It took me a while to persuade my boyfriend to visit Mardin with me. In the East of Turkey and close to the Syrian border, Mardin has always been a “no-go” place for most foreign embassies and a city that even many Turks avoid. But despite its bad propaganda, Mardin is an absolute gem and a must-see in Turkey. I absolutely loved it and he did too!
Ilkay laughed at me the first time I mentioned that I wanted our first romantic trip to be to Mardin.
- “Mardin? Romantic? Are you serious?” he complained.
- “Well, I am sorry, but you know I’m not a big fan of Paris or such places. Mardin has been on my bucket list forever, and being small, beautiful, and remote, I don’t see why it’s not perfect for our first trip together.” I replied.
- “But most people in Turkey think it’s unsafe.”
- “Well, if I had listened to what ‘most people’ or the media say about some places, I would have never moved to Turkey and we would never have met. Let’s please ignore people who talk negatively about places they have never been.” I concluded.
That still didn’t convince him, and I thought I would have to visit Mardin on my own, just as I had traveled to other places in the past. However, a few days later, after we had a small fight and I was a little upset, I received a sweet Whatsapp message from him that said: “So, when do we book our tickets to Mardin?” He had accepted the idea and I was thrilled! We booked our tickets and a beautiful Airbnb accommodation that same week.
“Babe, why do you always like such places?”
Yes, that is a question that my boyfriend, my family, and some of my friends ask me all the time. In this particular case, my question to them would be: what it is not to like about Mardin? The saffron-colored town, constructed on a hill, is full of beauty, history, and stunning architecture. Besides that, from Mardin and its many rooftops, you can also enjoy the incredible views of the vast plains that surround it and go back in time to the lands that were once part of Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.
Best Things To Do in Mardin, Turkey
I regret that we could only spend a long weekend in Mardin and didn’t have much time to explore it all and visit other interesting cities in the East of Turkey (such as Şanliurfa or Gaziantep). However, we still had time to visit Mardin and some other amazing places nearby (like Midyat and Mor Gabriel). Here you have some ideas for your trip to Mardin:
01 | Get lost in Eski Mardin
Just wander around the old town of Mardin and enjoy the incredible views, the stunning architecture, the narrow walkways, the tiny ancient doors, the old limestone houses, the gorgeous stray cats, the children playing soccer, and more…
The old town is hilly and full of stairs, but if you get tired, you can always take a break in one of the many Mardin rooftop cafes. Drink a Turkish coffee or a çay (Turkish tea) while listening to the call of the muezzin and enjoying the stunning views of Mardin and beyond.
02 | Enjoy fantastic food
We were lucky that our vegan Airbnb hosts gave us advice about the best places to eat in Mardin. These are the places we tried and enjoyed. As a non-meat-eater, my options were limited, but everything I tried was delicious!
Beyzade Konağı Kahvaltı (this one is the best for a traditional breakfast!)
03 | Dance at a Sıra gecesi (Sıra night)
At night, we went to Antik Sur Restaurant, where we attended a sıra gecesi. Sıra night is a show where people gather together to eat, drink and listen to traditional music from the region. It was a lot of fun, with an abundance of loud and cheerful singing and dancing.
04 | Visit Midyat
An hour’s drive from Mardin, we also visited the ancient town of Midyat. The historical city has the same colors of Mardin and plenty of Syriac Orthodox churches. The highlight is the old Midyat’s Culture House. The place, where many Turkish soap operas have been filmed, offers great views of the town.
06 | Visit Mor Gabriel
Even though it is literally in the middle of nowhere, Mor Gabriel is worth a visit! Founded in 397, Mor Gabriel is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. The complex is so well preserved that it is hard to believe it is more than 1,600 years old.
Mor Gabriel is still the heart of the Syriac Orthodox Christian community, which has thrived in the region around Midyat for 1,700 years and has found itself attacked and persecuted over centuries. Nowadays, the remaining population in the area may be around only three thousand people.
To get there, I recommend reaching Midyat by public transport and then getting a taxi to Mor Gabriel from Midyat.
Where to Stay in Mardin
We were lucky to stay in this incredible Airbnb stone house in the center of the historical town of Mardin. The hosts were wonderful and the place was incredibly unique. I highly recommend this place! If you haven’t used Airbnb yet, feel free to use this link to register and get a 25$ discount.
Other options to stay in Mardin are:
Mardius Tarihi Konağı (if you are not on a budget)
How to get to Mardin, Turkey
Pegasus and Turkish airlines offer daily flights from Istanbul to the small airport in Mardin. From there you can take a minibus to the old town of Mardin (3,5 TL) or bargain a taxi (from 50 TL).
All in all, Mardin, its surroundings, and its friendly people were just incredible and our trip was a calm and charming escape. Not for one second did we feel that we were in danger. Quite the opposite, away from the crowds, I felt safer than I am in Istanbul. I highly recommend anyone to visit the East of Turkey in order to get a complete picture of the country. What you will experience will most certainly challenge the assumptions and stereotypes!