A highway journey across the historical cities of Turkey


might be standing on the very spot Alexander the Nice as soon as stood after conquering Sagalassos, the primary metropolis of Pisidia.

Positioned 1,500 metres on high of the mighty Taurus Mountains, Sagalassos was as soon as a thriving metropolis, a spot of energy and wealth, embellished with large-scale monuments lined with intricate designs. A sequence of earthquakes left many of the metropolis underneath rubble till its latest discovery within the Nineteen Eighties.

On a crisp Monday morning after we go to, town is abandoned. Layers of half-built marble partitions, horizontal pillars, and items of limestone stay scattered like an unfinished museum. However someway, regardless of its ambiguous look, there is sufficient to offer you a way of what it was once. An uneven marble path guides you thru the Hamman {and gymnasium} to the colonnaded avenue and Decrease Agora, and observe that approach as much as attain the extra upmarket part of the settlement.

Behind the Higher Agora, dealing with the city of Aglasun, is the jewel of this historical metropolis: the Antonine Fountain. Constructed between 160 and 180 AD by the Flavius household, the working nymphaeum depicts wealthy decorations utilizing various kinds of stones and iconic patterns symbolic of the Hellenistic period. Between the tabernacles are two larger-than-life statues of Dionysus, god of wine and fertility. These are the one ones authentic to the fountain; others are on show within the Museum of Burdur.

Sagalassos is likely one of the lesser-visited historical cities. Probably the most well-known is Ephesus, three hours away, the place our highway journey started.

Antonine Fountain in Sagalassos

/ Amey Bapat

Archaeology within the Aegean

We flew into Izmir from Istanbul and drove 45 minutes to the sleepy outdated city of Selcuk, dwelling to the Temple of Artemis, one of many Seven Wonders of the Historical World. All that is still of it’s a marble column, however artefacts from the temple are on the Ephesus Museum within the coronary heart of city. A brief stroll away, the fort and the Basilica of St John supply sweeping views of lush inexperienced fields and undulating hills, the everyday topography of the area.

Most individuals come right here to discover Ephesus, the well-documented historical metropolis in Turkey and by far the busiest. At 10 within the morning, the place is already heaving with vacationers nudging previous you to affix their respective teams. Be ready to navigate by folks (a number of folks), guides, photographers, and cats whereas dodging slippery, uneven tenth century BC marble flooring.

Temples, terrace Homes, and beautiful carvings in stone, together with the goddess Nike, line the trail till you get to the showstopper that’s the Library of Celsus. The 2-storey facade with home windows and Corinthian columns is a masterclass in Roman structure, lined with botanical motifs and sculptures representing knowledge, intelligence, information, and advantage. Again in its heyday, the library was dwelling to 12,000 scrolls, making it the third-largest library of the traditional world. Additionally inside Ephesus is an impressive marble theatre with a capability to accommodate 25,000 spectators. Take a bow on centre stage and soak within the environment and echo.

Library of Celsus in Ephesus historical metropolis

/ Amey Bapat

Simply minutes from the traditional website, a cluster of small, slim eating places begin filling up with the drained and hungry. Ladies in headscarves are rolling dough into paper-thin circles to arrange freshly made gozleme, Turkish pancakes filled with potatoes, meat, or greens. It’s a gentle lunch dish greatest consumed with ayran, a chilly, savoury yoghurt-based beverage.

Meals is on the coronary heart of Turkey, each culturally and strategically. Half the nation is agricultural, offering hundreds of thousands with employment and contributing a considerable chunk to its GDP. It’s the greatest producer of apricots and hazelnuts and the fourth-largest grower of olives. You’ll discover loads of this recent produce alongside roadsides as you drive between provinces.

White travertines of Pamukkale

Three hours east of Selcuk in Denizli Province is a website identified for its Instagram-worthy snow-white travertine terrace. Pamukkale, that means cotton fort, has mineral-rich thermal waters that create shimmering turquoise beds on white limestone deposits. It was used as a thermal spa within the 2nd century BC and attracts a whole bunch for a similar motive as we speak.

Behind the travertines is the traditional metropolis of Hierapolis, also referred to as the Holy Metropolis. “There are a number of theories as to why it was deemed holy,” our information, Yagmur, tells us. “Some consider the waters within the sizzling spring on which town stands are holy, whereas others suppose it was after a woman known as Hiera.’ The speculation behind the title is as difficult as its previous. From Phrygians to Greeks after which the Roman province of Asia, Hierapolis modified many fingers since its inception. The theatre, baths, and temples of Apollo, Pluto, and Poseidon we see as we speak are from Roman instances.

One of the simplest ways to expertise Hierapolis is to stroll alongside the cliff edge till you attain essentially the most well-preserved necropolis in Turkey. A lot of the 1,200 graves date again to the Hellenistic interval, however there may be additionally proof to point out the presence of Romans and Christians. At first look, the graves appear to be collapsed and cracked ruins. Nevertheless, archaeologists suppose thieves might have excavated them for valuables buried with the useless.

Lycian fishing village known as Kaleköy, reverse Kekova Island

/ Amey Bapat

Sunken historical metropolis

We’re abandoning the Aegean area and heading in direction of the coast seeking solar, sea, and a specific sunken metropolis within the province of Antalya. The journey to Kekova Island takes 4 to 5 hours by way of winding mountain roads and plush inexperienced forests.

The uninhabited island, also referred to as Kekova Adası, is seen from the mainland however solely accessible by boat. This Lycian metropolis was a busy port alongside the Mediterranean commerce route till the Byzantine interval. Surveys present a gradual decline in inhabitants and eventual abandonment of Kekova Island by the top of the eighth century, thought to have been brought on by pure disasters and a battle with the Arabs.

Traces of that bustling port stay seen by the quays dotted alongside the fringes the place water touches land. Different architectural stays resemble stone-built homes, church buildings, stairs, pipes, and water channels. Beneath the translucent waters, within the corners the place gentle is sparse, lie fragments of ships and amphorae relationship from the fifth to seventh centuries BC.

Your day-long boat journey may even take you to a different Lycian fishing village, known as Kaleköy or Simena, accessible solely by foot or boat. Not like Kekova, this village has locals dwelling in tiny stone homes alongside the hillside and it boasts a fort on the high with sweeping views of the Mediterranean.


Subsequent up is town of Antalya, a contemporary metropolis with an historical soul.

Neglect the resorts and head to the maze-like streets of Kaleici (outdated city), the place the triumphal arches of Hadrian and Ottoman mansions are assured to attraction you. Hidden in its slim cobbled streets, between spice markets and pottery shops, is the 18th century Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque and Yivli Minare (fluted minaret) constructed by Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubad. All roads within the outdated city result in the harbour, the place the locals collect to observe boats and yachts drift because the solar units.

Over within the trendy a part of town, the Museum of Antalya is a one-stop store for all issues historical. Right here you will see relics equivalent to cash, ceramics, statues, and sarcophagi, all collected from excavations across the area. Among the many 5,000 artworks displayed throughout 13 exhibition halls are marble statues of Artemis, Hermes, Hercules, and Trajan. Within the centre of the Corridor of Imperial Statues is Plancia Magna, essentially the most influential feminine of Perge.

Tomb of Sufi poet Mevlana Rumi in Konya

/ Amey Bapat

Spirituality and Sufism

From Antalya, we drive seven hours north to the non secular metropolis of Konya, by way of Sagalassos. The historical past of Konya, beforehand referred to as Iconium, turned a non secular hub underneath the Seljuk Turks, whose enlightened rulers developed it as a centre for arts and theological research. The buildings are actually dwelling to museums, equivalent to ceramics and antiquities.

1000’s flock right here every year to go to the tomb of Rumi, Mevlana Jalal al-Din Muḥammad Rumi, the Sufi poet identified for preaching tolerance and the inspiration behind the Order of the Whirling Dervishes. Mevlâna Museum, the place his physique rests, is a spot of pilgrimage, each for his followers and lovers of his poetry and philosophy. His coffin, positioned subsequent to his father underneath a turquoise dome, stays draped in inexperienced material with gold calligraphy underneath an outsized conical hat.

Subsequent to the mausoleum is the mosque the place his most outstanding work now sits. Masnavi, that means the Religious Couplets, is taken into account probably the most influential scriptures in Sufism. It’s a sequence of six books comprising 25,000 verses and 50,000 traces. Rumi died in 1273 earlier than he may full the ultimate guide.

Caves of Cappadocia

From the poetic to the otherworldly, we head three hours north-east to Cappadocia or Katpatuka, the land of lovely horses.

Some 2,000 years in the past, Mount Erciyes erupted, protecting the land in thick ash, which later solidified into smooth rock known as ‘tuff’. We’re observing holes within the tuff, which our information factors out are dovecotes or pigeon homes. There are a whole bunch of those carvings round us in a spot aptly referred to as Pigeon Valley.

“Pigeons had been important for the folks of Cappadocia for a number of causes, however primarily as a result of their poop may fertilise the volcanic soil,” she defined. The birds have lengthy stopped fertilising, however the holes stay extra for images than anything.

Like in every single place in Turkey, Cappadocia has a sophisticated previous, too. Throughout Roman and Byzantine rule, it acted as a spot of refuge for Christians pressured into non secular exile. To stay in hiding, they constructed interconnected underground cities. Many of those nonetheless exist and provides an enchanting perception into how they lived, the place they slept, and the way they communicated.

A brief distance away, the small village of Gerome is surrounded by surreal landscapes referred to as “fairy chimneys”. Erosion of the volcanic tuff eroded the smooth components, abandoning honeycombed buildings towering a number of toes into the sky. The open-air museum of Gerome showcases a number of of those, in addition to stunning church buildings lined in frescoes.

There’s lots to do in Cappadocia, aside from observing strange-shaped rocks. You can go to a conventional Turkish carpet maker or have a go moulding native mud into ornamental pottery. If the cave-like buildings have intrigued you, keep at domestically owned inns designed to present you that precise expertise. We finish our time in Cappadocia with a tasty home-cooked meal surrounded by beautiful locals – in a cave dwelling, in fact.

Intrepid Journey’s 15-day Premium Turkey in Depth journey begins from £2,176pp, together with lodging, transport, chosen meals, and actions. Worldwide flights are further. Ebook at  intrepidtravel.com or name 0808 274 5111.

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