Şanlıurfa (Urfa), Turkey

Last Updated on March 17, 2023

Şanlıurfa, 150 km (93 miles) east of Gaziantep and 1,300 km (808 miles) southeast of Istanbul, is perhaps the most interesting and historic city in Turkey's southeastern region (map).

Turks know Urfa (as it's commonly called) as the Prophets' City because of legends telling that the Patriarch Abraham was born in a cave here. (The Bible does say he stayed at Harran, 50 km [31 miles] to the south.) The cave, and other legendary locations, are visited annually by hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims.

It's certain that Urfa (OOR-fah, pop. 500,000, alt. 518 m/1700 feet), as it's commonly called, is very old, dating back at least 3500 years to Hittite times; and the world's first temple at nearby Göbekli Tepe dates from 11,000+ years ago.

Because Urfa is set right at the crossroads of routes to Europe, Asia and Africa, just about everyone important has marched through and left their mark, including the Babylonians, EgyptiansAlexander the Great, GreeksRomans and Seljuk Turks under Saladin.

The Crusaders, no doubt attracted by the town's easily-defended promontory called the Throne of Nimrod, called it Edessa and made it the capital of the Latin County of Edessa, ruled by Count Baldwin of Boulogne.

Daily flights connect Şanlıurfa's GAP Airport (GNY) with Ankara and Istanbul, as do intercity buses (no trains—nearest train station is in Diyarbakır). More...

Şanlıurfa, Turkey

Because of its attraction of religious pilgrims, Şanlıurfa has a good variety of hotels. Stay at least one night here so you have time to see the sightsBalıklıgöl, or Fish Pool, at the center of the religious pilgrimage area; the wondrous old covered bazaar; the Throne of Nimrodfortress; the good little archeological museum; some of the fine old houses; and of course an excursion to Göbekli TepeMore...

The southeast is hot hot HOT in summer, so plan your visit for another time of year if possible. See When to Go for details.

—by Tom Brosnahan

What to See & Do

Şanlıurfa Hotels

Şanlıurfa Transportation

Best Guided Tours



Southeastern Turkey

Eastern Turkey

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