Tuesday 17 May 2022

How to Visit Gobekli Tepe Turkey Site from UK

I've wanted to visit Gobekli Tepe for many years but due to the security situation with the war in Syria with the border just over 30km from the site and then the Covid19 travel restrictions I'd been unable to do so. Once travel was permitted again it was one of the first destinations on my list to visit. Originally I'd planned to take an organised tour to Turkey and then tag on a visit Gobekli Tepe at the end but couldn't find anything that fitted my holiday schedule so decided to try to arrange myself.

Visiting Gobekli Tepe from UK - May 2022
Visiting Gobekli Tepe from UK - May 2022

I was very fortunate to find this blog by the Frugal Travellers that outlined their visit back in 2019 and used that as the basis for my trip. All details below were correct as of May 2022 with an exchange rate of around 18.5TL to 1 GBP Sterling. Inflation is running around 70% in Turkey so prices are likely to have changed; in fact it was noticeable that many items were significantly higher than my previous visit to Istanbul in 2019 and even things like the Museum pass were now more expensive than the printed literature at the kiosk. Restaurant menus had wipe clean spaces for prices to allow updates without reprinting the whole thing.

We flew to Istanbul from London and stayed a few days to visit the sites before getting an internal flight from Istanbul to Sanliurfa with Turkish Airlines. I'd booked from the UK a few months earlier to ensure that we had flights guaranteed. A fortunate side effect was that the booking coincided with a drop in the Lira which made the flights even cheaper as they were priced in Lira (TL) and worked out at £50 return each. We needed to get back to Istanbul airport from the city in time for the flight and agreed a fixed price with the taxi of 350TL. (£18) The new metro line will soon reach the airport and reduce this cost significantly.

The flight to Sanliurfa takes around 1hr 45 and you land at Sanliurfa GAP Airport, code GNY. This is a modern airport opened in 2007. It's quite noticeable around the Urfa area that a significant amount of money is being invested in new infrastructure and facilities for tourism. We got a taxi from outside the airport to Urfa as we were in a rush to get some sightseeing in before the end of the day. We paid 265TL plus tip to get to the hotel but the bus from the airport is much cheaper if budget is more of a consideration.

We stayed at the excellent Tessera hotel located in the heart of Urfa close to the Abraham cave and lake complex. It's a converted church and beautifully restored with comfortable rooms and excellent breakfast included for £60 per night for a double room. I'd highly recommend it but there were also other hotels nearby that looked to be similar style. A German tourist we spoke to was staying further outside Urfa and paid only 8 Euro per night but then needed the bus to reach the town. Really your choice which works best for you.

After a good night's sleep despite being woken at 4.15 by the call to prayer we had a hearty breakfast at hotel before heading off to visit Gobekli Tepe. The bus leaves from the Sanliurfa Archaeology museum 3 times per day, 0945, 1200 and 1630. The return from Gobekli Tepe is an hour after these times. The details are shown on the bus stop. Our tickets cost 13TL each way. You get given an electronic tickets to scan on the reader in the bus and save the other ticket for the journey back.

On arrival it was slightly disappointing, the bus drop off was a busy car park with hundreds of people and noisy coaches with engines running, very different to the image in my head of an isolated location on top of a hill. The visitor centre is opposite the car park and where you can buy your ticket. Queue was quite manic at the weekend but might be quieter during the week. If you have the Turkiye museum pass then it's included and you can go straight to the entry gate next to the car park via a short wooden covered walkway. Once you've been through the barrier there is another covered area to wait for the shuttle bus to take you to the complex. If you're able to walk around 700m up the gentle slope then I'd highly recommend doing so instead of the shuttle. By doing so you really get a much better idea of the local environment to the site and the complete silence apart from birdsong until a shuttle bus comes into noisy view! The logic of putting the coach park and visitor centre sufficiently distanced from the site becomes clear, something Stonehenge is only just starting to benefit from.

If you're looking to visit Gobekli Tepe then you probably know all about the history of the site but it's incredible to think that people from 12,000 years ago were able to cut stone, carve and transport them then align them using only basic flint tools. The scale of this achievement is even more apparent when you realise that only a fraction of the Gobekli Tepe site has so far been excavated.
First summary below

 I've been wanting to visit for many years but the security situation and then Covid19 had prevented my trip. When I finally arrived it was worth the wait. We travelled from London to Istanbul and then on to Sanliurfa where we stayed at the Tessera hotel. A bus from Urfa Archaelogical museum goes to Gobekli Tepe 3 times a day and as of May 2022 costs 13TL each way. On arrival at a weekend the area was incredibly busy with coaches and cars all over the place but if you walk up to the monument it's far more peaceful.

If you have the Turkiye museum pass you can skip the line and go straight to the site or into the visitor centre. Weekend was very busy but I understand that weekdays are quieter. Unfortunately with our flights it didn't work out for a weekday. Amazing site that's well worth visiting before it gets over developed. Hard to imagine that it's 7000 years older than Stonehenge.

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