Central Anatolia, Turkey

The vast plateau of Central Anatolia (Asia Minor), broken by mountains ranges, is the heartland of modern Turkey (maps).

Bounded by AnkaraKonyaKaramanKahramanmaraşSivas and Amasya, the Central Anatolian plateau (altitude 1000 to 2000 meters, 3300 to 6500 feet) holds the incredible “moonscape” terrain of Cappadocia, as well as cities founded by the Hittites 3000 years ago, and even older settlements dating back an incredible 7500 years.

The region boasts striking scenery, fine museums, hundreds of Roman archeological sites, and—my favorite—medieval Seljuk Turkish (ie, pre-Ottoman) mosques and caravanserais.

Aksaray

A major city and crossroads, it lies across the ancient Silk Road with Ankara to the north, Konya to the west and Cappadocia to the east.

Amasya

One of Turkey’s most charming towns, built in a narrow river gorge, with ancient rock-cut cliff tombs, fine mosques, old Ottoman houses, and even mummies!

Ankara

The national capital, is a big, busy city. Visit its ancient hilltop fortress, its famous Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, and the grand Mausoleum of Kemal Atatürk. It has lots of good, inexpensive restaurants as well.

Beyşehir

This town on the eastern shore of the large Beyşehir Lake boasts one of the finest and most unusual Seljuk Turkish mosques in Anatolia, the Eşrefoğlu Camii. If you’re driving from Cappadocia or Konya to Antalya or Denizli/Pamukkale, Beyşehir is a great place to stop for tea or a lunch of lake fish.

Boğazkale

The 3000-year-old capital of the Hittite Empire; the ruins are mostly mere foundation outlines, but the site is striking and the religious reliefs of Yazılıkaya connect you directly with the Hittite’s ancient ceremonies.

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Cappadocia

This is on everyone’s list of must-sees: an incredible volcanic moonscape filled with lavishly decorated cave churches, homes, workshops and even cave hotels. The main towns are AksarayAvanosGöremeKayseriNiğdeNevşehirMustafapaşaUçhisar and Ürgüp (map). You can even fly above the moonscape in a hot-air balloon.

Gordion

Visit the city and tomb of the fabled King Midas, ruler of Phrygia 2700 years ago.

Kayseri

Set on the eastern edge of Cappadocia (map), in the shadow of Mount Aergius (Erciyes Dağı, 3916 meters/ 12,848 feet), this ancient city has outstanding Seljuk Turkish architecture (1100s to 1200s), interesting bazaars.

Konya

Capital of the Seljuk Turkish Empire of Rum, it has marvelous Seljuk buildings and the tomb of Jelaleddin Rumi, founder of the whirling dervishes. Not far away is the Neolithic settlement of Çatalhöyük.

Nevşehir

Along with Kayseri, one of the chief cities of Cappadocia, with its major bus station and Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport.

Niğde

An ancient city with several notable historic buildings, it is near the striking Byzantine troglodyte monastery of Eski Gümüşler and on the way to beautiful Aladağ National Park.

Safranbolu

One of the best-preserved Ottoman towns in Anatolia, Safranbolu has delightful old-fashioned inns, hotels, historic buildings, and vistas.

Silk Road

The age-old caravan route between Europe and Asia is dotted with Seljuk Turkish caravanserais and timeless cities.

Sivas

Good Seljuk Turkish architecture and nearby the medieval mosque and hospital at Divriği, and a thermal spa where your skin is nibbled by fish!

Sultanhanı

Its namesake is the grandest Seljuk Turkish caravansaray in Anatolia, a must-see stop as you travel on the ancient Silk Road between Cappadocia and Konya.

Click here for maps of Ankara, Cappadocia & Central Anatolia.

—Tom Brosnahan


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