Sagalassos: ancient site in Turkey that should be on your list!
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With our previous visit to Sagalassos being almost 20 years ago, a return visit was long overdue. We were quite impressed when we first visited, and we knew that archaeologists had been working continuously ever since excavating the site and restoring it to its former glory. And yes, a bit of chauvinistic pride came upon us when admiring the evolution that had taken place over the years. That’s right; even 1.000-year-old sites keep evolving! And the archaeologists from the University of Leuven, Belgium who have been excavating Sagalassos since 1990 did a great job, together with the local craftsmen and people from Ağlasun. In short, you need to see Sagalassos. Discover the reasons why, and how to get there in this post.
Eagle’s nest in the Taurus Mountains
We’ve said it before, a stunning setting makes visiting an ancient site so much more worthwhile. That is also the case with Sagalossos, perched on a steep mountain slope, with a seemingly endless chain of valleys and mountain tops that reach as far as the eye can see, the views are breathtakingly beautiful. In fact, the scenery alone is a reason to drive up the mountain. But if you decide to visit Sagalassos, your reward will be generously exceeding that! This site deserves the hidden gem label, probably more than any other site we’ve visited.
While it is featured on Unesco’s Tentative List, we have a feeling it won’t stay there forever, and may well be rewarded with a World Heritage status within the following years. As time progresses, huge efforts are made to bring back to its former glory what used to be the most important city of ancient Pisidia. During your visit, you will be wowed by the former city agora, bordered by the reconstructed and functioning Antonine Nymphaeum. This richly decorated fountain of monumental proportions is the showpiece of Sagalassos.
Sagalassos map with 3 itineraries
Sagalassos is fairly stretched out. But depending on your time and interest, you have the option of 3 different routes throughout the site. Use this link to download a detailed map with walks through Sagalassos going from 1 hour to 4 hours. (We used to link to an English version, but it seems the website is being redesigned and we’ve been given early access to a Turkish version. We’ll switch to English as soon as they are available.) All walks take you past the important landmarks or allow you at least to admire them from a distance. Apart from the previously mentioned upper agora and Antonine Fountain, the site comprises a substantial Roman bath complex, a theatre with a view and a seating capacity of approximately 9.000 seats, a colonnaded street, several necropoleis, and plenty more.
You’ll see that the paths and routes are easy to follow and you’ll find information boards all over the site explaining the history as well as facts about the excavation works in English, Turkish, and Dutch. As Belgians living in Turkey, we were truly spoiled! The site is a mixture of things still waiting to be uncovered and ongoing restoration works, but the overall impression is simply grand.
Walking around Sagalassos, you can easily imagine that this was once a flourishing and important city. Still, several earthquakes and the plague left it in decline. Nowadays, Sagalassos is perfectly equipped to welcome visitors to admire its ruins and reconstructed buildings.
Prepare your visit to Sagalassos
Preparing your visit to Sagalassos is easy with the help of this comprehensive Sagalassos visitors companion guide published as part of the project “Development and Promotion of Cultural and Natural Resources of Ağlasun for Sustainable Tourism Use”. It is written by Prof. Dr. Marc Waelkens, Excavation Director of the Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project and the Sagalassos Team. It contains all the information you need on the site, its history, and the research and excavation work being carried out. (We used to link to an English version, but it seems the website is being redesigned and we’ve been given early access to a Turkish version. We’ll switch to English as soon as they are available.)
The site is open between 8:30 & 17:30, during the summer months, until 19:00 o’clock.
Bear in mind that due to its altitude, snowy roads can make access to the site more difficult up until March. If you are not driving yourself, there is public transport available to nearby Ağlasun form Isparta, Burdur, and Antalya. From Ağlasun, count another 7km walk or by taxi to get to the site. Recently, a dolmuş service from Ağlasun to the site started. At the time of publication, it ran three days a week, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays; departing at 12:00 to Sagalassos, returning from the site at 15:00.
To further prepare your trip to Turkey, or to find out all about how to use public transport in Turkey, check out our Turkey travel resources page. If you’re looking for more things to do in the area, you will love our interactive map of Turkey! Also, have a look at what nearby Eğirdir has to offer. It’s the perfect base to explore the surroundings of Sagalassos.
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