Best Hatay Antakya Tourist Attractions For 2024

Bell, Azan, Hazan sounds; Hatay – Antakya

Hatay is a city of tolerance and civilizations where different beliefs live together in Turkey. You can feel and see the cultural richness created by the intertwining of Turkish, Arabic, Syriac, Armenian and other cultures here. By the way, this city has two different names so don’t be surprised if someone asks you: “Where did you go, Hatay or Antakya? Aren’t they different cities?” The answer is no. Turkish people use only the name Hatay. So let’s dive into more about Hatay’s / Antaklya’s history to find out why it has two names! But before the list let’s solve the name complexity and end the article by talking about the regional cuisine because any Hatay visit shouldn’t be thought of without its spectacular dishes. 


Where the name Antakya is coming from? 

When Alexander died in BC 323, problems arise between his commanders. Antigonos, one of the commanders was founded a city on the way to the east from the Mediterranean coast in the north of today’s Antakya and named this city “Antigonia”. But this city was destroyed by one of the other commanders I. Seleukos and the new one was built at the location of today’s Antakya by him and was named “Antiokhia”. The capital Antiokhia developed rapidly and gained a reputation as an important center during that period. During the I. Seleukos period, water channels were built and water was brought to the city from Defne waterfalls. A water tank and distribution network were built in the city. These studies continued during the reign of the next kings.

Why do Turkish people call it Hatay?

It goes back to 1200BC, to the Young Hittite principalities period. Hittite Principalities which are spread in Amik Plain (the middle of the Hatay, near Kirikhan) comes together and called themself Hattena (Pattin) Kingdom. It has been thought that the name “Hatay” is coming from it and in 1936 M. K. Ataturk gave the region this name officially.

1. Hatay Archaeology Museum

Hatay was a settlement around 4th BC and on these fertile lands, people had always established civilizations throughout history hence the museum has a collection that enlightens Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Hittite, Hellenistic, Roman, Eastern Roman, Seljuk, and Ottoman periods.

The first archeological excavations are dating back around 1932 and were moved on different dates with intervals by the University of Chicago Oriental Institute of Chicago, Sir Leonard Woolley for the British Museum, Princeton University, The Committee for the Excavationandits Vicinity.

oday the mosaic artifact that was found in those excavations has been on display in the museums Princeton University Art Museum (USA), Worcester Museum (USA), Louvre (France) with Hatay Archeological Museum. Hatay Archeological Museum is Turkey’s largest Mosaic Museum and the second one in the world. The museum has 35.433 artifacts in its collection and spread more than 10.000 m2. The museum has 9 themes that are Prehistoric, Paleolithic Culture (Üçağızlı Cave Re-enactment), Amuk Culture (Amik Plain Mound Artifacts), Hellenistic Period (Foundation of Antakya), Roman Period (Mosaics), Necropolis Culture (Sarcophaguses), Byzantine Period (Mosaics), Hatay Medieval Period and Religions, History of Hatay Archeology, Current excavations/exhibitions.

Here are some clues about the collection that might inspire you about what will you found in the museum;

  • a)     King Suppiluliuma statue which was found in the Tell Tayinat mound in the Reyhanlı District is one of the rare artifacts in the museum. It hypnotizes the visitors with its limestone eyes that create a sense that it is still alive. 
  • b)     The Antakya Sarcophagus is on the other hand dated to 3rd AD is one of the best samples of Sidamara kind sarcophagus which were very famous during with Roman era. It was made in Dokimeion (Phrygia, Asia Minor), one of the most important of the three largest sarcophagus production centers in the ancient world.
  • c)     The mosaics: The Oceanos & Tethys which is picturing Oceanos & Tethys with fish, dolphins, and Eros figures, The Dionysos Victory Regiment which depicts the Dionysus feast and Eros & Psyche which picture Eros in sleep and Psykhe, while trying to reach his arrow on the branch and more, can be seen in the museum.

Here you can see it virtually to have some idea about what you will find in the museum.

2. St. Pierre Church

Christianity, which emerged in the first half of the 1st century, outside of Jerusalem spread for the first time in Antakya in the mid-30s. St. Pierre Church, one of the oldest and most important churches in the history of Christianity is, in addition, can be visited in Antakya. It is located on the west side of the Asi River and it is constructed in a cave. The cave is also known as the place where St. Pierre firstly preached. Instead of the churches with colorful frescoes and stained glasses this half-cave half human-made church might look like a symbol of modesty and leanness.

St. Pierre Church is one of the oldest churches around the world.

3. Habib’i Neccar Mosque

Habib’i Neccar Mosque was most probably built on a pagan temple in the 7th century and resources stated that it is the earliest mosque in Turkey. On the left of the Mosque, the tombs of Barnabas and Pavlos (apostles of Jesus) take place.

In February 2023, the mosque underwent significant damage due to earthquakes.

4. The Vespasianus Titus Tunnel

It was built to stop the floodwaters from the mountains and not to harm the port by Titus Flavius Vespasianus. Since 2014, the tunnel is on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List. It is thought that it lasts more than a century to build. It has a total length is 1380 meters, 7 meters in height, and 6 meters in width.

5. Vakifli Village

Vakifli Village is also a location that should be on the list. It remained under the rule of the Ottoman Empire until 1918, the French for twenty years from 1918 to 1938, and the Hatay Republic between 7 September 1938 and 29 June 1939, for a period of about ten months. Today local people focus on organic agriculture, they are locally producing liquor from (myrtle fruit), blueberry, pomegranate, tangerine, jam, laurel, oil, and laurel soap. It is a well-preserved village located in trees, a peaceful village, and a great place to shop for various locally produced healthy goods. 

Plus Antakya served as an important trade stop on the Silk Road from Anatolia to the Middle East for hundreds of years, and was the intersection point of different cultures, religions, and traditions… Antakya was also an Olympic city. As far as is known, the first Olympic was BC 195 and until the 6th century, magnificent Olympics were held in Antakya.

See also;

FAQs about Hatay;

i. How will I transfer from Istanbul to Antakya or Antakya to Istanbul?

By flight or highway. It has had an airport since 2007. For flight hours and other details please contact us via WhatsApp.

ii. Where is Antakya Turkey on the map?

It is located on the eastern strip of the Mediterranean Sea. Click for the map.

iii. How is the Antakya weather around the year?

The annual average is 23℃. The hottest month of the year in July, the temperature average is 31℃. January is the coldest month with an average of 14℃. Here you can find the current weather conditions.

iv. Does Antakya is the Turkish name of this ancient city?

The city’s name is Hatay, and Antakya is one of its 15 districts. It is the hub of the city and the most crowded one.

v. Does it an ancient Greco Roman city?

The first settlements according to the archaeological excavations is around Between 100,000 and 40,000 BC. The region remained under the rule of Egypt, Urartu, Assyria, Persian, Roman, Umayyad, Abbasid, Seljuk, Mamluk, and Ottoman.

vi. What to eat in Hatay?

Hatay is at the same time has stunning cuisine. It has more than 400 original recipes, it can be said that 200 of them are unique, plus the researchers found more than 40 forgotten recipes recently. The local people are still cooking thousands of years old recipes still, such as the Stuffed Kidney recipe from the 3rd century, Tuffahiye 13th century, and Vine Pumpkin Press from the 16th century. Today with various other dishes it is a must-taste Sam Orugu known as icli kofte and kunefe on every Hatay visit.

  • Stuffed Kidneysheep kidneys stuffed with ground beef, pine nuts, and rice and cooked
  • Tuffahiyelamb shank cooked with apple juice, cinnamon, and ginger
  • Pumpkin Press; cooked with chickpeas, mutton, zucchini, and lemon juice
  • Sam Orugu; (Stuffed Bulgur Balls) The dough made from fine bulgur is stuffed with ground walnuts and fried.
  • Kaytaz Pastry; (Small Ground Meat Pizza) It is made by folding the leavened and oily dough into four and placing the minced meat on it.
  • Kunefe; (Sweet pastry with cheese) known as knafeh; is unsalted local cheese stuffed with kadayıf noodles served with hot syrup.

You can check our Hatay tours for more:20 Day St. Paul’s Missionary Tour 4 Days Hatay City & Cooking Tour Daily Hatay Antioch Biblical Tour

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