With the addition of the Arslantepe Mound earlier this year, Turkey currently boasts 19 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including 17 cultural and two mixed.
As of 2021, UNESCO lists 1,154 cultural and natural sites worldwide on its World Heritage List.
Selimiye Mosque and social complex in Edirne
Added to the UNESCO list in 2011, the Selimiye Mosque and its social complex in Turkey's northwestern province of Edirne was constructed by Sinan, the most renowned Ottoman architect in the 16th century.
Its complex includes madrasas (Islamic schools), a covered market, a clock house, an outer courtyard, and a library.
“The square Mosque with its single great dome and four slender minarets, dominates the skyline of the former Ottoman capital of Edirne,” according to UNESCO's website.
Adorned by tiles from the town of Iznik renowned for its ceramics at "the peak period of their production," the organization says the mosque "testifies to an art form that remains unsurpassed in this material."
Pergamon and multi-layered cultural landscape
Located in Turkey's Aegean province of Izmir, Pergamon and its surrounding multi-layered cultural landscape was added to the list in 2014.
As the capital of the Hellenistic Attalid dynasty, the acropolis of Pergamon was a major center of learning in the ancient world, says UNESCO.
“Monumental temples, theatres, stoa or porticoes, gymnasium, altar, and library were set into the sloping terrain surrounded by an extensive city wall,” it adds.
It is possible to see the remains of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires in and around the modern town of Bergama.
Also in Izmir province, the world-renowned ancient city of Ephesus was added to the UNESCO list in 2015.
The UN body celebrates "grand monuments of the Roman Imperial period" including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theater, which have been unearthed in excavations.
"Little remains of the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World,' which drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean." The House of the Virgin Mary, a chapel close to Ephesus has also become a place of Christian pilgrimage, it says.
Historic areas of Istanbul
Turkey's largest city Istanbul has been associated with major political, religious, and artistic events for more than 2,000 years, the UN has said.
“Its masterpieces include the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Suleymaniye Mosque."
However, it has warned that all these sites are now "under threat from population pressure, industrial pollution, and uncontrolled urbanization.”
Istanbul was added to the list in 1985.
Bursa and Cumalikizik
In northwestern Turkey, the city of Bursa and nearby village of Cumalikizik were added to the UNESCO list in 2014 as a serial nomination of eight component sites.
“The site illustrates the creation of an urban and rural system establishing the Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century,” it says, adding that the area "embodies the key functions of the social and economic organization" of the Ottomans' first capital, which "evolved around a civic centre."
The village of Cumalikizik is the only rural area “to show the provision of hinterland support for the capital.”
City of Safranbolu
Added to the UNESCO list in 1994, the City of Safranbolu, a typical Ottoman town, is located in northern Turkey.
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,” UNESCO says.
It features an Old Mosque, Old Bath and the Suleyman Pasha Medrese, which were built in 1322. "During its apogee in the 17th century, Safranbolu's architecture influenced urban development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire."
Hattusha, the capital of the Hittites -- one of the most ancient Anatolian civilizations -- was added to the UNESCO list in 1986.
The city's remains, located in present-day central Turkey, is "notable for its urban organization, the types of construction that have been preserved," including temples, royal residences, fortifications.
UNESCO also notes the rich ornamentation of the Lions' Gate and the Royal Gate into the city's interior, as well as the "ensemble of rock art at Yazilikaya."
“The city enjoyed considerable influence in Anatolia and northern Syria in the 2nd millennium BC,” it adds.
Great mosque and hospital of Divrigi
The distinguished 11th-century Great Mosque and Hospital of Divrigi are located in central Turkey. It was added to the UNESCO list in 1985.
With its single prayer room and two cupolas, the mosque exhibits a "highly sophisticated technique of vault construction, and a creative, exuberant type of decorative sculpture -- particularly on the three doorways, in contrast to the unadorned walls of the interior," it describes the "unique features of this masterpiece of Islamic architecture."
Located in eastern Turkey, the 7,000-year-old ancient mound of Arslantepe was added to the UNESCO list just earlier this year.
The site was occupied from at least the sixth millennium BC until the late Roman period, says UNESCO, citing archeological evidence.
“The earliest layers of the Early Uruk period are characterized by adobe houses from the first half of the 4th millennium BCE.”
“The site illustrates the processes which led to the emergence of a State society in the Near East and a sophisticated bureaucratic system that predates writing ... Exceptional metal objects and weapons have been excavated at the site, among them the earliest swords so far known in the world, which suggests the beginning of forms of organized combat as the prerogative of an elite, who exhibited them as instruments of their new political power.”
Diyarbakir fortress and Hevsel Gardens cultural landscape
The Diyarbakir Fortress, Hevsel Gardens, and its surrounding cultural landscape in Eastern Turkey were added by UNESCO in 2015 as a single listing.
The area “has been an important center since the Hellenistic period, through the Roman, Sassanid, Byzantine, Islamic, and Ottoman times to the present, the UN agency explains.
“The site encompasses the Inner castle, known as Ickale and including the Amida Mound, and the 5.8 km-long (3.6 miles) city walls of Diyarbakir with their numerous towers, gates, buttresses, and 63 inscriptions."
Archaeological site of Troy
The legendary ancient city of Troy is located in the western province of Canakkale and was added to the list in 1998. "Troy, with its 4,000 years of history, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world," according to UNESCO.
“In scientific terms, its extensive remains are the most significant demonstration of the first contact between the civilizations of Anatolia and the Mediterranean world.”
“The siege of Troy by Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece in the 13th or 12th century BC, immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, has inspired great creative artists throughout the world ever since."
Added by UNESCO in 2017, the archaeological site of Aphrodisias in present-day southwestern Turkey comprises of a temple to the Greek goddess Aphrodite that dates from the third century BC, along with a city constructed a century later.
“The wealth of Aphrodisias came from the marble quarries and the art produced by its sculptors,” adds UNESCO. “The city streets are arranged around several large civic structures, which include temples, a theatre, an agora, and two bath complexes.”
Pamukkale, a natural landmark known for its mineral-rich thermal waters and white travertine terraces, has long been a major tourist attraction in southwestern Turkey and was added to the list in 1988.
It is “an unreal landscape, made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins,” according to UNESCO.
The adjacent site of Hierapolis was established at the end of the second century BC by the Attalid kingdom as a thermal spa. “The ruins of the baths, temples, and other Greek monuments can be seen at the site.”
The ancient city of Xanthos-Letoon was added to the UNESCO list in 1988.
Serving as the capital of the ancient Lycian kingdom in current-day southwestern Turkey, it "illustrates the blending of Lycian traditions and Hellenic influence, especially in its funerary art," the UN agency underlines.
“The epigraphic inscriptions are crucial for our understanding of the history of the Lycian people and their Indo-European language."
Neolithic site of Catalhoyuk
Dating back 9,000 years, prehistoric Catalhoyuk is located in what is today central Turkey and was added to the list in 2012.
The site testifies "to the evolution of the social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life,” according to UNESCO.
“The western mound shows the evolution of cultural practices in the Chalcolithic period, from 6200 BC to 5200 BC. Catalhoyuk 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.”
Goreme National Park and rock sites of Cappadocia
UNESCO describes Cappadocia as “a spectacular landscape,” adding the site to its list in 1985.
The site is “entirely sculpted by erosion," it says, adding that the Goreme valley and its surroundings contain "rock-hewn sanctuaries that provide unique evidence of Byzantine art in the post-Iconoclastic period.”
The famed ancient site of Gobeklitepe is located in Turkey’s southeastern Sanliurfa province and was added to UNESCO's list in 2018.
It “presents monumental round-oval and rectangular megalithic structures erected by hunter-gatherers in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic age" between 9,600 and 8,200 BC, according to UNESCO. “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."
Located in the Kahta District of the Adiyaman province, Mt. Nemrut, towers 2,134-meters (7,001 feet) high and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987.
“The mausoleum of Antiochus I (69–34 BC), 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,” says the UN agency.
“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.”
Archaeological site of Ani
Ani, a medieval Armenian city that is often called “the City of 1,001 Churches,” is situated in the eastern Kars province on the Armenian border. The site was added to the UNESCO list in 2016.
The site “combines residential, religious and military structures, characteristic of a medieval urbanism built up over the centuries by Christian and then Muslim dynasties,” UNESCO says. “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.”
“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.”