If you are visiting Turkey this year, there’s so much more to do than lazing on golden sandy beaches and swimming in the deep turquoise sea. Turkey has a rich cultural history, with several fascinating archaeological sites to visit. For the intrepid, there’s the world’s oldest megalithic site, which has inspired such outlandish theories as to its construction and purpose, that some now refer to it as the Göbekli Tepe hoax. CLC World Resorts & Hotels has two beautiful resorts on the Aegean coast, CLC Kusadasi Golf & Spa and CLC Apollonium Spa & Beach, both of which are ideally located for exploring some of these incredible sites.
Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting archaeological sites to visit in Turkey.
In Turkey, archaeological sites don’t get much better than Ephesus, just outside Izmir. One of the largest Roman sites in the eastern Mediterranean, the city was destroyed in 263 AD, and although rebuilt, declined in importance and was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD.
Highlights include the Temple of Artemis, completed around 550 BC and the largest temple in the ancient world; the stunning Library of Celsus; a 25,000 seat gladiatorial amphitheatre; Hadrian’s temple and several Roman terrace houses, still in good condition, with vibrantly coloured frescoes.
The Apollo Temple, Didyma
The vast Apollo Temple is located in the city now known as Didim, built on a platform upon which 122 Ionic columns once stood – three now remain. This was where the Priestess of Apollo would utter oracles, following a three-day fast and a ritual bath. The temple was closed in 303 AD and a Christian basilica built two centuries later, which was subsequently destroyed by an earthquake in the 15th century.
This is one of several ruins along the 16km Sacred Way, so in this part of Turkey, archaeological sites are a popular attraction.
The Göbekli Tepe Hoax
The 12,000 year old Göbekli Tepe, in south-eastern Turkey, is the world’s oldest megalithic site. After its discovery in 1963, excavation began in 1994, but so far only five per cent has been unearthed. This includes five-metre high limestone pillars, intricately decorated with animal figures.
The site’s discovery sent shock-waves through scholars of early pre-history, as no-one believed simple hunter-gatherers capable of producing such spectacular constructions. This has led to wild speculation, with some suggesting the site to be the work of a more civilised lost society, while others even attributing its existence to aliens.
The purpose of its construction is just as unclear, but one thing is certain, Göbekli Tepe, hoax or mystery, will continue to fascinate for years.
In south-west Turkey, remains of this ancient Hellenistic city, named after the Greek goddess of love, include the Temple of Aphrodite, a monumental gateway, an auditorium, an athletics stadium, and the Sebasteion, a three storey building with Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns. Its excellently preserved marble reliefs are housed in the on-site museum. When visiting Turkey, archaeological sites such as this are not to be missed.