Explore Ankara

Ankara Travel Guide

East and west fuse together perfectly in Turkey's capital of Ankara, where shades of the mystical east and ancient civilisations lie partially hidden among office buildings, shopping malls and government offices. The city is imbued with the spirit of modernity and youth, this being a student town filled with language schools, universities, colleges and military bases. It also has a vast ex-pat community (most of it diplomatic), which adds to the cosmopolitan atmosphere.<br /><br /> Situated on a rocky hill in the dry, barren region of Anatolia, this humming city can trace its history back to the bronze age, and has been a part of historic events through several great civilisations, including the Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greek, Romans, Galatians and Ottomans. Alexander the Great was one of the conquerors who stayed in the city for a while, and today's tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to unearthing the city's historic attractions.<br /><br /> With a population of well over four million, Ankara is a deserving capital city, aptly named as the 'anchor' of Turkey, perhaps not always sought after by tourists but certainly entertaining hordes of business travellers and those seriously intrigued with ancient history.<br /><br /> The old heart of the city (Ulus) is centred on an ancient citadel on a hilltop, where many historic buildings have been restored, many having been turned into restaurants serving traditional Turkish cuisine. In this area there are several Roman archaeological sites, and narrow alleys shelter shops selling eastern delights like leather, carpets, copper, spices and jewellery. From the heart outwards, the city spreads across various hills in modern splendour, carefully planned by the city fathers after Turkey's independence fighter, Ataturk, set up provisional government in what was just a small dusty town back in 1920, after the first World War. Ataturk brought in European urban planners to create his proclaimed capital, and he lies here today in his lofty mausoleum, the Anitkabir, in a green 'peace' park, amid the wide boulevards he created.<br /><br /> Apart from archaeological sites, the most interesting things to see in Ankara are the many museums, and the beautiful parks, like Kugulu Park, renowned for its graceful swans, and the Genclik Park with its rowing pond and botanical garden.<br /><br />


Address: Entrance on Akdeniz Cad, Anitepe Ankara

The mausoleum of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, is a revered monument in the city, accessed by a wide avenue lined with lion statues, drawing Turks from all over the country who come to pay their respects to their hero.<br /><br /> It is also a fascinating attraction for visitors to Ankara, its stark, but imposing colonnaded aspect giving onto a courtyard, which contains a museum.The ceiling of the main hall is decorated with beautiful gold leaf mosaics, and there are plenty of reliefs and statuary to be admired.<br /><br />

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

Address: Old city (Ulus) near the entrance to the Citadel Ankara

Admission: Daily except Monday 8:30am to 5:30pm

The museum which charts the history of Asia Minor is housed in a lovely 15th-century restored building (originally a market and caravanserai) close to the centre of Ankara, and is the ideal place to visit for anyone intending to travel through Turkey, delving into the past.<br /><br /> It is filled with fascinating collections of archaeological finds, from monolithic statues to delicate jewellery, including some from Catal Huyuk, believed to be the earliest known human social community in the world. From the Palaeolithic and Neolithic, and through all the great civilizations since, this museum is like a time machine for antiquity buffs.<br /><br />

Temple of Augustus

Address: Ulus Square Ankara

The Roman Temple of Augustus was built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, and contains the best-preserved copy of Emperor Augustus' last will and testament, inscribed on the vestibule walls. After the death of Augustus in 14 AD, a copy of the text of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti was inscribed on both walls inside the pronaos in Latin, with a Greek translation on an exterior wall of the cella.<br /><br /> The inscriptions are the primary surviving source of the text, since the original inscription on bronze pillars in front of the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome has long been lost, and two other surviving inscriptions of the text are incomplete. The temple itself is in ruins and not open to the public, but together with other Roman ruins in the vicinity (including the Roman baths and the column of Julian) it is an exciting port of call for classical history addicts.<br /><br />

Ethnographic Museum

Address: Talat Pasa Boulevard, Namazgah Ankara

Admission: Daily except Monday 8:30am-12:30pm, and 1:30pm-5:30pm

When the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, died in 1938 he was buried in the internal courtyard of the building, which now houses the Ethnographic Museum, until he was moved to his final resting place at the imposing Mausoleum in Ankara in 1953. Today the Museum, guarded by an imposing bronze statue of Ataturk astride a horse, is well worth a visit. It contains a vast collection of folklore artefacts, including costumes, arts, crafts and art works.<br /><br />

Natural History Museum

Address: Eskisehir Road Ankara

Admission: Weekdays 9am-5pm, weekends 10am-3pm

Telephone: (0) 312 287 3430

Anyone with an interest in the natural world will enjoy Ankara's Natural History Museum, which contains some fascinating exhibits and dioramas detailing the (often extinct) wildlife of Anatolia, as well as a large collection of fossils and minerals. Most interesting are the fossilized footprints of humans who walked the Anatolian steppes 25,000 years ago, and the skeleton of a Maras elephant which lived in the area 193 million years ago.<br /><br />

Mount Ararat

Address: Ankara

In the far east of Turkey lies Mount Ararat; the twin peaks of this dormant volcano boast the highest summit in Turkey, and legend has it that the remains of Noah's Ark lie on the snow-capped slopes. Many tours are available to climb or even ski Mount Ararat (solo climbing without a guide and permit is not permitted). The climb to the top is relatively easy and requires a basic level of fitness, but is suitable for non-professional climbers.<br /><br /> For those not wishing to climb Mount Ararat, the local Kurdish villages situated on the foot of the mountain can be a great cultural experience while the nearby town of Dogubayazit provides stunning views of the mountain and is home to the second largest meteor crater in the world. Noah's Ark National Park at Mount Ararat is home to a museum dedicated to what is believed to be the fossilised remains of the ark. It is at the park that this controversial site can be viewed by the public.<br /><br />

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