Ancient Sites and Cities You Should Visit in Turkey

Turkey is home to a huge number of Ancient Greek ruins
Turkey is home to a huge number of Ancient Greek ruins | © Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Feride Yalav-Heckeroth
3 September 2021

The number of ancient sites in Turkey is truly staggering. Here are some of the most popular and some of the more remote (though equally stunning) ancient sites in the country.

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Archaeological site
Library of Celsus, Ephesus Ancient City, Izmir, Turkey
© Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo

Certainly the most popular and well-preserved of the archaeological sites, Ephesus dates back to the 10th century, and combines Greek, Roman and early Christian culture. The most famous structures here are the Library of Celsus and Temple of Artemis, as well as the nearby House of the Virgin Mary.

Göbekli Tepe

Archaeological site
Gobekli Tepe, Turkey
© Robert Landau / Alamy Stock Photo

Discovered by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt in 1994, Göbekli Tepe was an astounding find that completely altered what was known about prehistory. It’s believed that the temple structures were built during the 10th millennium BCE, and therefore are the oldest example of such large-scale architecture in the world.


Archaeological site
Termessos, Antalya
© Joana Kruse / Alamy Stock Photo

Another very well-preserved ancient site, Termessos is notable for having a theatre that looks out over the breathtaking Taurus Mountains, at an altitude of more than 1,000m (3,281ft). Once a Pisidian city, the site is almost entirely concealed by beautiful pine forests. You can visit with Culture Trip on our action-packed 12-day Turkey trip, led by our local insider.


Archaeological site
Ruins of Aphrodisias, Aydin Province
© Classic Image / Alamy Stock Photo

The ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias took a much-deserved place on the Unesco World Heritage List in 2017, but continues to remain quite unknown to travellers. Named after Aphrodite, the goddess of love, the most stunning structure is the Temple of Aphrodite.


Archaeological site
Ruins of the ancient town Hierapolis, Roman amphitheater in ruins, Pamukkale
© Nina Reszko / Alamy Stock Photo

Many are familiar with the travertine pools of Pamukkale, but fewer know about the ancient city of Hierapolis nearby. Once a significant destination for healing hot springs, it’s still possible to swim in the hot mineral waters and visit the city’s great Roman theatre.


Archaeological site
Hattusha, Turkey
© ollirg / Alamy Stock Photo

Once the capital city of the Hittite Empire, Hattusha is an important archaeological site, dating back to the Bronze Age – which you can explore with Culture Trip on our exclusive small-group Turkey adventure. The remains continue to stun visitors, including a sophisticated library, as well as underground tunnels, temples and palaces.


Archaeological site
The gymnasium at Sardis constructed during the reign of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus.
© Images & Stories / Alamy Stock Photo

This place was the former capital of the kingdom of Lydia, as well as an important city in the Persian Empire and a metropolis during the Roman and Byzantine eras. Sardis’ highlights include royal burial mounds, the Temple of Artemis and a synagogue.


Archaeological site
Temple of Athena, Ruins of ancient Priene, Aydin Province, Turkey.
© Idea Studio / agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

An ancient Greek city that once overlooked the sea from steep slopes and terraces, Priene is home to significant works of Hellenistic art and architecture. Notable structures include the Temple of Athena, an agora and stoa, an assembly hall and a well-preserved theatre.

Mount Nemrut

Archaeological site
Mount Nemrut
© funkyfood London - Paul Williams / Alamy Stock Photo

Located at the peak of Mount Nemrut, this ancient mausoleum was built by King Antiochus I of Commagene for himself around 63BCE. The statues all around are truly breathtaking and were once as tall as 9m (30ft).

These recommendations were updated on September 3, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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