Turkey straddles eastern Europe and western Asia. The country’s cultural connections are ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, and the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The national capital is Ankara, but it is Istanbul, on the Bosphorus Strait, that is the Mecca for tourists.
Turkey offers travelers a wide variety of destinations, ancient historical sites and tourist attractions. Below are what this writer considers to be 10 must see attractions not visitor to Turkey should miss…
Located in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia is a marvel of Roman engineering that was constructed between 532 and 537. The massive 102 foot (31 meters) diameter dome t was the largest enclosed space in the world for 1000 years. The Hagia Sophia was originally a basilica constructed for the eastern
Roman emperor, Justinian I, in the 6th century. The church was looted by Christians during fourth Crusaders in 1204. It became a mosque in the 15th century when The Ottomans conquered the city. In 1935, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum and is now one of the top tourist attractions in all of Turkey.
Aspendos was an ancient Greco-Roman city located in the Antalya province of Turkey, 7 kilometers northeast of central Serik. The Amphitheatre in Aspendos was built in 155 BC and is one of the best preserved ancient theaters of antiquity. It was built during the rule of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and could seat between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators. The stage area was later used as a caravanserai (a roadside inn) during Seljuk times and was continuously repaired and maintained. This change of use ha allowed the Aspendos Theatre to survive without losing much of its original qualities.
Patara Beach is approximately 10 miles long, making it one of the longest stretches of sandy beach along the Mediterranean. Located near the ancient Lycian city of Patara, on the coast of the Turkish Riviera, it’s the breeding ground of the endangered Loggerhead turtle. Loggerhead turtles are a protected species that have been laying their eggs in the sand of Patara for the past 40 million years.
To reach the beach, visitors must pass through the ruins where an admission charge of about US$1.60 is payable. However, visitors staying for a few days are able to purchase a site and beach pass allowing 10 visits for around US$2.40. Children under 12 are admitted free. Between sunset and 8.30 a.m. the beach is off limits.
Located in the city of Bodrum in southwest Turkey, is the port city of Bodrum. In Bodrum is Bodrum Castle, which was built by the crusading Knights of St John, better known as the Knights Hospitaller.
Construction started in 1402 and was named the Castle of St. Peter. The Crusaders used the remains of the Mausoleum as a quarry to build the Castle of Saint Peter. Now know as Bodrum Castle, it’s a well preserved example of Crusader architecture in the east Mediterranean.. In fact, it is one of the world’s best preserved monuments from medieval times. The castle is now operates as the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, is an unreal landscape in western Turkey, famous for its white terraces. The terraces are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by water with a very high mineral content from the hot springs. The pools Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey are a natural formation of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water.
Tourism has always been a major industry with people bathing in the pools for thousands of years. Starting in the mid 20th century, hotels and a roadway were built over the ruins of Hierapolis. The increased traffic, especially off road vehicles and motorcycles, caused considerable damage until the area was declared a World Heritage Site. The hotels were demolished and the roadway replaced with artificial pools.
Nemrut is a 2,134 meter (7,001 ft) high mountain in southeastern Turkey, notable for the summit where a number of large statues are erected around what is assumed to be a royal tomb from the 1st century BC. It is located near the city of Adiyaman. In 62 BC, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene built a tomb-sanctuary flanked by huge statues of himself, two lions, two eagles and various Greek and Persian gods on the mountain top. Since their construction, the heads have toppled from the bodies and lay scattered throughout the site. The summit of Mount Nemrut provides a great view of the surrounding mountains and the location’s main attraction is watching the sunrise from the eastern terrace. The sunrise from this vantage point gives the disembodied heads a beautiful orange hue and adds to the sense of mystery of the place.
Ölüdeniz is a small resort village situated on the southwest coast of Turkey. It has a secluded sandy bay and is located at the southern tip of Ölüdeniz Tabiat Parki. Known best for the blue lagoon and wide, white Belcekiz Beach, Ölüdeniz is a tourist Mecca. This beach is famous for its shades of turquoise and is one of the most photographed beaches on the Mediterranean. Ölüdeniz is also regarded as one of the best places in the world to paraglide due to Babadag mountain and its unique panoramic views. Another popular tourist draw is the Lycian Way, a long-distance marked footpath starting in Ölüdeniz, that has fantastic coastal views. To the south, Butterfly Valley is a nature reserve with a secluded bay.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is sometimes spelled Sultan Ahmet Mosque, but more commonly referred to as the Blue Mosque. With its six minarets, eight secondary domes, and sweeping architecture, the Blue Mosque is still used as a mosque. The Blue Mosque has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul.
After the Peace of Zsitvatorok and the crushing loss in the 1603 – 1618 war with Persia, Sultan Ahmet I, decided to build a large mosque in Istanbul to reassert Ottoman power. It would be the first imperial mosque for more than forty years. While his predecessors had paid for their mosques with the spoils of war, Ahmet I had not gained remarkable victories so had to procure funds from the Treasury.
The mosque was built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, in front of the basilica Ayasofya, which at that time, was the primary imperial mosque in Istanbul. It also impeded on the view of the hippodrome, which until that time dominated the city skyline from the south. Much of the south side of the mosque rests on the foundations and vaults of the old Grand Palace.
Library of Celsus
The ruins of Ephesus are a popular tourist attraction on the west coast city of Ephesus. Ephesus was once home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that was destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by the archbishop of Constantinople. Some of the structures that can still be seen include the Great Theater and the Library of Celsus. The library was built in 117 AD to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, the governor of Asia. The façade was reconstructed in the 1970s using original pieces of the library.
Goreme Fairy Chimneys
Millions of years ago, when volcanic eruptions rained ash across what would eventually become Turkey, the famous fairy chimneys began to form. Cappadocia, Monks Valley, Göreme and elsewhere are famous for unique, natural rock formations known as Fairy Chimneys. The ash hardened into a substance known as tuff, a porous rock that was later covered by a layer of basalt. Over time the softer tuff was eroded away by wind and rain, leaving pillars that stand as high as 130 feet. The harder, slower eroding basalt formed a protective, mushroom shaped cap over each pillar.
One of the best places to see these strange formations is the town of Göreme, which is located among a large number of fairy chimneys. Due to the ease of carving into the tuff, many fairy chimneys at Cappadocia have been hollowed out over the centuries to create houses, churches and storage facilities.
If you have any of these these historical sites in Turkey, please share your experience with other travelers by adding a review in the comment section below. Thank you!
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