Nestled in the far Southeastern corner of Turkey, this part of the country is very much off the tourist trail but has recently featured in the news thanks to its close proximity to the Syrian border.
*Turkish Kurdistan is an unofficial reference to the Southeastern region where Diyarbakir is situated. Although not officially a region, the majority of people living in this part of Turkey are Kurdish.
Diyarbakir is the largest city in the area, located on the banks of the River Tigris and surrounded by a set of almost intact city walls. Here’s my 9 reasons why you should visit Diyarbakir.
1. The latest UNESCO World Heritage site
The fortified city of Diyabakir and its surrounding landscape have just been granted World Heritage status. Due to Diyabakir’s location it has always been an important centre throughout the Roman, Islamic and Ottoman periods. You’re able to walk along parts of the wall, however UNESCO will need to do quite a few restorations.
2. The most beautiful city in Southern Anatolia
To be fair this probably isn’t difficult, however Diyarbakir has some charming places to explore and will likely be cleaned up as a result of the UNESCO World Heritage listing for the fortress and gardens.
3. Friendly locals
I know it’s a cliche but some of the people I met here were just amazing. They had very little money and few possessions but were just genuinely happy to see tourists visiting their city. One lady who lived next to the very steep City Walls was cooking bread and she gave us some to try, but refused to take money when offered. It’s nice to still find genuine people in the world.
If I have to provide one negative it’s to simply be very aware of the police who are Turkish, I was almost arrested after taking a photograph that just happened to include a police vehicle. Let’s just say heavy-handed tactics left me with a bitter taste in my mouth for Turkey.
4. There’s history wherever you turn
Located at a strategically important crossroads, it’s no wonder why Diyabakir and Southeastern Turkey has so much history. Aside from the fortress you can easily visit one of the oldest mosques in Turkey and also gain an understanding of Diyarbakir’s historic architectural style, this includes some of the city’s houses made from an indigenous type of dark basalt stone.
5. Fresh, tasty food
If you look once you’ll think some of the places look dirty, look again and you’ll discover an array of fresh meat, fish and salad. I was quite surprised to see the markets brimming with produce that was all local and clean.
I’d strongly advise for you to check out the street stalls, this includes sampling the many baklava delights. Each piece was roughly 1 Turkish Lira which roughly equals £0.25! So cheap and tasty…
6. Rough around the edges but altogether charming
Although it’s true that the city is located close to the conflict zones of Syria and Iraq, the Turkish government heavily influence this area and it’s relatively safe to explore.
The city itself is rather fun just to simply walk around and explore, it’s quite small so I wouldn’t spend more than a few days here.
My return flights from Istanbul to Diyarbakir cost £60 with Turkish Airlines in 2014, that’s an incredibly cheap price!
Whilst visiting Diyarbakir you should be able to pick up dinner for as little as £3, all meals are often finished with mint tea so be sure not to miss out on one thing I hugely enjoy when I visit any Middle Eastern countries.
8. Central location for the rest of S.E. Turkey
Diyarbakir is the perfect location to base yourself whilst exploring this part of Turkey, there’s several other important sites you should check out including;
- Batman (great for a photo next to the sign!)
9. Direct buses to Iraqi Kurdistan
If you wanted to extend your trip you can easily visit Iraqi Kurdistan by a local bus company called Can Diyabakir. They were clean, efficient and affordable but whatever you do don’t give the driver your passport at the border stop!
Discover my Iraqi Kurdistan adventures by reading my blog article here.
If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.