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Looking down into the ancient Ampitheatre at Ephesus, Turkey
26 May, 20213 minute read

Turkey's historic highlights

Ancient walled cities, grand hillside amphitheatres, colossal Byzantine buildings – holidaying in Turkey reveals some incredible historic sites. We’ve chosen five highlights to add to your holiday itinerary (and if you fancy exploring Turkey the easy way, you can experience all five of them on our Magnificent Turkey tours, as well as bazaar tours, coffee tastings and cooking classes).  

Celsius Library in ancient city of Ephesus, Turkey

The ancient ruins of Ephesus

Once the Roman capital of Asia Minor, Ephesus is today one of the best preserved classical sites in the world. Stroll along its streets, as residents did centuries ago, and you’ll see remains of temples, fountains, columns and gates. Step inside the terrace houses and you’ll get a glimpse of how the other half lived back then, with wall paintings, marble panelling and mosaics.

The colossal Great Theatre and the Library of Celsus, with its intricate stonework, are two of Ephesus highlights. The city was also once home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, though little remains of it today.

Istanbul's Hagia Sophia

Built back in the 6th century as a Christian church, Hagia Sophia is a glorious Byzantine structure filled with glittering gold mosaics, marble pillars and religious décor. It’s one of Istanbul’s highlights, and a must-see on Turkey holidays.

After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque, and remained that way for 500 years. In the ‘30s, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – founder of the secular Republic of Turkey –  converted it into a museum. Last year, it became a mosque once more.

The blend of Christian and Islamic art is fascinating – look out for delicate calligraphy and Byzantine mosaics of Biblical scenes.

Evening sunset over Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Gallipoli battlefields

The World War I battle for control of the Dardanelles strait took place across Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, and today there are a number of important sites open for visitors to remember those lost.

On our tour of Turkey your guide will explain the significance of the area as we travel down from Istanbul to Gallipoli, before we explore three key sites: Cape Helles and Suvla Bay (scenes of unsuccessful Allied invasions in April and August 1915) and Anzac Cove (a base for Australian and New Zealand troops during the Gallipoli campaign).

Flag flying at Canakkale Martyrs Memorial, Anzac cove, Gallipoli, Turkey

Ancient city of Pergamon

The remains of ancient Pergamon (also known as Pergamum) sit atop a lofty hill, with sweeping views across the Bakirçay Plain. The acropolis was once the capital of the Attalid dynasty, which ruled a Hellenistic empire some 2,200 years ago.

Pergamon’s highlights are its incredible 10,000-seat amphitheatre, which has a panoramic natural backdrop more impressive than any stage set, and its Asklepion, an ancient healing centre.

Ancient theatre on hillside in Pergamon, Turkey


Our Turkey escorted tours visit Troy on the same day as Pergamon, giving you a double dose of history. We break up the two visits with a deliciously laid-back lunch in a nearby village, where we’ll chat with our hosts about local life – it makes a great contrast to our two historical trips.

The archaeological site at Troy takes you back some 4,000 years, telling the story of the first contact between Anatolia and the Mediterranean world. The citadel’s defensive walls, bastions and gates bring the story of Homer’s ‘Illiad’ (based on the Mycenaeans’ siege of Troy) to life, while the market place, concert hall and council house give clues to what life might have been like for residents in ancient Troy. 

Ancient columns and ruins of Troy, overlooking the Aegean sea, Turkey

“I’ve combined the grandeur of Istanbul with some of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the world, then infused it with an introduction to the Turkish way of life - it all comes together to make for a truly memorable tour.” Alison Porter, Product Manager and creator of our Magnificent Turkey Tour

For more information and inspiration, read the full itinerary for our Turkey tours or contact our travel advisors

Image of blog author Laura Weeden

Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.

Laura | About the author

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