Exploring 6 of the Most Incredible Historic Attractions in Turkey

David Geithner
4 min readMay 9, 2023

Home to more than 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the nation of Turkey has significant historic and cultural depth, attracting millions of tourists annually. In this article, we look at six of the greatest historical attractions the country has to offer.

1. Aphrodisias

Added to the UNESCO list in 2017, Aphrodisias comprises numerous ancient ruins and marble quarries. Named after the Greek goddess Aphrodite, this Hellenistic city features a monumental gateway through which visitors enter the site. Its temple of Aphrodite dates to the 3rd century. There is also a museum that houses friezes from the Sebasteion building and a stadium that is one of the most well-preserved specimens of its size in the world.

A free and autonomous city in ancient times, Aphrodisias prospered under the early and middle Roman Empire. The Aphrodisians created a fantastic marble metropolis with an abundance of high-quality sculptures, many of which are uniquely well-preserved to this day.

2. Safranbolu

Safranbolu is the world’s most well-preserved Ottoman city, and it is world-famous for its typical Ottoman estates. Located on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, Safranbolu was once an important trading center. Ottomans flocked to the city to buy luxury materials like saffron, leather, copper, and iron. From the 13th century to the construction of railroads in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important station on the East-West trade route.

Carsi, the scenic old town, is a labyrinth of winding alleys and red-tiled roofs with charming small shops and traditional cobblers. The old baths, old mosque, and Süleyman Pasha madrasah all date back to 1322 CE. Evocative of preindustrial Turkey, the town’s original buildings and appearance have been preserved to a remarkable extent. Today, people come to soak up the atmosphere, immersing themselves in the city’s antiquity and enjoying the UT of its boutique hotels.

3. Göreme National Park

Home to distinctive, other-worldly stone outcroppings, Göreme is situated in Cappadoccia on the Anatolian side of the country. Göreme is home to many wonders. During the Roman era, the region provided refuge to Christians fleeing persecution, with many rock churches still standing today.

Göreme National Park features mountain ridges, valleys, and “fairy chimneys” known as “hoodoos,” which were created by volcanic eruptions over the course of eons. The passage of time caused ash deposits to solidify, turning into soft, volcanic rock that was perfect for cutting homes into the hillside. The ruins of an ancient metropolis carved eight stories deep into the rock can still be found among the hoodoo rock formations. The ancient city’s buildings are connected via a series of underground tunnels.

Covering some 39 square miles in total, Göreme National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. Its madrasahs and tombs display exquisite Seljuk stone craftsmanship. Home to an impressive host of architectural features, the neighboring towns of Urgup, Avanos, Uchisar and Mustafapasa are also well worth a visit.

4. Nemrut Dağ

Having received UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1987, Nemrut Dağ is home to the mysterious Mount Nemrut, the summit of which is sometimes referred to as the “Throne of the Gods.” This uncanny attraction is one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the entire country. Its mausoleum of Antiochus was constructed in approximately 34 CE and is recognized by UNESCO as one of the most ambitious constructions from the Hellenistic period.

High in the mountains, gargantuan stone heads depict the Kings of Commagene, whose histories are integrated into both Persian and Greek legends. Visiting the site is a truly remarkable experience, particularly at sunrise and twilight , when the faces take on an ethereal golden incandescence.

5. Hattusha

One of Turkey’s best-kept secrets, the ancient city of Hattusha was once the capital of the Hittite Empire, an civilization that reached its peak in around the 13th century BCE, when much of Asia Minor was under Hittite control. The Hittites thrived in around the same era as the Ancient Egyptians, and historians have discovered evidence of a peace treaty between the Hittite leader, Hattushili III, and the Egyptian pharaoh, Ramesses II.

Entering the site, visitors pass through Lion’s Gate, an ornate gateway flanked by two colossal lion statues. Temples, royal dwellings, and ancient defenses can still be seen at Hattusha today, its abandoned buildings interlinked by a series of underground passageways. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site in 1986.

6. Aizanoi

Situated in the inner Western Anatolia Region southwest of Kütahya Province, Aizanoi sits at an altitude of more than 1,000 meters in a desolate plateau called the Örencik Plain. Located in a less traveled area of the country, the site was rediscovered by European tourists in 1824. Aizanoi was the capital of a kingdom known as Aizanitis, which was part of Phrigia. Despite its remote location, Aizanoi was a strategically important station on trade routes that ran through Asia Minor.

The site’s highlights include the temple of Zeus, the stadium, theatre complex, Roman baths, ancient dam structure, and the Magellum, what is the world’s earliest known stock exchange building. Many valuable artifacts found in the area are now exhibited at the Archaeological Museum in Kütaha.

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David Geithner

David Geithner is a senior finance executive who draws upon nearly three decades of experience to serve as EVP and COO, IMG Events and On Location.