Search site

Highlights of Turkey | Ankara

Ankara, formerly Angora, the capital of the Turkish republic, is located a little to the west of central Anatolia about 350 kilometres southeast of Istanbul. It is the centre of Turkish Government and houses all foreign embassies.

13 Jan 20 · 4 mins read

Highlights of Turkey | Ankara

Ankara, formerly Angora, the capital of the Turkish republic, is located a little to the west of central Anatolia about 350 kilometres southeast of Istanbul. It was the headquarters of Kemal Ataturk‘s Turkish nationalist movement, who sought to wrest control of Anatolia from the victorious Allies after the First World War. After the Turkish War of Independence in 1923, Ankara replaced Istanbul as the Turkish capital and has since been the centre of Turkish Government and house of all foreign embassies. The city is divided between the old section and modern Ankara – with the old ancient city section featuring many Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman buildings.

Odyssey Traveller conducts tour of Ankara as part of our Discover Turkey escorted small group history private tour. On arrival in Ankara you will have some free time to explore the city on our own or join the local guide for a short walk. Our local tour guide will also give you information regarding restaurant options in the area for dinner. While staying at a hotel in Ankara we visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and take a full day escorted tour to nearby Boğazkale, the ancient civilization capital of Hittite Empire. This article assists your Ankara holiday by exploring the history and sites of the city.

Ankara, Turkey at night
Ankara, Turkey at night

History of Ankara

The city has been inhabited by ancient civilisations since the Stone Age. Before it was captured by the Ottomans in the 14th century, Ankara was ruled by several empires. Located in a region at the meeting point of the Asian and European continents, it came with many names. According to Joshua J. Mark (2018), the earliest written reference to the region came from the Akkadian Dynasty tablets, dating back to circa 2334 BC where it was referred to as “The Land of the Hatti”, inhabited by the Hittites. The Hittites, in turn, called the land “Assuwa” or “Aswiya”, the probable origin of the Roman term “Asia.” The Greek name for it was Anatolia, “place of the rising sun”, as it lies to the east of Greece.

When the Hittite Empire fell, Anatolia was controlled by the Persian Achaemenid Empire. Alexander the Great sailed across the Aegean Sea into Anatolia and captured Ankara in 333 BC. His untimely death, however, splintered his empire. The Roman Empire began to rise in prominence, and in 25 BC, Ankara fell under the control of Emperor Augustus.

When the western arm of the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, the Eastern, Byzantine arm remained, ruling over much of Anatolia from the imperial seat of Constantinople. Anatolia, ruled by the Christian Ancient Byzantium empire, would be subjected to various raids from Islamic powers beginning in the 7th century. The Seljuks would eventually bring an end to the Byzantine Empire‘s rule over the region. It was the Seljuks who called themselves “sultans”, an Arabic title signifying power, and adopted the language of their Persian instructors, making Persian the lingua franca of the empire. In 1354, Ankara was captured by Orhan, the second Ottoman sultan of the dynasty. Constantinople would later be captured by the Ottomans, and renamed Istanbul.

The Ottoman Empire lasted until the 20th century. Ankara became the centre of the Turkish War resistance movement against the sultan. In 1923, Ankara was declared the capital of Turkey, now a republic.

Must-Visit Places in Ankara

Ankara is a city of culture and houses the award winning Museum of Ancient Civilizations, as well as the National Library, the state theatre, and the Presidential Symphony Orchestra. The museum has an extensive Hittite collection.

Another significant monument is the Mausoleum of Ataturk, built as a memorial to the founder of the Republic of Turkey, and the Ankara Castle (Kalesi), a former military stronghold that offers stunning views of the city.

Ataturk's Mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey
Ataturk’s Mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey
Ankara Castle, Ankara, Turkey
Ankara Castle, Ankara, Turkey

Kocatepe Mosque, built between 1967 and 1987, is the largest mosque in Ankara and one of the largest in the world, a landmark that can be seen from almost anywhere in the Ankara city centre.

Kocatepe Mosque
Kocatepe Mosque

Many universities add a dynamic young population to the second largest city of the country. Like Istanbul, the city has a balance of old and modern sights, allowing visitors to experience the archaeological traces of Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq, and Ottoman rule, while enjoying the modern conveniences of this cosmopolitan city dotted with shopping malls.

Tour of Ankara

Odyssey Traveller conducts a tour of Ankara as part of our Discover Turkey escorted small group history tour during which we visit some of the most spectacular, varied, and historically important sites in the ancient world. This small group Turkey holiday tour begins and ends in Istanbul, Turkey‘s largest city and seaport, and the place where east meets the west on the Bosphorus strait. Discover Turkey with Odyssey on this amazing guided tour through the ancient world linking the Black sea, the Mediterranean, Egypt, Syria and Europe together on this history tour. Our tour packages are especially designed to be suitable for mature-aged and senior travellers, whether joining as a couple or as solo travellers.

Odyssey Traveller has been serving global travellers since 1983 with educational tours of the history, culture, and architecture of our destinations. We specialise in offering small group tours partnering with a local tour guide at each destination to provide a relaxed and comfortable pace and atmosphere that sets us apart from larger tour groups. Tours consist of small groups of between 6 and 12 people and are cost inclusive of all entrances, tipping and majority of meals. For more information, click here, and head to this page to make a booking.

Articles about Turkey published by Odyssey Traveller.

For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.

External articles to assist you on your visit to Turkey.

Related Tours

Ancient Turkey

22 days

Sep, Apr, May

Ancient Turkey escorted small group history tour

Visiting Turkey

As a travel company we seek to keep guests off the beaten path. Trips that are remembered for authentic experiences. Our small group journeys in Turkey are fully escorted by an experienced local guide and an Odyssey guide to give this type of experience whether at one of the many UNESCO World heritage sites explored or local bazaars. It is always about the adventure and memories that we will create.

From A$9,995 AUD

View Tour

Join 22,383 like-minded travellers receiving our weekly newsletter.

Special offers and promotions
A$350 AUD first trip travel voucher
The latest tours and articles