Guide To Mardin + Best Things To Do In Mardin Province

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Post author Nicky

Written by our local expert Nicky

Nicky, originally from the UK, is now a local in Turkey. She moved to Marmaris, Türkiye for love 12 years ago and is now your Turkey travel planner.

Türkiye’s landscape is a treasure trove of diversity, from bustling beach resorts in the west to the traditional allure of its eastern and southeastern regions. Among these hidden gems is a place worth visiting – Mardin. It stands out as a must-visit destination of southeast Türkiye. 

Are you considering a trip to Türkiye? Don’t miss the chance to explore Mardin; it is one of the cities in Turkey that promises not only unforgettable experiences but also a deep dive into the heart of the country’s culture and traditions. Keep reading below for the full guide to Mardin, places to see in Mardin, and the top Mardin attractions, a place where adventure and discovery await. 

Turkiye Travel Blog_Guide To Mardin

Guide To Mardin 

Mardin, nestled in the far southeast of Turkey, offers a completely different vibe from the bustling cities and beach resorts on the country’s western side. It’s a gem in southeastern Turkey, where traditions run deep, and the sense of hospitality is strong. While Mardin might be more traditional and conservative, its open-hearted local people are ready to share their way of life with anyone keen to learn.

For travelers eager to dive into local cultures, Mardin is a goldmine. The city stands out with its unique cultural blend, thanks to its history as a crossroads for Arabic, Kurdish, and Turkish civilizations. This mix is visible everywhere, from the food to the music and the festivals that brighten the city throughout the year.

Exploring Mardin is like stepping back in time. Its old town, with its narrow streets and stone houses adorned with detailed carvings, feels like a living museum. Highlights include the ancient Deyrulzafaran Monastery and the Grand Mosque’s breathtaking views. And if you’re up for it, take a day trip to Midyat or wander the bazaar of Mardin for an authentic taste of eastern Turkey.

Though Mardin might not be as well-known as Antalya or Istanbul, it offers an authentic slice of Turkish life.

A Little About Mardin’s Ancient History

Cities in Turkey - Mardin, Turkey

Mardin is packed with history, and it’s important to know about it so you can drag every last second out of your time there. Without a little historical know-how, some of the finer details will be lost on you. So, let’s have a little history lesson.

Mardin’s history can be traced back to the Bronze Age, with evidence of human habitation dating back to 4000 BCE. Throughout the centuries, it has been home to various civilizations other than the Turks, including the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and of course, the Ottoman Empire. This diversity has resulted in the unique architectural blend that characterizes Mardin today.

One of Mardin’s most iconic features is its stunning old town, known as the “medina.” This ancient part of the city boasts narrow alleys, intricate stone houses, and splendid mosques. The beautifully crafted stonework of the houses in Mardin showcases the city’s past and the artistic influence of the different cultures that once thrived here.

Mardin has long been an important center for trade and commerce, with its strategic location on key trade routes connecting Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. This attracted merchants from afar, contributing further to the city’s cultural heritage and architecture.

Today, Mardin continues to be a vibrant city, offering visitors the opportunity to explore its unique past. Whether strolling through the narrow alleys, visiting historical sites like the Great Mosque of Mardin and the Zinciriye Madrasa, or admiring the panoramic views from the ancient city walls, Mardin promises an unforgettable journey through time.

Is It Safe To Visit Mardin

Night view of Mardin historical city center. Mardin, Turkey - 30 October 2023.

Historically, people have avoided southeast Turkey simply because it is “near the Syrian border.” However, what you have to understand is that even though it’s closer to Syria than some other towns and cities in Türkiye, it’s still a good 300 miles/482km away! So, really, you’re pretty far.

Overall, Mardin is generally considered to be a safe place to visit, with a low crime rate. However, as with traveling to any destination, it is always recommended to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings. It is advisable to check the latest travel advisories and follow the guidance provided by your government or reliable sources.

As with any city, it’s sensible not to walk around on your own at night, to stick to the city center itself, and not to flash your valuables. This part of the country is a little more conservative than places like Antalya and Izmir, but not overly so – women do not have to cover their heads unless they want to.

Dress modestly, and you won’t attract unwanted attention. Of course, if you’re going into a mosque, you’ll need to abide by mosque etiquette as you would anywhere else, which means women have to cover their heads, everyone who visits must remove their shoes, and modest clothing should always be worn.

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How To Get To Mardin

Nicky capturing a breathtaking view of a mardin, a mountain in Southeastern Turkey through her camera lens.

The easiest way to get to Mardin is to fly from a major Turkish town or city, such as Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, or Antalya. The airport is located around 20km outside the city center, and regular buses connect both locations.

It is only a two-hour flight from Istanbul to Mardin, and flights leave every day throughout the year. You won’t be able to fly directly to Mardin from major European towns or cities, but domestic flights are very regular so that you won’t have any problems with connections, and tickets can be quite cheap if you book in advance.

Best Things To Do In Mardin & Attractions In Mardin

Just walking around Mardin itself is special, and you’ll no doubt pack your phone with pictures, but there are some specific things you should have on your list.

Marvel At The Historic Old City

View of Mardin historical city center. Mardin, Turkey - 30 October 2023.

This should be number one on your list, and it’s best to head there outside of the weekend if you can. That way, you’ll be able to walk around a little easier, although the main street is always a busy spot.

Stepping into its winding cobblestone streets feels like stepping back in time, and you’ll see many different types of architecture showcasing a mesmerizing blend of influences from various civilizations that have passed through its walls.

As you stroll through the narrow alleys, you’ll see old sandstone houses that line the streets. Adorned with intricate carvings and elegant balconies, these centuries-old structures are genuinely timeless. From the Ulu Mosque to the historic Zinciriye Medrese, an ancient theological school, the old town is dotted with breathtaking examples of Islamic architecture.

But it isn’t just the landmarks that make this place special – it’s the warm and welcoming atmosphere created by its friendly residents, who are always eager to share stories about their town’s past and present. Whether you’re exploring the traditional bazaars, sipping tea in a charming courtyard, or simply wandering the labyrinthine streets, you’ll want to return here more than once.

Visit Deyrulzafaran Monastery

Mor Gabriel Monastery also known as Deyrulumur, is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. Mardin, Turkey - 31 October 2023.

Explore Turkey’s ancient Syriac Orthodox monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Admire its stunning architecture, ancient artifacts, and manuscripts. Also known as Saffron Monastery, this historic building dates back to the 5th century and is considered one of the oldest monasteries in the world.

The monastery is filled with stunning frescoes, intricate carvings, and vibrant mosaics that chronicle the religious history of the area. The highlight of the monastery is the breathtaking interior of the main chapel, where the walls are decorated with Byzantine-style religious artwork. The peacefulness and serenity of this sacred place is off the scale, and it’s somewhere you certainly have to visit.

More Monastries

Mardin, a city steeped in history and spirituality, is home to several ancient monasteries that are a must-visit for anyone interested in the rich religious tapestry of the region. Beyond the famous Deyrulzafaran Monastery, known for its stunning architecture and deep historical roots dating back to the 5th century, there are other significant monastic sites to explore:

  • Mor Gabriel Monastery: founded in 397, it is one of the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monasteries in the world. Nestled in the Tur Abdin plateau, this monastery is a spiritual center for the Syriac Orthodox community, offering visitors a glimpse into ancient religious practices and traditions
  • Mor Hananyo Monastery (Kurkmo Dayro): also known as the Saffron Monastery, located near the town of Mardin, it dates back to the 6th century. Its intricate stonework and historical significance as a religious and cultural center make it a fascinating site
  • Mor Behnam (Kirklar) Monastery: dedicated to Saint Behnam and his sister Sarah, this 4th-century monastery is known for its beautiful frescoes and significant architectural details. It lies a short distance from Mardin and is an essential stop for those interested in early Christian art and architecture
  • Deyrulumur Monastery: this monastery, also in the Tur Abdin region, continues to be an active center of worship and community life for the Syriac Orthodox Christians. Its serene surroundings and rich history offer a peaceful retreat and a chance to experience living monastic traditions

Explore Midyat

Head to the nearby town of Midyat, known for its beautiful stonework, silver art, and architecture. You’ll find sandstone houses with delicate carvings that showcase the town’s ancient history, with a blend of Assyrian, Arab, and Kurdish influences.

One of the must-visit attractions in Midyat is the Mor Gabriel Monastery, dating back to the 4th century. This awe-inspiring structure, nestled amidst the rolling hills, is a spiritual center for the Syriac Orthodox Church. Immerse yourself in the tranquillity of the monastery’s courtyard, admire the beautiful frescoes within the ancient church, and explore the on-site museum to gain a deeper understanding of the area’s cultural and religious heritage.

Enjoy Panoramic Views From Mardin Castle

Visit Mardin Castle and climb to its highest point for breathtaking panoramic views of the city. The sunset view from here is particularly stunning!

This majestic castle, also known as Mardin Kalesi, boasts a rich history dating back thousands of years. It’s very well preserved and one of the most popular attractions in the city. As you gaze out over the view before you, you’ll see for miles, and it’s easy to spot the sprawling Mesopotamian plains stretching out, painting a landscape that seems to have come straight out of a storybook.

Visit Sultan Isa Medresesi

The Sultan Isa Medrese also known as the Zinciriye Medrese is a historic landmark and former madrasa in Mardin, Turkey. Mardin, Turkey - 30 October 2023.

Sultan Isa Medresesi is a historical complex consisting of a school, mosque, and courtyard; it was built during the 14th century by the Artuqid Dynasty and is known for its contributions to Islamic art and architecture. The medrese, or religious school, is named after Sultan Isa bin Salahaddin, the ruler of this region at the time of its construction.

The medrese features intricate stone carvings, elegant arched entryways, and beautifully decorated interiors. Located on a hill overlooking the Old Town, the medrese offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the surrounding plains. Today, Sultan Isa Medresesi serves as a museum featuring various exhibitions that showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region.

Taste Local Cuisine

We’re going to delve into the local food situation in a lot more detail shortly, but it’s definitely something that should go on your ‘things to see and do list.’

Don’t miss the opportunity to savor Mardin’s delicious culinary delights. Try specialties like stuffed lamb, bulgur pilaf, roasted eggplant dishes, and the famous ‘kadayif’ dessert. The list goes on, and the number of different kebabs will blow your mind!

Experience Traditional Crafts

Mardin is famous for its traditional handicrafts like woven kilims, silver jewelry, and copper works. One of the prominent conventional crafts in Mardin is stone carving, a skill that has been preserved since the 12th century. Skilled artisans meticulously carve delicate patterns and designs on stone surfaces, creating stunning pieces of art that reflect the city’s cultural identity.

Another traditional craft in Mardin is silver filigree work, known as “Telkari.” Talented silversmiths expertly create intricate jewelry items using delicate silver wires, resulting in beautiful and intricate designs.

You’ll find a wide range of traditional crafts to choose from as souvenirs or keepsakes. The local markets and bazaars are filled with unique items that showcase the city’s traditional crafts. You can buy exquisite stone handicrafts such as intricately carved decorative plates, vases, and sculptures, each telling a story of the city’s rich history.

The silver filigree jewelry, with its elaborate designs and delicate craftsmanship, is also a popular choice for visitors. Other traditional crafts available in Mardin include hand-woven carpets and rugs, intricately designed copperware, and traditional pottery, often showcasing patterns that trace back to the 12th century.

Explore Around Mardin

Panoramic ruins of rock cut building in Dara ancient city. Mardin, Turkey - 30 October 2023.

The great thing about Mardin is that it has plenty to keep you occupied while you’re there, but it’s also an excellent base for exploring the region too. This part of the country is packed with history and nature on another scale, and if you have the means to do so, you should definitely get out and explore a little. Here are a few things you might want to see:

  • Dara: situated about 40 miles/64km south of Mardin, Dara is an ancient city with fascinating ruins. Explore the remains of the Roman city walls, arches, the underground Zeynel Abidin Mosque, and the Byzantine Church of Mor Yakup, and don’t miss the 12th-century minaret at the old city
  • Hasankeyf: this ancient town is located around 50 miles/80km southeast of Mardin and is famous for its historical sites, including the Hasankeyf Castle, the El-Rızk Mosque, and the stunning views of the Tigris River
  • Diyarbakir: about 62 miles/100km northwest of Mardin, Diyarbakir is a huge and cultural city. Explore its historic city walls, Hevsel Gardens, the Grand Mosque, and the bustling streets of the city center
  • Savur: situated about 24 miles/40km northwest of Mardin, Savur is known for its traditional stone houses and picturesque landscapes. Visit the Savur Ulu Mosque, stroll through its narrow streets, and enjoy the tranquillity of this charming town.

Driving around this area isn’t difficult, and you can easily hire a car. However, you might prefer to use public transport. There are regular regional buses that travel between major towns and cities, and you can also look for guided tours too, especially for Hasankeyf.

What To Eat In Mardin Province

Aerial view of a village in the mountains near Mardin.

Oh, the food! The food in this region of Türkiye is something else entirely. It’s the freshest, tastiest, and sometimes spiciest around, and it’s a must-try.

Mardin is famous for its meat dishes, which are often quite spicy, but you can tell the server if you want it slightly less hot. You’ll also find lahmacun, börek, and güveç so good it will make you cry happy tears, doner kebabs, and all manner of other meat kebabs to try, including Adana and Urfa. Oh, and don’t forget the baklava!

The produce is so fresh from this part of the country, and it makes the end result ridiculously delicious. You will be able to find international food, but it’s much less prevalent, and everything tends to be far more traditional – it’s a good excuse to jump in and try something different!


Find Word On Mardin

Türkiye is a huge country, and it’s so easy to stick to the tried-and-tested spots that always deliver, but why not venture a little further to experience the rooftop terraces of Mardin? Mardin is a stunning place, and it’s packed with history and architecture. The traditional way of life here is so refreshing, and it will show you a totally different side to life in this beautiful country.

The people in Mardin are incredibly welcoming and will no doubt want to tell you all about their customs and traditions. The language barrier can be a problem sometimes, but the odd word in Turkish will serve you well.

Overall, Mardin is a world away from the tourist resorts on the country’s south coast, but it’s far more authentic and will treat you to something extraordinary.

Mardin FAQs

MARDIN FAQS

Where is Mardin located?

Mardin is a city in southeastern Turkey, situated on the Mesopotamian plains, close to the Syrian border.

What is Mardin known for?

Mardin is known for its rich history, unique architecture, and cultural diversity. The city is famous for its historic stone houses, intricate carvings, and stunning views of the Mesopotamian plains.

How do I get to Mardin?

Mardin has its own airport, the Mardin Airport (MQM), which offers domestic flights from Istanbul and Ankara. Alternatively, you can also reach Mardin by bus or private car.

What is the best time to visit Mardin?

The best time to visit Mardin is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) when the weather is pleasant. Summers can be hot, while winters can be cold and rainy.

Is Mardin safe for tourists?

Mardin is generally considered safe for tourists. However, it is always a good idea to take common precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings and belongings, especially in crowded areas.

What is the local cuisine like in Mardin?

Mardin offers a unique blend of Turkish, Arabic, and Kurdish cuisines. Some popular dishes include Mardin Kebab, Kibe Gravy, Tulum Cheese, and Mardin Baklava. Don’t forget to try their traditional tea served in small, tulip-shaped glasses, perhaps on a rooftop terrace overlooking the old city.

Are there any accommodation options available in Mardin?

Yes, there is a variety of accommodations available in Mardin, ranging from luxury hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses. The most popular areas to stay in are the Old Town and the city center, offering easy access to the main attractions.

What should I know about local customs and traditions in Mardin?

Mardin is a city with diverse customs and traditions. It is advisable to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. It is also customary to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home or a mosque. Additionally, it is polite to greet others with a smile and a handshake.

Are there any day trips or excursions from Mardin?

Yes, there are several day trips and excursions that you can take from Mardin. Some popular options include visiting the ancient city of Hasankeyf, exploring the Midyat district with its beautiful old homes and monasteries, or taking a trip to the Dara Archaeological Site.

Can I hire a local guide in Mardin?

Yes, hiring a local guide can enhance your experience in Mardin. They can provide valuable insights into the history, culture, and traditions of the city. You can easily find licensed tour guides or join organized tours that include a guide.

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