Watch whirling dervishes, visit the tomb of Rumi, and explore centuries-old Çatalhöyük while visiting Konya, a hidden cultural gem, just three hours south of Ankara.
While most visitors to Turkey head straight to Istanbul or Cappadocia, those looking to truly get a feel for the country should make a beeline for Konya instead. A landlocked city just south of Ankara, Konya seamlessly blends religion, points of historical significance and touches of Seljuk culture with very modern surroundings.
Walk in the footsteps of poet Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, where you’ll learn about his life and explore the streets of Konya, his hometown, on Culture Trip’s 12-day group tour.
Proudly named a Unesco World Heritage Site, Çatalhöyük is an ancient settlement that dates back around 9,000 years. The archeological site is said to have flourished between 7100 BCE and 5700 BCE. It was “stumbled upon” by a team of British archeologists in 1958. An initial dig of the site discovered 40 houses as well as figurines, pottery and wall art – so there’s plenty for history lovers to learn about here.
The first butterfly sanctuary in Turkey and the largest in Europe, the Konya Tropical Butterfly Garden opened in 2015. It’s now home to an estimated 10,000 butterflies made up of over 45 different colourful species, making it a must-see when visiting the region. The building itself is one of the longest butterfly flying fields in Europe. Soak up the year-round tropical temperatures inside, plus a smattering of exotic pants.
Plonked near Mevlana’s Tomb, Bedesten Bazaar is the oldest bazaar in Konya. Here, discover the ancient artisan culture displayed in the vibrant cluster of shopping streets, where you can buy traditional products and wares. If you’re feeling a bit peckish post-shop, dine on traditional Turkish fare at the nearby cafes of Celal Bey Etli Ekmek or Tiritci Mithat.
While we wouldn’t usually recommend heading into a park at night, this is the best time to visit Kultur Park. Located in the city centre, a light show kicks off here after dusk, where you can see the fountain display in front of one of the city’s biggest mosques – a truly magical sight. It’s worth coming back during the daytime too, to see its pool, amphitheatre and historical Dede Garden.
Just next to Kultur Park, Alaeddin Hill is a walled park in the city centre that’s filled with lush greenery. As well as pretty gardens and benches, on the eastern side of the park there’s a large marble fountain that cascades down the hillside. The park boasts a lot of historical significance as it’s home to the remains of a citadel, as well as the towering Alâeddin Mosque, which was built in 1235.
As well as being Turkey’s first interactive and bilingual institution for STEM education, the Konya Science Centre is also a great place to visit for tourists. There’s exhibitions on the body, world and universe as well as a planetarium. With lots of hand-on experiences to have, it’s a great option if you’re travelling with kids or teenagers.
Ayse Huseyin contributed additional reporting to this article.
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