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[Icel (Mersin)]


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The Silifke County, located west to Mersin, is established on the banks of the Goksu River. It has a very green nature with its Goksu delta, its valley and canyons, and its Taurus highlands. Besides, it is one of the major counties both of Mersin and the region with its rich historical buildings.

The antique Silifke settlement was established over a high hill which existed at the crossing point of the Calycadnos River (Goksu) and the plain in Cilicia Tracheia (Taslik Kilikya) by Seleukhos I, who was one of the generals of Alexander the Great. After the collapse of the Seleukhos Kingdom, the city began to live under the rule of the Roman Empire, and then it lived through a brilliant period in terms of culture, art, and economy. The district came under the attacks of the Iranian Sassanid Empire in the 3rd century, and it became the administrative center of the regions of the Mountainous Cilicia and Isauria under the reign of the Emperor Diocletianus. Seized by the Byzantine in 395 AD, Silifke became a very important religious center, after the Christianity was accepted as the official religion. During the Crusades, it changed hands between the Armenian Kingdom, the Byzantine, and the Crusaders. Silifke was seized by the Anatolian Seljuk and fallowing the Karamanid Principality in the 11th century, after that it became a part of the Ottoman Empire when Gedik Ahmet Pasha captured it from the Karamanid in 1473. Being the center of the Icel Sanjak of the Konya Province in 1867, then the Icel Sanjak of the Adana Province in 1877, the city became an independent sanjak in 1919; it was made the center of the new established Icel Province. But when Mersin became the new center of the Icel Province in 1933, Silifke was assigned to Icel Province as a county.

The Silifke County is considerably rich in terms of its history, and its cultural environment. There are various artifacts settlements like temples, theatres, gymnasium, stadium, bath house, bridge, road, water carrier, aqueducts, and cisterns belonged to the Hellenistic and the Roman eras in Silifke where the cult of the goddess Athena was supreme. While there are many ancient ruins serving for the visitors, there are also remains which don’t serve as ruins. If your start point for your trip is the center of Silifke, the sights are listed below in turn:

Jupiter Temple, it is a 2nd century Roman temple, but it was converted to a church afterwards. The five columns built in Corinthian style of the temple arrived at the presence day.

Silifke Castle, is located west to the city and over a rocky hill. The history of the castle which was elliptical planned and had a perimeter of 4827 m, began with the Hellenistic and the early Roman eras of the city. The castle was used also in the Byzantine era , was restored by the Armenian Cilicia Kingdoms, and after the sovereignties of the Anatolian Seljuk and the Karamanid, it was added to the Ottoman territories by the Grand Vizier Gedik Ahmet Pasha in 1471. Having 23 towers and bastions, the castle has in the middle of it the temple, under which there is a Byzantine cistern carved to the rocks.

Taskopru, restored in the 19th century, the original of the bridge was made by the governor of the Cilicia, Loctavius Memor in 77- 78 AD. It has five arches and seven spans.

The Temple of the Rome; was built in the center of Silifke in 2nd century AD. The column bases at the eastern and western sides of it stand still with their original figures. There were 14 columns on the long sides of the temple and 8 ones on the short sides, but we have only one column fort he present day

Tekiranbari Cistern; made through carving the rocks on the outskirts of the Silifke Castle, this water tank is a Byzantine building. The ground of the cistern can be reached by getting down through the curving stairs. With its authentic architecture, it is the most original example in the neighborhood.

Mosaic Area; it was found in an excavation driven by the Ministry of Culture, and it’s a building of which ground had been adorned with mosaics. The building is thought to date back to 2nd century AD.

Theatre; which is near to the Silifke Castle but the only remaining of it is a part of its entrance gate for the present day.

Alaeddin (Center) Mosque; was constructed during the reign of the Seljukian Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat. The mosque has a rectangular plan with three naves. The building has a dome in front of the altar, and this stone altar indicates the level of stonework of the Anatolian Seljuk.

Resadiye Mosque; was built with well-proportioned cut stone and its plan was almost square. For the architectural details, it was benefited from the ancient material. It was built during the reign of the Sultan Mehmet Resad, at the beginning of the 20th century.

Another historical building located in the city center of Silifke is Tevekkul Sultan Shrine. Unfortunately, there is only limited knowledge about the shrine.

Ataturk’s House Museum; Ataturk arrived at Silifke on January 27, 1925 and the house at which he stayed with the furniture he used at that time was arranged as a museum.

Silifke Museum; is on the road to Tasucu. There are historical findings belong to the neighborhood on the first and second floors. Besides, there is an ethnography section consisting of objects introducing the neighborhood of Silifke

Silifke Culture House was opened by the Silifke municipality in 1995 aiming to introduce the traditional culture of the neighborhood. The international Silifke Culture Festival and Tasucu Fish Festival are organized every year while introducing the pastoral and historical characteristics of the region.

There are also many historical sights to visit around Silifke. Primarily of them are; Tasucu, Aya Tekla, Hagia Thekla Basilica (Aya Tekla), Church with Dome, Uzuncaburc, Korykos, Maiden Castle, and Narli Well.

Tasucu (Holmi) Port; Tasucu has been an important export and import harbor during its history and it is located almost 10 km. west to Silifke. Even today, the port, called as Tasucu Seka Port, helps transportation of many people and motor vehicles. The scheduled ships are organized every day from Tasucu port to the Turkish Republic of the Northern Cyprus, and it develops everyday to a modern county, attracting tourists to the county. With all these characteristics, its contribution to tourism is very high.

There was the colony of Holmi, of which power declined gradually in 1st BC. While the port has the name of Hagia Theodoros under the Byzantine reign, began to carry the name of Silifke Port under Turkish sovereignty.

Tasucu Amphora Museum, the amphora comprising various periods beginning from the 5th Century BC and used in the Mediterranean trade are exhibited. There is the Port Castle (Aga Port), which is at the 7. km. of the highway of Tasucu- Antalya, which is on the side of a natural bay and 5 km. north to the 22. km. of this highway, there is Castellum Novum (Tokmar Castle) on a hill overlooking to the sea.

Narlikuyu Cavern (Asthma Cave and Wish Well) is located 23 km. northeast to Silifke. The cave, with its big stalactites and stalagmites, and a height of 160 m. above the sea level, has a wonderful underground sight. It has been said that the cave, having a 15 m. spiral staircase for climbing down, cures the asthma patients.

There are Heaven and Hell Caverns very near to Narlikuyu Cave. Heaven Cave gains the importance with its scenic beauties and the church inside. To reach inside of the cavern having a height of 150 m. above the sea level, a road remained from the Roman age is used. There is the remaining of the Roman temple, which was used by the first Christians to worship; and the temple was built at the entrance of the cave, of which coming into being dates back to the III. Geological time. It is stated that the church was built in the 5th century AD. The deepest point of the cave has a height of 15 m. above the sea level. You can hear the sound of the ground water at this very point. Long ago, the belief was that the deaths could go into the heaven from there, that’s why the corpses were left in the cave. As a result, the name of the cave became Heaven Cavern.

Contrary to the other cave, the Hell Cavern with its hollow into which the sinners are thrown has a very creepy appearance. It’s very hard and dangerous to climb down in the cave and the deepest point of it is at 120 m.

The remaining of a public bath house at the Narlikuyu bay, dating back to 4th century AD, was built by Poimenius. Being one of the major historical assets of Mersin, the public bath house has a mosaic composition describing the “three graces” of the Mythology (goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite) on the basement of the bathing section.

In the continuing part of the Heaven- Hell road, there is Hasanaliler Church ( Alive Church) built in the 6th century AD, but its unique remaining is its apsis.

Hagia Thekla/Aya Tekla (Meryemlik Church); it has been accepted as the oldest and holy of holies place of the Christianity. The settlement is 7 km. west to Silifke and its history extends even to the years of 50 AD. According to common belief, before the acceptance of the Christianity as an official religion, the woman Saint Tekla living in Konya escaped from the Romans in the neighborhood and sheltered to this cave (catacomb). Afterwards, load- bearing Corinthian columns was put into the cave, mosaic plates were made, and the cave was converted to a chapel in the end of the 4th century. Some other building was added to this holy place at various periods. Then, a Byzantine style church was constructed with respect to the plan of the basilica here in 5th century, but today we have only the apsis of this church. In present, this place, called as Meryemlik, has been made the center of the pilgrimage. Besides these; the cisterns, the North Church, and the Necropolis can be visited here.

Korykos, an ancient trade port, is located 25 km. northeast to Silifke. The sources state that this place was founded by the Prince Gorkos from Cyprus, in the 4th century BC. The remaining belonging to the city lie down between the villages of Ayas and Narlikuyu. The remaining are the Maiden Castle in the across island, the relief of the Prince Gorkos, the palace, the theatre, the temple, the aqueduct, the cisterns, and nine grave of the king and his family.

The Maiden Castle, although it shares the similar myth with the Maiden Tower in Istanbul, in fact it is the remaining of a maritime city established at the coast. It’s over an island having a distance of 200 m. to the shore. Having 8 towers, the castle has the length of 250 m. and it has the remaining of a palace inside of it. After various sovereignties, the Karamanid Principality captured the castle in 1448.

About 10 km. north to the Maiden Castle, at the place of Seytanderesi, where are human relief carved on the rocky hillside of the deep valley. Dating back to the late Hellenistic and Roman eras, these relieves are called Adamkaya Relieves.

Pasha Shrine; is located on the road of Ayas- Korykos and it was built in 1220 by the Anatolian Seljuk.

Ura (Olba); is located 32 km. north to Silifke, in the village of Ura, and east to the ancient city of Uzuncaburc. It became the center and an important trade city of the Olba Kingdom. It was come across the Hellenistic, the Roman and the Byzantine remaining in the city; these were the fountain building, the aqueduct, the houses, a theatre, a church, and a necropolis consisting of rock tombs and sarcophagus. The fountain building and the 25 m. high aqueduct were built under the reign of Septimus Severus (193- 211). The sitting places and a part of the stage of the theatre, next to the fountain, endured until today.

The ancient settlement of Uzuncaburc is the holy place of the Olba Kingdom. The ruin is 21 km. North to Silifke and a highland extending towards the Taurus Mountains. The name of the city in the Hellenistic era was Olba, and in the Roman era Diocaesareia. Except the Zeus Temple and the city bastion, all other remaining belongs to the Roman times.

It is entered in to the ancient city through the considerably magnificent ceremony gate where the columnar street, which extends in the direction of east-west, begins. The ceremony gate dates back to 1st century and it consists of the Corinthian headed columns, which have 1 m. diameter and a height of 7 m. each. The brackets, which have been put to the trunk of the columns, of which we have only 5 items today, are probably to place the statues over them.

Along the columnar street, there is Zeus Temple on the left of it. The temple, which was built by the Seleukos Nikator in the 3rd century BC, was converted to a church in the 5th century under the reign of the Byzantine Empire. Consisting of 36 fluted columns, the temple was built according to the Peripteros plan in the Corinthian style. At the end of the columnar street, there is the Chance Temple (Tykhaion). The unique remaining of the temple, which was built in the second half of the 1st century, is the architrave existed over 5 columns. It has been stated on the epigraph of the architrave, that the temple was built by Oppius and his wife Kyria, who were a couple of nobles, as a gift to the city. The other entrance of the city is on the other columnar road extending in the direction of north- south. This structure, which has a big arch in the middle and two small ones at both sides, is known as the Glory Gate. According to its epigraph, the entrance was restored under the reigns of the Roman Emperors, Arcadius (395- 408) and Honorius (395-423). The theatre was built in the 2nd century. The Hellenistic Mausoleum was constructed on a hill south to the Uzuncaburc County to the Dorian mode. It has a square plan and a pyramidal roof. There is the Hellenistic High Tower at the northeastern side of the walls surrounding the city. This tower with a height of 23 m. was needed for observation and accommodation of the sheltering people to there during a danger alarm. Do to the height of the tower; its name has been called as Uzuncaburc among people. Finally, the three churches, added to the structure in the Byzantine era, didn’t leave much remaining behind them to the present.

The ancient Imbriogon is on the 10 km of the highway of Silifke- Uzuncaburc. There are many mausoleums and the remains of a public bath houses from the Roman era.

One of the historical and tourist places in the neighborhood of Silifke is the Fearless King Mausoleum (Mezgit Kale), which is located in the Pasli district of the village of Turkmenusagi, precisely on a hill 2 km. east of Pasli. At the 4 km. off the Pasli ruin, there is Tekkadin ruins, which consists of the remaining of the Roman and Byzantine times. It can be observed rock a tomb, sarcophaguses with relieves over them, a small castle, cistern and the remains of a church.

The ruins of Karadedeli, Karakabakli, Isikkale, Sinekkale, Barakcikale and Yenibahce; are in the neighborhood of the Karadedeli village which is at the 13th km. of the Silifke- Mersin highway

Cambazli Church and its Mausoleum; in the Cambazli village are the artifact remains belonging to the late Hellenistic, the Roman and the Byzantine times. A church dating back to the Byzantine era and a mausoleum can be visited here.

Aphrodisia of Cilicia; the city can be reached by fallowing the Silifke- Aydincik highway until the 35. km and then off that point fallowing another 14 km road. It was founded as a colony in the Eastern Mediterranean and devoted to Aphrodite. Due to the scarcity of the historical sources, we don’t have sufficient information about it. However, similar to the other cities, it was captured by various civilizations. The outstanding building of the city is the church built for the St. Pantaleon in the Byzantine era. The church has on its basement animal figures and mosaics adorned with geometrical lines.

Being a major tourism county of Mersin with its sun and sea today, Atakent is located at the 15 km of the Silifke- Mersin highway. Atakent is an ancient settlement at the same time, and its historical name is Corasium. The remains of the city dating back to the late Roman era are two separate necropolises, a church, a public bath, a cistern and a warehouse.

Memorial Forest of the Martyrs of the Cyprus Peace Operation, it was designed in the memory of the people died during the Cyprus peace Operation at the 5. km of the Silifke- Gulnar Highway. It can be visited the memorial forest arranged in 1976, the Ataturk monument and the symbolic graves of the martyrs.