Not many countries have as lengthy or prominent a history as Turkey. Since the Paleolithic era, the area now known as Turkey has been inhabited by people in some way or another. In ancient times, the famous city of Troy occupied the northwestern part of Turkey. Later, the area became a part of the Greek Empire, then the Byzantine Empire, and finally the Ottoman Empire. With so many historical sites in Turkey, the country, which officially gained its independence in 1923, holds a unique place in world politics because it straddles the line between Europe and the Middle East. Turkey shares many cultural influences from both of these regions.
This amalgamation of cultures is evident in the diversity of historical sites the country has to offer. Leafcanoer, Daijie, recently shared her experiences in Turkey in her leaf titled, My Favorite Spots of Our Turkey Trip. Incorporating highlights from her trip, below is a list of historical sights in Turkey worth visiting.
Derinkuyu Underground City
The Derinkuyu Underground City was said to have initially been built by the Phrygians in the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. It was later occupied by the Christian Greeks, and was expanded to incorporate chapels and Greek inscriptions on the walls. By the time of the Byzantine era and after, the city of Derinkuyu served as a place of Christian refuge from the Muslims. Nowadays, visitors to Derinkuyu can access approximately half of the city’s underground tunnels and rooms.
The Aspendos Theater is a Greco-Roman amphitheater in the Antalya province of Turkey. It is considered one of the best-preserved theaters of antiquity. Built in 155 by a Greek architect, the Aspendos Theater is still currently in use, with productions held there annually by the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival.
In Greek, the name, Hagia Sophia means “Holy Wisdom”. This museum, which was constructed in 537, was initially a Greek Orthodox church, then a Roman Catholic cathedral, and then later a mosque. The museum’s structure, with its prominent dome, is a prime example of Byzantine architecture.
In the Cappadocia region, Uchisar Castle served as the main point of defense, occupying the highest point of the region. Built by the Byzantine army in the 15th century, the architecture of the castle is indicative of the architecture of that region, utilizing natural materials and consisting of rooms carved directly into the rock. The castle is most known for its breathtaking panoramic views of the Cappadocia region.
This palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans from 1465 to 1856. These days, it serves as a museum of the imperial era, holding Muslim holy relics, including the Prophet Muhammad’s cloak and sword. Due to its historical importance, Topkapi Palace is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, having been given the distinction in 1985.
The Blue Mosque is named for the blue tiles that line the interior of the mosque. Built in 1609 by Sultan Ahmet I as a means to showcase Ottoman power, the mosque continues to be in use to this day. Visitors to the mosque come to marvel at the ceramic tile designs inside the mosque, as well as the over 200 stained glass windows.
There is no denying Turkey’s importance and influence in the history of human civilization. In the ancient world, Turkey’s prominence was exemplified by the influence of the city of Troy. And now in modern times, Turkey serves as the bridge between Europe and the Middle East. With so many historical sites in Turkey, a trip to that country is almost like a trip through time. No matter how old you are, Turkey is most certainly worth a visit.
For more insight into Daijie’s trip to Turkey, as well as travel destination suggestions and tips from other travelers around the world, check out and download the LeafCanoe App.