A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance. To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be a somehow unique landmark which is geographically and historically identifiable and has special cultural or physical significance.
Today the countries with the most cultural heritage sites are Italy and China with 55 sites on the UNESCO list of Cultural Heritage Sites.
Turkey is country with a long history where a lot of civilizations were settled: Sumerians, Hittites, Romans, Greeks… They all left a mark of them inhabiting this area in a shape of temples, buildings, settlements. Today, there are 18 sites on UNESCOS World Heritage Sites and there are 60 nominated sites in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage.
Located in southwestern Turkey, in the upper valley of the Morsynus River, the site consists of two components: the archaeological site of Aphrodisias and the marble quarries northeast of the city. The temple of Aphrodite dates from the 3rd century BC and the city was built one century later. The wealth of Aphrodisias came from the marble quarries and the art produced by its sculptors. The city streets are arranged around several large civic structures, which include temples, a theatre, an agora and two bath complexes.
2.Archaeological Site of Ani (2016)
This site is located on a secluded plateau of northeast Turkey overlooking a ravine that forms a natural border with Armenia. This medieval city combines residential, religious and military structures, characteristic of a medieval urbanism built up over the centuries by Christian and then Muslim dynasties. The city flourished in the 10th and 11th centuries CE when it became the capital of the medieval Armenian kingdom of the Bagratides and profited from control of one branch of the Silk Road. Later, under Byzantine, Seljuk and Georgian sovereignty, it maintained its status as an important crossroads for merchant caravans. The Mongol invasion and a devastating earthquake in 1319 marked the beginning of the city’s decline. The site presents a comprehensive overview of the evolution of medieval architecture through examples of almost all the different architectural innovations of the region between the 7th and 13th centuries CE.
3.Archaeological Site of Troy (1998)
Troy, with its 4,000 years of history, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The first excavations at the site were undertaken by the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1870. In scientific terms, its extensive remains are the most significant demonstration of the first contact between the civilizations of Anatolia and the Mediterranean world. Moreover, the siege of Troy by Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece in the 13th or 12th century B.C., immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, has inspired great creative artists throughout the world ever since.
4.Bursa and Cumalıkızık: the Birth of the Ottoman Empire (2014)
This property is a serial nomination of eight component sites in the City of Bursa and the nearby village of Cumalıkızık, in the southern Marmara region. The site illustrates the creation of an urban and rural system establishing the Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century. The property embodies the key functions of the social and economic organization of the new capital which evolved around a civic centre. These include commercial districts of khans, kulliyes (religious institutions) integrating mosques, religious schools, public baths and a kitchen for the poor, as well as the tomb of Orhan Ghazi, founder of the Ottoman dynasty. One component outside the historic centre of Bursa is the village of Cumalıkızık, the only rural village of this system to show the provision of hinterland support for the capital.
5.City of Safranbolu (1994)
From the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East–West trade route. The Old Mosque, Old Bath and Süleyman Pasha Medrese were built in 1322. During its apogee in the 17th century, Safranbolu’s architecture influenced urban development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire.
6.Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape (2015)
Located on an escarpment of the Upper Tigris River Basin that is part of the so-called Fertile Crescent, the fortified city of Diyarbakır and the landscape around has been an important centre since the Hellenistic period, through the Roman, Sassanid, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman times to the present. The site encompasses the Inner castle, known as İçkale and including the Amida Mound, and the 5.8 km-long city walls of Diyarbakır with their numerous towers, gates, buttresses, and 63 inscriptions. The site also includes the Hevsel Gardens, a green link between the city and the Tigris that supplied the city with food and water, the Anzele water source and the Ten-Eyed Bridge.
Located within what was once the estuary of the River Kaystros, Ephesus comprises successive Hellenistic and Roman settlements founded on new locations, which followed the coastline as it retreated westward. Excavations have revealed grand monuments of the Roman Imperial period including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre. Little remains of the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” which drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. Since the 5th century, the House of the Virgin Mary, a domed cruciform chapel seven kilometres from Ephesus, became a major place of Christian pilgrimage. The Ancient City of Ephesus is an outstanding example of a Roman port city, with sea channel and harbour basin.
8.Göbekli Tepe (2018)
Located in the Germuş mountains of south-eastern Anatolia, this property presents monumental round-oval and rectangular megalithic structures erected by hunter-gatherers in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic age between 9,600 and 8,200 BCE. These monuments were probably used in connection with rituals, most likely of a funerary nature. Distinctive T-shaped pillars are carved with images of wild animals, providing insight into the way of life and beliefs of people living in Upper Mesopotamia about 11,500 years ago. It is consider to be the oldest temple in the world.
9.Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği (1985)
The first Turkish buildings inscribed on the World Heritage List are the Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği. This building complex was commissioned in the 13th century by Ahmet Shah and his wife Melike Turan of the Principality of Mengüçlü. Renowned for its monumental architecture and traditional stone carving decorations of Anatolia, this masterpiece, with its two-domed mosque, hospital and tomb, was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.
10. Hattusha: the Hittite Capital (1986)
The formal capital of the Hittite Empire, with its well-preserved city gates, temples, palaces and the nearby rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya, is among the last vestiges of the once dominant power in Anatolia and northern Syria.
11.Historic Areas of Istanbul (1985)
The imperial capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Istanbul has been a major political, religious and cultural centre for more than two millennia. Its skyline, which includes masterpieces such as the Hippodrome of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia, the Süleymaniye Mosque and the Topkapı Palace, testifies to the great geniuses of architects through the ages.
12.Nemrut Dağ (1987)
The mausoleum of Antiochus I (69–34 B.C.), who reigned over Commagene, a kingdom founded north of Syria and the Euphrates after the breakup of Alexander’s empire, is one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period. The syncretism of its pantheon, and the lineage of its kings, which can be traced back through two sets of legends, Greek and Persian, is evidence of the dual origin of this kingdom’s culture.
13.Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük (2012)
Two hills form the 37 ha site on the Southern Anatolian Plateau. The taller eastern mound contains eighteen levels of Neolithic occupation between 7400 bc and 6200 bc, including wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other symbolic and artistic features. Together they testify to the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life. The western mound shows the evolution of cultural practices in the Chalcolithic period, from 6200 bc to 5200 bc. Çatalhöyük provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration, which was maintained in the same location for over 2,000 years. It features a unique streetless settlement of houses clustered back to back with roof access into the buildings.
14.Pergamon and its Multi-Layered Cultural Landscape (2014)
This site rises high above the Bakirçay Plain in Turkey’s Aegean region. The acropolis of Pergamon was the capital of the Hellenistic Attalid dynasty, a major center of learning in the ancient world. Monumental temples, theatres, stoa or porticoes, gymnasium, altar and library were set into the sloping terrain surrounded by an extensive city wall. The rock-cut Kybele Sanctuary lies to the north-west on another hill visually linked to the acropolis. Later the city became capital of the Roman province of Asia known for its Asclepieion healing centre. The acropolis crowns a landscape containing burial mounds and remains of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires in and around the modern town of Bergama on the lower slopes.
15.Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex (2011)
The square Mosque with its single great dome and four slender minarets, dominates the skyline of the former Ottoman capital of Edirne. Sinan, the most famous of Ottoman architects in the 16th century, considered the complex, which includes madrasas (Islamic schools), a covered market, clock house, outer courtyard and library, to be his best work. The interior decoration using Iznik tiles from the peak period of their production testifies to an art form that remains unsurpassed in this material. The complex is considered to be the most harmonious expression ever achieved of the Ottoman külliye, a group of buildings constructed around a mosque and managed as a single institution.
The site consists of two neighboring settlements. Xanthos, the centre of the Lycian civilization, exerted significant architectural influences upon other cities of the region, with the Nereid Monument directly inspiring the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Caria. Letoon, an important religious centre in Lycia, hosts the Letoon trilingual, which provided the key in deciphering the long-extinct Lycian language.
17.Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia (1985)
The Göreme Valley area is famous for its striking hoodoo rock formations. The region of Cappadocia also features a gallery of rock-hewn dwellings, villages, churches, underground cities and great examples of post-Iconoclastic Byzantine art. You can read more about this site in our article about Cappadocia.
The natural site of Pamukkale is famous for its visually striking landscape, consisting of petrified waterfalls, stalactites and terraces. The nearby town of Hierapolis, founded at the end of the 2nd century BCE, hosts various Greco-Roman structures including temples, baths, a necropolis, as well as examples of Early Christian architecture. You can read more about Pamukkale here.