
In particular, the Fountain of Antoninler at Sagalassos still has its pretty facade. There are also the remains of a 9,000 seat theatre, a council hall (bouleuterion), a library, rock carved tombs, temples and baths.
Part of the Phrygian kingdom from the ninth century BC and then part of the Lydian kingdom, Sagalassos became more urbanized under the Persian Empire from 546BC, becoming a focal point in the region of Pisidia over the course of two centuries.
In 334BC, Alexander the Great arrived in the region and attacked Sagalassos, eventually succeeding in destroying it, although its citizens did put up a good fight. Over the coming centuries, the Pisidia region - including Sagalassos - changed hands several times, finally coming under Roman rule in 129BC.
The prosperity of Sagalassos fluctuated over the end of the first century BC, but slowly it became more successful, particularly because of the fertility of its land and the production of a material called Sagalassos Red Slip Ware, a type of tableware. Much of this affluence translated into the construction of buildings and monuments, especially during the second century AD, under Hadrian, and up to the third century.
Sagalassos began to fall into decline in around 500AD and this was accelerated by a devastating earthquake in 590AD. Although abandoned for a long period of time, the area was further inhabited from the tenth century AD.
Impressive ruins and a fascinating museum, Side hosts a wealth of Graeco-Roman remains and the impressive amphitheatre is a particular highlight.
The ruins of ancient Side are among of the most spectacular that remain in the modern world and showcase hundreds of years of Greek life in the Roman Empire.
Its coastal location made Side a desirable trading port and, despite the prominence of piracy, Greek settlers flocked to the city around the sixth century BC. Unusually, this resulted in the preservation, rather than destruction, of the native culture and Side became a cultural melting pot - indeed, many original inscriptions found at the site today are written in the indecipherable native language.
Hellenic influence in Side grew, however, and it was under Roman rule that the city really flourished - even gaining repute as the best slave market of the period. Many of the Roman ruins still remain, and the city has become a popular destination for eager explorers interested in discovering the rich history of the ancient Mediterranean.
Today, this ancient metropolis showcases the skill with which the Romans were able to seamlessly combine elements of Greek culture, which they so admired, with their own recognisable Roman stamp of identity. Certainly, when Titus Flamininus declared the ‘freedom of the Greeks’ in 196BC he would not have imagined that the two cultures would have merged so comprehensibly centuries later.
Reflecting this combined cultural legacy, and ranking among the most prominent sites at Side is the 2nd century AD ancient theatre. A unique example of fusion design, it was born out of this combination of Hellenic plans and Roman construction. Moreover, the theatre’s decoration dates to the period of the Antonine Emperors and the exterior columns tell the story of Dionysus (or Bacchus in Roman), the Greek God of wine and patron of the theatre.
Among Side’s other fascinating remains are the temples to Apollo and Athena, which are picturesquely perched at the very tip of Side’s harbour. The sight of these ancient columns set against the picture-perfect Mediterranean sea makes for an ideal sightseeing spot.
If that isn’t enough, the archaeological site at Side also features the remnants of the colonnaded main street, Roman baths, a nymphaeum and a Hellenic gate that decorates the exterior walls. The nearby museum is an ancient site in itself, being housed within a baths complex dating back to the second century AD, and contains many of the finds discovered during excavations of the ruins in the mid-twentieth century.
With ancient ruins dotted among the thriving modern city, Side truly combines a hands-on and hands-off approach to understanding the site’s jaw-dropping history and is well worth a visit to those seeking ancient exploration.
Contributed by Rebecca Lewis
The ruins of Simena are spread along beautiful beaches and submerged under crystal clear waters. Enjoy spectacular views from the crusader castle or explore an authentic Lycian Necropolis.
The remains of ancient Simena, now modern Kaleköy in the Kekova region, form one of the most impressive historical places in Turkey. The city’s striking crusader castle combines with a wealth of partly submerged ancient ruins and the beautiful Mediterranean waters to produce a truly inspiring place to explore.
Indeed, it comes as no surprise that Simena is an environmentally protected site; this unspoilt harbour town is surrounded by blue skies, white sand and a wealth of archaeological wonder. The surviving ancient ruins date to as far back as the 4th Century BC but most of the sites to have survived are from the Roman and Byzantine periods.
Although a member of the Lycian League, Simena’s coastal location afforded it a degree of independence from Lycian affairs, instead Simena was a small port town for traders of the wider Mediterranean. Certainly pirates saw promise in the treasures of Simena and the problem of piracy is prominent throughout the town’s history. The coastline was militarised to deal with the threat and Simena boasts the remnants of a crusader castle, erected by the Knights of Rhodes (an order of the Knights Hospitaller) atop earlier fortifications.
Today this historic castle is probably the most renowned of Simena’s sights and tourists can visit the castle which also possesses its own small ancient theatre among other remains. The well preserved ruins also offer great views of the surrounding countryside and the idyllic coastline.
While many of the ruins were submerged when Simena was prey to earthquakes in the 2nd century AD, many points of historical note still remain. It is evident, for example, that Roman Baths c79AD were dedicated to the Flavian Emperor Titus during his short reign by the townsfolk of Simena, and inscriptions that decorate the ruins are ready to be deciphered by the eager Latin historian.
If you’re brave enough, Simena is also home to a Lycian necropolis or burial ground. The sarcophagi are large structures which can be accessed on foot; many of them still remain scattered along the nearby hill side. A Byzantine wall also surrounds the village, while the remnants of a Temple to Poseidon can be discovered nearby.
However, one of the most fascinating aspects of site are the numerous remains which are now underwater. Visitors can see Lycian tombs protruding from the coastal waters along with half-submerged ancient houses. In fact, a small but thriving boat-tours industry has now established itself to serve the needs of visiting tourists – though more challenging canoeing tours are also available in the village while renting a yacht is another option for tourists looking to get the most out of their visit to this spectacular site.
Today, Simena provides a scenic backdrop for visitors that travel year round by both land and sea to experience the awe inspiring history of the city; what was once a small fishing village is now an idyllic coastal treasure trove for the tourist and the historian alike.
Contributed by Rebecca Lewis
St Savior in Chora is an eleventh century church turned mosque and, more recently, a museum known as Kariye Muzesi.
St Savior in Chora (Kariye Camii) is an eleventh century church turned mosque and, more recently, a museum known as Kariye Muzesi (Chora Museum).
Originally built within a Christian complex outside the boundary of Constantinople’s walls, St Savior in Chora derived its name from its countryside setting, "in chora" meaning "rural". However, the building of St Savior in Chora we see today is a newer incarnation, having been built in the eleventh century and turned into a mosque in the sixteenth century.
Today, a highlight of visiting St Savior in Chora is its incredible set of Byzantine mosaics dating to the fourteenth century, when the church underwent redecoration. Hidden by plaster during its time as a mosque, these works now remain beautifully preserved.
A 13th century monastery nestled into the cliff-face of the Zigana Mountains, this picturesque Byzantine monastery is located in a scenic, mountainous setting.
Perched on the edge of a sheer cliff-face 300 meters high in the heart of beautiful Altindere National Park, stands Sumela Monastery, a picturesque Byzantine monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
According to tradition the monastery was founded by Barnabas and Sophranius, two Athenian priests who visited the region during the reign of Theodosius I. Legend has it that the icon of the Virgin Mary, believed to have been the work of Saint Luke, was carried to the Zigana Mountains of Trabzon by angels, only to be discovered by Barnabas and Sophranius on their journey from Athens to the region. It is this icon of the Virgin Mary, arguable depicted in the style of a Black Madonna, which makes Sumela Monastery such a prized possession for the people of Trabzon and the Black Sea region.
While the ancient structures which may have stood on the site have not survived, the monastery which can be seen today is believed to have been founded in the 13th century AD, and further enlarged by Trebizond Emperor Alexios III sometime between 1349 and 1390. During the 1700s many parts of the monastery were expanded and renovated, with the addition of frescoes and a silver frame surrounding the icon.
In the 19th century new structures and buildings were added, including guest accommodation, and it became a popular destination for European writers. The monastery was finally closed in 1923 after the Turkish War of Independence following World War One, with a fire in 1930 destroying all wooden parts of the structure. Following the fire there was severe looting and the majority of the works of art are now in various museums around the world.
Whilst much of the artwork and frescoes have deteriorated beyond recognition, there are examples of Turkish artwork on exhibition in the courtyard and surrounding buildings, including examples of cupboards, fireplaces and other furniture. Manuscripts, books and documents found at the monastery have since been catalogued and are now on display at the Ankara Museum and the Ayasofya museum in Istanbul. Valuable items such as plates and crosses from the monastery are on display at the Museum of Byzantine Works in Athens, and the Icon, ‘Our Lady of the Roses’ is on display in the National Gallery in Dublin.
Today the monastery is reached via an incredibly narrow, steep path and staircase through the forest, initially chosen for defensive purposes. No trace remains of the large, ten-arched aqueduct that used to provide water to the monastery, instead all that remains is ruins. The frescoes on the inner and outer walls of the church are recent, with earlier works believed to be underneath these newer additions. This practice of re-painting older murals with newer frescoes is most obvious in the church carved into the rock of the inner courtyard, where inscriptions date back to 1710. It is also believed that frescoes from the reign of Alexios, including those of his sons, were also found on these walls, but no evidence exists today.
Recently the monastery has been granted restoration work, funded by the Turkish government, and there has been an influx of tourists and pilgrimages from Greece and Russia.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
Nestled on the slopes of the Güllük Mountain the majestic ruins of the ancient city of Termessos are surrounded by outstanding natural beauty.
Located high in the mountains at Güllük National Park, the picturesque city of Termessos is perhaps one of the best preserved Roman/Hellenistic ruins in Turkey.
Founded by the Solyms, an ancient Anataolian community, the early history of the inhabitants of this city is relatively obscure, however it is known that the city successfully defended itself against Alexander the Great in c333 BC. The city later became an ally of Rome and was effectively part of the Roman Empire.
In addition to its natural defences the city of Termessos boasted an impressive gate, built in 130AD in honour of the Roman emperor Hadrian. As the city’s influence declined after the third century AD the three-arched opening to the gate was used less and less frequently, resulting in a perfectly preserved architectural monument, complete with reliefs and engravings that are visible today.
The theatre at Termessos is one of the most significant attractions at the National Park. With a capacity of 4,200 it suggests that the population at any one time was small, much smaller than the ancient theatres of neighbouring cities (for example the theatre at Perge held at least 12,000). The Gymnasium and cemeteries are also well worth a visit, the latter offering a diverse and richly decorated set of tombs.
Other ruins at Termessos include a large temple to Zeus Solymeus, which was originally decorated with ornate scenes of gods and monsters of which a few remains can still be seen. In addition there is a smaller temple, although it is not known what gods were worshipped here. Inscriptions on the northern stoa date to the first century AD and would have surrounded the central open space, originally used for markets and other public activities.
Today the site has fallen victim to its surroundings. The natural defences that were so essential in protecting the city from Alexander the Great have proved too effective and many of the ruins are now hidden beneath dense foliage; the “Royal Road” or “King’s Road” is almost impossible to make out due to the dense foliage that makes Güllük National Park such an exceptional natural wonder.
At an altitude of over 1,000m the ruins of Termessos are only accessible by a steep path, but one that winds its way up the Güllük mountainside, offering vistas of the National Park. Once at the site, many of the ruins require further trekking and it takes some time to explore it all; it’s therefore advisable to bring a lot of water. The National Park itself offers an ecosystem, home to many endangered species including the Golden Eagle. As such, it has been on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage since 2000.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
The Basilica Cistern is an underground wonder and one of Istanbul’s best Byzantine sites.
The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Saray) is a subterranean wonder and one of the greatest - and certainly the biggest - of Istanbul’s surviving Byzantine sites. With its imposing columns, grand scale and mysterious ambience, this subterranean site seems like a flooded palace, but it is in fact a former water storage chamber.
Built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in around 532AD, the Basilica Cistern measures approximately 453 feet by 212 feet and would have stored around 80,000 cubic metres of water at a time to supply the palace as well as the city of Byzantium. At the time, it was located underneath the square known as the Stoa Basilica, hence its name.
Today, visitors can explore the Basilica Cistern, treading its raised platforms to view its 336 beautiful marble columns, enjoy its vaulted ceilings and experience its eerie nature complete with dripping water. Amongst the highlights at the Basilica Cistern are two mysterious columns depicting the head of the mythological figure Medusa. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
The Blue Mosque was the ambitious creation of a young sultan and would become one of Istanbul’s most iconic sites.
The Blue Mosque was the ambitious creation of a young sultan and would become one of Istanbul’s most iconic sites. Begun in 1606, the Blue Mosque is actually called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) after the ruler who commissioned it, Sultan Ahmet I.
Then not yet twenty years of age, Ahmet I was determined to build a mosque to rival the Hagia Sofia. He heavily involved himself in the construction of the Blue Mosque, to the extent that he actually executed the first architect on the job and is even said to have participated in the build itself.
When it was finally completed in 1616, the Blue Mosque was indeed a worthy neighbour of the Hagia Sofia. With its hierarchy of increasingly large domes, this vast complex helped define the city’s skyline and, with its six minarets, it caused an immediate stir - not least because the only other mosque with this number at the time was the Kaaba in Mecca.
The interior of the Blue Mosque is just as grand and ornate. Furthermore, a journey into the interior of the Blue Mosque reveals the reason behind its alternate name - the swathes of blue tiles which adorn its walls.
Ahmet I would live to see his grand design come to be, but only just. He died just a year after the Blue Mosque was opened and is now buried nearby with his family. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
The Canakkale Martyrs Memorial commemorates the Turkish soldiers who died in the Gallipoli Campaign.
The Canakkale Martyrs Memorial, also known as Şehitler Abidesi, is a Turkish monument to the 253,000 Turkish soldiers who died in the Gallipoli Campaign.
This campaign, known in Turkey as the Canakkale Wars, took place in Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula. It was launched on 25 April 1915 by the Commonwealth and the French in order to remove the Ottoman Empire from the First World War and clear a supply route to Russia. It was also hoped that it would end the stalemate on the Western Front.
The campaign failed and Allied troops were evacuated from Gallipoli. The Canakkale Martyrs Memorial is a large four columned structured, each rising up 41.7 metres and with a Turkish flag on the underside of its square roof.
The Florence Nightingale Museum in Turkey gives a glimpse into the work and hospital of the Lady of the Lamp.
The Florence Nightingale Museum in Üsküdar in Istanbul is located in the Selimiye Barracks, the Turkish army barracks which served as a British military base and hospital from 1854 to 1856, during the Crimean War.
It was at the Selimiye Barracks, then known as the Scutari Barracks, that the English nurse Florence Nightingale achieved fame as a pioneer of the medical profession and earned her nickname as the “Lady of the Lamp”.
At its peak, the Selimiye Barracks had 5,000 patients. Nightingale discerned that the dire conditions at the hospital were responsible for a great number of them dying needlessly and successfully petitioned for vast improvements.
Whilst small, the Florence Nightingale Museum does give an insight into the woman who transformed the living conditions and mortality rates of Crimean War soldiers. Visitors to the Florence Nightingale Museum can see her original desk in the place where she worked together with some letters and equipment. It is worth noting however that the lamp on the desk is not proven to be the one she famously used on her night rounds.
Selimiye Barracks still operates as a military base. As such, the tour is short and the Florence Nightingale section is restricted to one tower. Having said this, one can also see a small exhibit about the Turkish army and the tour is offered in English. The military backdrop also means that security is tight (see entry details) and can be difficult to arrange.
The Helles Memorial commemorates Commonwealth and French casualties from the Gallipoli Campaign.
The Helles Memorial in Cape Helles in Turkey is a vast obelisk monument commemorating the tens of thousands of those who died in the Gallipoli Campaign, particularly those with no known grave.
The Gallipoli Campaign, brainchild of Winston Churchill, was an effort by the Commonwealth and the French during the First World War aimed at removing the Ottoman Empire from the conflict.
Taking place in the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli, this campaign raged from 25 April 1915 to 6 January 1916 and was also intended to open a route by which to provide supplies to Russia and help end the stalemate which existed in the Western Front.
The Gallipoli Campaign failed to remove Turkey from the war and Allied soldiers were eventually evacuated from the region.
Cape Helles in the south was a main landing area for the Commonwealth and French forces. Over 21,000 names are listed on the Helles Memorial, including British and Indian troops as well as Australian soldiers from the 2nd Brigade AIF soldiers who fought in the Second Battle of Krithia on 8 May 1915.
The Hill 60 New Zealand Memorial in Turkey commemorates the missing New Zealand soldiers who fought in the Battle of Hill 60 in 1915.
The Hill 60 New Zealand Memorial in the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey is a monument to the New Zealand soldiers who died in the Battle of Hill 60 and who have no known grave.
The Battle of Hill 60 was a successful attack by Commonwealth forces to capture this hill from Turkish forces in August 1915. It was one of the battles of the Commonwealth and French Gallipoli Campaign aimed at removing Turkey from World War I.
The Hill 60 New Zealand Memorial is one of four New Zealand memorials at the Commonwealth Hill 60 Cemetery.
Topkapı Palace is a fifteenth century former residence of the Ottoman Sultans and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Topkapı Palace (Topkapi Sarayi) was the seat and residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
Construction of Topkapı Palace began in 1459 under the orders of Sultan Mehmed II following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Built in a traditional Ottoman style, Topkapi Palace measured a staggering 700,000 metres squared in volume upon its construction, made up of a series of courtyards, the main palace and several ancillary buildings. The Palace was a focal point of Istanbul’s social and political life and once housed over four thousand people as well as a hospital, mosques and a mint.
Due to a series of fires and earthquakes, Topkapi Palace has undergone several reconstructions and renovations, but its historical origins are still visible throughout. It remained the court of Ottoman Sultans until 1853, when Sultan Abdül Mecid I moved it to Dolmabahçe Palace and it finally became a museum in 1924, which it has remained since.
Today, it is a popular tourist destination, with visitors flocking to see its Ottoman architecture, courtyards and Muslim and Christian relics, even including the belongings of the Prophet Mohammed. The Harem is also quite popular, but costs extra. Audio tours are available. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
Troy is a world-renowned archaeological site, inhabited since the 4th millennium BC and believed to the have been the location of the famous Trojan War.
Troy or “Truva” is one of the most famous and historically significant sites in the world. Located in modern day Turkey, the site marks the meeting place of Anatolia, the Aegean and the Balkans, making it a vitally important source of information about the historic relationships between these regions.
Imbued with several millennia of history and the subject of legend, Troy’s fame mainly derives from being the fabled location of the Trojan War. There are several ancient accounts of this conflict, mainly fiction, the most famous of which was written by Homer in The Iliad. The story goes that the Greeks besieged Troy after Helen, wife of the Menelaus, the king of Sparta, was taken by Paris of Troy. Many historians now believe that the reason for the Trojan War was a bitter commercial rivalry between the people of Troy and the Mycenaeans.
It was also Troy which was the subject of Virgil's epic poem The Aeneid, in which the Greeks laid the famous “Trojan Horse” trap for the people of Troy. The Greeks, pretending to have left Troy during the Trojan War, placed a wooden horse at the gates of the city as a purported trophy of the Trojans’ victory. In fact, Greek soldiers were hiding inside the horse and, once taken in by the Trojans, proceeded to destroy the city and claim victory. The archaeological site of Troy has an obligatory replica of a Trojan horse for visitors.
The vast ruins now found at Troy lay witness to thousands of years of history, with the oldest section dating back to the late fourth millennium BC. Over the millennia, Troy became a bustling commercial hub, particularly from 1700 BC. However, a combination of natural disasters, invasions and occupations led to the city being rebuilt numerous times. Each part of the site is numbered, correlating to a specific period of time. The famous walls of Troy, which played such an important role on the Trojan War, some of which remain, can be seen in the VII section.
It is said that Alexander the Great visited Troy in 334BC, at the start of his campaign against the Persians. The Macedonian leader is believed to have paid his respects at the Tomb of Achilles.
Troy continued to maintain its status under the Romans, especially after it was identified as the location of Homer’s Iliad in 188 BC and the city was exempt from taxes. The site has a mix of Greek and Roman monuments, many built by prominent figures such as Alexander the Great and the Roman Emperor Augustus.
Regardless of whether Troy was the actual site of the Trojan War, the archaeological site of Troy is a fascinating place for history enthusiasts and tourists alike. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
Van Castle was built in the Iron Age as part of the Urartu Kingdom and now stands as a stunning ruin in modern Turkey.
Van Castle (Van Kalesi) was an Iron Age castle which now stands as a stunning ruin on the rocks to the west of the modern city of Van. It was constructed as part of the Urartu Kingdom in the ninth century BC. Upon the fall of this kingdom in the seventh century BC, Van Castle was taken by the Assyrians.
The site of Van Castle bears the marks of these two civillisations as well as others, such as the Ottoman Empire. In particular, it is home to the remains of a mosque built by the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566).
Yedikule Zindanlari is an impressive Byzantine and medieval fort in Istanbul.
Yedikule Zindanlari, also known as the Yedikule Fortress or the Castle of the Seven Towers, is an impressive Byzantine and medieval fort in Istanbul.
Originally part of the Theodosian Wall, built by Theodosius II in the fifth century, Yedikule Fortress was added to over the centuries, including by Mehmet the Conqueror during the Ottoman period. The Ottomans used Yedikule Zindanlari as a stronghold, a prison (zindanlari means dungeons) and a treasury. In 1622, Yedikule Zindanlari became the site of the execution of the seventeen year old Sultan Osman II.
Today, this imposing fort is open to the public, although it’s probably not ideal for children due to a lack of safety features. As implied in the name, visitors to Yedikule Zindanlari can see its dungeons as well as walking along its well-preserved walls and battlements.
Built in the 1880s as a hilltop sultanate retreat, the vast 123 acre Yildiz Palace complex overlooks the mighty Bosphorus and is a stunning example of 19th century Ottoman architecture.
Yildiz (‘Star’) Palace in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul was built on a hilltop overlooking the Bosphorus river during the reign of the reclusive Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II and was used ostensibly as his residence, retreat and harem (which had steel doors!) There had been an imperial estate on the site since the reign of Sultan Ahmed I in the early 1600s but in the late 19th century with Abdülhamid II fearing an assault on the Dolmabahçe Palace, he expanded Yildiz Palace.
Turkish and Italian architects Sarkis Balyan and Raimondo D’Aronco built a series of magnificent pavilions, state apartments, a theatre and beautifully-manicured gardens and the sprawling complex represents some of Turkey’s most beautiful examples of 19th century Ottoman architecture.
The Şale Kiosk – built to resemble a Swiss chalet – is the biggest and most opulent of the pavilions and you will notice the contrasting yet complimentary Baroque, Rococo and Islamic styles throughout. In the Ceremonial Hall there’s a hand-woven 406 square metre, 7.5 tonne Hereke carpet as well as huge mirrors and an exquisitely gilded, coffered ceiling. Beautifully elegant porcelain vases, mural landscapes and painted designs permeate the rooms.
As you move around the complex you’ll discover the Malta Kiosk with two watching and resting pavilions; the Çadır Kiosk which was once a prison but is now the café and restaurant; the beautifully decorated Yildiz Theatre and Opera House and the Imperial Porcelain Factory.
When the Ottoman Empire ended, Yildiz Palace was used as a casino, a guest residence for visiting dignitaries (including Churchill and De Gaulle) and from the late 1970s, a museum.
Spread out over three monastic valleys, Zelve, around 10km from Göreme on the Avanos road is a visually stunning town of homes and churches carved into the rocks and it was continually inhabited from the ninth century until as recently as 1952.
Zelve Open Air Museum in the Cappadocia region is one of the most visually stunning historical sites in Turkey. Originally a Byzantine-era (9th century) monastery, it is reputed to be both one of the earliest settled and last-abandoned monasteries in the entire region. The ‘museum’ houses the oldest known examples of Cappadocian architecture and religious paintings.
The honeycomb-esque spaces include religious and secular chambers and pointed fairy chimneys and in the 400 years between the 9th and 13th centuries, four churches were built whose remains stand to this day despite nature’s best efforts at erosion.
The earliest built was the Direkli Church, famous for its standing columns and iconoclastic-doctrine high relief crosses and there followed the Balikli Church dedicated to fish, the Uzümlü Church (grapes) and the – now collapsed beyond recognition – Geyikli Church (deer). You can still see feint paintings on the remaining stone church walls as well as minaret that has survived the tests of time.
Over the centuries that followed, Christians and Muslims (during the Ottoman rule) lived perfectly happily side by side and after almost a millennium of continuous occupation, the government deemed the town too fragile to live in due to erosion. In 1952 the last inhabitants were relocated 2km away in the town of Aktepe which was affectionately renamed ‘Yeni Zelve’ or New Zelve.
Tours of the Zelve Open Air Museum take around two hours and thanks to the beauty of the location there are lots of open-air festivals and concerts as well as gift stalls and traditional Turkish restaurants serving famous local delicacies such as gözleme and ayran – stuffed flatbreads and a typically Turkish yoghurt drink.
The remains of this important Roman city are under excavation in Turkey. Though not open to the public, many finds from the site can be seen in the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum.
Zeugma was one of the most important cities of the Roman Empire in the East. Originally founded around 300 BC by one of Alexander’s successors, his general Seleucus Nicator, the city was a vital trading point across the Euphrates River.
The military and commercial importance of Zeugma led to major growth and wealth, with as many as 70,000 people living in the city at its peak. This strategic crossing became a military centre for Roman forces in the east, with thousands of Roman soldiers based in the city.
As such a crucial strategic strongpoint, Zeugma was always a target in times of war and a devastating sack of the city at the hands of Sassanid king, Shapur I, in 256 AD led to the city’s decline. Indeed, one of the reasons for the good state of preservation of some areas of Zeugma was that entire neighbourhood’s sacked by Shapur’s forces were never reoccupied.
Though Zeugma was still an important Roman and subsequently Byzantine city well into the 6th century, the mounting pressure on the Empire’s borders and later Arab raids led to its eventual abandonment.
Today much of the site is now underwater due to modern dam building projects. Amazingly, what is left of Zeugma itself has been protected to ensure it will survive the waters and be preserved for the future. The higher areas of the ancient city are also under renewed excavation, and protective structures have been put in place to cover the newly discovered remains of this ancient city.
Though not open to the public at this stage, those interested in seeing the remains of this ancient city should head to nearby Gaziantep where the impressive Zeugma Mosaic Museum contains an amazing number of brilliantly preserved mosaics from the site.