Travel to Turkey: 6 Must-See Historic Highlights in Eastern Turkey

Travel to Turkey: 6 Must-See Historic Highlights in Eastern Turkey

Since eastern Turkey is a bit off the beaten path and unknown to many, a traveler will more likely find authentic experiences along the way, meeting locals as they work, farm, wash clothes, cook, and go about their daily lives in their towns and villages. These are 6 must-see sights for a memorable journey through Turkey’s earliest history.

  1. Mardin and Harran
  2. Gaziantep
  3. Nemrut Dağ
  4. Van Area
  5. Doğubayazıt and Mount Ararat
  6. Kars and Ani

1. Mardin and HarranNoted for the hilltop citadel (kale) overlooking this culturally diverse town, Mardin is best known for its honey-colored Saffron Monastery built more than 1,500 years ago. This history-steeped, ancient city is a place where Aramaic – the language Jesus spoke – is still chanted in Syriac Christian church services. In the same region is Harran, a Silk Road town so old it’s referenced in the Bible and the Torah. As well, Harran is home to beehive-shaped houses called kümbet.

  • Tip: Buy Mardin’s famous pistachio-oil soap in the town’s lively bazaar.
The design of Harran's beehive adobe houses dates back more than 2300 years Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

The design of Harran’s beehive adobe houses dates back more than 2,300 years
Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

2. GaziantepWhile Turkey’s pistachios are famous, Gaziantep’s pistachios are hands-down the most flavorful, with its local pistachio Antep baklava” considered best in the world. Visit the town’s old bazaar, or linger in the Gaziantep Mosaic Museum with its Roman artifacts and famous “Gypsy Girl” mosaic.

  • Tip: Perhaps obvious, but great gifts to take home are bright-green Gaziantep pistachios as well as the city’s world-famous pistachio Antep baklava. It stays fresh for 2-3 days and freezes well for months.
Many say pistachio baklava from Gaziantep, Turkey is the world's tastiest <br /> Photo credit: Inga Belova

Many say pistachio baklava from Gaziantep, Turkey is the world’s tastiest
Photo credit: Inga Belova

(click on photo to see larger version)


3. Nemrut Dağ (UNESCO)Sunrise and sunset are the most beautiful times to ascend Mount Nemrut to view dozens of 2,000-year-old limestone heads glowing in the slanted light. (The rest of their bodies are nearby.) Constructed by Commagene King Antiochus I, these 26- to 30-foot statues include the king, eagles, lions and many gods.

  • Tip: Even in summertime it can get very chilly on Nemrut Dağ. Bring a hat and heavy coat, or wear lots of layers.
Atop 7,000-foot Mount Nemrut <i>(Nemrut  Dağ)</i> are 2,000 year old royal statues <br>Photo credit: Jered Gorman

Atop 7,000-foot Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dağ) are 2,000-year-old royal statues
Photo credit: Jered Gorman

4. Van AreaAlthough situated within conservative eastern Turkey, Van is a bit more progressive and relaxed than other nearby towns. Main draws of this predominantly Kurdish city are medieval Hoşap Castle and ancient Van Castle, dramatically sited on hilltop outcroppings, as well as a Lake Van boat ride to Akhtamar Island and its 1,000-year-old Armenian Church of the Holy Cross.

  • Tip: Be on the lookout for rare Van cats, known for the distinctive pure white fur on their bodies, different-colored eyes, and love of water.
The  Armenian Church of the Holy Cross  on Lake Van in eastern Turkey <br>Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

The Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on Lake Van in eastern Turkey
Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

5. Doğubayazıt and Mount AraratLocated near the Iranian border and perched high above the Kurdish town of Doğubayazıt is beautifully preserved Ishak Pasha Palace. Light and shadow play games in this complex, with six different types of stone reflecting and absorbing the rays in the courtyards, harem, mosque, and mausoleum. On a clear day from Doğubayazıt you can see Mount Ararat – nearly 17,000 feet tall – believed to be the Biblical resting place of Noah’s Ark.

Kurdish Dogubeyazit is home to Ishak Pasha Palace, an architectural  mix of Seljuk, Ottoman and Persian styles <br>Photo credit: Paul Schwartz

Kurdish Dogubeyazit is home to Ishak Pasha Palace, an architectural mix of Seljuk, Ottoman and Persian styles
Photo credit: Paul Schwartz

6. Kars and AniClimb the citadel overlooking Kars, a mile-high Kurdish town, taking in the sweeping views from its 900-year-old castle. Travel to the ruins of ancient Ani, once a Silk Road stop and now a place to view the walled-city remains of this medieval Armenian capital.

  • Tip: Take a taste of local honey and butter; they’re considered the best in Turkey. As well, eastern Turkey is a perfect place to experience an authentic Turkish bath.
The Cathedral of Ani in eastern Turkey is more than 1,000 years old <br>Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

The Cathedral of Ani in eastern Turkey is more than 1,000 years old
Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

Travel to Eastern Turkey with MIR
  • Handcrafted Private Journeys in Eastern Turkey: MIR can handcraft a custom, private journey focused on your personal interests, destinations, and timeline in Turkey’s “cradle of civilization.” Working with MIR allows you to fully focus on enjoying your travel experience while MIR handles all the logistics and details. A handcrafted itinerary for eastern Turkey might include:
    • Black Sea towns of Trabzon – once a Silk Road city – and Samsun, a tobacco town where Turkey’s Atatürk began his 1919 War of Independence.
    • Sümela Monastery, a 4th century Greek Orthodox monastery embedded in a steep cliff nearly 4,000 feet up Mela Mountain.
    • Erzurum, a multi-day base for exploring churches in the Kaçkar Mountains, or hiking the Tortum Valley.
Sümela Monastery is constructed on a narrow ledge high on a cliff near Trabzon, Turkey <br>Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

Sümela Monastery is constructed on a narrow ledge high on a cliff near Trabzon, Turkey
Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

 Explore More of TurkeyBecause Turkey is so large – the size of Texas – it’s easier to comprehend and visit by focusing on its geographical regions, each one unique in its sights, history, and cuisine. What remains the same everywhere is Turkey’s legendary hospitality. Here is an overview of Turkey, along with key regions to visit:

  • Travel to Turkey: 6 Favorite Highlights in Istanbul: Istanbul is an easy introduction to Turkey. Its minaret-studded skyline glistens with mosques, palaces, and water views that demonstrate the country’s living history, diverse cultures, and international cuisine.

Whatever Turkish delights capture your imagination, MIR’s handcrafted, private itineraries can transform your dream trip into an unforgettable travel adventure.

(Top photo: Although located more than a mile high, Lake Van doesn’t freeze because of its high salinity. Photo credit: Mike Belton)

 

PUBLISHED: February 16, 2015

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