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Must See Places in Turkey (Outside of Istanbul)

Turkey is so much more than just Istanbul or Antalya. Let us share some of our favorite places with you!

  • Diyarbakir

  • Gaziantep

  • Mardin

  • Mount Ararat

  • Sumela Monastery

The city of Diyarbakir

What to see

  • Tigris River

  • Ten Arches Bridge

  • Caravan Saray

  • City Walls

  • Cultural Singers

In Diyarbakir, you can find the Tigris River and the Ten Arches Bridge. Diyarbakir has a famous bazar called the Caravan Saray. This old city has walls that surround it that are the second longest in the world.

Diyarbakir has cultural singers that tell ancient stories in Kurdish. These singers train for years and have excellent memories in order to remember the stories set to a tune. You can't miss these singers!

About Diyarbakir

Diyarbakir has been inhabited since at least 8,000 BC when these lands were cultivated for wheat. Geneticists believe this area is the origin of modern wheat. The first major civilization here was Hurrian. Kingdoms rose and fell in the area including the Assyrians, Parthians, Persians, and others. In the 1st-Century, Diyarbakir became the center of Syriac Christianity. The Romans colonized the area and began construction on the still-standing city walls in 297 AD. They called the city Amida. The city's current name Diyarbakir means "The Realm of the Bakr". The city is famous for its Old City Walls, a UNESCO World Heritage site. These are some of the longest city walls in the world, second only to the Great Wall of China.

The city of Gaziantep

What to see

  • Castle

  • Covered Bazaar

  • Archeology Museum

  • Yemeni Shoe Vendors

Gaziantep has a castle in the middle of the city and numerous cultural and historical museums that provide a lot of information about the region. The sunken city of Zeugma is nearby and you can see lots of relics from the city as well as gorgeous mosaics at the archeology museum.

Whatever else you choose to see while in Gaziantep, you cannot miss the Yemeni Shoe Shops. The tradesmen hand-make each shoe in their workshops behind the storefronts. They will make your shoes to custom orders.

About Gaziantep

Gaziantep used to be known as Aintab. This historic city was conquered by the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Byzantines, and finally, the Arabs in 638 AD. In 1070 Seljuk Turks took over and it remained under Turkish rule until the Ottoman empire in 1516. The city used to have a large population of Armenian Christians. The French tried to capture the city in 1920, but the local army held on to the city, forcing French forces to surrender in 1921. Aintab became Antep and Gazi was added to the front end, which means War Hero, as a way to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending the city in the war against the French.

City of Mardin

What to see

  • The city view

  • Dara Ruins

  • Deryulzafaran Monastery

  • Kirklar Church

Mardin has a gorgeous view of its city built onto a mountain. Don't forget to stop and get pictures of the city. Right outside of the city is the Dara Ruins. It is an old city built into the stone.

A monastery that has held onto Christian belief since the time of Jesus is the Deryulzafaran Monastery. In Mardin, spend the day exploring the streets of the old limestone city (no cars allowed!) and see mansions, stone houses, and museums. Every turn in this maze-like town brings a new sight to see or a shop to visit.

About Mardin

Experts believe people first settled in the city of Mardin around 4500 BC making it one of the oldest settlements of Upper-Mesopotamia. The buildings in this old city are made of limestone and its winding matching limestone streets are too narrow for vehicles, so you will find people getting around the city on horses and donkeys! This city is an open-air museum that contains architecture from many different periods throughout antiquity. To name just a few, the Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Seljuks, and Ottomans have all left their mark on this fascinating city.

Mount Ararat

What to do

  • Mount Ararat

  • Ishak Pasa Palace (Dogubeyazit)

See where historians believe Noah's Ark came to rest! See Ishak Pasa Palace, built by the Ottomans in the 17th Century. This is one of the very few surviving examples of historical Turkish Palaces. You can choose if you would like to see Mount Ararat from a distance or if you would like to climb up the mountain.

About Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat (Agri Dagi or Mountain of Pain in Turkish) is on the Turkish border with Iran and Armenia. Ararat technically has two peaks that are 7 miles apart. The Great Ararat summit is 16,945 feet above sea level. This is the highest mountain peak in Turkey! Most people think of Noah's Ark when they hear about Mount Ararat. According to the Bible, this is where Noah's Ark came to rest when the floodwaters receded. The name used for this mountain in the Bible is the Hebrew equivalent of Ararat - Arartu. The kingdom that was in the area between the Tigris River and the Aras River from the 9th to 7th Century BC was called Urartu. There are many local stories and legends surrounding the mountain and the story of the flood, including the Armenian claim to be the first race of humans to appear after the flood. There is a Persian legend that says Ararat is the cradle of civilization. It is a volcanic mountain and in 1840 it erupted destroying villages and an important monastery and chapel.

Sumela Monastery

What to do

Be prepared for a trek up the side of a mountain with many stairs. You will climb up the stairs and be able to get a gorgeous view around the corner of a chapel. Once you go inside the actual monastery, you can explore the rooms and different buildings of the ruins.

About Sumela

The history of Trabzon, as far as historians know, begins in 746 BC. Miletus colonists arrived and founded a settlement they named Trapezus, coming from a word that means "table", referring to the table of land they settled on, above the harbor. As a port city, it thrived until the Fourth Crusade seized Constantinople in the 1200s, forcing many nobles out of the city and into Eastern Anatolia. The noble family of Comneni established their empire along the Black Sea coast, including Trabzon, which was renamed Trebizond. It became an important city for trade before falling to the Ottomans in the 15th Century. After WWI, the Ottoman Empire was defeated and the Greeks in Trebizond sought to establish their own republic but failed. It was incorporated into the Republic of Turkey and is now a part of the Black Sea Region of Turkey.

Sumela opened around 386 and remained open until 1923. It is an amazing site to see both religiously, culturally, and architecturally.

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