UNESCO Traveller Goals
In life, lots of us have goals we aim for. For many travellers, one of these goals is to visit all of the world’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Travel to every country in the world, but Turkey, definitely should be included in your visit list.
“Turkey geography is a geography which founded civilizations.”
Istanbul likely needs no introduction, even if it’s the only place in Turkey you’ve heard of. This city linking Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus has played a pivotal role in the rise and fall of world empires, going by names such as Byzantium and Constantinople prior to acquiring its present moniker. Its history, both storied and visible, is incredibly rich. UNESCO recognizes four distinct zones:
Archaeological Park, including: the Blue Mosque and Topkapı Palace, the Hippodrome of Constantine, and historic churches dating to the 6th century AD
Süleymaniye Quarter, including: the grand Sehzade and Süleymaniye mosques, and the Valens Aqueduct
Zeyrek Quarter, including: the Pantocrator Monastery
Zone of the Ramparts, including: the remains of fortifications constructed by Theodosius II, Byzantine Emperor of the early to mid-400s
The Selimiye Mosque is the focal point of this UNESCO site in Edirne, an ancient city in far western Turkey, near the borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Constructed between 1569 and 1575, the mosque is the creation of renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan — he considered it his finest work — and features exquisite interior design. Its four slender minarets reach over 270 feet high and dominate the skyline of Edirne to this day. A surrounding complex of schools, a covered market, and a library complete the site.
It’s true: When the Greeks launched their thousand ships to recapture Helen of Troy, their destination was present-day Turkey, right across the Aegean Sea. After years of bloody battle, the Greeks pretended surrender and built a great wooden horse as a purported gift to the Trojans…and the rest is history (or myth, or a fusion of the two; no one’s really sure). What is known is that the Archaeological Site of Troy tells of 4,000 years of human history, and is absolutely worth a visit. For Hollywood’s take, head to the nearby city of Çanakkale, where you can see the actual Trojan horse constructed for the 2004 Brad Pitt movie Troy.
There are examples of Turkey’s ties to Greco-Roman history all over the country, perhaps none so prominent as Pergamon. A city rule off and on by both Greeks and Persians in antiquity, its heyday came in the Hellenistic period, when it served as the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon under the Attalids. It prospered as a center of learning and modeled its Acropolis (the ruins of which are on display today) after that of Athens. Temples, theaters, a library, and other structures make up the historic site, located just outside of Bergama near Turkey’s Aegean coast.
Ephesus is another site whose lineage goes waaaay back. Serving as a capital of the Kingdom of Arzawa as early as 1500 BC and later falling under Greek control, many of the structures that remain today date to the Roman period starting in 129 BC. The status of Ephesus in antiquity was legendary — it was one of the 12 cities of the Ionian League under the Greeks; the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; and was one the largest cities in the Roman Empire. It was also home to the Apostles Paul and John and features in early Christian texts. Today, the main sites at Ephesus include the Library of Celsus, the Great Theatre, the Basilica of St. John, and the nearby Ephesus Archaeological Museum.
At Pamukkale, in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey, the seep of hot-spring water over millennia has created a “white castle” of terraced travertine pools and one of the most spectacular landscapes you’ll find anywhere. Its beauty was recognized early on; Pamukkale has served as a spa site for at least 2,200 years. The Greco-Roman town of Hierapolis was established above the pools, and its ruins — temples, bathhouses, a theater, and more — remain. If you visit today, you can bathe in the same pools as the Attalid kings of the second century BC.
Somewhere around 9000 BC, people in this part of the world began doing something that, to our knowledge, had never been done before: settling down. The birth of agriculture is credited with bringing an end to our species’ nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle and leading to the creation of permanent villages, towns, and eventually cities and civilizations. Çatalhöyük is one of the earliest of these yet found. Located near Konya in southern Turkey, it appears to have comprised mainly domestic residences, arranged in a honeycomb-like structure. The population is estimated to have reached 10,000 — an unprecedented metropolis by the standards of the time.
Centered on the town of Göreme, in the middle of the country, the national park of the same name and its surrounds comprise one of the most fantastical landscapes in the world. Chief among its features are the hundreds of stone hoodoos — the “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia. Sculpted by thousands of years of erosion, these formations range from precarious pinnacles to stout pyramids. Habitation of the area dates back to at least the Bronze Age, as evidenced by the numerous cave dwellings carved directly into the stone, which have served as hideouts, monastic quarters, and storerooms over the centuries. Today, the preferred method of sightseeing in Cappadocia is on a sunrise hot-air balloon tour.
From approximately 1600 to 1180 BC, the Hittites established and expanded an empire that at its height covered most of modern-day Turkey, along with slices of Mesopotamia and the Levant. Their capital was Hattusha, near what is today Boğazkale in the Black Sea region. The ancient imperial city sat atop a rocky hillock and featured a series of protective walls and elaborately carved stone gates — the Lion Gate, seen above, is the best preserved. Walking through the remains of this great settlement, it’s inspiring to imagine the power that once dwelt here.
A few hours north of Ankara, the city of Safranbolu saw its fortunes rise in the 13th century, when it became a key stop on a major east-west Ottoman trade route. Many of the fine structures built over the next few hundred years are well preserved today: mosques, a bathhouse, a historic inn, and religious education facilities. The city also was widely known for its locally grown saffron (hence the name), and production of the spice continues on a small scale today. A heritage of artisan crafts and hospitality also remains in modern Safranbolu.
Resources : https://matadornetwork.com/trips/13-incredible-unesco-sites-probably-didnt-know-turkey/