Outside Istanbul: Turkey’s Top 5 Historic Sites

While Istanbul understandably draws huge crowds, Turkey’s array of other stunning places to visit is a tribute to the country’s long and intricate history. Long a link between East and West, Turkey proudly shows off its historic roots through attractions and landmarks that showcase its diverse cultural heritage. Get outside of the bustle and crowds of Istanbul on your Turkey vacation for a glimpse into Turkey’s past.

1. Ancient City of Ephesus

The Ancient City of Ephesus is not only one of Turkey’s top historic sites but has been named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Traverse these grounds that once supported ancient people and explore the extensive site’s historic statues, crumbling ruins, and ancient grandeur revealed in what was once one of the greatest cities in Rome. Remains of the city’s library, amphitheater, stores, and even the communal bathrooms can all be seen up-close. Originally built by the Greeks during the 10th century BCE, the city since has changed hands several times and most notably fell under Roman control shortly after the beginning of the first millennium. To get the full experience of Turkey tour, book a guided tour of the site.

2. Goreme Open-Air Museum

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A series of monasteries and churches carved into Cappadocia stone, the Goreme Open-Air Museum is one of Turkey’s most remarkable World Heritage Sites. An important pilgrimage site in the 17th century, today visitors from all over the world explore inside the rock-cut chapels, most of which date from the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries, and admire their Byzantine artworks. For the most dazzling of the complex’s frescoes, visit Karanlik Killse. Its name translates to “Dark Church” due to its lack of windows that, fortunately, helped preserve the vivid colors of its paintings. To avoid crowds and high temperatures, use our itinerary planner arrive during the early morning or late afternoon hours.

3. Mevlana Museum

While today this site serves as a combination of museum, place of worship, and mausoleum, it was the original lodge of the Whirling Dervishes, a 13th-century Sufi Muslim order. Rumi, a famous Sufi mystic, founder of the order, and great poet, was laid to rest here. Covered in fabric embroidered with verses from the Koran, his tomb draws huge numbers of pilgrims from around the world. Explore architecturally stunning museum to glimpse an assortment of items relating to the order, including illustrated Korans, valuable prayer rugs, and robes belonging to Rumi. Exhibits in the dervish cells provide an insight into the daily life in the sect.

4. Hierapolis and Pamukkale

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Boasting stunning natural scenery and heaps of history, the ancient thermal spas of Hierapolis and Pamukkale provide an opportunity for relaxation and learning. Though two distinct towns, Hierapolis and Pamukkale have been recognized together as a World Heritage Site. Thermal spas were built here in the 2nd century BCE and today you can walk amongst Greek ruins of baths, monuments, temples and a theater, before going for a dip in the natural hot springs yourself. Hierapolis Archaeology Museum boasts fine artifacts while Pamukkale features some of the best, and most unusual, scenery.

5. Phaselis Antique City


Despite its rich history and scenic setting, Phaselis Antique City receives far fewer visitors than many of Turkey’s top historic attractions. Nestled between sandy beaches and the Bey Mountains, the city was once home to a bustling harbor frequented by merchants from Egypt, Greece, and Asia for commerce as far back as 700 BCE. It was conquered and controlled by a succession of the ancient world’s great civilizations including the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans. Stroll around what remains of the metropolis to uncover ancient storefronts, baths, theaters, and numerous sarcophagi. You can complete your visit with a paddle or swim in the nearby sea.

By Rosanna Young

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