Things to do in Mardin – A Turkish Photostory

It’s been a while since the last photo story! Here we show you 30 amazing things to do in Mardin, one of the main stops on the Silk Road, a beautiful town on the spectacular setting of a hill overlooking the plains of Mesopotamia. Travel to Mardin to see what I mean!

Nowadays, slow travel is all the rage. Wandering the world on trains or buses, avoiding flights, staying in places for months at a time – but once upon a time, slow travel was something else. Crossing continents took years, and it was often a one-way trip, from which one many did not return. Illnesses, brigands, even the odd war here and there – these, and more, were the dangers faced by the brave travellers of the past.

boy on donkey silk road travel
Slow travel, anyone?

The Silk Road is one of the historic routes of overland travellers. The first were the merchants that crossed Asia to reach the Chinese empire, trading not only goods, but religion, technology and philosophy as well. But there were also pilgrims, wanderers, soldiers, monks and murderers, covering the same road on horseback or caravans, escaping, or searching for something.

More recently, the Silk Road has become a destination for hippies, dreamers and travellers, drawn by the ancient charm of this route, that so much contributed to the development of the world as we see it. The Karakoram Highway is another, a spectacular road connecting Pakistan and China that was once covered by merchants crossing Central Asia.

silk road travel landscape
Silk road landscapes, one of the best things to do in Mardin

Charming Mardin, past and present

Nowadays, you can visit Mardin in South-Eastern Turkey, one of the best places to appreciate the ageless charm of the Silk Road. It’s a completely different side of Turkey compared to Istanbul, its wonderful mosques and bustling bazaars. Mardin rises out of the flat, fertile plains of Mesopotamia, like a fortress on a hill overlooking the Tigris River. All around it are rocky hills and immense plains, extending as far as the eye can see – eastwards, to Iran, Afghanistan and beyond, and to the south, to Syria and the Arabian peninsula.

Close your eyes for a second, and imagine being a Silk Road traveller reaching Mardin. You’ve crossed inhospitable lands, been chased by thieves and got sick with some strange, unknown disease. Then, you set your eyes upon this place that seems to be welcoming you with the open arms of a mother, with a souk laden with goods from the four corners of the Earth, with mosques, churches, madrassas and monasteries built in saffron-coloured stone, warm hearths and soft beds.

mardin view
Mardin from afar

You would recline on a rooftop, admire the plains and mountains all around you, nibble on a soft dark dried apricot, drink some tea and smoke shisha – and the dangers, the dusty trails and uncomfortable rides will feel ages away.

Things to see in Mardin

To the modern traveller, Mardin has the same appeal. It’s a gem of a town, much more than just a place to pass through. You can still visit the same saffron-coloured buildings – like beautiful Dayro d-Mor Hananyo Monastery, official seat of the Syriac Orthodox Church until 1932, with 365 rooms and a charming bishop that will be your guide. It’s nicknamed ‘Azafran’, the saffron monastery, because of the colour of its stone, and it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Mardin. 

Mor Hananyo Monastery mardin
The saffron stone of Mor Hananyo monastery

Another Mardin attraction is a tour of Kasimiye Medrese, a former Islamic school, that can be accessed through a door opened with a giant key.

You can wander the souk, chat and sip tea with one of many blue-eyed sellers, or haggle like crazy for a silver box or a Syrian keffieh. Or pace along the recently-revamped First Street, lined with shops selling homemade soap and dried fruit.

apricots silk road travel
The best apricots on the planet

If you don’t fancy the crowds, the best view of Mardin can be had from a rooftop – see the world come and go through the souk, listen to the call of the muezzin calling worshippers to prayer and watch families gathering and having dinner on the rooftops all around you.

At night, you can fall asleep on that very same rooftop, if you wish, under a million stars – the same stars that guided merchants and dreamers in their Silk Road travels, for thousands of years.

Scroll down for 30 more amazing Mardin photos!

Mor Hananyo Monastery aramaic inscription
Aramaic inscriptions in Mor Hananyo
southeastern turkey mountains
The dramatic lansdcape of the region
boy in souk silk road travel
A blue eyed boy in the market
staircase turkey
A staircase leading up, for amazing views
southeastern turkey landscape
Rocky hills in the afternoon
Mor Hananyo Monastery roof
The ceiling of Mor Hananyo, built with no mortar
Mor Hananyo Monastery bishop
The bishop (and guide!) of Mor Hananyo monastery
medrese arch hills view
Looking out towards Mesopotamia
girl on stairs turkey
A little girl on her way home
azafran monastery fountain
A geometric fountain at Mor Hananyo monastery
kasimirye medrese key
The key that opens Kasimirye Medrese
fount of life kasimirye medrese
The fount of life at Kasimirye Medrese
turkish women sewing
A sewing community centre we stumbled upon
view from rooftops mardin
Views over the plains from the rooftops
girls walking turkey
Girls walking around the upper part of town
minaret clouds
One of many minarets in town
mardin mesopotamia view
In Spring, the plains are green and lush
men on rooftop mardin
Friends enjoying time together on a rooftop
mardin turkey soap shops
The soap shops around First street
mardin first street musician
Musicians on First street opening party
silk road travel child
A boy watching the parade
turkey old men sitting
And some men enjoying the show
turkey children balcony
Teenagers surveying everything from above
boy and arrow silk road travel
A boy playing with a homemade bow
mardin first street opening party performer
A performer at First street opening party
mardin first street opening parade
Stilt walkers down First street
phone concert night
The final concert
turkey rooftop sunset
Watching the sunset from a rooftop
mardin sunset rooftops
Mardin rooftops in the early evening

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mardin photostory pin



10 thoughts on “Things to do in Mardin – A Turkish Photostory”

  1. Thanks for taking me to a land full of fascinating sights. To me, it was interesting to see the performers and the people attending the concert after seeing pictures of the historic buildings.

  2. Hi Margherita, I enjoyed this post a lot. I know ancient travel on the Silk Road was grueling but for me they also evoke some kind of romance and a lot beauty. It imagined that it was so exhilarating to enter beautiful Mardin after all the challenges on the road. It’s interesting to learn that what ancient travelers had seen in Mardin are pretty much the same what the modern travelers can see today. Your photos of Mardin are beautiful and they certainly speak. I felt transported.

  3. I’d love to travel the Silk Route, it goes through such incredible parts of our planet, but reading posts like this is the closest I’m going to get for now. Thanks for a lovely photo tour.

  4. Mardin, oh Mardin! One of my absolute favorite cities in Turkey. It’s a gorgeous city with an unsane view over the Mesopotamian plains. Love, love, love your photos!

    Cheers to the Weekend Travel Inspiration Dream Team!

  5. One of the best cities I’ve ever visited while traveling to Turkey! Turkey as a whole never disappointed me, but Mardin is even one level above that – simply fantastic! And thanks for this awesome post and photos!

  6. What an amazing photojournal! It was so great you were able to capture the festival. We never made it to Mardin, but the Silk Road would have to be one of my favourite travel destinations. It is absolutely stunning.

    • Thanks so much! Travelling the whole of the Silk Road is also one of my dreams, so I will follow your blog from now on!

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