Religious tourism or pilgrim tourism in Turkey is growing in popularity. This kind of travel is perfect for people who want to trace back the history of their religion, visit Biblical places or extend their haj travel to Makkah. Many luxurious or cheap holidays in Turkey include the following hot spots of religious tourism, there are 1173 officially registered churches in Turkey and 82,693 mosques in general, and Istanbul has the highest number with 3,113 registered mosques. Here are some of the top spots with the most visitors of all time.
Hagia Sophia Church
Located in Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century CE (532–537) as a Christian church under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. In subsequent centuries it became a mosque, a museum, and a mosque again with the most beautiful architectural designs. The magnificent dome will take visitors' breath away as it is almost 56 meters high and 31 meters in diameter. It was included in UNESCO's List of World Heritage.
Located near the Aegean Sea, Ephesus was once considered the most important Greek city and the most important trading center in the Mediterranean region. It is a sacred site for Christians due to its strong association with biblical figures such as Apostle Paul, John the Baptist, and Virgin Mary. It is also a tourist attraction for travelers on Mediterranean cruises. It used to be home to the Temple of Artemis which was included in the Seven Wonders of the World.
Church of St. Peter
Antakya or Antioch is the place where St. Peter lived. This cave is believed to have been dug by the Apostle Peter himself as a place for the early Christian community of Antioch as the first Christian church. The church also includes pieces of floor mosaics and frescoes; historians have confirmed that it is one of the oldest churches in the world, maybe even the first.
Pool of Sacred Fish
Known as the place where King Nimrod attempted to murder Abraham by throwing him into a furnace, it was believed that with God's will, the fire turned into water and wood turned to carps. Here, you can enjoy the scenic beauty and appreciate the infrastructures that surround it.
House of Virgin Mary
The house sits high in the green hills of Selcuk and is funded by the Catholic Church. Although never verified, many Catholics believe this was her last resting place. Since Virgin Mary was also featured in Islam, many Muslims also visit this small house.
Saint Nicholas Church
An ancient basilica church near the ruins of Myra, modern-day Demre in Antalya. Regarded till this day as the 3rd most important Byzantine structure; it was built above the burial place of St. Nicolas, a Christian bishop of Myra, a religious figure for Eastern Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, as well as an inspiration for “Santa Claus'' (Father Christmas).
The Cave Churches
Cappadocia has hundreds of cave churches with beautiful fresco paintings from the 9th and 10th centuries. Byzantine Christians have carved these monasteries and churches as sacred spaces to worship Jesus.
The Sumela monastery is located in the Northeast of Turkey and receives very little attention despite its peculiar location on the side of a cliff face, offering a combination of nature, history, and culture. People believe that the monastery was constructed in the 4th century and is known to locals as “Meryem Ana” (Virgin Mary). The majestic complex, built 1,200 meters above sea level, has been recently restored. Ever since the day it was established, Diyarbakır castle, which comprises walls of about 5 kilometers long and 12 meters high, did not spend a single day without the presence of human breath within its walls.