Gaining legendary pseudonyms such as 'Babylon' and 'The Garden of Eden', Eastern Turkey has long captured the imagination. Little visited, the region's range from fascinating natural landscapes, enigmatic historical sites, to smiling faces and exotic markets, which combine to make an alluring combination of old and new.
The culinary capital of Eastern Turkey, Gaziantep's famous baklava (pistachio pastries) are shipped all over the country and beyond, and its renowned restaurants serve up mouth-watering dishes. Besides cuisine, Gaziantep boasts a fine Seljuk-era citadel, numerous impressive mosques and restored old buildings, so that much of the city appears almost as it was in past times. Gaziantep's chief draw however is its mosaic museum, believed to be the best in the world. The mosaics were recovered from the ancient Roman town of Zeugma, which is now underwater. The town's bustling city markets are also well worth a visit.
Sunrise and sunset at Nemrut Daği (a.k.a. Mount Nemrut) is one of Eastern Turkey's most exhilarating experiences. At the peak of this mountain (at over 2000m) sit the striking statues of the pre-Roman king, Antiochus I Theos of Commagene, surrounded by the various gods he believed to be his ancestors. The fearsome heads of the statue-figures are now separated from each other in the surrounding stone rubble, and the site still retains this sense of a lost world. Sublime views from the summit, across the distant Euphrates, add to the enigma of the place.
Halfeti & Rumkale
The quaint village of Halfeti sits on the side of an azure lake and is the staging post to catch a boat through a stunning valley to the beautiful cliffside fortress of Rumkale, which is only accessible by boat. Rumkale's setting is superb and the nearby village with its minaret rising up from the water is spectacular.
Mardin & Urfa
Mardin is a remarkable town full of beautiful mosques and churches set in a stunning, rocky landscape. With baked-brown alleyways, ancient, honey-coloured buildings, and a maze of a market, Mardin is charmingly authentic.
Urfa (known as 'Sanliurfa' or 'the Prophet's City') is the most spiritual city in East Turkey. It is a major centre for pilgrimage and its traditions are very much alive and well. Discover its 'park of mosques', imposing castle, its 'holy trout', its wonderful markets, historic buildings and picturesque squares.
Göbekli Tepe & Harran
Göbekli Tepe is the oldest man-made place of worship in the world, dating back an incredible 11,500 years. The site stunned archaeologists when it was first discovered, and its sheer expanse and craftsmanship is overwhelming, with exquisite stone carvings of people, lions, foxes, snakes and birds - some of the oldest known art in the world.
Once home to the Prophet Abraham, the ancient site of Harran is mentioned in the book of Genesis. Home of the first Islamic university in Anatolia, Harran also boasts the remains of an 8th century mosque, a citadel and some 300 year old beehive mud homes which enjoy a constant temperature throughout the year.