Top 5 historical sites to visit in Turkey

1. Göbekli Tepe

Until the discovery of Göbeklitepe in 1963, Stonehenge (3,000 BC) was believed to be the oldest manmade place of worship on Earth. But at 12,000 years old, Göbeklitepe pre-dates that by about 6,500 years. Göbeklitepe’s Neolithic megaliths are still being excavated (only 5% of the site has so far been unearthed), and you can see the archeologists’ finds—from pillars carved with ancient animal motifs to hieroglyphic inscriptions older even than the Sumerians’—onsite. Göbeklitepe’s findings are also on display at a special chamber in the recently-opened Şanlıurfa Haleplibahçe Museum, where a replica of the sacred site has been created.

2. Ephesus

Ephesus was the Roman capital of Asia Minor, and home to over a quarter of a million people—from slave traders to saints—at its peak between 1 AD and 2 AD. The site of the Temple of the Artemis, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, 150 years of excavations at Ephesus have revealed the most complete Greco-Roman classical city on Earth. No wonder it was just added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Photo courtesy of the Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism

3. Hattusha

Hattusha is one of Turkey’s great ruins, and was once the capital of the Hittite Empire. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was founded in around 1600 BC, then conquered and mostly destroyed after 1200 BC. Since then, the ruins have been well preserved. From ornate gateways, such as the Lion’s Gate, to temples, royal homes, and ancient fortifications complete with underground passageways, it’s hard to be bored wandering around what once was the region's mightiest city. Hattusha is the site of the world's earliest peace treaty, the Treaty of Kadesh. The clay tablet containing the text of this treaty is displayed at the Istanbul Archeology Museum.

4. Perge

Founded in around 1000 BC, the ancient city of Perge , near present-day Antalya, was captured by the Persians and then, around 333 BC, by the armies of Alexander the Great before becoming part of the Seleucid Kingdom. Then came the Romans in 188 BC. They built most of the sites you can see today, including a theater big enough to fit 15,000, a public square, gymnasium, and necropolis. Also found here are the remains of Roman baths, the city’s imposing gates, and a 2nd-century AD nymphaeum. Recent excavations at Perge have revealed 13 ancient sculptures, including the only complete sculpture of Emperor Caracalla to date, a 6ft rendition of moon goddess Selene, and goddesses Nemesis, Aphrodite, Athena, and Tykhe.

5. Zeugma Mosaic Museum

Part of the Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology , the Zeugma Mosaic Museum contains a vast collection of restored mosaics from the Ancient Roman town of Zeugma , which is about 27 miles away from the city of Gaziantep. Founded in around 300 BC by Alexander the Great’s general Seleucus I Nicator, Zeugma was a vital military and commercial center with as many as 70,000 residents at its peak, until devastating attack under order of Sassanid king Shapur I in 256 AD led to the town's decline. Today, 25% of Zeugma lies underwater due to the construction of modern dams. The items on display in the mosaic museum were uncovered during excavations in the '90s, and more discoveries of wall paintings, mosaics, and frescoes that once decorated Roman residential villas are still being made. On your visit to the museum, keep a lookout for the haunting eyes of the “Gypsy Girl" (above).