Apart from housing numerous historical heritages, there is a wealth of ancient ruins in Turkey. Most of them date back to ancient Greek Civilisation while may carry roots from the Roman era.
During the ancient era, the land which is now modern Turkey witnessed several battles between the Greeks, Romans, and Persian empires.
The Persian Empire built various port cities and some of the most remarkable architectures during their reign. Their rule ended after the arrival of Alexander the Great who conquered Anatolia in 330 BC.
With such a vast history, the country has an endless of impressive ancient architecture including castles, churches, temples, and more.
For reference, we have listed some of the most popular ancient ruins in Turkey that are worth taking exploring on a day trip.
10 Most Remarkable Ancient Ruins In Turkey
1. Ayasoluk Castle
Also known as Ayasuluk Kalesi or Selcuk Kalesi. Ayasoluk sits at the hilltop of Selcuk town. It is just a few distance away from the ancient city of Ephesus.
The Castle was built by Byzantines with the leftover stones that were used for building Roman and Greek structures.
The site where the castle stands was abandoned after the end of Byzantine rule. Ephesus was later conquered by the Selcuk empire in 1090. However, Byzantine Empire reconquered it and took it under their control till the 14th century.
The Selcuk again reconquered Ephesus and renamed it Ayasuluk. After Selcuk, it came under the rule of the Ottoman. Over the year, the population kept declining leading to the destruction of several sites including the castle itself.
Today, most of the parts of Ayasuluk are ruined but it is worth visiting if one is willing to learn more about Turkey’s ancient history.
Location: Selcuk, Izmir Province
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Troy is among the most popular Greek ruins in Turkey. Though there is nothing much to explore here but it is quite a center of attractions because of various ruins.
The site was discovered in 1860 after an excavation done by Frank Calvert. Another excavation occurred in 1870 that unearthed some of the treasures of Greek civilizations.
Over the 150 years of excavation, a more in-depth history of Troy was discovered that goes back to a period of the Trojan War.
Today, Troy is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2018 a museum was opened at the ancient site of Troy that exhibits a collection of gold jewelry.
Location: Hisarlik, Northwest Turkey
3. Temple of Hadrian
The Temple of Hadrian is one of the well-preserved ancient ruins in Turkey. It was built by P. Quintilius to honor Emperor Hadrian in 138 A.D.
Emperor Hadrian was one of the most respected emperors of the Roman empire who came third among the “Five Good Emperors”.
Today, only the Temple’s entrance portion is left which was rebuilt in the 1950s by archaeologists. Unfortunately, the main room where the statue stood is completely demolished.
The original building went through several reconstructions including the one in the 4th century when the frieze was constructed. It too was damaged following a massive earthquake in 262 AD.
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4. Trajan’s Fountain
Located just a few walking distance away from the Temple of Hadrian is the Trajan’s Fountain that was built in the 2nd century.
Built in honor of Emperor Trajan, the fountain is one of the beautiful fountains in the ancient city of Ephesus.
During earlier times, there were two ornamental pools one at the front and another one in the back. The water used to flow down from a pillar, where once stand the statue of Emperor Trajan.
Now, only one of the feet of the Emperor’s statue is left while the rest of the structure is demolished.
Apart from this, other statues were also found during excavation including some notable figures like Aphridute, Androklos, Emperor Nerva, and others.
Timings: 8:30 AM to 7:00 PM
Location: Curetes St., Selcuk
5. Basilica Cistern
Istanbul is home to over hundreds of hidden cisterns that are situated underneath streets and even some houses.
Only two of those cisterns are open to the public, of which the Basilica Cistern is quite popular among tourists.
The entrance to the cistern is from the streets near Hagia Sophia. It was originally built in 532 by Emperor Justinian I to resolve the city’s water needs.
Coming to its architecture, Basilica Cistern is around 143 meters long and 65 meters wide. Its roof contains 336 marble columns with each of them having a length of 9 meters.
The Basilica was first opened to the public in 1987. Visitors can access the concrete walkways while enjoying the cool temperature.
Location: Alemdar, Yerebatan, Fatih/İstanbul
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Among all the ancient sites in Turkey, Priene is the best preserved and can be easily accessible.
It gives the visitors an opportunity to experience the ancient Greek era while walking along old streets.
The visitors can witness the beautiful structures surrounding the streets including private homes, public buildings, and others.
The city is believed to be built around 350 BC but historical sources claim it is no older than the 8th century BC.
The present-day Priene perfectly represents the golden era of Greek civilizations, their culture, ideology, and values.
Location: Southwestern Turkey
7. Goreme National Park
Goreme National Park is situated in central Turkey that is home to a massive volcanic region. It covers a total area of 39 square miles and includes two mountain ranges i.e Mount Hasan and Mount Erciye.
Although these mountain ranges are situated outside the national park they are easily visible from the park area.
It is yet another ancient site on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The highlight of the national park is the ground that is linked with underground settlements.
Many attractions here are formed after the erosion including rock formations such as rock towers, fairy chimneys, pillars, and tent rocks.
Nonetheless, there is a hidden city underneath connected through 8 stories. Some of the parts are either used as residences by locals or are converted into hotels.
Location: Nevsehir Province, Central Turkey
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8. Agzikarahan Han
Azgikaran once served as the caravanserai during the reign of the Selcuk Empire. The Han was originally ordered to be built by the Abbasids Caliphate.
According to some inscriptions, the caravanserai was built during the reign of Sultan Alaaddin Keykubad on June 1231. On the other hand, its courtyard was built by his Son Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II.
The same caravanserai was frequently shown in the famous Turkish series “Dirilis Ertugrul” also known as “Ressurection Ertugrul”.
Location: Ağzıkara Han village, Konya–Kayseri road
9. Temple of Appolo
The Temple of Appolo is the fourth largest ancient temple in Turkey and one of the most important religious monuments in Turkey.
Except for three columns, all the other columns of this temple are demolished. It perfectly represents the power and might of the great Roman Empire and how they honored their Gods.
The original structure used to cover an area of 5,500 square meters with a total of 122 columns. The temple’s walls rose up to a height of 28 meters.
- April to October - 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM
- November to March - 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Location: Yenihisar Mh Didim
10. Lycian Rock Tombs
Lycians used to hold so much significance before the arrival of Alexander the Great. During his region, several stone tombs were built as it was believed the souls of the dead people will be transported to the afterworld through magic-winged sirens.
The site contains tombs of several remarkable people including Amyntas that overlooks the Fethiye town.