It also has an extremely colourful historical timeline and the hospitality of Turkish people ensures visitors return year after year. Whether you are a first time visitor to Turkey, or have been here before, certain places within the country should be visited, simply for their beauty or historical importance.
Places in Turkey That Should Be On your Bucket List
Sumela Monastery: North-East TurkeyOverlooking the scenic Altindere Valley consisting of large mountains, dense forests and flowing streams, Sumela Monastery is more than 1600 years old and a popular tourist attraction, respected for its cultural and religious significance, but also its defying location, nestled into the side of a cliff face that is 1200 metres high.
The entrance is reached first via a steep drive through the surrounding forest and then a strenuous climb up a long stone staircase. Despite being out of breath and in some cases, totally exhausted, most visitors agree the climb to be inside this ancient building of Christian significance that stands in a country where a majority of citizens are Muslim is worth it.
Legend says the Greek Orthodox monastery was constructed at this location because two monks discovered a statue of the Black Virgin Mary in a nearby cave and assumed this to be a sign from God. Annually, on the 15th August the Monastery is closed to the public and an Orthodox Mass takes place with only 500 spaces for attendees.
Along with prayer chapels, original living quarters open for viewing include the kitchens, sleeping areas, study rooms, library, and a guestroom, previously used for overnight travellers passing through.
The room attracting the most admiration though is the Rock Church and its frescoes painted over three different eras that show scenes of Mary and Jesus. Unfortunately, some paintings are badly damaged with graffiti and over the decades, soldiers and visitors removed pieces because of a lack of education about preserving the history of this land.
In the year 2000 the Turkish Government took over the maintenance of this historical site and it has also been added to the tentative list for the UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Natural Landmark of PamukkaleThis historic site, in the Denizli Province of South-Western Turkey is a popular excursion trip, from all neighbouring holiday resorts on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.
Pamukkale in Turkish means Cotton castle, aptly referring to its appearance of being snow covered or dipped in a layer of shimmering cotton wool. It is rumoured that visiting the site, at certain times of the year, introduces you to a fabulous pink glow as the sun rises.
Formed when there was an earthquake in the 2nd century BC, Pamukkale bursts with natural hot water springs running down the hillside that left deposits of calcium and magnesium which in turn crystallised. Today Pamukkale and the nearby ruins of Hierapolis are listed on the UNESCO World heritage list.
Underground Cities of CappadociaCappadocia is famous for its underground cities that were built to protect locals against invaders. Ventilation shafts run from the deepest points of the caves to the surface, and large concrete doors could be moved to block the tunnels and keep the occupants safe from invasion. The two most visited cities are Derinkuyu and Kaymakli.
Derinkuyu: The largest of the Cappadocia underground cities, it extends down to 18 storeys and accommodated every need including fresh water, kitchens, churches, livestock storage areas and even a room to place the dead in. It had the potential to house up to 20,000 people.
Kaymakli : The Kaymakli Underground City, that opened to the public in 1964, has an impressive network of low, narrow and slopping passages leading to living quarters, churches, and storage areas. The underground city consists of 8 floors and has narrow slopping passages, which are not ideal for visitors suffering from claustrophobia.
The Beehive Houses of HarranHarran is renowned for its famous beehive houses, erected from stone and mud displaying a sandy appearance. They are specially designed to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
All the rooms have beehive domes and are connected to form one big house around a courtyard. The village used to be surrounded by walls and two entrance gates, although today you can only see the remains of one.
Inside the houses, visitors can view traditional furnishings and decor used by locals over the centuries. Visiting Harran is an ideal chance to learn about local Kurdish culture and life in the Southeast of Turkey away from the tourist resorts in the West of the country.
The Hagia Sophia of IstanbulThe Hagia Sophia is a majestic, architectural beauty and one of the best surviving examples of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Famous for its large dome shaped structure, said at one stage to be the largest in the world, Hagia Sophia has been recognised as one of the greatest houses of worship by both the Christian and Muslim worlds.
Hagia Sophia was constructed as a church in the old city of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in the 6th century (532–537). When Istanbul was invaded in 1453 the church fell into the hands of the Ottomans who transformed it into a Mosque in the name of Islam.
Originally built to face Jerusalem for the Christian faith; the Ottomans changed the interior and focal praying area to face Mecca instead. Some of the original Christian Mosaics have been covered over, although there is still one, depicting the Virgin Mary. Islamic calligraphy circles adorning the large interior walls, also hang from the first floor. In 1935 Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum and opened to the public. If you intend to visit Istanbul, it should be your first port of call.
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