Hatay is a border city, which is on the Gor Gap containing also the El Bekaa Valley, which is between the mountains of the Syria and the Lebanon, in the Mediterranean Region. It is located among the Nur Mountains (Amanos) lie from north to southwest and the Kel Mountain, and the Syrian tablelands, besides, its Amik Plain, which has fertile lands, forms a costal plain extending like a ribbon in the west.
The summers in Hatay are warm and dry; however, the winters are soft and rainy.
The first settlement in Antioch dates back to 8000 BC. Seleukhos I established the city and gave the city his father’s name, Antiochos. Then Antioch lived through the Roman, the Part, the Sassanian, the Byzantine, the Abbasid, the Tolunogullari, the Akshid, the Hamadanogullari, the Seljuk, the Crusaders, and the Mameluke sovereignties; and was joined to the Ottoman domain during the Egyptian Campaign of the Sultan Yavuz Selim. The city was subjected to the French occupation in 1918. On September 2, 1938, the independent state of Hatay was founded, but after a shot period Hatay was connected to the Turkish Republic, on July 16, 1939.
In addition to its climate conditions and fertile lands, the Antioch region has always been a preferred settlement area because of its position at the connection point of Anatolia- Syria and Palestine, and of its ports convenient for the Mediterranean. At the present day, the Hatay Province has the high potential for tourism with its centers of religious tourism, the ancient cities, and its highlands.www.antakya.bel.tr
The counties of Hatay are Altınozu, Belen, Dortyol, Erzin, Hassa, the Alexandretta (Iskenderun), Kirikhan, Kumlu, Reyhanli, Samandag, and Yayladagi.
Belen was established on an important valley, which connects the Mediterranean to the Amik Plain, and it developed around a caravanserai, a mosque, and a public bath, all of which were built by the Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent in the years of 1550s. The Sogukoluk and the Atik Tablelands draw attention in summers.
Dortyol is between the Alexandretta Gulf and the Nur Mountains. It’s known with its beaches and the Botas Terminal.
In the Baslamis Village of Erzin, there are a spa and a mineral spring; around this spring there are facilities serving health tourism. The county beaches are perfect for sea bathing.
Karasu River runs across the borders of the Kirikhan County. Golbasi, the unique natural lake of Hatay, exists in this county, too.
Located on the coast of the gulf, which has the same name as the city, the Alexandretta, resting its back to the Nur Mountains, is a tourism center warm for four seasons, active and busy port city
THE MUSEUMS AND THE RUINS
First of all, visitors of Hatay should begin to their sightseeing with the museum. Hatay Museum of Archeology is also known as the Antioch Mosaic Museum. The museum has the second place in the mosaic collection, and third place in the coin collection in the world. The exhibited artifacts comprise also the ornaments, the statues, the graves, discovered in the excavations in the region.
Among the major ruins of Hatay, it can be counted the St. Pierre Church, the Cevlik Ruin (the Seleukia Piera Ancient City), the Daphne Ancient City (Harbiye), the Tell Acana Ruin.
The St. Pierre Church is accepted as the place St. Petrus, an apostle of the Jesus, preached to the people at, when he came to Antioch to disseminate the Christianity. The believers of the Jesus have called as Christian here for the first time. Because this cavern chapel is known as the first church, it carries a great importance for the Christians. As a result, Pope Paul VI announced this church as a pilgrimage place for the Christians. On July 29, of each year, the commemorative ceremonies are organized for St. Petrus in this church.
In the Cevlik Village 4 km northeast to Samandag, there are the remaining of the ancient cities of Seleukia and Piera. The visitors will not only see the palace, the temple, the official building and the remains of the city walls but also the first tunnel in the world. The construction of the tunnel was started by the Emperor Vespesianus in the Roman era to prevent the port from the destruction of the sediments carried by the flows from the mountains, but finished under the reign of the Emperor Tutis. The tunnel, having 7 meters height, 6 meters width, and 130 meters length, is called as the Tutis Tunnel and accepted as a engineering wonder.
At the Tell Acana Ruins, which hosted to the settlements from the Chalcolithic Age to the Hittite Era, 17 settlement strata were discovered. The artifacts found here are exhibited in the Hatay Archeology Museum.
Harbiye (Defne) is the famous ancient city Daphne. Known with its waterfalls and its world famous countryside during the Seleukhos times, the Daphne has many villas, temples, and places of amusement. But the severe earthquakes destroyed the city utterly. Today, Harbiye is an attractive countryside and the natural silks weaved in the region are rare and precious examples of their kind.
Kimet Tumulus is discovered around Dortyol. In this tumulus, where the excavation is still going on, the artifacts belonging to the Iron Age were found.
In Kuzuculu and in Karakese, the graves are discovered, and in the excavations the sarcophagus, glass bottles and glass plates, fired soil plates, kerosene lamps and stamps were found.
In Ceylanli, there are rock tombs with epitaphs on the rocks. Imma is near to Reyhanli and is an ancient settlement, which is used to picnic at the present day.
In the excavations done in Tell Tainat, a Hittite palace and a temple were discovered. The artifacts found in the excavations are exhibited in the Archeology Museum of Hatay.
It’s worthwhile to visit the Dorian Temple, consisting of the remains of the columns, and the remaining of the aqueduct in Kapisuyu.
To recognize the historical urban fabric of Antioch, the houses and mosques of the old Antioch, which is on the upper side of the Asi River, should be visited. The old urban fabric has remained considerably to our present day. Almost all old Antioch houses have their entrance through their yards, the first storey of the houses is built with stone and their second storey built with lath (Bagdadi).
The architectural buildings, religious tourism oriented, are outstanding in Hatay, which is a center for religious tourism. The first Catholic Church in the world, the St. Pierre Church is among these buildings. The building, which had been converted from a natural cave to a chapel, has the remains of the mosaic on its basement and frescos on its walls.
Saint Simon Stylite Monastery, Yayladagi Barleam Monastery and Keldagi Barleam Monastery are among major monasteries.
Habibi Neccar Mosque, Sheikh Ahmet Kuseyri Mosque and its Shrine, Kulliye of Sokullu Mehmet Pasha (adjacent buildings to the mosque), Kulliye of Payas Sokullu and Ulu Mosque are worthwhile to see among other architectural buildings.
Antioch was surrounded by high city walls during the reign of Seleukhos. There were 360 watchtowers, and an inner castle on the highest and steepest hill of the Habibi Neccar Mountain. The remaining of this castle can be seen at our present day.
Demirkopru was built between Antioch and Reyhanli, over the Asi River. This stone bridge, which had towers and gates on both edges of it in the past, doesn’t have its towers today but the bridge is still used.
Demirkapi is a high and strong wall on a deep and narrow valley separating the Habibi Neccar Mountain and Hacdagi, to control the violent Hacikurus River. This strong wall has resisted to the course of time.
The Dana Ahmetli Bridge is built over the Karasu River. It is a stone bridge with 6 spans and one of the 16th century works of the Architect Sinan.
There are also castles to visit in Hatay. One of them is the Koz Castle of which two bastions, built with block stones, are still in good condition.
The Bakras Castle is 4 km to the Alexandretta road and a lot of sections of this multiple- storey castle are still strong.
The Payas Castle was an Ottoman castle. Besides, it was used also a prison. It has seven bastions, eight towers and a ditch.
The Cin Tower is on a hill overlooking to the port to watch the enemy ships and to strengthen the defense of the Payas Castle. It was built as a patrol in the year of 1577.
The Darbisak Castle has only the remains of a bastion, galleries, and a wall for today. Thousands of people visit this castle each year.
THE OTHER TOURISTIC ASSETS
There are many inns and public baths in Antioch. The still servicing inns and public baths bring the cultural characteristics and architectural structure to our present day. It can be visited the Cindi Bath House, the Saka Bath House, The Meydan Bath House, the New Bath House, the Kursunlu Inn, and The Sokullu Inn.
The Reyhanli Hamamat Spa is in the Kumlu County on the Reyhanli- Antioch road.
The Erzin Baslamis Spa and the medicinal waters spring through the rocks. The Erzin Thermal Spring has the water slightly salty and a little bitter.
The medicinal water in the Kisecik Village belongs to the water group of high temperature.
Hatay is a city remembered also with its highlands. The most famous tablelands among the others are Guzelyayla (Sogukoluk) and Atik in Belen, Teknepinari (Batiayaz) in Samandag, Kocaduz, Uckok, Bagriacik, and Karincali in Erzin, Topraktas and Cokek in Dortyol, Alan and Cataloluk in Kirikhan.
The Sariseki Cavern takes the attention of those interested in spelunking. Due to a lot of bats in it, the cave is known as the Birds Cave (Kuslar Magarasi) in the region. The entrance of the cave is considerably narrow. There hasn’t been an academic study in the cave until today. There are many stalagmites and stalactites in the cavern.
The Hatay cuisine is also very rich. It is worthwhile to taste “oruk”, “eksili borulce” (pea with sour stuff), “beyaz kabak boranisi” (dish with white zucchini), “icli kofte” (a kind of meatball having a special mixture inside), “asur”, “katikli ekmek”, and pepper with walnuts (muhammara), (bakla ezmesi) fava bean puree, “Nazli” Meat Meal, and the deserts like kunefe with cheese and tas kadayif.
The Daphne soup, silk woven, pepper sauce, the liquid sour pomegranate sauce are the authentic tastes belonged to Hatay.