Top 16 Ancient Cities to See in Turkey

Top 16 Ancient Cities to See in Turkey

Berfin Ceren Meray
March 22 2023 - 11:36am

Turkey is a land blessed with a rich history, as it has been home to various civilizations from the western to the eastern world over the centuries. This makes it a unique point on the world map, with ancient cities that have witnessed diverse stories that are now part of our world heritage. Turkey offers visitors a journey through time, with its unique architectural structures, mesmerizing works of art, and natural wonders. Whether you're planning to explore the country's coastline or venture inland, there are many historical buildings and places that you should consider visiting to truly experience the wonders of Turkey.

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1. The Ancient city of Ephesus

1.	The Ancient city of Ephesus

The Ancient City of Ephesus, located in the Selcuk district of Izmir, has a history dating back to 6000 BC. It has been a settlement place during the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Principalities and Ottoman Periods, and served as an important gateway between East and West. The city attracts an average of 1.5 million visitors each year and has been the site of ongoing archaeological excavations for over 125 years, revealing new structures to Anatolian archaeology.

2. The Ancient City of Aizanoi

2.	The Ancient City of Aizanoi

The Ancient City of Aizanoi, located in the center of Kütahya's Çavdarhisar district, is believed to have emerged from the union of the mythology hero Azan, the Water Fairy Erato, and the legendary King Arkas. The city's best preserved temple, built in honor of Zeus, is considered one of the finest examples of Anatolian temple architecture.

3. Pergamon

3.	Pergamon

The Ancient City of Pergamon, located in the Bergama district of Izmir, features a Roman-era settlement and includes an amphitheater with a capacity of 50,000 people and a theater that seats 30,000. Today, the Ruined Door stands as the arch of the ancient theater.

4. Priene

4.	Priene

Priene, located near the town of Güllübahçe in Aydın province, is an ancient city whose first foundation dates back to 2000 BC. Priene is renowned for its impressive town planning and was built using the 'grid system' developed by the Milesian architect Hippodamus. Official and public buildings cover entire blocks and are situated in the city center.

5. Miletus

5.	Miletus

Miletus, situated near Akköy and 30 km away from Söke in Aydın province, was founded as a port city and boasts impressive structures such as the Roman-era theater, which has a seating capacity of 15,000 people and is currently undergoing restoration.

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6. Zeugma

6.	Zeugma

Zeugma, located on hills 10 kilometers east of the Nizip district in Gaziantep, was founded by Seleucus Nikator I, one of Alexander the Great's generals, in 300 BC. The city was named Seleucia Euphrates and later changed to Zeugma, meaning passage-bridge, after being connected to Rome. It is home to impressive structures such as the bridge connecting the two cities established by Seleucus Nikator I.

7. Myra

7.	Myra

The Ancient City of Myra is situated in the present-day Demre district center, and it was founded on the plain of the same name. The city was connected to the sea by an accessible canal located to the west of the Myros River. Additionally, the Andriake (Çayağzı) Port, situated on the other side of the channel, facilitated sea transportation and trade in the region. The city is renowned for its Lycian-era rock tombs, Roman-era theater, and Byzantine-era St. Nicholas Church, also known as Santa Claus.

8. Aphrodisias

8.	Aphrodisias

The Ancient City of Aphrodisias is located in the Karacasu district of Aydın province and sits on a plateau approximately 600 meters above sea level in a fertile valley created by the Dandalaz Stream, a tributary of the Menderes River. The city's primary source of wealth during the Ancient Period was derived from the marble quarries situated on the outskirts of Babadag, to the north of the city, and fed by the natural features of the river basin. The most well-known photographer of Turkey, Ara Güler, accidentally discovered the city in a state of decay.

9. Hierapolis

9.	Hierapolis

The Ancient City of Hierapolis is situated 18 km north of Denizli Province and boasts a grid plan composed of two monumental gates, streets, and roads parallel and perpendicular to the main street. The main street, which is around 1 km long, bisects the city. Most of the ruins in Hierapolis are from the Roman period, and in 1988, the city was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as both cultural and natural heritage along with the Pamukkale Travertines it overlooks. Throughout history, Hierapolis has been an important center of healing and faith.

10. Hattuşaş

10.	Hattuşaş

Hattusas, the capital of the Hittites, is located in the Boğazkale District southwest of Corum. As the capital of the Hittite Empire, Hattusas has been a crucial center in Anatolia for centuries. The city was discovered by the French traveler Charles Texier in 1834 and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986.

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11. Xanthos

11.	Xanthos

The city of Xanthos is situated on the Fethiye-Kas highway, approximately 46 km from Fethiye in the Kinik resort. It was founded on two hills dominating the plain by the Xanthos River. The first hill is the Lycian Acropolis, encircled by a rampart rising in the form of a steep cliff from the edge of the Eşen Stream. The second hill is the Roman Acropolis, which is higher and broader in the north.

12. Alacahöyük

12.	Alacahöyük

Alacahöyük Archaeological Site is located in the Alacahöyük Town, in the Alaca District of Çorum, Turkey. It was an important cultural and artistic center of the Hittites, and excavations started in 1935 have revealed artifacts from four different civilizations.

The findings from Alacahöyük are exhibited in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara and the Alacahöyük Museum, which was opened to the public in 1941. The area encompassing Alacahöyük and Boğazköy was declared a national park in 1988.

13. Aspendos

13.	Aspendos

Aspendos is a city located in the Serik district of Antalya, Turkey, and is famous for its ancient theater. The theater was built by the Romans in the 2nd century BC as an open-air theater, and it is known that the architect of the theater was Zenon, the son of Theodore of Aspendos.

14. Laodicea

14.	Laodicea

The Ancient City of Laodikeia is located 6 km north of Denizli Province in Turkey. The Hellenistic city was founded by the Seleucid King II in the middle of the 3rd century BC in the name of his wife, Laodike. In 130 BC, the region became a part of Rome. The city has one of the first 7 churches of Christianity and became a religious center at the metropolitan level in the Early Byzantine Period. It also boasts a theater that can accommodate around 20,000 people.

15. Knidos

15.	Knidos

The ancient city of Knidos is located on Cape Tekir at the confluence of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas at the extreme part of the Reşadiye Peninsula in the Datça district of Muğla, Turkey. It was a significant center of Western Anatolian coastal cities and was known for its advancements in science, architecture, and art. Eudoxus, the great astronomer and mathematician in history, the doctor Euryphon, the famous painter Polygnotos, and the architect of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, considered one of the seven wonders of the world, Sostratos, all lived here.

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16. Phaselis

16.	Phaselis

The ancient city of Phaselis is located in the forest in Tekirova Village, 35 km from Antalya, Turkey. The ruins of the city are situated on both sides of the main street, connecting the military port and the southern port, with sidewalks on both sides. The street is 125 meters long and has a width of 20-25 meters, which can be reached by three steps. The street forms a square in the middle and reaches the southern port.

Have you ever visited Turkey and experienced its rich history and culture firsthand? If so, what were your favorite historical sites or landmarks that you visited?

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