Exploring Turkey’s Hidden Gems: Closed Attractions Worth Visiting
Turkey is a country with a rich cultural heritage, world-famous landmarks, and breathtaking natural landscapes. From the vibrant streets of Istanbul to the ancient ruins of Ephesus, this country has a lot to offer. However, while many popular tourist attractions in Turkey are well-known and frequently visited, some closed-off destinations often go overlooked. But, just because these places aren’t open or accessible to the public, doesn’t mean they’re not worth visiting. Here are some of Turkey’s hidden gems that are worth exploring.
The Ruins of Ani
Located near the border of Turkey and Armenia, the ruins of Ani are a testament to the country’s unique history. Once a thriving medieval city, Ani was abandoned in the 1700s due to war and natural disasters. Today, it is a ghost town filled with empty churches, half-collapsed walls, and endless fields of grass. While Ani is closed to visitors for most of the time, it is sometimes possible to gain access with a special permit. Those who are able to enter the ruins are rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and a sense of history that is difficult to find elsewhere.
Hevsel Gardens is a lush area of farmland that borders the Tigris River within the city of Diyarbakir. Once used as a source of food for the ancient city’s inhabitants, Hevsel Gardens fell into disrepair until restoration efforts began in the 19th century. Today, the gardens are a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, and they offer visitors a chance to experience the beauty of Turkey’s countryside. Although the gardens are closed to the public for conservation reasons, visitors can still explore the area on a guided tour.
The Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern, located in Istanbul, is one of the most unusual historical sites in Turkey. This underground chamber, built in the 6th century, was once used to store water for the city’s palaces and public buildings. Today, it is a tourist attraction filled with supporting columns, statues, and even some resident fish. While the cistern is no longer used for its original purpose, it remains closed to the public for much of the year due to ongoing conservation work. When it is open, visitors can explore its dark corridors and search for the famous Medusa heads among the columns.
The Zeynel Abidin Mosque
The Zeynel Abidin Mosque, located in southeastern Turkey, is a remarkable piece of architecture that is closed to visitors for much of the year. Built in the early 15th century, the mosque’s stunning ceramic tiles, marble tombs, and peaceful courtyards have been carefully restored in recent years. While the mosque is not easily accessible due to its remote location and strict visitor restrictions, those who manage to gain access to the site are rewarded with an unforgettable spiritual experience and a truly unique cultural attraction.
Kapagan Caravanserai, located near the city of Nevşehir, is a centuries-old building that once served as a resting place for travelers along the ancient Silk Road. Built in the 1100s, the caravanserai was used by traders, politicians, and even royal dignitaries. Today, the caravanserai is closed to visitors for much of the year, but when it is open, it is an unforgettable experience. Visitors can explore the caravanserai’s well-preserved chambers and courtyards, marvel at its intricate tilework and stonework, and even stay in one of the traditional guesthouses that have been restored to their original condition.
While many tourists flock to Turkey’s popular landmarks and attractions, its hidden gems can be just as rewarding, if not more so. From the ruins of Ani to the Zeynel Abidin Mosque, each closed or rarely-opened site offers visitors a unique glimpse into Turkey’s rich cultural history, stunning architecture, and natural beauty.
Are these attractions open year-round?
No, most of them are only open to visitors during certain times of the year, and some require special permits to visit.
Can visitors stay overnight at any of these sites?
Some, like Kapagan Caravanserai, have been restored to allow visitors to stay overnight. However, most are not currently equipped for overnight stays.
How can I gain access to these closed or rarely-opened sites?
Visitors should check with local tourism boards or hire a guide who has access to these sites. Some, like Ani and the Basilica Cistern, may require special permits to enter.