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.
Built between 532 -537, Hagia Sophia is among the most essential artifacts in the world of architecture that has survived till this day. It also holds an important place in art with its true architectural magnificence. It was initially built as a Christian church under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I.
Later, Hagia Sofia was converted into one of the prominent mosques in Istanbul with four minarets by Fatih Sultan Mehmet after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453.
In 1935, it was transformed into a museum. In 1985, it was included in UNESCO's List of World Heritage.
Even more recently, in 2020, it was converted back into a mosque.
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.
Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque)
One of the most fascinating buildings in Istanbul, which was built by Sultan Ahmet I between 1609-1617. Its architect was Sedefkar Mehmed Aga. The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is commonly known as “The Blue Mosque” because of its predominantly blue colored decorations.
Sultan Ahmet Mosque is the first mosque in Turkey with 6 minarets. The grandiose of the structure is similar to the Suleymaniye Mosque. The use of Iznik tiles, makes it the most attractive mosque in the whole of Istanbul.
Suleymaniye Mosque is located on a hill in the middle of the Historical Peninsula overlooking the city of Istanbul. The mosque, has a wonderful Bosphorus and Golden Horn view.
It was built on the order of Sulayman the Magnificent by the great architect Sinan, both of whom are buried within the complex. Construction work began in 1550 CE and was completed in 1558 CE.
The Suleymaniye was the fourth imperial mosque built in İstanbul. The mosque's 4 minarets with their 10 beautiful balconies are said to represent the fact that Süleyman was the fourth of the Osmanlı sultans to rule the city and the 10th sultan after the establishment of the empire. The mosque and its surrounding buildings were designed by Mimar Sinan, the most famous and talented of all imperial architects.
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.
Built on the highest hill in Istanbul, the Camlica Mosque is the largest mosque in Turkey. It opened in 2019 and can hold 63,000 people and it includes a museum, a conference hall with a capacity of 1000 people, a library, an art gallery, 8 art workshops, and an underground parking with a capacity of 3,500 vehicles.
The Çamlıca Mosque was designed by two female architects, Bahar Mızrak and Hayriye Gül Totu. The length of the four mosque minarets span 107.1 metres, a measurement that refers to the Battle of Manzikert (1071 a.d.) fought by the Seljuk and Byzantine Empires. The main dome of the mosque was designed to be 34 meters wide to represent Istanbul, with a 72 meters of height to symbolize the 72 nationalities that lived in Istanbul. On the inner surface of the dome, 16 of the names of Allah, dedicated to 16 Turkish states, were written by utilizing the last two verses of Chapter 59 of the Quran (Surat al-Hashr).
The Selimiye mosque, which is both the symbol of the city of Edirne as well as of the Ottoman Period, is considered to be one of the most important architectural achievements in Islam. All visitors can see the mosque from just about every vantage point in the city. It was built between 1569 and 1575 by order of Sultan Selim II, and designed by the Ottoman architect Mimar Koca Sinan.
The mosque is also extremely important with its decorative features such as stone, marble, tile, wood and mother-of-pearl. The mihrab and its pulpit are among the masterpieces of marble workmanship.
The Edirne Selimiye Mosque and Complex was included as a UNESCO world heritage site in the year 2011.
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.
The Kocatepe Mosque is the largest mosque in Ankara. It was built between 1967 and 1987 in the Kocatepe quarter of the Kızılay neighborhood. The size and prominent situation have made it a landmark that can be seen from almost every part of the city.
The Mosque, has a conference hall, a library, administrative offices, a parking lot and is a good example of the identity conflict of mosques in Turkey between East and West and between tradition and modernity.
Grand Mosque (Ulu Camii)
It is a historic mosque in Bursa and one of the most important mosques in the city. It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I between 1396 and 1399. The mosque stands out with its Seljuk style.
The pulpit of Bursa Grand Mosque is called Masterpiece. Woodworking made by interlacing geometric pieces in walnut wood without a single nail and bonding material is considered a complete work of art.
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).
Sabancı Central Mosque
The most imposing mosque in Adana is the six-minaret Sabancı Merkez Camii, standing tall on the banks of the Seyhan River. Its construction was completed in 1998 with the support of the famous rich family Sabancı, and it has become a symbol of Adana since then.
It remained the largest mosque in Turkey until the Çamlıca Mosque was opened in 2019.
The mosque, which carries traces of Ottoman architecture, is compared to the Blue Mosque in its general appearance and to the Selimiye Mosque in terms of its interior structure.
Great Mosque & Hospital
Turkey has 18 Sites on UNESCO’s world heritage list. The first Turkish building inscribed was the Great Mosque and Hospital of Divrigi.
This mosque was founded by the Mengücekide emir Ahmed Shah following the victory of the Seljuk Turks over the Byzantine army at the battle of Malazgirt in 1071. The adjoining hospital, the Darush-shifa, was founded by Ahmet Shah’s wife Turan Melek and designed by the architect Hurrem Shah, in 1228-1229.
The Great Mosque is renowned for its monumental architecture, its hexagonal dome, and its unique stone carving decorations.
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.