Mardin is perched at the edge of a plateau in southeastern Turkey overlooking the swelteringMesopotamian plain 95 km (59 miles) south of Diyarbakir.
Mardin is a provincial capital (population 62,000, altitude 1325 m/4347 feet) and an ancient town built of sandstone with some interesting old buildings, including the medieval Sultan Isa Medresesi (1385), Kasim Pasha Medresesi (1400s), the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque, 1000s), and a rambling bazaar.
But most people come to visit the Saffron Monastery (Deyrul Zafaran), 6 km (4 miles) to the east. This was a holy place even in pre-Christian times. The monastery has been here since 495 AD. Some of its existing floor mosaics are 1500 years old.
Once the seat of the Assyrian patriarch (who now resides in Damascus), Deyrul Zafaran is now mostly an orphanage run by a few monks.
Church services are still chanted in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.
Other Assyrian monasteries are scattered throughout the Tur Abdin ( the region to the east), particularly at Midyat and Mor Gabriel.
Minibuses run frequently from Diyarbakır to Mardin throughout the day.
Turkish Airlines flies from Istanbul via Ankara to Mardin several times weekly, as does Onur Air. There are more frequent flights to Diyarbakır.
The nearest train station is at Şenyurt, 25 km (16 miles) south on the Syrian border. Thus the nearest trains now serve Diyarbakır.
Distances & Travel Times
Adıyaman: 280 km (174 miles) W, 4.5 hours
Ankara: 1005 km (625 miles) NW, 15 hours
Diyarbakır: 95 km (59 miles) N, 1.5 hours
Istanbul: 1459 km (907 miles) NW, 22 hours
Kâhta (Nemrut Dağı): 312 km (194 miles) NW, 5 hours
Midyat: 59 km (37 miles) E, 1.25 hours
Nusaybin (Syrian Border): 60 km (37 miles) E, 1 hour
Şanlıurfa: 172 km (107 miles) W, 2.25 hours