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  • Sara Alduk

Hidden Treasures of Turkey: 6 Lesser-Known Gems in Southeast Anatolia

Updated: Mar 21

Planning your next adventure? Look no further than Southeast Turkey, a region bursting with historical marvels, cultural treasures, and breathtaking landscapes. Whether you're a seasoned traveller or embarking on your first journey, Southeast Turkey promises an unforgettable experience filled with discovery and wonder.

In this guide, we'll take you on a virtual tour of the top six must-visit destinations in Southeast Turkey. From ancient ruins to bustling bazaars, each stop on our itinerary offers a unique glimpse into the rich tapestry of Turkish heritage and hospitality. So, grab your passport, pack your bags, and get ready to explore the hidden gems of Southeast Turkey.

Let's dive into our list of top destinations, where history, culture, and natural beauty converge to create an unforgettable travel experience.

  1. Göbekli Tepe At Göbekli Tepe, time itself seems to stand still amidst the ancient stone pillars that have puzzled historians and archaeologists for centuries. Situated near the city of Şanlıurfa, this remarkable site is often hailed as the world's oldest known temple complex, dating back over 11,000 years—predating even the iconic Stonehenge by millennia. What makes Göbekli Tepe truly extraordinary is not just its age, but the mystery that shrouds its purpose and construction. Picture yourself wandering among the intricately carved stone pillars arranged in circular patterns, their enigmatic symbols hinting at rituals and beliefs of a distant past. It's as if you've stumbled upon a secret from humanity's earliest chapters, inviting you to delve deeper into its ancient significance. Despite the lack of advanced tools and technology, the builders of Göbekli Tepe managed to create a sophisticated sanctuary, showcasing their remarkable craftsmanship and ingenuity. As you explore this archaeological marvel, you can't help but marvel at the sheer scale of the endeavour and wonder about the lives of those who gathered here thousands of years ago.

Göbekli Tepe

2. Mardin

Mardin, with its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, is a captivating destination that promises travelers an unforgettable experience. Situated in southeastern Turkey, this ancient city is perched atop a rocky hill, offering panoramic views of the mesmerizing Mesopotamian plains below.

As you wander through the labyrinthine streets of Mardin's historic Old Town, you'll find yourself transported to a bygone era. Traditional stone houses adorned with intricate carvings line the narrow alleyways, providing a glimpse into the architectural marvels of the past. The city's skyline is punctuated by the minarets of ornate mosques, their domes glistening in the sunlight—a testament to Mardin's rich cultural heritage.

One of the highlights of any visit to Mardin is exploring its bustling bazaars, where the vibrant atmosphere is infused with the aroma of spices and the rhythmic sound of merchants haggling over goods. Here, you can immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of local life, browsing through a myriad of stalls offering everything from handicrafts to traditional textiles.

No trip to Mardin would be complete without a visit to the Deyrulzafaran Monastery, a symbol of the city's rich religious heritage. Nestled amidst olive groves on the outskirts of town, this ancient monastery dates back to the 5th century and is still active today. Step inside its hallowed halls to admire the intricate frescoes and ornate architecture, and soak in the tranquil ambience of this sacred site.

For those seeking panoramic views of Mardin and its surroundings, a visit to the hilltop vantage point near the Deyrulzafaran Monastery is a must. From here, you can marvel at the breathtaking vistas stretching out as far as the eye can see, with the majestic plains of Mesopotamia unfolding before you in all their splendour.

View of Mardin

3. Mount Nemrut

Mount Nemrut, a majestic peak in southeastern Turkey, holds within its embrace the remnants of an ancient civilization, offering visitors a glimpse into the grandeur of times long past. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Nemrut is renowned for its colossal statues and funerary monuments, which were built by King Antiochus I of Commagene in the first century BC.

As you journey to the summit of Mount Nemrut, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, with rugged mountains and lush valleys stretching out as far as the eye can see. Whether you choose to visit at sunrise or sunset, you'll witness a truly surreal spectacle as the sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors, casting an ethereal glow over the ancient ruins.

At the summit, you'll come face to face with the awe-inspiring stone heads that have stood the test of time, each one a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who carved them over two millennia ago. These colossal statues, some reaching heights of up to 10 meters, depict various deities and mythical figures, their weathered features adding to the mystique of the site.

Mount Nemrut

4. Diyarbakır

Discover the captivating allure of Diyarbakır, a city steeped in ancient history and cultural richness. As one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities, Diyarbakır stands as a testament to human resilience across the ages.

Enclosed by majestic black basalt walls, remnants of its Roman past, Diyarbakır invites exploration of its architectural marvels. Wander through the winding streets of the historic Old Town, where centuries-old mosques, hammams, and caravanserais evoke a sense of timelessness and wonder.

Ascend the city walls for panoramic views of the Tigris River and the picturesque countryside beyond, offering a glimpse into Diyarbakır's timeless beauty where past and present harmonize seamlessly.

Yet, Diyarbakır is not merely a city of ancient ruins; it pulses with vibrant energy. Dive into its lively markets, where Turkish culture comes alive through bustling activity and tantalizing aromas. Indulge in local delicacies, engage with friendly locals, and immerse yourself in the enchanting rhythm of daily life.

Diyarbakır Bridge

5. Gaziantep

In the heart of southeastern Turkey lies Gaziantep, a city that entices visitors with its rich culinary heritage and cultural treasures. Known as the culinary capital of Turkey, Gaziantep offers a feast for the senses, from mouthwatering kebabs to decadent baklava, each dish crafted with a dedication to tradition and flavour.

As you wander through the bustling streets of Gaziantep's city centre, you'll be greeted by a vibrant tapestry of sights, sounds, and aromas. Traditional copper artisans ply their trade, their skilled hands shaping gleaming pots and pans that reflect centuries of craftsmanship. Modern boutiques and cafes coexist harmoniously with these age-old workshops, creating a dynamic and eclectic atmosphere that's uniquely Gaziantep.

No visit to Gaziantep would be complete without exploring its rich cultural heritage, and the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum is a must-see destination for history enthusiasts and art lovers alike. Home to one of the world's most extensive collections of ancient mosaics, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the artistic legacy of the ancient city of Zeugma. Marvel at intricate designs and vibrant colours that have endured for centuries, and uncover the stories and symbolism hidden within each mosaic tile.

But Gaziantep is more than just a culinary and cultural hub—it's a city brimming with warmth and hospitality, where visitors are welcomed with open arms and treated to the renowned Turkish tradition of çay (tea) and conversation. Whether you're savouring the flavours of its world-class cuisine, exploring its historic landmarks, or simply soaking in the lively ambience of its streets, Gaziantep promises an unforgettable journey that will leave a lasting impression on your senses and your soul.

Typical Bazaar in Gaziantep

6. Sanliurfa Sanliurfa invites travellers to explore its rich history and legendary tales. Known as the "City of Prophets," Urfa boasts a fascinating past, with archaeological wonders and sacred sites waiting to be discovered. Visitors can wander through the enchanting Pool of Sacred Fish, associated with the birth of the biblical figure Abraham, or marvel at the enigmatic ruins of Göbekli Tepe, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and believed to be one of the oldest religious structures in the world. Explore bustling bazaars filled with the enticing scents of local spices and delicacies, and experience the genuine hospitality of the city's residents. With its blend of ancient heritage and vibrant culture, Sanliurfa offers an unforgettable journey into the heart of legend and history.


Southeast Turkey invites you on an unforgettable journey through history, culture, and natural wonders. From the ancient mysteries of Göbekli Tepe to the vibrant streets of Gaziantep, each destination offers a unique experience waiting to be explored. As you plan your next adventure, consider the rich diversity of this remarkable region, where every moment is filled with discovery and wonder. So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds and embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

To continue discovering more hidden gems and captivating destinations, stay tuned for more articles on our website. Follow us @thewalkingparrot to be continuously updated on new releases and join us as we embark on new adventures. We will be back soon with a new article! If you're visiting Lisbon, make sure to try our Fado, Food, and Wine tour!

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