12 Spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey

Explore these archaeological and historic wonders.

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Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org  

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Photo By: Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Photo By: Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, www.tourismturkey.org

Nemrut Dagi

For those who love travel, history, museums and archaeological discoveries, Turkey is the ultimate destination. The country has numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites which are selected for their unique cultural or historical importance, and the Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism is an excellent resource for creating a travel itinerary. One of the most famous sites is Nemrut Dagi, featuring five giant limestone statues, and created by King Antiochus I of Commagene during the late Hellenistic period as a monument to himself.

Xanthos-Letoon

Composed of two settlements located in southwestern Anatolia, Xanthos-Letoon is a world heritage treasure that represents distinctive architectural examples from the ancient Lycian civilization. The funerary art, which includes tombs, pillars and sarcophagi, stands as evidence of this forgotten world, as do the epigraphic inscriptions found carved on the rocks and pillars.

Catalhoyuk

The massive archeological site of Catalhoyuk is located on the Konya plain of the Southern Anatolian Plateau and was first discovered by a team of British archaeologists in 1958. The settlement is remarkable for its evidence of human prehistory dating from 7,400 to 6,200 B.C. represented by the remains of houses, wall paintings, reliefs and other examples of the social and cultural practices of this Neolithic community.

Hierapolis-Pamukkale

The ruins of baths, temples and other Greek monuments are the surviving relics of the ancient thermal spa of Hierapolis, which was ruled by the dynasty of the Attalids at the end of the second century B.C. The unusual landscape is the result of petrified waterfalls, mineral forests and terraced basins which were given the name Pamukkale (Cotton Palace).

Selimiye Mosque

With its imposing dome, slender minarets, covered market, clock house and other features, the Selimiye Mosque is a beautifully preserved example of the social community that existed in the former Ottoman capital of Edirne. Sinan, the famous Ottoman architect who designed the complex in the 16th century, considered it to be his crowning achievement.

Hattusha

If you want to see a rare example of Hittite culture, then head to Hattusha in the Northern Central Anatolian mountain region, which was once the capital of the Hittite empire. Bordered by a forest, the ruins of Kayali Bogaz and the rock sanctuary of Yazilikaya, this archeological site is famous for the ornate designs of the Lions’ Gate and the Royal Gate, its 4,000-year-old walls and various examples of rock art.

Safranbolu

At one time a major destination on the East-West caravan trade route, Safranbolu is a unique example of an Ottoman city and its culture in the 13th century. The ancient city is divided into separate historic districts, including the marketplace, Muslim and non-Muslim quarters and single dwellings situated within large gardens.

Aphrodisias

Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and fertility and Aphrodisias, one of the oldest and most sacred sites in southwestern Turkey, was named for her. The spectacular marble temple dates from the 3rd century BC while the surrounding city was created a century later and includes a theater, two bath complexes, a stadium and other historic civic structures.

Rock Sites of Cappadocia

The rock sites of Cappadocia in Goreme National Park is one of the most visually astonishing regions in Turkey with its lunar-like landscape. It was created by ancient volcanic eruptions and then sculpted by the wind, which molded the soft rock (Tuff) into strange pillars, cones and chimneys. In this area, you can see subterranean cities, rock-hewn sanctuaries and former human habitats that date back to the fourth century.

Ephesus

Designated as the capital of Asia in 133 B.C.E. when Asia Minor was incorporated into the Roman Empire, Ephesus is one of the most famous examples of Hellenistic and Roman cultural history. It features excavated monuments, terrace houses and buildings, such as the Library of Celsus and the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the "Seven Wonders of the World."

Topkapi Palace

Situated on the Bosphorus strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul was successively the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul’s Archaeological Park is a must-see tourist destination, famous for the Hagia Sophia cathedral, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace which was formerly the administrative, educational and art center of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years.

Troy

Immortalized by Homer in The Iliad, Troy is famous as the city whose downfall in the 13th or 12th century was attributed to the Trojan Horse, the secret weapon of Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece. More importantly, Troy is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world with more than 4,000 years of history that includes stunning evidence of the many different settlements unearthed there: prehistoric cemeteries, Hellenistic burial mounds and Greek and Roman ruins.