Ancient Wonders Await on This Six-Day Itinerary in Mesopotamia, Türkiye

Embark on a thrilling adventure throughout Mesopotamia, Türkiye, a land of archeological treasures, iconic art, and culinary delights.

Ancient Mesopotamian statues by starlight on Nemrut Mountain, Türkiye



Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, beckons with its rich history, ancient wonders, and diverse culture. From Göbeklitepe rewriting human history to the mesmerizing sunrise at Nemrut and Gaziantep, the city of mosaics, every corner is adorned with unprecedented historical artifacts. Mesopotamia’s fertile land, nurtured by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, has witnessed the transition from hunters and gatherers to settled civilizations, the birth of agriculture, and the first known sacred temple.

In this land of archeological treasures and iconic landmarks, history and culture thrive. Mesopotamia offers a visual feast of historical sites and a gastronomic journey through incredible flavors.

Sacred places like Göbeklitepe, the city of prophets Şanlıurfa, and the mythical ambiance of Mithras Temple reflect the deep spirituality ingrained in Mesopotamia. The region’s diverse religious heritage is embodied in domes, tombs, and temples of various beliefs.

Mesopotamia’s allure extends beyond its historical and cultural riches to include hospitable locals, stunning landscapes, and a unique ecosystem with distinct flora and fauna. It stands as a timeless center of attraction, inviting you to explore its legendary history, captivating nature, and sensational culinary delights. It is the land of firsts and ancient wonders and eagerly awaits your discovery on this unforgettable six-day expedition.

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Trip Highlight


When visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site, you’ll see the world's earliest known human-made structures, assumed to be a sacred site and predating major civilizations. Excavations at Göbeklitepe uncovered an eight-foot-tall human statue at Karahantepe with realistic facial expressions and a painted life-size wild boar statue, a pioneering example from its era.
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Discover the endless wonders of Türkiye with Go Türkiye as your guide. Whether you’re looking for sustainable travel, cultural and historical trips, outdoor and nature expeditions, culinary journeys, or more, Go Türkiye will help you every step of the way.
Ancient arches reflecting in green pools of water in Balikligöl Complex, Şanliurfa, Türkiye.



Day 1:Welcome to Türkiye and its Archaeological Marvels

On your first day here, check in to the charming Tessera Hotel, housed in a 400-year-old building in the heart of old Şanlıurfa, and start your exploration of this historically rich land right away. You can even take in great views of the town from the hotel’s terraces. But you’ll want to get out immediately as there’s so much to take in here.

You’ll start by exploring one of Türkiye’s largest museum complexes, the Şanlıurfa Museum Complex, housing the Şanlıurfa Archaeology Museum, Haleplibahçe Mosaic Museum, Archeopark, Roman Bath, and Sakıp’s Mansion. The museum, enriched by decades of recovery excavations due to the dams on the Euphrates River, boasts a chronological journey from prehistoric times to the present day. Admire artifacts from Şanlıurfa and its surroundings, including the world’s oldest human-size sculpture, the Balıklıgöl Statue (created around 9300 B.C.E), a display of Göbeklitepe’s Temple of Enclosure D, and a comprehensive exhibition titled Karahantepe and Neolithic Human. The Haleplibahçe Mosaic Museum next door features stunning mosaics, including a famed hunting scene and the Orpheus mosaic, adding to the archaeological wealth of this remarkable complex.

From there, you’ll journey into the enchanting Balıklıgöl complex in Şanlıurfa, home to the mystical Halil-ur Rahman and Ayn Zeliha lakes, interconnected canals, historic mosques, and madrasas. This verdant wetland is considered the region’s largest and coolest, exuding a mystical and spiritual ambiance. The fish in Halil-ur Rahman Lake are deemed sacred, and their consumption is forbidden. According to legend, Prophet Abraham’s mother sought refuge near the lake, where he was later miraculously saved from Nimrod’s punishment. Witness the transformation of fire into a clear pool and burning wood into sacred fish, creating Balıklıgöl. Don’t miss the adjacent Ayn-ı Zeliha pond, linked to the daughter of Nimrod. Explore Şanlıurfa Castle’s majestic heights, and enjoy the local experience by feeding fish, enjoying tea, coffee, and Mırra in lakeside gardens, and donning traditional attire for memorable photos.

Cap off the day of historical marvels with dinner at Cevahir Han, housed in a courtyard of a centuries-old Ottoman inn, where you’ll feast on traditional Turkish cuisine like the hearty mixed grill entree of lamb, grilled meatballs, and chicken and lamb skewers. Or feast on pide (thin layers of dough topped with meat, cheese, or vegetables).
Sunlit, t-shaped pillars in a pit in Mesopotamian Karahantepe



Day 2:Discover the Wonders of Karahantepe and Göbeklitepe

Today you’ll unravel the enigma of Göbeklitepe, the world’s oldest monumental structure. Shattering preconceptions about ancient hunter-gatherers, Göbeklitepe reveals a sophisticated society capable of intricate craftsmanship. Disrupting the notion of hunters and gatherers, these early humans organized socially, erecting massive T-shaped stone pillars adorned with carved animal reliefs weighing up to 15 tons.

Comprising ritualistic round structures, Göbeklitepe, not a settlement but a spiritual hub, boasts six unearthed pillars, with many more likely hidden. Without metal tools, these pillars were meticulously carved with polished stones and feature three-dimensional depictions of animals—humanity’s oldest sculptures. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site in 2018, Göbeklitepe unveils a 12,000-year-old history, offering a profound journey into the world’s oldest and largest religious center of its time.

Next, you’ll visit Karahantepe, the hilltop settlement predating Göbeklitepe, which recently opened its doors to visitors. The ongoing excavations, initiated in 2019, have revealed a circular chamber with T-shaped pillars akin to Göbeklitepe, suggesting an even older history. The site includes a smaller chamber adorned with 11 T-shaped columns and a human face carving. Unlike Göbeklitepe, Karahantepe served as a permanent enclave, housing evidence of daily life. Its cave-like setting suggests a ceremonial space with a play of light and shadows, creating a mystic atmosphere. Carvings of both human and animal figures enrich the historical tapestry, offering a unique glimpse into ancient sacred rituals.

Recount the day’s discoveries over dinner at the specialty food market Şehr-i Urfa, serving Turkish and Eastern Mediterranean cuisine with live music in the evenings. Or savor local specialties at Göbeklitepe Gastronomi Merkezi.
Earthen houses with peaked rooftops constructed with materials from Harran's Ruins in Mesopotamia.



Day 3:Learn About Ancient Beliefs at Soğmatar and the Architectural Gem of Harran

For today’s trip back in time, you’ll visit the enigmatic Soğmatar, a historical site resonating with Christianity, Judaism, and Paganism. Dating to the second century B.C.E., the Soğmatar Cult Center reveres Solar, Lunar, Stellar, and Planetary gods. The Sacred Hill, symbolizing the main deity Mare-Lahe (Lord of the Gods), serves as the center of the settlement layout. Syriac inscriptions on the Sacred Hill narrate monumental columns and altars erected for Mare-Lahe.

Circular structures around the hill, once thought to represent celestial bodies, are now perceived as tomb monuments and sacred areas. Unique rock carvings depict god reliefs in human form, adding to Soğmatar’s allure. The site’s architectural ruins and rock-carved houses in Büyük Senem Mığar Köyü underscore its significance in early Christianity, with legends tying it to Prophet Moses.

Next, you’ll explore the legendary Harran Plain, which is steeped in history and mythology. It’s believed to be where Adam and Eve first set foot, and where the first plow and ox-drawn plow were used. It’s also the hometown of the lunar goddess Sin’s sacred temple and the city where Abraham, a key figure in monotheistic religions, lived for many years. With roots dating back to 7,000 B.C.E. and a written history spanning nearly 4,300 years, Harran served as a crossroads for major trade routes, earning its name, which means “the land where roads meet.”

Harran is renowned for the Harran School, one of the three great schools of philosophy globally, and for nurturing world-famous scholars in various fields. The iconic conical houses, built 150 to 200 years ago with materials from Harran’s ruins, showcase architectural brilliance, offering a cool respite in summer and warmth in winter. Explore Harran’s rich cultural heritage, stroll through its ancient streets, and touch the essence of history in these distinctive conical houses.

Tonight, dig into delicious mezze, halloumi cheese, and fresh fish, and enjoy live local music at the charming Mandelion—they serve beer and wine, too.
Platters of baklava on an ornately designed table.



Day 4:See Halfeti’s Black Roses

Today you’ll head to Halfeti, a town with a remarkable 3,000-year history that’s situated on the east bank of the Euphrates River in Şanlıurfa. Legend has it that Halfeti is the sole place where black roses grow. These unique roses bloom in spring and autumn.

Divided into old and new towns, Halfeti’s old town was submerged due to the completion of the Birecik Dam in 2000. The new town, about nine miles away, is called New Halfeti, while the submerged part is referred to as Old Halfeti. Established by Assyrian King Shalmaneser II in 855 B.C.E., the town witnessed various civilizations, including the Romans, Sassanians, Arabs, and Seljuks. In the 16th century, it became part of the Ottoman Empire.

Designated as a Cittaslow in 2013, Halfeti offers a captivating experience, especially when visiting Old Halfeti by boat. The view of semi-submerged stone houses, minarets, and historical monuments is stunning, with the half-sunken minaret of Savaşan village being an iconic image. Enjoy local delicacies like Halfeti kebab and Şabut grilled fish in lakeside restaurants, or savor Turkish tea at the historic, 200-year-old Kanneci Mansion.

The next stop on today’s itinerary is the historical treasure of Zeugma, once a prominent city of the Kingdom of Commagene, located approximately 30 miles east of Gaziantep along the Euphrates River. Named after the ancient boat bridge, “zeugma,” that connected its riverbanks, Zeugma played a vital role as a major crossing point in the region.

Though a portion of the archaeological site lies beneath the waters of the Birecik Dam, the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep proudly showcases its stunning discoveries, including remarkable mosaics. Originally founded as Seleucia by Seleucus I Nicator, a general of Alexander the Great, Zeugma comprised twin cities—the western Seleucia and the eastern Apamea, named after Seleucus’s wife. Recent excavations have unveiled additional mosaic-adorned residential areas. Immerse in the rich history of Zeugma at the renowned Zeugma Mosaic Museum, one of the world’s largest mosaic museums.

After you’ve built up an appetite, you’ll enjoy the culinary delights of Gaziantep, a UNESCO Creative City. From a variety of mouthwatering kebabs, such as eggplant, pistachio, and shish kebab, to a plethora of pot meals, soups, stuffed vegetables, and desserts, this gourmet haven has it all. Try Köşk Kebap for traditional Turkish fare or any number of excellent eateries in Gaziantep. Explore signature dishes like analı kızlı, a hearty soup with meatballs, tomatoes, bulgur, and chickpeas; yuvalama, a sophisticated creation featuring yogurt and a special meatball type; alinazik, eggplant purée crowned with minced meat; şiveydiz, a flavorful stew with leek, onions, meat, and yogurt; and beyran çorbası, a lamb dish with rice and garlic broth. Satisfy your sweet tooth with tempting desserts, from the classic baklava filled with pistachios and syrup to the delightful katmer, a flaky pastry brimming with pistachios.

You’ll head to bed full and happy, with an overnight stay at a historical monument, Ali Bey Konağı, a century-old mansion located by the Gaziantep Castle.
Rock sculptures of heads reflecting warm yellow sunlight  at Mount Nemrut, Mesopotamia.



Day 5:Ancient Grandeur at Mount Nemrut

Indulge in a hearty breakfast of traditional Katmer, a decadent pastry made of thin dough, thick clotted cream, sugar, and pistachios, that’s a specialty of Gaziantep, the pistachio capital of Türkiye. Then get ready to feast your eyes on the monumental sculptures adorning Mount Nemrut, a member of the UNESCO World Heritage List, in Adıyaman. Built during the 1st century B.C.E. under the Commagene Kingdom, they stand as haunting witnesses to a bygone era. Giant heads gaze over awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets daily. Crafted by the late Hellenistic King Antiochos I of Commagene, these sculptures are part of the colossal Hierothesion, a temple-tomb and house of the gods.

Dominating the upper level are five colossal, seated limestone statues identified as deities through inscriptions. Flanking them at each end are guardian animal statues—lions and eagles. The fallen heads of these statues rest on the lower level, where two rows of sandstone stelae, supported by pedestals with accompanying altars, create a striking scene. One row features relief sculptures depicting Antiochos’ paternal Persian ancestors, while the other showcases his maternal Macedonian lineage. Despite their displaced positions, these arrangements offer an intriguing glimpse into the intricate ancestral connections recorded on the stelae.

The site features a massive 49-meter-tall tumulus, surrounded by terraces, with antique processional routes radiating from the east and west. The scattered arrangement adds a surreal touch to this ancient marvel, inviting visitors to rediscover the history etched into Mount Nemrut.

Tonight you’ll enjoy dinner at Ciğerci Remzi Usta in Diyarbakir, a place favored by locals and renowned for its kebabs, before retiring to your room at Radisson Blu Diyarbakır. If time permits, unwind at the hotel’s spa or indoor pool.
An arial view of the Hevsel Gardens along the river in Tigris, Diyarbakir



Day 6:Explore History Along the Tigris

Perched on the Upper Tigris River Basin’s escarpment, the Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape (a member of the UNESCO World Heritage List) have stood as a pivotal center and regional capital across various historical epochs—from the Hellenistic and Roman to the Islamic, Ottoman, and contemporary eras. The property boasts the formidable Diyarbakır City Walls stretching over three and a half miles, adorned with towers, gates, buttresses, and 63 inscriptions narrating diverse historical tales. Marvel at the lush Hevsel Gardens, which link the city with the Tigris River, and served as a vital source of sustenance and water. With attributes including the İçkale (Inner Castle), Diyarbakır City Walls, Hevsel Gardens, Tigris River and Valley, and the Ten-Eyed Bridge, this cultural landscape provides a visual testament to the region’s rich history, showcasing remarkable hydrological and natural resources.

Next, you’ll head to Zerzevan Castle and the subterranean Temple of Mithras, located approximately 30 miles from Diyarbakır. Both are included in UNESCO’s Tentative list of World Heritage Sites in Türkiye. Positioned along the Diyarbakır-Mardin highway, the roots of Zerzevan Castle, one of the best-preserved Roman-era border garrisons in the world, trace back to the Assyrian Period (BCE 882-611). Functioning continuously until the Islamic conquest in 639, the castle has both surface-level structures and an expansive underground city. This exceptionally well-preserved military settlement also hosts the final Temple of Mithras ever discovered. Serving as the easternmost temple in the Roman Empire, it was dedicated to Mithra, a deity associated with the sun, justice, and war.

Enclosed by towering 49-foot-high walls, the southern section of the garrison encompasses notable structures like a watchtower, defense tower, church, administration building, arsenal, and a rock altar. The northern region reveals streets, villas, residences, cisterns, an underground church, a shelter, and the Temple of Mithras. Beyond the walls, intricate water channels, basins, quarries, and a necropolis with rock tombs and vaulted tombs are found.

For your last supper on this magnificent historical journey, you’ll dine at Gabo, the traditionally meat-heavy area’s first vegetarian restaurant, which consistently wins rave reviews from guests for its flavorful vegetarian and vegan takes on traditional Turkish cuisine. Still craving those mythical Turkish meat kebabs? Head to Ciğerci Muharrem Usta in Diyarbakır instead.
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