Wonders of Turkey (that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List)

Turkey currently has 16 heritage sites on the World Heritage List of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). The World Heritage List was compiled by the Commission for the UNESCO World Heritage on the recommendation of the member countries. The Agreement for the World Heritage has been ratified by 191 of the 197 to UNESCO connected member countries.1) Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 1985.

One of the main tourist attractions in Turkey: Cappadocia, located in central Turkey. By eroding soft stone – or peat stone, from which a large part of the scenery exists- a unique, whimsical, and above all wonderful area emerged. One of the main features are the famous rock formations, also known as “Fairy-chimneys’. The former inhabitants of the area have contributed to the wonderful development of Cappadocia by carving out homes, churches and entire underground cities of the rocks.

2) Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 1985

The Great Mosque of Divriği with adjacent hospital (Turkish: Divriği Ulu Cami ve Darüşşifa) was built in 1299. It is renowned for its building technique, which is a unique example of Islamic architecture.

3) Historic Areas of Istanbul 

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 1985

Istanbul is a city where already thousands of years civilizations follow each other. These different cultures have all left their traces in this magnificent metropolis where Europe and Asia meet. At the World Heritage List under the heading “Historic Areas of Istanbul” the following masterpieces are added: The ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque.

4) Hattusha: the Hittite Capital

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 1986

Near modern Boğazkale are the ruins of Hattusa, once the capital of the Hittite Empire. At its peak the empire included most of Asia Minor (now Anatolia), parts of the eastern Mediterranean region and eastern Turkey, northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. Before the excavation began, the only source of information about the Hittites has been the Old Testament in the Bible. For a long time there was doubt about the existence of the Hittite Empire, but when archaeologists went to work in the area from the 19th century, quickly became clear the magnitude of this realm. Excavations in Hattusa have been in progress since 1907.

5) Nemrut Dağ

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 1987

At an altitude of two thousand meters on a barren mountain called Nemrut in eastern Turkey, lies one of the most remarkable sites of Turkey. Here, in the first century BC, King Antiochus of the Kingdom Komagene has built a monument. For himself. It consists of a tomb surrounded by huge statues. By earthquakes that plagued the region in the course of centuries, the heads of the nine meter high statues rolled off and scattered all over the mountain. These statues are seen as one of the most colossal and ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period due to the highly developed technology it took to build the huge statues. Some of the stone blocks that are found on the mountain roads weigh over nine tons.

6) Hierapolis-Pamukkale

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 1988

The ‘Cotton Castle’ as Pamukkale is called translated, is to put it mildly a strange natural phenomenon. Through the seepage of warm, calcium-rich water from underground sources for centuries, its white terraces of limestone where formed. At the end of the 2nd century BC the kings of Pergamon of the Attalids Dynasty built the thermal Spa of Hierapolis. The ruins of the baths, temples and other Greek monuments are on the edge of the limestone terraces and can also be visited.

7) Xanthos-Letoon

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 1988

Xanthos is the capital of ancient Lycia, situated adjacent to the shrine of Letoon. The archaeological site is located in the province of Antalya. It shows the best of the architecture of the Lycian Civilization which was one of the most important cultures in Anatolia. According to UNESCO, the two areas show the remarkable continuity and the unique combination of the Anatolian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine civilizations. It was also in Xanthos-Letoon where the most important texts in the Lycian language are found that gave a better understanding of the history of the Lycians and their Indo-European language.

8) City of Safranbolu

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 1994

This beautiful town with its typical Ottoman architecture is named after one of the world’s most expensive spices: saffron, which was also cultivated in abundance there. From the 13th century until the arrival of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important trading centre located at the busy east-west trade route. In 1994 about 800 houses were placed on the World Heritage List because of their typical Ottoman architecture which was an example for urban development in the rest of the Ottoman Empire.

9) Archaeological Site of Troy (Truva)

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 1998

Most people will recognise Troy from Greek mythology. In his Iliad, Homer describes the battle between the Greeks and the inhabitants of the settlement of Troy. The Trojan heroes Hector and Paris fought against the Greek heroes Achilles, Odysseus and Ajax. After ten years of war, the Greeks invented a ruse: they built the Trojan Horse in which they hid their soldiers. Then, they pretended they were going to leave the battle and Trojan territory. The Trojans thought the horse was a gift from the goddess Pallas Athena and dragged it inside the city walls. After drinking and partying and when sleeping of their drunkenness, the Greeks came out from the horse and yet conquered the city. The Trojan War seems to have really taken place just not a beautiful woman has been the cause of the feud as in Homer’s Iliad, but economic rivalry. The archaeological site in the province Çannakale has over 4000 years of history and is extraordinary because it shows first contact between the Anatolian civilizations and the Mediterranean world.

10) Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 2011

The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne town – the old capital of the Ottoman Empire – was built by the famous architect Sinan in 1575. The impressive building including school, courtyard and closed marketplace is considered a masterpiece of Ottoman, Islamic architecture.

11) Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 2012

A Neolithic settlement in the region of Central Anatolia in the Konya plain, Çatalhöyük is known as the oldest city in the world. This Archaeological World Heritage Site is located on two hills, the eastern hill has 18 levels of Neolithic occupation in the years 7400-6200 BC.

12) Bursa and Cumalıkızık: the Birth of the Ottoman Empire

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in:

The whole village of Cumalıkızık and some parts of the city of Bursa show urban and rural foundations of the Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century.

13) Pergamon and its Multi-Layered Cultural Landscape

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 2014

Above the Bakırçay plain lies ancient Pergamon and its multi-layered cultural landscape. The Acropolis, the highest point of the city, crowns a landscape with burial mounds and the remains of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires in and around the modern city of Bergama on the lower slopes.

14) Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 2015

City located in eastern Turkey above the river Tigris. The by a fortress enhanced town has been an important centre for centuries. The site encompasses the Amida Mound, known as İçkale (inner castle), the 5.8km-long city walls of Diyarbakır with their numerous towers, gates, buttresses, and 63 inscriptions from different periods, as well as Hevsel Gardens, a green link between the city and the Tigris that supplied the city with food and water.

15) Ephesus

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 2015

Ephesus or Efes is one of the most extensive archaeological sites in the world. There are many attractions including major monuments from the Roman Empire such as the Grand Theatre and the Library of Celsus. The Temple of Artemis, one of the seven ancient world wonders, has unfortunately remained little preserved.

16) Archeological site of Ani

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in: 2016

This site is located on a secluded plateau of northeast Turkey overlooking a ravine that forms a natural border with Armenia. This medieval city combines residential, religious and military structures, characteristic of a medieval urbanism built up over the centuries by Christian and then Muslim dynasties.


This article is published in Hello Alanya Magazine August 2015 and updated on April 18th 2017

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