At time of writing, no-one seems absolutely sure why the massive structures at Göbekli Tepe were built (also written Göbeklitepe) – the techniques used in their construction – or has a definitive understanding of the purpose they served. Read on to learn more about Gobeklitepe.
Current popular thinking seems to lean towards the structures being used for sacrifices or rituals. One thing is for sure – they were of massive significance at the time and they are the oldest-known megaliths in the world, predating Stonehenge by around 6000 years. Read on past the booking info for more details and 360VR images of the site.
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Getting to Göbekli Tepe from Antalya
Buses in Turkey are very good – most with power supplies, USB chargers and free wifi. They are also pretty comfortable, considering. If you’re on a budget, taking a bus overnight also has the advantage of saving money on accommodation. Firstly, get yourself to the main Antalya Otogar, just a short way out of the city centre. The main tram line takes you direct to the door or you could alternatively take a taxi. REMEMBER your passport. So far as I’m aware, you can’t travel by bus in Turkey without a form of ID.
Prepare for a long journey
There are two main routes the buses take – the first along the Southern Turkish coastline (stunning during the day) or another alternate route further north, through the mountains. Whichever route you end up taking, you want to get tickets to Sanliurfa – the closest city to the site.
Depending on the time of day, you should expect to pay around 110-150TL one-way (at current exchange rates, 11-15€ approx). The journey should take anywhere between 15 and 17 hours.
About Turkish buses
As noted, the buses in Turkey are good but I’ve yet to find one with a toilet. Instead, they make regular stops (every two or three hours) at service stations and other bus stations along the route, should you need a toilet-break or to stretch your legs. Food varies from service station to service station but remember, you’re in Turkey so you should expect traditional fare, snacks and fruit-sellers etc. All services have toilets but, again, I have yet to find any with sit-down toilets – so prepare to go squat-style. Better yet, take some kind of Immodium or other suppressant if you’re worried about the toilets. They are pretty grim to be honest. Also, all charge – the price varies but it should be advertised at the door.
From Sanliurfa to Göbekli Tepe
Come out of the bus station and head towards a secondary, smaller bus area at the top of the hill. Apparently, there are two buses per day to the site but neither is particularly convenient and will result in you either spending all day there – or just a couple of hours. In my opinion, it’s easier to take a taxi. You should expect to pay around 80TL.
The site at Göbekli Tepe
You’ll travel for around 20 mins from the city to the site. I visited at the start of September and the temperatures were stifling (noted as 40′ on my mobile but it was definitely hotter – probably closer 45′ with a brutal hairdryer wind). At the entrance to the site, there is a small gift area and museum building showing presentations. There are regular shuttle buses to cover the short drive between the welcome areas and the site itself.
The site itself – a personal view
From looking at various pictures online, I must admit I had expected the site to be larger. At present, Göbekli Tepe consists of a raised viewing platform encircling the excavations. There is another site nearby currently under work – though, when we visited, it was closed. The views from the top are interesting and help explain why the ancients choose this particular location.
The map above shows a wide, long fertile valley just below Göbekli Tepe which runs all the way to the Syrian border then meets with an area known as the Fertile Crescent (which follows the route of the Euphrates river). Due to being sandwiched between mountains to the north and the harsh Syrian desert to the south, east and west this area was a popular hunting and foraging territory with ancients. You can read more about the Fertile Crescent, Göbekli Tepe and thoughts on the birth of religion here.
You may find it surprising just how close you are to Syria (at time of writing, perhaps not the safest place in the world to be).
In fact, getting back by taxi, we were stopped twice in army checkpoints – again, be sure to remember your passport as you will need it for ID.
About Göbekli Tepe
For full information about the site at Göbekli Tepe, you should take a look at more detailed articles eg https://www.britannica.com/place/Gobekli-Tepe or a particularly in-depth account of the site’s significance at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/gobekli-tepe-the-worlds-first-temple-83613665/.
Göbekli Tepe was built high above a fertile valley on a plateau located around 700m. The summit is about 750m above sea level – with the “Belly Hill” (Göbekli Tepe) accounting for around 50m of that. Many experts believe the reason site was chosen is down the nearby prevalence of limestone rock.
Historians and archaeologists previously presumed people would settle first, then build. In the case of Göbekli Tepe, it seems the opposite was true and the process happened the other way around. There are currently no obvious signs of settlements immediately on-site – so it appears a significant number of people traveled (often long distances) to construct it.
Also, intriguingly, it seems the site was deliberately filled in over multiple years with new constructions added on top of the existing building work.
Many of the megaliths feature carvings – another aspect of the site that has mystified archaeologists. None of the animals featured in the works are domestic or farmyard – unlike later civilizations which, by then, had learned to rear and use animals for food or in the production of food.
Current thinking seems to be leaning to the conclusion the site was used for rituals or sacrifices – possibly to ward away or protect from creatures these civilisations didn’t understand.
Regardless of the reason, it’s all mighty impressive stuff when you consider the structures at Göbekli Tepe predate Stonehenge by around 6000 years. Again, for a more detailed account, please see the articles linked above.
Antalya to Göbekli Tepe essentials
Cost of travel – Around 250-300TL return, depending on route/time of day
Cost of site visit – 45TL
Time to view site – In all honesty, you could be done in a couple of hours max
More details – https://www.sanliurfa.bel.tr/icerik/226/30/gobeklitepe