The 12 most important archaeological sites in Turkey

For a history buff, Turkey is a fascinating and complex territory. It is fascinating because it is constantly in motion and there is always something going on. But it is also complex because the changes make it difficult for the general public to understand.

The civilizations present on what is today Turkey were linked. Ancient peoples, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Ottomans… The majority of them have left their mark on modern Turkey. Among these memories, archaeological sites are among the most representative.

With this article, discover the 12 main archaeological sites in Turkey!

Towns and cities

Troy, Ephesus, Aphrodisias, Pergamon and Hierapolis are all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Troy

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Trojan horse, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Mati Nitibhon & CREATISTA

State of conservation: ★★★
Public knowledge: ★★★★★
Historical influence: ★★★★★

A place tinged with both reality and legend, Troy is perhaps the best-known archaeological site in Turkey. The legend is, of course, Homer’s Iliad . Even today, historians wonder if the Trojan War took place as it is told or even if the event really existed.

The legend is what makes Troy famous, hence the presence of the famous Trojan horse at the entrance to the site. However, the historical value of the site is very real. It represents the first contact established between Anatolia and the Mediterranean world. Most of the ruins date back to the Bronze Age, around 3,000 years old, reinforcing the preciousness of Troy.

Ephesus

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The Library of Celsus in the ancient city of Ephesus, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Pommy.Anyani & muratart

State of conservation: ★★★★
Public knowledge: ★★★★
Historical influence: ★★★★

Ephesus is one of the major archaeological sites in Turkey. In the ancient world, it is famous for hosting the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Today, only a few remains remain.

Beyond this aspect, Ephesus is a unique testimony of a Roman city in Anatolia. It is by far the best preserved in the region. The best-preserved monument is the Library of Celsus, the best-known image of Ephesus.

Aphrodisias

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The Theater of the ancient city of Aphrodisias and its remains, Aydin, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Yulia Kupeli & Haluk Cigsar

State of conservation: ★★★★
Public knowledge: ★★
Historical influence: ★★★

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If Ephesus is the testimony of a Roman city in Anatolia, Aphrodisias is that of a Greek city. And what testimony! This archaeological site in Turkey is in a fairly remarkable state of conservation, despite its age and the fact that it is in an earthquake zone.

Many monuments are clearly recognizable, including the hippodrome and the amphitheater. Aphrodisias is dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite . The ruins of the sanctuary built in his honor are still visible.

Pergamon

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Remains of the archaeological site of Pergamon, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Yulia Kupeli & bodrumsurf

State of conservation: ★★★
Public knowledge: ★★
Historical influence: ★★

Pergamon is another archaeological site in Turkey representing the ancient Hellenic world . Located very close to the city of Bergama, the visit of Pergamon allows you to discover many vestiges, the most important of which is the amphitheater.

Built on a hill, its geographical location is unique and allows you to appreciate the view once there. Be aware that Pergamon’s most important monument, its Great Altar, is housed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin .

Hierapolis / Pamukkale

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Pamukkale Terraces and Hierapolis Amphitheater, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – muratart

State of conservation: ★★★★★
Public knowledge: ★★★★
Historical influence: ★★★

This archaeological site in Turkey could be confused with the hot water pools, called terraces of Pamukkale. However, there is no confusion: these basins are an integral part of Hierapolis! This is the reason why Unesco classified the two sites together in 1988.

This geological curiosity made Hierapolis the main spa town of Anatolia in ancient times. It is therefore a site with several interests. The archaeological and historical interest for Hierapolis, with in particular the sublime preservation of the amphitheater and the tomb of the apostle Philip. The relaxation interest with Pamukkale and its hot water pools!

Miletus

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Ancient city of Miletus, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Nejdet Duzen & Nejdet Duzen

State of conservation: ★★★★
Public knowledge: ★★
Historical influence: ★★★

This archaeological site in Turkey dates from the time of the Minoan civilization , around 2,000 BCE. The preserved remains are more recent and belong to the classical Hellenic civilization.

Originally, Miletus was a port. The passage of time and the natural elements have pushed the sea over 5 kilometers away! Through our visit, we can see the theater, the portico of the agora, the baths or even the stadium.

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Miletus’ most iconic landmark is its Market Gate. It is now kept in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Termessos

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The ancient city of Termessos and its amphitheater, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – fotopanorama360 & Zeynel erden

State of conservation: ★★★★★
Public knowledge: ★★
Historical influence: ★★

An ancient city in the Pisidia region, Termessos is a rather special archaeological site in Turkey. Built in the mountain in the middle of a pine forest, you have to walk a long way to reach it.

Once at the top, the calm surrounding the site impresses and soothes. A unique curiosity, Termessos has never been excavated! Nothing has changed since the city was abandoned, except the passage of time. Of all the vestiges, it is the theater which is the most impressive, in particular for the view it offers.

Archaeological complexes

Sagalassos

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Fountain and remains of the ancient city of Sagalassos, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Ender BAYINDIR & Ekaterina Ormanci

State of conservation: ★★★
Public knowledge: ★★
Historical influence: ★★★

Sagalassos is a rather unknown archaeological site in Turkey. His story is interesting though. Sagalassos is nicknamed by the Romans “first city of Pisidia” and its particularity is to be located at about 1,500 meters above sea level.

The monuments are the classics of a Roman city. The most beautiful of these is its nymphaeum, a monumental fountain, from which water flows again!

Goreme

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Archaeological site of Göreme, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Olena Tur & Birol Bali

State of conservation: ★★★★★
Public knowledge: ★★
Historical influence: ★★

Do hot air balloon photos in Cappadocia ring a bell? They were taken in Göreme! Among the archaeological sites in Turkey, Göreme is both the most amazing and the most exceptional. The city is famous for its hoodoo rock formations. They are large natural columns with a different top from the rest of the rock.

Göreme is the most famous place in the world to admire this wonder of nature, especially in the so aptly named “Valley of Love”. Inside certain rocks, dwellings have been built! An unforgettable visit.

Gobekli Tepe

Gobekli Tepe

Ancient site of Gobekli Tepe in SanliUrfa, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – steve estvanik & acsen

State of conservation: ★★★
Public knowledge: ★
Historical influence: ★★★★

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Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Göbekli Tepe is the oldest archaeological site in Turkey. Indeed, its abandonment is attested to in the 8th millennium BC (yes, – 8,000!).

Its recent discovery still makes this site quite mysterious. Its function remains unknown. But archaeologists are unanimous on the importance it has because its construction dates from a crucial period for human civilization.

Hattusa

Hattusa

The famous gates of the archaeological site of Hattusa, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Stylone & AlpKaya

State of conservation: ★★★
Public knowledge: ★★
Historical influence: ★★★

This archaeological site in Turkey is none other than the former capital of the Hittite Empire . Abandoned around 1,200 BC, excavations have uncovered many elements. The most famous is the city gate and its Sphinx statues.

Some parts like the fortifications have been rebuilt. Visiting Hattusa allows you to learn a lot about the Hittite civilization, almost unknown to the general public.

Çatalhöyük

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Çatalhöyük archaeological site, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – acsen

State of conservation: ★★
Public knowledge: ★★
Historical influence: ★★★

Like Göbleki Tepe, this archaeological site in Turkey is very old as its abandonment is attested around 5,700 BCE. The importance of Çatalhöyük has allowed it to be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Çatalhöyük is a residential city, with no apparent public establishment or house larger than the other. The civilization that occupied it remains unknown to this day.

Curiosity

Nemrut Mountain

Mount Nemrut

The amazing statues of the archaeological site of Nemrut Dağı, Turkey – Photo credit: Shutterstock – muratart & kataleewan intarachote

State of conservation: ★★★
Public knowledge: ★★★
Historical influence: ★★

Why is this amazing archaeological site in Turkey listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Because it is unique in the world! Nemrut Dağı (Mount Nemrut in Turkish) is a mountain with huge stone statues, most representing gods.

No statue is still standing today and the heads are exposed on the ground… Its main function is not determined but it could be a royal tomb from the 1st century BC.

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Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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