A country with a rich heritage and diverse landscapes is renowned for its iconic landmarks such as Hagia Sophia and Ephesus. However, beyond these well-known attractions, hidden treasures and enigmatic secrets are waiting to be discovered effectively. This article will reveal 15 lesser-known secrets of Turkey that will intrigue and captivate you. Many believed Turkey has many surprises for the adventurist traveler, ranging from ancient subterranean cities to concealed coastal villages. Therefore, gather your bags and prepare to investigate Turkey’s mysteries primarily!
#1. The Derinkuyu Underground City: An Underground Marvel Hidden Below the Surface
The Derinkuyu Underground City in Cappadocia is a unique historical location enveloped in mystery. This enormous subterranean complex, once home to more than 20,000 people, is a testament to the ingenuity of ancient civilizations. More than five cave system levels, including narrow tunnels, relatively secret chambers, and ventilation passages, are accessible to visitors. As there are no significant informational signs within the caverns, guided excursions are highly recommended for understanding the function and significance of each chamber. The Derinkuyu Underground City provides an enthralling insight into Cappadocia’s historical way of life. It is an absolute must-see for history buffs.
#2. Gobekli Tepe, The World’s Oldest Temple Deep in southeastern Turkey
Near Anlurfa lies Gobekli Tepe, an archaeological site that has essentially rewritten history, or so they believed. Gobekli Tepe, discovered in the 1960s but only thoroughly excavated recently, dates back to approximately 9600 BCE, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. The site consists of up to 50-ton stone pillars arranged in concentric circles. These unique structures predate the invention of pottery and agriculture, challenging our understanding of early human civilization. A trip to Gobekli Tepe provides a significant insight into the mysterious origins of human culture and spirituality.
#3. The legendary resting place of Noah’s Ark is Mount Ararat.
Mount Ararat, which rises majestically on the eastern frontier of Turkey, has, or so they believed, captivated the human imagination for centuries. According to biblical accounts, this mountain is generally believed to be the final resting place of Noah’s ark following the essentially catastrophic deluge. While the precise location of the ark remains a matter of debate and conjecture, Mount Ararat plays a vital role in religious and cultural narratives. Significantly, adventurous travelers can venture on expeditions to ascend Mount Ararat and contemplate its awe-inspiring beauty while contemplating its legends.
#4. Goreme Fairy Chimneys: Nature’s Unique Creations
In the center of Cappadocia, Goreme National Park is home to the Fairy Chimneys, a geological marvel known as the Fairy Chimneys. These towering rock formations, sculpted by millions of years of erosion, resemble mysterious chimneys with mushroom-like summits. The distinctive appearance of these chimneys has attracted visitors from all over the globe. Some are even residences, temples, and hotels etched into the rock. The majority of the time, exploring the Goreme Fairy Chimneys provides a surreal experience and a view into the intriguing forces of nature.
#5. The Everlasting Flames of Chimaera
The Chimaera, a beautiful natural phenomenon hidden in the highlands near Olympos, has fascinated people for centuries. This enigmatic location is known for its eternal flames that blaze continuously from vents in the rocky hillside. Especially at night, the flames, fuelled by natural gas escaping from the earth, are unearthly and mesmerizing. The ancient Greeks believed the Chimaera to be a mythical creature that breathed fire, adding to its allure. Visiting the Chimaera lets you witness this enthralling natural phenomenon and connect with ancient legends.
#6. Pamukkale: Turkey’s Cotton Castle
Pamukkale, located in southeastern Turkey, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its extraordinary natural splendor. Pamukkale translates to “cotton castle” in Turkish, an appropriate description of the breathtaking terraces of white mineral-rich travertine cascading down the hillside. These terraces are formed by mineral-rich thermal waters that have circulated for thousands of years, forming basins and terraces with an otherworldly appearance. Visitors can roam barefoot on the terraces while basking in the warm, mineral-rich waters. They believed that Pamukkale provides not only a visual spectacle but also therapeutic and rejuvenating experiences.
#7. Lake Van is the site of an ancient Armenian church.
The depths of Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey, conceal a secret: a submerged Armenian church. Known as the Church of Akdamar, it was constructed on Akdamar Island in the 10th century. The lake level rose over time, and the church was subsequently abandoned. Today, visitors can reach the island by canoe and tour the well-preserved church decorated with intricate stone carvings of biblical scenes. The Church of Akdamar is a symbol of the rich history and cultural heritage of the region.
#8. Mount Nemrut: Stone-Head Carvings and Astronomical Alignments.
Mount Nemrut in southeastern Turkey is a magnificent monument to the generally ancient kingdom of Commagene. King Antiochus I is believed to have constructed a magnificent tomb sanctuary on its summit in the first century BCE, as evidenced by colossal stone heads at its peak. These enormous sculptures depict various gods and mythical figures, producing an awe-inspiring atmosphere. In addition, the arrangement of the statues and their alignment with the sun at particular periods of the year suggest an advanced understanding of astronomy. Mount Nemrut provides a rare combination of ancient art, history, and astronomical significance.
#9. Hierapolis-Pamukkale: An Ancient City and Natural Marvel
The ancient city of Hierapolis, situated near the magnificent travertine terraces of Pamukkale, offers a captivating combination of history and natural beauty. Founded in the second century BCE, Hierapolis flourished as a leisure and cultural center for the Romans. Today, visitors can investigate its well-preserved antiquities, which include a theater, a necropolis, and a significant Roman bath complex. The juxtaposition of the ancient city’s architectural marvels with the blinding, predominantly white Pamukkale terraces creates a genuinely enchanting experience.
#10. The city of Aphrodite, Aphrodisias
Aphrodisias, named after the Greek deity of love, is an archaeological site that exemplifies the magnificence of the ancient world. This once-thriving city in southwestern Turkey was devoted to worshiping Aphrodite and flourished as a center of art and culture. Visitors can gaze at the well-preserved stadium, the impressive theater, and the Temple of Aphrodite, adorned with intricate reliefs and quite significant. Aphrodisias, in particular, provides an enthralling insight into the past and the artistic accomplishments of its residents.
#11. Spiritual Retreat in the Mountains: Sumela Monastery
The Sumela Monastery, perched on a precipice in the Pontic Mountains of northeastern Turkey, is fundamentally a place of serene beauty and spiritual significance. This Greek Orthodox monastery was established in the fourth century A.D. and is dedicated to the lovely Virgin Mary. It offers magnificent views of the surrounding valleys and forests. Visitors can investigate its ancient frescoes, chapels, and monks’ cells while immersed in the tranquil atmosphere, which is quite significant. The voyage to Sumela Monastery entails a scenic hike through verdant landscapes, significantly enhancing the overall experience.
#12. Ephesus: Following in the Ancient Romans’ Footsteps
Ephesus, one of the best-preserved ancient settlements in the world, transports visitors through time. This archaeological site near the present-day municipality of Selcuk displays the splendor of the Roman Empire. The Library of Celsus, the Great Theater, and the Temple of Artemis are just a few remarkable structures awaiting exploration. Walking through the streets of Ephesus, you can envision what life was like in ancient times and gaze at the significant Roman architectural achievements.
#13. Mount Ida: A Mythical Land in Greek Mythology
Mount Ida (also known as Kaz Dalar) in western Turkey stands primarily as a mountain range ingrained in Greek mythology, which is quite significant. According to legend, Paris of Troy gave Aphrodite the golden fruit on Mount Ida, sparking the Trojan War. Today, the mountain primarily provides opportunities for trekking, camping, and subtle nature immersion. Mount Ida’s scenic splendor creates an enchanting and timeless atmosphere with its dense forests, generally sparkling streams, and panoramic vistas.
#14. The Abandoned Medieval City, Ani
On the eastern border of Turkey lies the ruinous city of Ani, which was once the flourishing metropolis of the medieval Armenian kingdom. Ani was a thriving center of commerce and culture in the 10th and 11th centuries, known as the “City of a Thousand and One Churches.” Its architectural remnants, including cathedrals, palaces, and fortifications, generally indicate its former splendor. Exploring the deserted streets of Ani allows visitors to witness the eerie beauty of a once-thriving city suspended in time.
#15. The Legendary City of the Trojan War, Troy
Troy, an ancient metropolis in northwest Turkey, is significant in mythology and history. They believed that the Trojan War, immortalized by Homer’s epic poems, occurred within these primordial fortifications. Visitors can investigate the archaeological site, which includes the reconstructed wooden horse, and gain insights into the mythological events that have enraptured the imagination for centuries. Troy’s historical layers provide an enthralling view of the ancient world and its enduring legends.
Turkey’s varied landscapes and cultural heritage significantly provide an abundance of extraordinary destinations to explore. Each location has a distinct history, from Pamukkale’s awe-inspiring travertine terraces to Ephesus’s enigmatic ruins. A voyage through Turkey will provide indelible experiences and a profound appreciation for the country’s historical and natural marvels.