All About Turkey

Cultural and natural heritage

An important subject to be remembered in the world and in Turkey too, is the preservation of cultural values, so that these can be handed down to future generations.

Turkey is lucky in that it has a richness and variety in cultural and natural resources and the preservation and development of these have been stipulated by law. Many organizations have been set up in connection with this subject and preservation has now become a subject that concerns many organizations, institutions and people.

Turkey has approximately 2,700 historical ruins some dating back to prehistoric times and 41,000 works of culture.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) encourages the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding and universal value to humanity. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located. In the UNESCO "World Cultural Heritage List" there are 18 heritage sites from Turkey, out of 1092 properties (as of July 2018) around the world. Two of these sites are "mixed" (Goreme and Pamukkale) and 16 of them are "cultural" heritage sites. These are:

  1. Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia (1985)
  2. Great (Ulu) Mosque and Hospital (Darüssifa) of Divrigi in Sivas (1985)
  3. Historic Areas of Istanbul (1985)
  4. Hattusha (Bogazköy) - Hittite Capital (1986)
  5. Nemrut Mountain in Adiyaman (1987)
  6. Hierapolis - Pamukkale (1988)
  7. Xanthos - Letoon near Antalya (1988)
  8. Safranbolu town (1994)
  9. Archaeological Site of Troy (1998)
  10. Selimiye Mosque Complex in Edirne (2011)
  11. Neolithic Site of Catalhoyuk in Konya (2012)
  12. Bursa and Cumalikizik village (2014)
  13. Pergamon (2014)
  14. Ephesus site (2015)
  15. City Walls and Hevsel Gardens in Diyarbakir (2015)
  16. Archaeological site of Ani (2016)
  17. Aphrodisias site (2017)
  18. Gobeklitepe site (2018)

See the interactive Google Maps of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in Turkey by clicking here.

UNESCO's Tentative List is an inventory of the properties which each member country intends to consider for nomination of cultural and/or natural heritage sites during the following years. Countries re-examine and re-submit their Tentative List at least every ten years. 77 properties from Turkey are in this list (as of July 2018), including their submission dates:

  1. Karain cave in Antalya (1994)
  2. Alahan Monastery in Mersin (2000)
  3. Alanya (2000)
  4. Gulluk Mountain - Termessos National Park in Antalya (2000)
  5. Harran and Sanliurfa (2000)
  6. Ishak Pasha Palace in Dogubeyazit - Agri (2000)
  7. Kekova (2000)
  8. Konya - Capital of Seljuk Civilization (2000)
  9. Mardin cultural landscape (2000)
  10. Seljuk Caravanserais on the route from Denizli to Dogubeyazit (2000)
  11. St. Nicholas Church in Demre (2000)
  12. St. Paul Church, St.Paul's Well and surrounding historic quarters in Tarsus (2000)
  13. Sumela Monastery - Monastery of Virgin Mary in Trabzon (2000)
  14. Tombstones of Ahlat the Urartian and Ottoman citadel (2000)
  15. Ancient cities of Lycian Civilization (2009)
  16. Archaeological site of Sagalassos (2009)
  17. Archaeological site of Perge (2009)
  18. Esrefoglu Mosque near Konya (2011)
  19. St. Pierre Church in Hatay (2011)
  20. Aizanoi Antique City (2012)
  21. Archeological Site of Zeugma (2012)
  22. Gordion (2012)
  23. Historic Town of Birgi in Odemis town near Izmir (2012)
  24. Mausoleum and Sacred area of Hecatomnus in Milas district of Mugla (2012)
  25. Medieval City of Becin in Milas district of Mugla (2012)
  26. Historical Monuments of Nigde (2012)
  27. Yesemek Quarry and Sculpture Workshop near Karatepe in Gaziantep province (2012)
  28. Odunpazari Historical Urban Site in Eskisehir (2012)
  29. Mamure Castle near Alanya (2012)
  30. Haci Bektas Veli Complex (2012)
  31. Archaeological site of Laodicea (2013)
  32. Salt Lake (Tuz Gölü) (2013)
  33. Ancient city of Sardis and the Lydian Tumuli of Bin Tepe (2013)
  34. Trading Posts and Fortifications on Genoese Trade Routes from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea (2013)
  35. Anatolian Seljuks Madrasahs (2014)
  36. Ancient City of Anazarbos in Adana (2014)
  37. Ancient City of Kaunos (2014)
  38. Ancient City of Korykos in Mersin (2014)
  39. Archaeological Site of Arslantepe in Malatya (2014)
  40. Archaeological Site of Kültepe - Kanesh in Kayseri (2014)
  41. Canakkale (Dardanelles) and Gelibolu (Gallipoli) Battles Zones in the First World War (2014)
  42. Eflatun Pinar: Hittite Spring Sanctuary (2014)
  43. Iznik (Nicea) (2014)
  44. Mahmut Bey Mosque in Kastamonu (2014)
  45. Tomb of Ahi Evran in Kirsehir (2014)
  46. Vespasianus Titus Tunnel in Antakya - Hatay (2014)
  47. Zeynel Abidin Mosque Complex and Mor Yakup (Saint Jacob) Church in Nusaybin - Mardin (2014)
  48. Ismail Fakirullah Tomb and its Light Refraction Mechanism in Aydinlar - Siirt (2015)
  49. Historic Guild Town of Mudurnu in Bolu province (2015)
  50. Eshab-i Kehf Kulliye Complex in Afsin - Kahramanmaras (2015)
  51. Akdamar church on Van lake (2015)
  52. Ancient City of Stratonikeia in Yatagan - Mugla (2015)
  53. Mount Harsena and the Rock tombs of Pontic Kings in Amasya (2015)
  54. Mountainous Phrygia (2015)
  55. Uzunkopru bridge in Edirne (2015)
  56. Theater and Aquaducts of Aspendos (2015)
  57. Yildiz Palace complex in Istanbul (2015)
  58. Ancient city of Kibyra in Burdur (2016)
  59. Haci Bayram Mosque and its Surrounding Area (2016)
  60. Kizilirmak River Delta Wetland and Bird Sanctuary (2016)
  61. Nuruosmaniye Mosque Complex in Istanbul (2016)
  62. Sivrihisar Great Mosque in Eskisehir (2016)
  63. Sultan Bayezid II Complex for Medical Treatment in Edirne (2016)
  64. Bodrum Castle (2016)
  65. Malabadi Bridge in Diyarbakir (2016)
  66. Van Fortress (2016)
  67. Yivli Minaret in Antalya (2016)
  68. Archaeological Site of Assos (2017)
  69. Industrial Landscape of Ayvalik (2017)
  70. Ivriz Cultural Landscape in Konya province (2017)
  71. Archaeological site of Priene (2018)
  72. Basilica Therma (Sarikaya Roman bath) in Yozgat (2018)
  73. Niksar, the Capital of Danishmend Dynasty in Tokat province (2018)
  74. Historic City of Harput in Elazig province (2018)
  75. Justinian's Bridge in Sakarya (2018)
  76. Underground Water Structures; Livas and Kastels in Gaziantep (2018)
  77. Wooden roofed & columned Mosques in Anatolia (2018)

UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is another important list to preserve traditions all around the world, maintaining cultural diversity. With the latest inclusion in November 2016, now Turkey has 16 cultural entries in this List:

  1. Meddahlik (art of public story telling) Tradition (2008)
  2. Mevlevi Semah Ceremony (2008)
  3. Asiklik (folk poets or minstrelsy) Tradition (2009)
  4. Karagoz Shadow Theater (2009)
  5. Traditional Conversations (Sohbet) Meetings (Yaren, Barana, Sira nights, and others) (2010)
  6. Alevi-Bektasi Ritual Semah (2010)
  7. Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival (2010)
  8. Ceremonial Keskek tradition (2011)
  9. Mesir Paste Festival (2012)
  10. Turkish coffee culture and tradition (2013)
  11. Ebru, Turkish art of marbling (2014)
  12. Flatbread making and sharing culture; Lavash, Katirma, Yufka (2016)
  13. Traditional craftsmanship of Cini tiles (2016)
  14. Newroz or Nevruz; common tradition for Spring festival (2016)
  15. Hidrellez; Spring celebration (2017)
  16. Whistled language (2017)

An agreement ratified in Barcelona on February 16, 1976 in regard to the "Prevention of Pollution in the Mediterranean" and a Protocol relevant to special areas of protection have all gone into effect. Within the framework of this protocol the following have been designated as special protection areas:

Dilek Yarimadasi (Peninsula)
Olympos Beydaglari (Beyda Mountains)
Gelibolu Yarimadasi Milli Park (Gelibolu Peninsula National Park)

Furthermore, in accord with the same agreement, 100 sites along the shores of the Mediterranean sea which share a common importance, and 17 other sites around the country have come under protection. Work is being undertaken at an international level. The seventeen sites are as follows:

Antalya, Aspendos, Bursa, Didyma, Ephesus, Fethiye - Ölüdeniz, Halikarnassos, Istanbul, Kaunos, Kekova, Knidos, Miletos, Pergamon, Phaselis, Priene, Troy, Xanthos.

An agreement on the Protection of the European Archaeological Heritage has also been signed.

An agreement signed between Turkey and the Council of Europe countries on the protection of the European architectural heritage has been ratified by Law 3534 and brought into effect.

For sample Tours visiting some of the above sites, please Click Here.

Source: Unesco and others.

All About Turkey © Burak Sansal 1996–2019, a certified professional tour guide in Turkey. Contact Burak at for all kinds of regular and/or private travel services throughout the country.