A country rich in culture and brimming with hospitality, Turkey sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and offers plenty of modern attractions to suit every traveler’s interests. To step back into the country’s long history, create a Turkey itinerary containing a few of its splendid ancient ruins.
1. Basilica Cistern
Explore some of the largest among hundreds of ancient cisterns buried below the city of Istanbul by touring the well-preserved Basilica Cistern. Part of a vast underground water system commissioned in 532 by Byzantine emperor Justinian, this chamber attracts visitors with its practical and artistic value. Completely renovated in the 1980s, the cistern ranks as one of the most popular tourist sites in the city’s Sultanhamet district. Take a walk along the wooden platform beneath the vaulted ceilings of the cistern to see its famous Medusa-head pillar and Hen’s Eye column.
2. Ancient City of Ephesus
No Turkey holiday is complete without a visit to the ruins of the Ancient City of Ephesus, home to the famous Temple of Artemis, once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Originally built in the 10th century BCE by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists, the city came under Roman rule in 129 BCE, when it began its long history as one of the largest and most prosperous centers in the Roman Empire. To feel completely immersed in Turkey’s ancient history, explore this archaeological site on foot.
3. Temple of Apollo
Dedicated to the Greek god of light and sun, Temple of Apollo is one of the world’s top spots for impassioned history buffs. The enormous weight of history remains palpable at these ancient ruins, part of a complex of structures erected around the 2nd century CE. Though most of the original temple lies in ruins, the remaining columns and foundations make it easy to imagine just how the site must have looked over 2,000 years ago.
Include Perge in your Turkey vacation if you wish to see where Saint Paul preached his first sermon in 46 CE. Follow in the footsteps of the saint by passing between the remains of massive city gates, and stroll down the ruins of a colonnaded boulevard that once led to a nymph shrine, located on the slopes of an acropolis from the Bronze Age. The ancient site also includes ruins of a stadium, agora, necropolis, gymnasium, and a theater with a 52 m (170 ft) stage.
5. Troy (Truva)
Few historical sites have the power to conjure up images of the ancient past quite like Troy, a World Heritage Site known to many as the place where a giant wooden horse played a major role in one of the most cunning military hoaxes ever performed. A powerful center of ancient civilizations from the early Bronze Age until Roman times, this site contains remnants of walls, chariot ramps, and a small theater. Use your imagination and the informative audio guide to picture just how the famed city looked like at its peak.
6. Uchisar Castle
Uchisar Castle offers panoramic views of Cappadocia’s mountains, valleys, and towns. This towering volcanic outcrop features a maze of tunnels, rooms, tombs, and water cisterns, which local villagers used for centuries to hide from invading armies. Though most of the chambers on the northern side of this natural citadel now serve as pigeon houses, foreign tourists flock here to experience both the region’s ancient history and the sweeping vistas over the surrounding area. Pay special attention to the Byzantine graves on top of the castle, weathered reminders of the site’s long and often tragic history.
Reminders of a Bygone Era
Though it offers no shortage of modern things to do, Turkey remains one of the world’s finest destinations for travelers interested in antique history. Include a few ancient sites in your Turkey itinerary and experience the country’s atmospheric reminders of a bygone era when mythological heroes and monsters roamed this vibrant part of the world.