While most visitors traveling to Turkey visit its famous cities like Istanbul, Ephesus, Cappadocia, Ankara, and Antalya, the country has many other charming cities that pack a punch when it comes to historical significance. One such city is Konya, a major religious pilgrimage site filled with striking mosques, incredible museums, and impressive monuments. This cultural hub is known for the Whirling Dervishes and is a prominent center of Sufi art and music. Thanks to its richness in cultural heritage that the locals consider it the spiritual capital of the country. It is the 7th largest city in Turkey and is located just 3 hours south of Ankara. Apply for your Turkey tourist visa and get ready to explore the unforgettable spots in Konya.
History of Konya, Turkey
Konya was formerly the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum (Anatolia). Numerous researches by archeologists and many excavations show that Konya is one of the oldest settlements in Anatolia. The city was known as Iconium in Roman Times. The legend goes that Perseus killed a dragon that devastated the town. The people of the city constructed a monument to honor him; a stone obelisk with a symbol of Perseus carved in it. It is believed that this event gave the city its name, Iconium.
However, Muslims believe in another legend that two dervishes, friends of Allah, were traveling through the skies from the faraway countries of Horasan toward the west. When they flew over the lands of central Anatolia, one asked the other, “Shall I land?” The other replied, “Sure, land.” (“Kon ya!”) And thus, they found the city of Konya.
Things to do in Konya, Turkey
Konya has several religious and historical landmarks that are worth a visit during your trip.
The imposing Mevlana Museum is special to the locals as it is the mausoleum of the 13th-century religious leader, poet, and philosopher, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi. He was the founder of the whirling dervish sect of Sufism, and this place is regarded as a pilgrimage site by locals and tourists. The building sits on a well-maintained lush rose garden and consists of a mosque and a museum.
Neolithic City of Çatalhöyük
Çatalhöyük is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important excavation sites globally. It is an ancient settlement that dates back approximately 9,000 years. It is believed to have been a flourishing place and was stumbled upon by a team of British archeologists in 1958. You can learn about the excavation history and the museum’s importance at the site. More than 40 houses, many figurines, pottery, and murals were found during the excavation.
The Aziziye Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Konya. It was constructed in 1676 but was damaged by a fire and rebuilt in the 19th century. Built in the Baroque style of architecture, itis known for its splendid interiors and enormous windows. The mosque’s interiors are brightly painted with a Rococo prayer niche and look very different from a traditional mosque design. While here, check out Konya’s bazaar for some exciting finds.
The Whirling Dervishes performance is one of the top tourist attractions in Turkey. But since Konya is the home to the spiritual ritual, it is the best place to watch the performance. The dervishes constantly spin in rhythm to attain a state of high consciousness while detaching from other distractions. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you must not miss when in Konya.
Alaeddin Hill and Mosque
Alaeddin Hill Park is located in the city’s heart and is a popular spot for locals to socialize. This park consists of archaeological remains, a mosque, and verdant gardens. On top of a hill is the Alaeddin Mosque, which was built in the 13th century. It is the oldest Seljuk-era Mosque in the country and serves as the resting place of Seljuk sultans who ruled in the area over 800 years ago.
Karatay Medresesi (Tile Museum)
The Tile Museum exhibits an awe-inspiring collection of Seljuk enamel tilework. The internal walls of the building showcase the excellent Seljuk tiling making it a sight to behold. The museum also houses ceramic exhibits from various archaeological sites. The building was founded in 1251 by Celaleddin Karatay from the Seljuk empire and used to be a madrasa. It was eventually restored and transformed into a museum that houses the tomb of Celaleddin Karatay.
Konya Tropical Butterfly Garden
Image Credit: www.guardianglass.com
One of the recent attractions in Konya is a massive domed butterfly house, a first of its kind in Turkey. You can see more than 20,000 colorful butterflies across 15 species from all over the globe in this tropical garden. This place comes as a breath of fresh air amidst the city’s historical monuments and architectural spots. It is a fantastic place to spend time with your family and learn about these lovely, winged creatures.
Ince Minare Mosque Museum
The Ince Minare Mosque is one of the finest examples of Seljuk-era Islamic architecture. It was constructed in the 1200s and functioned as a theological seminary (madrasa) during the Seljuk Empire. One of the main highlights of the mosque is an awe-inspiring entranceway carved with calligraphy and a striking minaret built with glazed bricks and green mosaic tiles. Today, it is a stone-works museum and contains intricately designed mosque doors, decorative panels, and other artifacts.
Sille is a former Ottoman-Greek settlement located 10 kilometers northwest of central Konya. Residents of Konya visit this cute, scenic village on weekends for a break. The village has two Byzantine churches that have been restored recently. St. Helena’s Church’s interiors are covered with beautiful frescoes. There is another small church on the hill behind the village with a museum dedicated to clocks and other timepieces.
Kultur Park is right next to Alaeddin Hill, and you can spend some time in the lush greenery and enjoy a cup of tea. It offers exceptional views of some of the best mosques in the city. The park is also home to a large pool and a neon-light show that happens every evening.
Konya is not as famous as some of the other cities in Turkey, but surely worth a visit. If you are a history buff, a visit to Konya will be one of the most enriching experiences of your holiday.