List of World Heritage Sites in Turkey
This content was last updated on 11.02.2024 17:26
Places that have illuminated human history or stand out in the world with their rare natural beauties are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. So far, a total of 19 locations from Turkey have been included in the list. How about planning your travel programs by taking a look at these registered wonders of the world?
20 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey
Istanbul, throughout history, has been a host to different civilizations, carrying the traces of these civilizations to the present day, and stands at the forefront as a city on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Situated at the strategic crossroads of East and West, Istanbul possesses a rich historical, cultural, and architectural heritage. With these features, Istanbul holds a prominent place in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The city, which was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, later became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, served as a church, mosque, and museum over time. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, on the other hand, is one of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture, adding a unique beauty to the city's skyline. Historical and architecturally significant structures such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar have made Istanbul unique and have been listed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List since 1985. If you are ready to explore Istanbul, which is among the most visited cities in Turkey, get your Istanbul flight ticket right away.
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2. Göreme National Park and Cappadocia (Nevşehir)
Göreme National Park and Cappadocia, located in the Nevşehir province, boast a unique geography. Perhaps the most striking feature of the region is its uniquely carved rock settlements, shaped both by nature and human hands. The area has been a settlement for various civilizations since prehistoric times, leaving their traces that extend to the present day.
The region is renowned for the distinctive geography of Cappadocia, featuring fairy chimneys, valleys, conical hills, and underground cities formed by the wind and erosion of soft tuff rocks. These natural formations turn the area into an open-air museum. The fairy chimneys and rock-cut churches within Göreme National Park were recognized as significant centers of Christianity at various periods throughout history. The rock-cut churches, frescoes, and underground cities in the region hold great architectural and artistic importance. Included in the list in 1985, Cappadocia is acknowledged not only as Turkey's but also as the world's shared cultural heritage, offering visitors an extraordinary combination of history and nature. The renowned cave hotels carved into the rocks of Cappadocia are also quite famous in the region.
3. Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği (Sivas)
The Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği were constructed in the mid-13th century. The structure stands as one of the most distinctive examples of Anatolian Seljuk architecture, serving as a magnificent testament to the culture and art of the period. The mosque draws attention with its unique plan, stone craftsmanship, and decorations, with the stone-carved details on the portal being a testament to architectural mastery. Additionally, the wooden craftsmanship inside the mosque showcases the high level of artistry during that era.
The adjacent Hospital, known as Darüşşifası, was utilized as a medical facility providing healthcare services during its time. This structure not only sheds light on the history of medicine as a health complex but also stands out as a remarkable architectural masterpiece. This valuable heritage site in Turkey has been on the UNESCO list since 1985.
4. Hittite Capital Hattusa (Çorum)
Hattusa, which left its mark on history as the capital of the Hittite Empire, served as the capital for the Hittites in central Anatolia between the 17th and 12th centuries BC. One of the main reasons for its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List is its recognition as one of the most important and enduring centers of Hittite civilization.
The architectural richness of Hattusa reflects the knowledge and technology of that era. The city is surrounded by massive walls, and the stone-carved decorations on the main gate are particularly noteworthy. Hattusa is known for its complex structure consisting of large temples, palaces, storage areas, and private residences. Unique examples of Hittite architecture have been preserved in Hattusa, showcasing the information and technology of the time. Providing visitors with a unique window into the ancient past of Anatolia, Hattusa was included in the list in 1986.
5. Mount Nemrut (Adıyaman)
We can say that another significant destination reflecting Turkey's immense cultural and historical richness is Mount Nemrut, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Mount Nemrut, with its breathtaking views where you can witness a unique sunset and sunrise, hosts millions of tourists every year. The mountain is renowned for its enchanting monument complex built on the orders of King Antiochus I, who ruled the Kingdom of Commagene in the 1st century BC. At the summit of the mountain, there is an altar and temple complex surrounded by colossal statues.
Included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, Mount Nemrut is of great importance not only from an architectural and artistic perspective but also in understanding the culture, religious beliefs, and political structure of the prehistoric period. This ancient monument complex, registered on the World Heritage List since 1987, offers visitors the opportunity to explore the rich history and culture of Anatolia.
6. Ancient Cities of Xanthos and Letoon (Antalya-Muğla)
Located in the westernmost part of Turkey and hosting some of the most important historical and touristic sites, Muğla is home to two UNESCO World Heritage ancient cities. Xanthos stands out as one of the most significant cities of Lycia. Invaded by the Persians in the 4th century BC, Xanthos gained fame for the heroic resistance of its people and the tragic events that followed. This resistance symbolizes the struggle for independence in Lycia. Xanthos preserves the atmosphere of the ancient Lycian civilization for visitors with its ancient theater, rock tombs, agora, and other remnants. The inclusion of this ancient city in the UNESCO World Heritage List emphasizes the historical and cultural significance of Xanthos.
Letoon, one of the sacred areas of Xanthos, is known for its religious and cultural importance in the Lycian region. Dating back to the 2nd century BC, it houses structures such as temples, a theater, and an agora. Additionally, Letoon hosted the significant religious festival known as the Letoia Festival in the ancient world. Its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988 indicates that Letoon was a crucial center for Lycian culture, not only for religious rituals but also for cultural events.
7. Hierapolis and Pamukkale (Denizli)
Hierapolis, dating back to the Ancient Roman period, rises above the town of Pamukkale, known for its thermal springs and healing waters. Hierapolis served as a therapeutic center in ancient times, hosting a rich cultural heritage with its theater, agora, temples, and other structures.
Its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List emphasizes the significance of Hierapolis as a center for health, culture, and architecture in the ancient world. Hierapolis offers history enthusiasts and archaeologists the opportunity to explore the traces of the Roman Empire.
Adjacent to Hierapolis, Pamukkale is famous for its white travertine terraces formed by warm thermal springs. This unique beauty created by nature complements the ancient city, providing visitors with a one-of-a-kind experience. Pamukkale, with its mineral-rich waters, carries numerous health benefits and has been among the most preferred destinations for thermal tourism for years. Both sites have been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1988. There are hotels in Pamukkale where you can stay, and you can easily explore the surrounding areas with day trips. The region is also renowned for its healing waters and thermal baths.
8. Safranbolu (Karabük)
Safranbolu, one of the finest examples of Ottoman-era architecture, stands out as a captivating destination with its historical atmosphere, unique architecture, and cultural richness. This city, located in the province of Karabük, resembles an open-air museum preserving and reflecting the history of Anatolia. One of the main reasons for Safranbolu's inclusion in the list is its significant preservation of the historical and architectural texture from the Ottoman Empire period.
Safranbolu carries the traces of the past to the present with its distinctive houses, mosques, baths, bridges, and other structures, placing it on the historical stage as the economic and cultural center of the Ottoman Empire. Recognized for its ability to bring the past to the present, Safranbolu was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994.
9. Ancient City of Troy (Çanakkale)
The Ancient City of Troy stands as one of the most fascinating and legendary places to have existed in the Anatolian lands, where some of the oldest civilizations in history thrived. The region is also known for hosting the Trojan War, one of the most famous stories in Ancient Greek mythology. With a history dating back to around 3000 BC, the area has been a home to numerous civilizations. The inclusion of the Ancient City of Troy in the UNESCO World Heritage List signifies the convergence and preservation of both mythological tales and historical reality in this unique location. Drawing history enthusiasts, archaeologists, and mythology enthusiasts alike, this ancient city continues to shed light on Turkey's rich cultural heritage. The Ancient City of Troy was added to the list in 1998.
10. Selimiye Mosque and Complex (Edirne)
The Selimiye Mosque, referred to as the 'masterpiece' by the architect Mimar Sinan, who left behind many structures considered as works of art from the Ottoman Empire, is not only the pride of Edirne but also considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. The Selimiye Mosque is hailed as an aesthetic and engineering marvel, standing out with its four minarets, magnificent dome, and elegant decorations.
The complex within the Selimiye Mosque, known as the Külliye, encompasses various buildings such as a medrese (theological school), library, hospital, soup kitchen, bath, and shops. The structure served not only as a place of worship but also as a center where education, healthcare, and social services converged in Ottoman society. Offering a unique window into the religious and social life of the Ottoman Empire, the Selimiye Complex has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2011.
11. Çatalhöyük (Konya)
Çatalhöyük, one of the world's earliest settlements, is a Neolithic site dating back to approximately 7500-5700 BCE, reaching back nearly 9,000 years from the present. Included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012, Çatalhöyük not only represents Anatolia's heritage but also stands out as one of the best-preserved Neolithic settlements in world history. This ancient city contributes significantly to the understanding of the prehistoric period by providing archaeological evidence related to crucial periods such as the discovery of agriculture and the transition to settled life.
12. Cumalıkızık (Bursa)
Bursa, one of the first capitals of the Ottoman Empire, along with the village of Cumalıkızık, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014. Cumalıkızık, with its architectural features from the early periods of the Ottoman Empire, traditional Turkish houses, and courtyards opening to the streets, has managed to be preserved over time and reach the present day.
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, Cumalıkızık is known for preserving the historical, cultural, and architectural values of the early periods of the Ottoman Empire and passing them on to future generations. The village is considered not only a special region bearing the traces of an important period in Turkey's history but also a unique area in world history.
13. Bergama and the Multilayered Cultural Landscape Area (İzmir)
Bergama, with its ancient theater, library, and monumental temples, carries the traces of the Hellenistic period into the present day. The history of the ancient city of Pergamon, located near the town of Bergama, extends back to the 4th century BCE. The significant remains found in the ancient city, which also houses Turkey's first archaeology museum, are exhibited in various regions, especially in Europe, including Berlin. The best time to visit the city and its surroundings, characterized by a few columns and the city's acropolis, is during spring and summer. You can explore Bergama by joining day tours departing from Izmir city center or by renting a car.
14. Historical Walls of Diyarbakır and Hevsel Gardens
The Historical Walls of Diyarbakır are ancient structures dating back to the 4th century BCE, making them among the historical treasures. The walls, estimated to be over 9,000 years old, stretch for a length of 5.8 kilometers. As one of the great walls of the Middle Ages, the Diyarbakır Walls have witnessed the interaction of many civilizations over time, preserving the historical texture within the city. Notably listed among the must-see places in the city, these walls hold the distinction of being among the oldest and well-preserved walls globally, ranking second after the Great Wall of China.
Hevsel Gardens, located near the Historical Walls of Diyarbakır along the banks of the Tigris River, consist of fertile lands. These gardens add to the charm of the historical setting, complementing the rich cultural and historical heritage of the region.
15. Ancient City of Ephesus (İzmir)
Ephesus, an important port city of the ancient Roman Empire, has sustained its existence since the 10th century BCE, being recognized as one of the most significant cultural and trade centers of the ancient world. Renowned for its magnificent structures such as the Temple of Artemis, the Library of Celsus, and the Grand Theater, Ephesus presents unique examples showcasing the architectural and engineering mastery of the ancient world.
The Ancient City of Ephesus was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015. The columns and remains of its library, which hosted more than 14,000 books in ancient times, have been meticulously restored to their original state today. Taking a photograph in front of the library is often one of the first things done by many tourists visiting Ephesus. Additionally, you can explore other historical sites in and around Ephesus, such as the House of the Virgin Mary, the Temple of Artemis, and the Seven Sleepers. If you wish to delve deeper into the city's history, you can join guided day tours organized from the city center of İzmir or easily reach Ephesus by taking minibusses to Selçuk and exploring on your own.
16. Ani Archaeological Site (Kars)
Ani, throughout the Middle Ages, served as a significant hub for trade and culture, contributing to the richness of Anatolia. This historical journey, initiated during the Armenian Kingdom period, continued through the Byzantine and Seljuk eras. Due to its exposure to various civilizations throughout its history, Ani is renowned for its architectural and artistic works. The Ruins of Ani were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016. This designation emphasizes that Ani is not only a part of Turkey's heritage but also a significant component of the multicultural heritage in world history.
17. Aphrodisias (Aydın)
Aphrodisias takes its name from the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. This ancient city served as a significant sacred site from the Hellenistic period, starting in the 5th century BCE, to the end of the Roman Empire. Aphrodisias is renowned for its temples dedicated to the cult of Aphrodite and monumental structures. It is considered one of the most important centers of sculpture in the ancient world, gaining particular prominence during the Roman Empire, known for its sculpture school.
Aphrodisias attracts attention with its architectural richness, preserving traces of ancient city life through structures like the ancient stadium, a theater with a seating capacity of 30,000, temples, and an agora. These structures are regarded as reflections of the architectural splendor at the peak of the Roman Empire. Recognized for carrying the echoes of the past, Aphrodisias Ancient City was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017.
18. Göbeklitepe (Şanlıurfa)
Göbeklitepe was discovered as a result of excavations conducted in 1995. This ancient settlement is known for its remains dating back to approximately 9600–9500 BCE and is considered the world's oldest known temple structure. The colossal stone pillars, animal figures, and geometric patterns uncovered during excavations reveal a fascinating temple complex consciously constructed by the people of that era.
One of the most striking features of Göbeklitepe is its representation of the religious and ritual activities carried out by the people of that time. The animal figures and reliefs on the pillars emerge as works of art reflecting the belief system of the era. The religious structures of Göbeklitepe indicate the capacity of people from that period to organize collective rituals and share a common belief system.
In 2018, Göbeklitepe was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This designation emphasizes that Göbeklitepe is not only a monumental point in the history of Turkey but also a significant milestone in the history of humanity.
19. Arslantepe Mound (Malatya)
Arslantepe Mound has a historical past dating back to around 4000 BCE. The excavations at this ancient mound have revealed traces of various civilizations. Situated in what is now known as Battalgazi, the ancient city of Arslantepe is located in the vicinity of Old Malatya, on the west side of the Euphrates River, providing fertile lands. Due to its high agricultural potential and the presence of a structure that could protect against river floods, the region has hosted empires such as the Hittites, Romans, and Byzantines.
The remains found in Arslantepe, spanning from around 5000 BCE to the Iron Age, have remarkably survived and reached the present day. The archaeological excavations have unveiled adobe palaces and over 2000 seals from periods ranging from the 5th millennium BCE to the Iron Age.
The excavations at Arslantepe Mound offer archaeologists and historians the opportunity to understand the historical depths of Anatolia. Temples, palace ruins, mosaics, ceramics, and other archaeological findings from various periods provide crucial insights into the social, cultural, and economic structure of the region.
Arslantepe Mound was placed on the tentative list in 2014 and was permanently inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 2021, making it the most recent site from Turkey to be added to the list.
20. Gordion Ancient City (Ankara)
Gordion was established as the capital of the Phrygian Kingdom in the 9th century BC. The city held great significance in its time due to its strategic location, control over prosperous trade routes, and impressive architecture. Continuously inhabited from ancient times to the present, Gordion is known for its rich historical past.
The Gordion Ancient City stands out with its abundant archaeological remains. Palace ruins, temples, tombs, and defensive walls are recognized as elements that carry Gordion's historical legacy to the present day. Moreover, these remnants provide important insights into the traditional architecture and lifestyle of Phrygia, making them a fascinating open-air museum for archaeologists and history enthusiasts.
Located 80 kilometers west of Ankara, the Gordion Ancient City was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in September 2023.
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