Do you know which sites are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in Turkey? We didn’t – until we started creating this page!
UNESCO Traveller Goals
In life, lots of us have goals we aim for. For many travellers, one of these goals is to visit all of the world’s UNESCO World Heritage sites; each one recorded and ticked off as it’s ‘bagged.’ We’re not ‘list’ type people. There’s no real burning ambition to climb the highest mountains and tick them off. Or to travel to every country in the world, or to even visit every city in Turkey for that matter.
However, we have become a little curious of late about the list of World Heritage sites in Turkey. After 22 years of trying to make the list, we were so pleased when Ephesus was at last added, along with Diyarbakır’s fortress and Hevsel Gardens. This took the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Turkey to a tally of 15. And that’s where we got curious. We suddenly realised that, apart from these two latest additions, we really weren’t sure which other special places were on the list. And then from there, we did start to wonder if we’ve even been to any of these places.
World Heritage Sites In Turkey – Map
Researching The Turkey List
So it was research time. And if you’re a heritage and history boffin, it turns out the Turkey section of the UNESCO World Heritage sites is worth delving into. There are certain criteria that must be met before a building or site can make the list and, for each criteria, you can drill down and find out why a place made the list. Fascinating, if that’s your thing. We’re loving finding out more and discovering that we have in fact ticked off some the World Heritage sites in Turkey without even realising it…
A Chronological List of World Heritage Sites in Turkey
So, first things first, this little bit of research we did revealed a few surprises as to what has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. And also what hasn’t yet made the list. For just a bit of added extra geekiness, we’ve sorted Turkey’s World Heritage list into chronological order of the dates each site was awarded World Heritage status.
We’ve also mapped each place, as you can see above. The map is fully clickable so you can zoom in and out etc to see where places are and, if you click on a pin, it will tell you which site it is.
1985 – Historic Areas of Istanbul
This was the first bit of learning from our research. Not just individual buildings and sites in Istanbul but whole areas. So, if you’ve been to Istanbul, there’s a more than strong chance that you’ve bagged yourself some of Turkey’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. You can read more about what’s included in the list for yourself – we’ll not bore you with that one. But from our many travels in Istanbul, we’ve visited and blogged about buildings on the list of World Heritage sites in Turkey without even knowing. Ahh, yes, well all that has now changed!
Aya Sofya (Hagia Sofia) is a favourite for us. Isn’t it for everyone? We revisit here every once in a while just to wow ourselves once more with its complete splendour. Of course, Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque) is included and, whilst we have paid a visit to this beautiful complex, it was in pre-blog days and we’re yet to once more brave the queues.
We have, however braved the queues for Topkapı Palace and also enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of Kariye Museum (Church of the Holy Saviour of Chora) and Küçük Aya Sofya Mosque, all of which are on the Istanbul list of World Heritage sites in Turkey. Also on the list is our favourite mosque, Süleymaniye Camii. We have a big soft spot for this place and usually drop by the gardens when we’re in Istanbul so that we can take in the views of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.
This is just a fraction of what is included in the list of World Heritage sites in Turkey, but we reckon we’ve already made a pretty good start in visiting, loving and appreciating these sites which UNESCO also feels fit to protect, too.
1985 – Göreme National Park & Rock Sites of Cappadocia
Home to weird and wonderful rock formations that seem other-worldly. Rock-cut churches, underground cities, cave homes. And a mass of hot air balloons. We spent a few days in Cappadocia around ten years ago (those pre-blog days again). Cappadocia is on our radar for a revisit in the near future.
1985 – Great Mosque & Hospital of Divriği
We’ll hold our hands up here and admit to never even having heard of the Great Mosque & Hospital of Divriği. Well if we did need an excuse to visit northern Anatolia, a little jaunt to this 13th Century site could be it.
1986 – Hattusah; The Hittite Capital
There are some fantastic displays of Hittite artefacts in the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations in the Turkish capital, Ankara – they’re enough to make you want to know more, and, as you might expect, many of the exhibits are what has been excavated from Hattusah.
Hattusah is in the province of Çorum which is also in northern Anatolia. This means a double whammy could be on the cards where you could take in both Hattusah and the Great Mosque & Hospital of Divriği. Two of the World Heritage sites in Turkey with one visit.
1987 – Nemrut Dağı
Mount Nemrut; that famous place of huge rock-cut heads. Photos galore all over the internet and we just cannot believe we’ve not been here yet. We’ll get there, we’ll get there. The scene awaiting you at Nemrut Dağı is the mausoleum of Antiochus 1 who reigned in the 1st century BC. Most people who go here, begin their ascent of the mountain in the early hours of the morning in order to watch the sunrise from the top.
1988 – Xanthos & Letoon
Ahh, beautiful, beautiful Xanthos & Letoon, in our own neck of the woods. Two Lycian and Roman – with a bit of Byzantine thrown in, too – sites we’ll never tire of visiting. Letoon always seems so lonely and mystical when we visit. You wouldn’t think it was on the list of World Heritage sites in Turkey. But it is and we’re happy for that. A stroll between the two sites is really pleasant, as well.
1988 – Hierapolis & Pamukkale
On a 2017 road trip, we once more visited the sites of Hierapolis and Pamukkale. Revisiting places after some time is always worth it. A whole new experience, wandering and paddling in the travertine pools and then clambering around the lonely ruins of Hierapolis.
1994 – Safranbolu
Oh how we ache to go to the Ottoman city of Safranbolu. There’s no reason why we’ve not been yet. It just seems like one of those places that gets pushed down the list every time we decide where to go. However, should we decide we really want to visit all of the places on the UNESCO World Heritage list in Turkey, well, we’re just gonna have to push it back up the list, aren’t we?
1998 – Archaeological Site of Troy
That place of Trojan horse fame, up there on the northwest coast of Turkey. We will definitely get here one day, probably combined with a pilgrimage to the trenches and monuments of Gallipoli. (Incidentally, those trenches and monuments of Gallipoli and Çanakkale are on the tentative list of World Heritage sites.)
2011 – Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex
Selimiye Mosque is in Edirne in Thracian Turkey (northwest of Istanbul) and it’s said to be the best example of the work of Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan. Each time we go to Istanbul, we say we’ll make the journey onwards to Edirne and we never do. But we will. One day.
2012 – Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük
Wow! We’re smack bang in Central Anatolia, here, not far from the city of Konya and we’re in the 7th and 8th Century BC. Apparently, this is a vast archaeological site across two hills. Did we know it was one of the World Heritage sites in Turkey? Well, that’ll be a no – and we’d be lying if we said it was on our travel radar, too. Konya, however, is definitely on our radar so we’d be silly not to take in Çatalhöyük whilst we’re there.
2014 – Pergamon and its Multi-Layered Cultural Landscape
Bergama in Turkish, the setting of the ancient theatre at Pergamon just looks absolutely amazing from tourist posters and we’ve wanted to go here since we first moved to Turkey. You’re getting a picture of how long it takes us to get round to visiting places now, aren’t you? But this is another ‘watch this space’ one as we’re hoping to head to Izmir again sometime soon. Pergamon isn’t too far away from the city.
2014 – Bursa & Cumalıkızık (The Birth of The Ottoman Empire)
Guess when we went to Bursa. Yeah, those days before our little blog was born. And a word to the wise, don’t do what we did and go in January, unless you’re going skiing on Uludağ that is. Wow, it’s cold up there! Anyway, we’re not really counting it that we’ve completed this particular site on the World Heritage list because we only stayed in Bursa city centre. Cumalıkızık was a complete unknown. Hmm, wonder when we can squish in a visit to here.
2015 – Diyarbakır Fortress & Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape
UNESCO World Heritage sites are dotted about all over Turkey but (surprisingly, for us) there are few in East Turkey. So, the latest addition to the list of Diyarbakır Fortress & Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape caused much celebration for the culture boffins of Diyarbakır.
We travelled around part of East Turkey a couple of years ago and, whilst researching this list, we were convinced İshak Paşa Sarayı or the ruins of Ani would crop up. No. At least not yet, anyway. They’re both on the tentative list, though, as are the tombstones of Ahlat, and we’d love to see them all make the full list. Our memories from travels around East Turkey are precious. For now, though, Diyarbakır will be somewhere we take in when we travel around southeast Turkey. Sometime in the future.
2015 – Ephesus
“Ephesus? Thought Ephesus was already on the list?”
That’s what so many people said when it was announced the ancient site had been awarded World Heritage status.
For 22 years, efforts were being made to get it on the World Heritage list, but, as we said above, there’s criteria to be met, and it wasn’t being met. Well, they got there in the end so well done to all at Ephesus.
We revisted ancient Ephesus in 2017 so that we could witness recent developments and also take in the Terrace Houses that have now been opened up to the public.
2016 – Archaeological Site Of Ani
As mentioned above, we were surprised to see no Ani on the UNESCO World Heritage List for Turkey. Great news that in 2016, the site was inscribed onto the list from the tentative list. The lonely ruins of Ani were one of our travel highlights when we did a road trip in the east of Turkey.
2017 – Aphrodisias
Apparently only discovered, accidentally, in 1958 by famous Istanbul photographer, Ara Güler, Aphrodisias is famed for having the largest and most intact stadium in the Mediterranean. We were impressed by the Perge stadium in Antalya so can’t wait to see the one at Aphrodisias.
The addition of Aphrodisas means those of us looking to visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey can bag a few close together. Aphrodisias is close to Pamukkale and not too far from Ephesus.
2018 – Göbekli Tepe
After being on the UNESCO Tentative List since 2011, Göbekli Tepe was given World Heritage status in July 2018. The temple at Göbekli Tepe dates back 11,000 years and is said to be the oldest in the world.
Current World Heritage Sites In Turkey
So, those are the current sites that have made the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in Turkey. The tentative list is also huge. As it grows, we’ll add the new places to this page. And, as you might have guessed from reading this, we’ve kind of got a little travel mission now to visit, revisit and blog about these places. Wonder how we’ll get on…
Further UNESCO Recognition In Turkey
As well as the World Heritage List, UNESCO also awards other types of recognition in other categories. For Turkey, this is:
UNESCO Creative Cities Network
- 2015: Gaziantep – City of Gastronomy
- 2017: Istanbul – City of Design, Kütahya – City of Crafts and Folk Art, Hatay – City of Gastronomy
UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
- 2008: Mevlevi Sema Ceremony, Arts of the Meddah
- 2009: Aşıklık Tradition, Karagöz
- 2010: Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling, Sema Alevi Bektaşi Ritual, Traditional Sohbet Meetings
- 2011: Ceremonial Keşkek Tradition
- 2012: Mesir Macunu Festival
- 2013: Turkish Coffee Culture and Tradition
- 2014: Ebru, Turkish Art of Marbling
- 2016: Flatbread Making & Sharing Culture, Nevruz, Çini-making
- 2017: Whistled Language, Hıdırellez Spring Celebration