Turkey’s list of historic sites is very long and includes iconic touristic attractions as well as the lesser-known wonders that are equally fascinating. Culture Trip takes a look at some epic places that locals know too well, and visitors are just beginning to discover.
Located near the Taurus Mountains, this abandoned village was originally built in the 1700s and populated by Greek Orthodox residents in the 20th century. Due to the population exchange between Greeks and Turks in 1923, the village became a ghost town where stunning architecture is waiting to be discovered.
These tombs cut right into the rock date back to the 4th century BCE and belong to the Lycian Empire. Once colored in bold shades of red, blue, purple, and yellow, they may have faded over time, but their striking aesthetic continues to attract visitors.
This vertical collection of small caves that are carved directly into the cliffs dates back to the Byzantine Empire and is a true architectural wonder. Even though people no longer inhabit these little rock cut apartments, locals from Taşkale have gotten much use out of the site as a storage facility.
An ancient city that Alexander the Great didn’t think to conquer, Termessos is located near Antalya on a remote mountaintop, which helped to make it quite autonomous. After a bit of a steep hike, you’ll come across a large array of impressive stone ruins and exposed tombs. Also, make sure to visit the Museum of Antalya to see original reliefs from the site.
Underwater ruins of Kekova Island
Dating back to 2000 BCE, Simena was a sea-trading city belonging to the Lycian Empire that sank into the sea after many violent earthquakes. Nowadays, visitors arrive on boat tours to see the ruins, including a shipyard, buildings, houses, and tombs, through the clear waters.
Located on a small island off the coast of the Mersin Province, the Kızkalesi Fortress is the stuff of legends. The story goes that an Ottoman sultan built the castle in order to protect his daughter, but it also served as protection for Armenian kings from the pirates of the Mediterranean.
Ishak Pasha Palace
A truly striking site in the middle of the hilly Turkish landscape, the Ishak Pasha Palace was built by members of the Pasha family between 1685 and 1784. After being abandoned after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the beautiful palace managed to survive in its remote location.
Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross
Built in the early 900s, the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross is especially striking up close because of the beautiful bas-relief carvings all around its façade that depict stories from the Bible. The church, restored in 2005, now serves as a museum.
Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Gevaş, Van, Turkey, +90 543 258 98 94
Cathedral of Mren
In a remote location near Turkey’s border with Armenia, the stunning Cathedral of Mren has managed to survive for over a thousand years. The church, built sometime in the 600s, is composed of red and black masonry bricks with religious paintings still present in its interior.
This boat-shaped rock formation, just a few miles north of the border between Turkey and Iran, has become quite legendary. Visited regularly by pilgrims, some people believe that this was the site of Noah’s Ark.