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Ephesus/Troy/other ancient sites, Turkey

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did you know … ?

  • King Midas, Herodotus (father of history), St. Paul and St. Nicholas (remembered as Santa Claus) were born in Turkey.
  • Bodrum’s Tomb of King Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, gave us the word mausoleum.
  • The world’s oldest known human settlement, from 6500 B.C., is at Catalhoyuk in Turkey.
  • The world’s first coins were minted in Sardis, capital of Lydia, in the seventh century B.C.
  • Antioch (now Antakya) is the place where Christ’s followers were first called Christians.

Finding western roots

Turkey is an exotic destination, but it has touchstones that give it a familiar feel, too. That’s because the Greeks and Romans — vital antecedents to Western civilization — lived in today’s Turkey, and the very earliest Christians, most notably St. Paul, preached and made converts there. As a result, Turkey’s ancient sites rate highly with visitors. To be sure, the region attracts a disproportionate share of venturesome tourists, but packaged tours lure other personality types who want a look at places mentioned in history books and the Bible.

Visitors certainly have a rich trove of options. Some of the most popular are:

  • Ephesus. There are extensive Roman ruins in this once-thriving city. Here St. Paul preached, then later wrote to residents in letters known by the name Ephesians in the New Testament.
  • Bodrum. This is a yachting port and charming coastal town, but its history shows: It boasts the medieval Castle of St. Peter and the remains of the much older Tomb of King Mausolus, the world’s first mausoleum.
  • Cappadocia. From as early as 4,000 years ago, Cappadocian residents carved more than 1,000 buildings and 200 underground cities out of the region’s soft lava rock. Visitors may walk through an underground city, see rock-framed housing and frescoed churches, even stay in a cave hotel.
  • Antalya. This is a modern and pleasant resort city set between mountains and the Mediterranean, but its history spans at least 2,000 years. It also offers ready access to Aspendos, a well-preserved Roman theater, and other ancient ruins.
  • Mount Nemrut. Located in southeastern Turkey, this site is famed for its array of outsized statues and monuments dating from the first century B.C., found at Nemrut’s peak, more than 6,000 feet high.
  • Gordium/Pergamum/Sardis/Troy. As this list of four shows, there are many more places with stories that resonate with history buffs who have an affinity for antiquity.

In addition, Turkey — set at the crossroads between Europe and Asia — is chockablock with other compelling reminders of the past, notably from the times of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. By Turkish standards, they don’t qualify as terribly old.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Make Hittite history a theme for sightseeing. The relevant sites, with their temples, city walls and impressive bas-reliefs, are east of Ankara. Look for the city of Hattusas (known as Bogazkale today), which was known for its 70 temples.
  • Go horseback riding in Cappadocia.
  • Climb 6,000-foot-plus Mount Nemrut in time to see its huge 2,000-year-old statuary either at sunrise or sunset to get the best lighting for viewing and photography. The road to the site is open mid-April to mid-October; snows are heavy at other times.
  • Go whitewater rafting outside of Antalya.
  • Also, from Antalya, take a Jeep safari into the Taurus Mountains, and stop along the way to visit a local village.
  • Plot a self-drive trip down the Aegean Coast where you can take in several ancient sites, beginning with the ruins of Troy (and walk inside a model of a Trojan horse); followed by Pergamum (and see the Roman medical center where Galen worked); the ruins of Ephesus, and finally, Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus).

Things to do for Centrics

  • Visit the tomb of King Midas in the ruins of Gordium at the modern Yassihoyuk. You also can see what is left of the ancient city (where Alexander the Great cut the Gordian Knot) and a small museum.
  • Take a guided tour through Kaymakli or another underground city. You’ll want a guide to avoid becoming lost.
  • Overnight in a cave hotel. There are several in Cappadocia, but the Museum Hotel in Uchisar is very much on the upscale side.
  • At Bodrum or Antalya, sail on a gulet, a traditional wooden sailing boat. Charter for a day, or sign on for a scheduled multiday cruise.
  • At Antakya (Antioch in biblical times), see the city’s rich collection of ancient mosaics at the Hatay Archaeological Museum, as well as the Grotto of St. Peter, which may be the world’s oldest church.
  • See Cappadocia’s amazing landscape from a hot-air balloon.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Tour the extensive ruins of Ephesus, the capital of Roman Asia Minor. Then, head to the nearby resort town of Kusadasi for shopping. Ephesus can be visited as a shore excursion on a cruise itinerary.
  • Have dinner in a fine restaurant that overlooks the dramatic Roman harbor of Antalya.
  • Attend a performance at the Roman-era Aspendos theater outside Antalya. Do this on the occasion of the International Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival.
  • Snatch some beach time in Bodrum after touring the coastal city’s iconic medieval castle and seeing what is left of the Tomb of Mausolus.
  • Use spa facilities at your hotel in Antalya, Bodrum or Izmir (near Ephesus).
  • Join a tour or hire a guide to see all the most exotic rock formations in Cappadocia. Carry a good camera in order to take a record home with you.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office at