UNESCO World Heritage List in Turkey: 18 Must-See Places

Turkey, having Anatolia and Thrace dated back thousands of years, has hosted many deep-rooted civilization. In this country where there are numerous historical artifacts and remains from the east to the west, there are 18 artifacts which are included in the list of world heritage by UNESCO. You can go on a time travel by discovering Göbekli Tepe which changed the perception of civilization and settled life, the remains from the Hittites which made the first written treaty with Egypt, the Pergamon Kingdom in the Aegean and the traces of the birth of the Ottoman Empire.

18. Aphrodisias

Aphrodisias, a name given to cities dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, is located in Geyre (Caria), in province of Aydın, southwest of Anatolia. The city, which was a very important center during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, was unearthed by archaeological excavations in the 1960s. In 2009, Aphrodisias was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO and in 2017 it was registered as a World Heritage Site.

17. Archaeological Site of Ani

Ani is located in Kars which is a border city with Armenia. This city, which was founded by ancient Armenian kings, was under the influence of many civilizations and empires (such as Byzantine, Seljuk Turks). The archeological studies in Ani began when Ani was ruled by the Russian Tsardom during 1878-1918. In 2012, Ani was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO and in 2016 was registered as a World Heritage Site.

16. Archaeological Site of Troy

Troy (Truva or Troya in Turkish) is a historical city located in Çanakkale on the outskirts of Mount Ida (Kaz Dağları). It is the ancient city where the Trojan War took place in the Iliad of Homer. In the 1870 German amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the ancient city. Most of the artifacts were brought to Germany and Russia. The ancient city has been a World Heritage Site since 1998 and National Park since 1996.

15. Bursa and Cumalıkızık: the Birth of the Ottoman Empire

Cumalıkızık neighbourhood (formerly village) of the district of Yıldırım in Bursa was established on the slope of Uludağ. You can easily notice the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in Bursa which was conquered in the time of Orhan Gazi, the second sultan of the Ottomans. The establishment of Cumalıkızık village dates back to the 14th century. Cumalıkızık Ethnography Museum is located here. Cumalıkızık, which was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Temporary List in 2000, was registered as a World Heritage Site with Bursa in 2014.

14. City of Safranbolu

Due to the fact that Safranbolu houses reflecting the classical Ottoman urban architecture, it is on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1994. Safranbolu is named after the saffron which is a rare plant that grows in the region. You can visit many cultural and historical places such as Tokatlı Canyon, Crystal Terrace, İncekaya Aqueduct and Safranbolu Houses in Safranbolu.

13. Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape

Diyarbakır Fortress, located in Sur district of Diyarbakır, has the longest and broadest structure after the Great Wall of China. In 2000, the Diyarbakır Fortress, which was included in the World Heritage Site, was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2015. On the other hand, the Hevsel Gardens along the Euphrates River are home to hundreds of different animal species and are an important agricultural area for the country. In 2015, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

12. Ephesus

Ephesus, one of the twelve cities of Ionia in ancient times, is located on the western Anatolian coast (Izmir, Selcuk). This city, which was later used by Rome, was expected to be rediscovered until the 19th century. After that, numerous historical buildings such as the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), the Library of Celsus and the House of Virgin Mary were found in this region. Ephesus was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2015.

11. Göbekli Tepe

Göbeklitepe, located in the province of Şanlıurfa, contains the oldest known structures of the world. The history of Göbeklitepe, where there are many hints about hunter-gatherer human, dates back to about 11600 years ago by archaeologists. This corresponds to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic-A phase of the Neolithic period. The belief that hunter-gatherers cannot build complex religious structures has been upset by the discovery of Göbeklitepe. The site was discovered in 1963 and excavations in the region began in 1995. In this context, it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011 and was included in the permanent list in 2018.

10. Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia

Göreme is a town in the province of Nevşehir. The settlement in this town started with the arrival of Christians who fled oppressions between the 7th and 13th centuries, and the region soon became an important center of Christianity. The region, which is comprised of natural and historical buildings located in Göreme, has been declared a national park and in 1985 it was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO. This list includes Göreme National Park, Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı Underground Cities, Karain Güvercinliks, Karlık Church, Yeşilöz Theodoro Church and Soğanlı Archaeological Site.

9. Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği

Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği are located in Divriği which is the district of Sivas. The mosque was built by Mengüjek Bey Ahmed Shah, and the hospital was built by Turan Melek, the wife of Ahmed Shah, between 1228-1229. The decorations of the mosque are unique. It carries traces of Umayyad and Sekchik architecture. The Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.

8. Hattusha: the Hittite Capital

Hattusha, located in the province of Çorum, the inner part of the Black Sea Region, was the capital of the Hittite Empire between the 17th and 13th centuries BC. The city was rebuilt by the Hittite Emperor Hattusili I, and important works were given in the fields of art and architecture. The excavations carried out in the region revealed not only the Hittites but also the layers of many civilizations such as Assyria, Rome and Byzantium. Today the ruins of this city are located in Sungurlu district of Çorum. In 1986, Hattusha was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

7. Hierapolis-Pamukkale

Pamukkale terraces in Denizli are composed of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by the hot spring water. Hierapolis, which contains the remains of the late Hellenistic and early Christian periods, is found in this region.
It is believed that the ancient city was founded by Eumenes II in the 2nd century BC, one of the Pergamon kings, and named after Heiva, the wife of Telephos, the founder of Pergamon. According to ancient sources, the city, which is famous for its metal and stone processing and woven fabrics, was the capital of the Phrygian region during the period of Constantine the Great, and became the episcopal center during the Byzantine period. With these features, the area is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988.

6. Historic Areas of Istanbul

The historical peninsula in Istanbul, which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985, is divided into four parts: Suleymaniye Conservation Area, Sultanahmet Urban Archaeological Site (Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Irene, Little Ayasofya Mosque, Haseki Bath), Zeyrek Conversation Area and finally, the Land Walls Conservation Area of Istanbul. The historical peninsula is located in Fatih, the historical center of Istanbul. For more information about Istanbul, click here.

5. Nemrut Dağ

Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dağ) is a volcanic mountain with a height of 2150 meters located in Kahta district of Adıyaman. Located in the Taurus mountain range. What makes this mountain special is the extraordinary structures from the Commagene Kingdom on the mountain top. There are many sculptures of Greek and Persian gods, as well as grave-temples. The sculptures were made by blending the Hellenistic, Persian art and the unique art of Commagene. The mountain was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

4. Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük

Çatalhöyük, located in the Çumra district of Konya, started to be a settlement area 9 thousand years ago and had been inhabited continuously for 2 thousand years. The tumuluses discovered by the archaeologists in 1958 became a great source of information about the Neolithic and the Chalcolithic Age. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

3. Pergamon and its Multi-Layered Cultural Landscape

Pergamon is a historical landscape in the Bergama district of İzmir, the capital of the Pergamon Kingdom between 282-133 BC. The name Pergamon comes from Pergamos, a mythical hero. Palaces, temples, theaters and city walls were built in Pergamon, mentioned in the documents in the 4th century BC for the first time. After Pergamon came under the rule of Rome, the city continued to be an important center. Some parts of Pergamon, which was recognized by the German railway activities in the region in the 1870s, is part of the museum in Berlin. In 2011, Pergamon was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO and in 2014 it was registered as a World Heritage Site.

2. Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex

The Selimiye Mosque, which was started to be constructed in Selim II period in 1568, was made by Mimar Sinan (Architect Sinan), the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire, and he called this work “my masterwork“. The construction of the mosque was completed in 1575. The mosque is a masterpiece with its dome, interior decorations and courtyard. The Selimiye Mosque and Külliye (Complex), which was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 2000, was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2011. Thus, after the Drina Bridge (Bosnia and Herzegovina), a second Ottoman work entered the list of UNESCO.

1. Xanthos-Letoon

Xanthos is an ancient city located in Fethiye district of Muğla. It was the largest administrative center of Lycia in ancient times. Xanthos, an independent city until it was dominated by the Persians, was under the domination of Rome, Byzantine, Alexander, Arabs and Turks during the history. Letoon, which is the religious center of Lycia in ancient times and 4 km from Xanthos, has a monastery, a fountain and the ruins of the Roman Theater, along with the temples of Leto, Apollon and Artemis. Xanthos and Letoon were put on the UNESCO World Heritage List together in 1988.

Resource #1 (Offical page of UNESCO about Turkey )

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