Visiting Turkish museums and archaeological sites from your couch

Mosaic in Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep
Mosaic in Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep

As the travel plans of so many of us collapsed with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the only possible way to visit the archaeological sites and museums is to go online and check which collections have already been digitized. In the case of Turkey, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism established Sanal Muze website that offers a 3D experience of some of the best-known state-run archaeological and ethnographic museums. The downside of this project is the fact that even though the museums offer descriptions of the exhibits, they are only available in Turkish at the moment.

Currently, there are 23 museums and 10 archaeological sites available for virtual tours. These are the most impressive and important archaeological collections located in Turkey. The list includes the oldest museum in the country - Istanbul Archaeological Museum - established in 1891. There are also well-known and splendid collections of Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, Archaeological Museum in Gaziantep, and Antalya Museum. The local collections of archaeological artefacts are on display in Mersin Museum and Uşak Museum of Archaeology. As the list is systematically expanded, it is worth visiting the website to check for additions.

Which other museums are open for a virtual tour at the moment? There are several newly established venues, such as Troy Museum, Şanlıurfa Museum, Adana Museum, Hatay Archaeological Museum, and Van Museum. This is great news for all the visitors who have not got the chance to visit them yet.

Moreover, the museums focussed on the Hittite civilization have been included: Boğazköy Museum near Hattusas and Çorum Museum. The great archaeological site of the Hittite capital Hattusa is also available.

The visit to the fairyland of Cappadocia is also possible. You can take a virtual walk along the Ihlara Valley and visit the open-air museum in Göreme. Another location famous for both its landscape and history is Pamukkale-Hierapolis site and the nearby ancient city of Laodicea. Mount Nemrut with its spectacular statues is also open for virtual travellers.

The Turkish past of the country is on display in the recently refurbished Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. Historic tombstones left by the Ahlatshah dynasty in Ahlat can also be seen. The venues devoted to the more recent Turkish history are possibly of more interest to the Turkish visitors: War of Independence Museum in Ankara, Republic Museum in Ankara, Ethnography Museum of Ankara, Istanbul Airport Museum, National Struggle Exhibition in Ankara, Atatürk Museum in Izmir, and Atatürk Museum in Samsun.

The one of the most famous archaeological sites of Asia Minor, Ephesus, is now open for virtual visits, while the finds from Ephesus can be seen in Ephesus Museum in Selçuk. Assos archaeological site is now also available. The beautiful mosaics rescued from Zeugma are on display in Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep.

Last but not least, the magnificent prehistoric cult centre of Göbekli Tepe is open for armchair travellers.

Stay safe and enjoy the tours!