11 Inspiring UNESCO Sites in Turkey

The narrative of Turkey is a confluence of history that rises from the beginning of civilizations. The land stood through the rise and fall of the earliest human cities, and mighty empires. The Hittite, Lycian, Roman and Ottoman empire have left their traces on this land, have played its part in the epic war of Troy and still stands as a country that unites continents.


Fortunately, many of the remnants of its fascinating history has been preserved well. Today, Turkey is the land of numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each with its own tale to tell. A visit to this country offers opportunities to peak into the past. So here are the most incredible sites on this land that has to find a place in your itinerary.

1. Selimiye Mosque

Selimiye Mosque

The Selimiye Mosque and its associated social complex are the situated in the UNESCO site in Edirne. The ancient city in far western Turkey is close to its borders with Bulgaria and Greece. The Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan created the mosque between 1569 to 1575. The interior of the mosque features exquisite details and design work. The four minarets dominate the sky of the Edirne reaching for a height of 270 feet. The surrounding complex includes a library, a covered market and a complex of schools.

2. Hierapolis-Pamukkale


The Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey has one of the most spectacular natural wonders you will come across. The travertine pools in Pamukkale has served as a natural spa site for around 2000 years. Above the pools seats the Greco-Roman town of Hierapolis, with its temples, bathhouses, and the other remains.

3. City of Safranbolu

City of Safranbolu

The City of Safranbolu to the north of Ankara was a prominent city in the 13th century. It played a key role in the trade east-west route of the Ottoman empire. Over the course of the century, many beautiful structures were erected like mosques, inns, bathhouses and other facilities remain well preserved in the site. The city gets its name from the local production of saffron and till date continues to produce it on small scales.

4. Cappadocia


The idea of Cappadocia brings the images of hot air balloons and the fairy chimneys. This peculiarly shaped landscape is what that has made the town of Goreme on the world map of historical sights. The chimneys were sculpted with centuries of erosion ranging from pyramids to pinnacles. The region is considered to be inhabited since the Bronze Age when these shapes and caves have served as quarters, storerooms and hideouts.

5. Sites of Istanbul

Sites of Istanbul

The capital city needs no introduction, playing its significant part politically due to its geography. The very same factor has made it critical for the rise and fall of empires, including the Byzantium and what made it Istanbul where once Constantinople stood. The city has four different zones of UNESCO sites. The archeological park with the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome of Constantine, Topkap? Palace, and other important churches, the Sillimanite Quarter, the Zeyrek Quarter and the Zone of ramparts, each has its distinct characters and history.

6. Hattusha


The Hittite Capital of Hattusha served the empire from 1600 to 1180 BC. At the time, it extended almost to the length and breadth of current Turkey, adding parts of the Levant and Mesopotamia. The city stood on a rocky mountain, had protective walls and elaborate gates. Today, you can walk through the quiet remains and imagine how the city would have looked during its thriving and lively days.

7. The Site of Troy

The Site of Troy

When a thousand ships were launched for Helen of Troy, they were headed to the present day Turkey. The Greeks after their years of battle surrendered and gifted the wooden horse to the Trojans. This is what the legend claims, and the site tells stories of 4000 years of history. If the legend doesn’t interest you, head to see the wooden horse built for the movie in 2004 in the nearby city of Çanakkale.

8. Ephesus


Ephesus Turkey served as the capital of Arzawa kingdom. The city has passed through several rules, including the Greek and Roman. The remains that you see today mostly is from the Roman period during the 129 BC. The ancient Ephesus was one of the 12 cities of the Greek Ionian League., and houses the Temple of Artemis, a structure both historically and architecturally significant. The other main sites here include the Great Theatres, the Basilica of St. John, the Library of Celsus and the museum.

9. Pergamon


Pergamon is another city that portrays how Turkey was so deeply connected to the Greek and Roman empires. It saw its rise during the Hellenistic period, serving as capital under the Attalids It later became the center of learning and was inspired after the Greek Acropolis. The ruins of the same are still found on the site, among the other structures that once were temples, theatres, and libraries.

10. Bursa and Cumalikizik

Bursa Turkey

Perched on the Sea of Marmara, opposite to Istanbul, the iconic city of Bursa Turkey marks the birth of the Ottoman Empire. The founder of the empire, Orhan Gazi was buried here. The city still has many features left from its glorified past.


In the smaller villages of Cumalikizik, along the river valley, today one can find scraps of the empire, rooted on the cobblestone streets and architectural styles.  

11. Nemrut Dagi

Nemrut Dagi

Mount Nemrut at its elevation of 7000 ft houses some of the engineering marvels from the 1st century BC. Here you can find artificial terraces, stones and statues, and even suggestions of a royal tomb. Today, it is all tumbled down but what has remained has been conserved at best. It has been a World Heritage Site since 1987 and is accessible now during the summer months.


Turkey has a few other UNESCO sites too. It would take a long trip to the country to tick off each and everyone, giving them the attention they deserve.


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