Tourist’s guide to Mardin – a mysterious ancient city of Turkey

Mardin (Turkey) is a province located in the south-eastern part of the country and includes the capital of the same name. Its area is 8 858 km², and the population reaches more than 800 thousand inhabitants. The province is divided into 10 districts, one of which is the ancient city of Mardin, where today almost 140 thousand people live. It is located on a hilltop, at an altitude of 1083 m above sea level, from where old houses and buildings descend down a picturesque cascade. In 1960, due to its undeniable cultural and historical value, the city entered the UNESCO heritage list, becoming the second object after Venice, which managed to maintain its authentic appearance.

Mardin, Turkey

Located between the Tigris and Euphrates, Mardin is considered one of the oldest cities in Upper Mesopotamia. Presumably the first settlements appeared here in 4500 BC. Once upon a time, Sumerians, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines and Seljuks lived on these lands, replacing each other. In the 4th century BC Mardin obeyed Alexander the Great, but after the death of the commander, Persia took possession of the city.

Mardin was at the intersection of the most important trade routes, including the Silk Road, and did not give rest to foreign invaders. For centuries, the Roman Empire fought with the Persians for its unconditional dominance in the region, but only Byzantium managed to do this by the end of the 1st millennium. However, already in 1071, in the battle of Malazgirt, the Byzantines suffered a crushing defeat from the Seljuk troops, after which the latter opened the way to the expanses of the whole Anatolia. In 1517, Mardin became part of the Ottoman Empire.

Houses in Mardin

Today, Mardin in Turkey is one of the most interesting cities in southeastern Anatolia. Its rich historical heritage is visible in numerous architectural monuments, among which are preserved monasteries, mosques, ancient ruins and madrassas. The interweaving of cultures and civilizations is reflected not only in the architecture of the city, but also in its multinational population. Once in the streets of Mardin, you will hear conversations in different languages, and among the locals you will meet Assyrians, Kurds, Arabs, Turks and Armenians. Walking through cafes and restaurants, you will appreciate the incredible assortment of national dishes. Nevertheless, acquaintance with the city should begin with a visit to the sights – the most valuable historical monuments of Mardin.

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Aerial view of Mardin


The city of Mardin in Turkey, whose photos can captivate even a sophisticated traveler, is filled with a unique authentic atmosphere. Once at the main attractions, you seem to fall into a different dimension, not subject to the passage of time. Among the iconic objects of the city, it should first be noted:

Deyrulzafaran Monastery

This is the oldest Syrian Orthodox monastery, erected in 493 by a monk named Shleimun. It is believed that the building was built on the site of the Syrian pagan temple of the moon god. The oldest room of the complex is more than 4000 years old. Officially, the attraction is called the monastery of St. Ananias, but more often it is called Deirulzafaran. This name arose because of the unusual “saffron” color of the stones that build the building. Today, the temple performs the function of not only a spiritual monastery, but also a school for orphans who study the language, culture and traditions of the Assyrian people here.

Deirülsafaran Monastery

The monastery has preserved many ancient relics, and also survived the underground sanctuary, where once the pagans held their rites. In addition, the walls of the monastery are the tombs of the Syrian patriarchs, who previously served in the temple. In the backyard of the complex are two small churches and a chapel, built in the 5-6 centuries. The attraction is located 10 km east of the city of Mardin.

In the church of Deirulzafaran
  • Address: Eskikale Mahallesi, Deyrulzafaran Yolu No: 1 D: 2, 47100 Artuklu, Mardin, Turkey.
  • Opening hours: in the summer you can visit the monastery from 08:30 to 17:30, in the winter months from 08:30 to 16:30 (from 12:00 to 13:00 break).
  • Cost of visit: 5 TL.

The ruins of the ancient city of Dara (Dara Mesopotamia Ruins)

Dara is one of the first cities built after the split of the Roman Empire. The ancient object was erected in 505 by order of the Byzantine ruler Anastasius I. The city performed a crucial function in strengthening the eastern borders of the state. However, in the 7th century, during their conquests, the Arabs inflicted significant damage on Dara, and by the 10th century almost all the inhabitants left it, and the city was completely empty. Today, a tiny village is located not in the territory of the ancient monument, where for the most part Kurds and Arabs live.

Ruins of the Gifts

The ruins of the ancient city cover a vast territory. Among the ruins you can see the structures carved in the rocks, and the remains of the fortress wall, stretching over a distance of 4 km. Fragments of churches, palaces, markets and dungeons also survived here, and on the hill at an altitude of 50 m there is an ancient internal fortress. It will be interesting to study the well-preserved tanks and cemetery of the historical complex. Around the village, cave houses of the late Roman period survived. Many of the relics found on the territory of Dara are today kept in the Mardin Museum. The attraction is located 35 km southeast of the city in the village of Oguz. You can visit it for free at any time.

Dary Cemetery
  • Address: Dara Mahallesi 47100 Artuklu, Mardin, Turkey.
Great Mosque of Mardin

The photo of Mardin in Turkey often presents a large ancient mosque – the main symbol of the city. Built in the 12th century, the cloister looks quite simple, but at the same time impressive. Some sources claim that the building was erected on the site of the former Assyrian church. The construction is a vivid example of the architectural style of that period and is markedly different from more modern Islamic temples. The mosque is decorated with one minaret (there is an opinion that initially there were 2) and a miniature dome. The monastery is located on the side of the mountain, and if you climb the steps to the minaret, you will see a beautiful panorama of the plains of Mesopotamia.

The Great Mosque of Mardin
  • Address: Teker Mahallesi, 93. Sk. No: 18, 47100 Mardin Merkez, Mardin, Turkey.
  • Hours: you can go to the mosque in between prayers.
  • Cost: Free.
Kasimiye Madrasah (Kasimiye Madrasha)

The building of the former madrassah in the city of Mardin in Turkey also causes genuine interest among tourists. The construction of the educational institution began in the 13th century, but was completed only by the end of the 14th century. The religious school functioned for more than 500 years, but in 1924, in the wake of the transformation of Turkey into a secular state, the educational institution was closed. The architecture of the madrasah is designed in the style typical of Mardin. This two-story building, built of yellow stone, has a wide courtyard, and a small mosque rises in its western part. Inside the madrasah there are several noteworthy objects – a model of an ancient astrological clock with an elephant and a Sufi fountain. The attraction is located in the south-west of the city, you can visit it for free at any time.

Kasimiye Madrasah
  • Address: Cumhuriyet Mahallesi, 1711. Sk., 47100 Artuklu, Mardin, Turkey.
Zinciriye Medresesi Madrasah

Often in the photo of Mardin one can see another very interesting object – Zinjiriye Madrasah. The construction of the building dates back to the 14th century, it was initiated by Sultan Isa, whose tomb is still stored in the walls of the former school. Madrasah is located on a hillside at the foot of the city fortress. This is a two-story building with two carved domes, inside which there is a courtyard with a pool. There is a legend saying that earlier the domes were connected by a heavy chain, that’s why the madrasah was called Zinjirie (translated from Turkish as “zincir” means “chain”). Today, the building of the former school holds religious courses. Madrasah is located in the center of Mardin, admission is free.

Zinjirie Madrasah
  • Address: Şar Mahallesi, 47100 Artuklu, Mardin, Turkey.

Accommodation in Mardin

Hotel room Hilton Garden Inn Mardin
Hilton Garden Inn Mardin

Mardin in Turkey is not very popular with travelers, so the choice of housing in the city is rather meager. Nevertheless, there are several good hotels here, including the hotel of the renowned Hilton chain. Among the presented institutions you can find both budget options without stars, and more comfortable 4 * and 5 * hotels. Most of them are located close to the city center, but there are also more distant hotels from it. So be sure to consider this criterion when choosing a home.

Prices for accommodation in Mardin depend on the class of the institution you have chosen. So, renting a double room in a hotel without stars is possible on average for 170-250 TL per day. The cheapest option is 115 TL per night. Most establishments include breakfast. It is worth noting that the prices for booking a double room in 4 * hotels are slightly higher and vary within 220-280 TL. There is also a five-star spa hotel in Mardin, offering accommodation for as little as 280 TL per day.

Prices are for February 2019.

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How to get there

Airport in Mardin, Turkey
Mardin Airport

Mardin has its own airport, located 20 km from the city. Direct international flights are not provided here, so you can get to the object by air only from the largest cities of Turkey – Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. It is also possible to go from these points on a trip by intercity bus, but in this case the road will take a lot of time.

Turkish Airlines Plane

The distance from Istanbul to Mardin is more than 1400 km, from Ankara – about 1000 km, from Izmir – 1500 km. Daily from these cities direct flights are made to Mardin by Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines. The flight from Istanbul takes about 2 hours, from Ankara – 1.5 hours, from Izmir – a little more than 2 hours. Public transport from the airport does not go to Mardin, so you can only get to the center by taxi.

If you are considering an option such as a bus, then you can go to Mardin from many famous cities in Turkey – Antalya, Mersin, Konya, etc. Intercity transport arrives at the main bus station, from where they get to the center by city minibuses. You can view prices and a detailed schedule of routes in a given direction on

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Useful Tips

  1. It is worth knowing that in Mardin in Turkey cruel traditions towards women have been preserved. Therefore, while in the city, try to avoid any contact with them. First of all, this rule applies to male tourists.
  2. Almonds
  3. In Mardin, the cultivation and production of almonds is developed. Be sure to try this nut in blue glaze. Sweetness can be found in any store.
  4. The area is famous for its copper utensils and Mesopotamian wine, so they can be a great souvenir for you and your loved ones.
  5. Near the city of Mardin (Turkey), there are two quite interesting objects – Midyat (70 km) and Hasankeyf (123 km) – with no less ancient sights. If time permits you, be sure to visit these cities.

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