Urfa Travel Guide

Plan your perfect trip to Urfa with our comprehensive travel guide. Discover the best places to visit, eat and stay in Urfa, as well as all the practical information you need to plan your trip.

Introduction to Urfa

Urfa, also known as Şanlıurfa, is a city located in Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a history that goes back to the Neolithic period. Urfa is a place where ancient history and modern life intersect, where you can wander through winding alleys and discover stunning landmarks. What makes Urfa unique is its exotic blend of Turkish, Arabic, and Kurdish cultures.

List of Places to Visit in Urfa

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or nature, Urfa has something to offer. Here is a list of must-visit attractions:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe is an ancient temple complex that is believed to be the oldest religious structure in the world. The site, which dates back to 11,600 years ago, was discovered in 1994 by a team of German archaeologists. The complex is composed of several circular enclosures, each with a central stone pillar that is decorated with intricate carvings.

Urfa Castle

Urfa Castle is a medieval fortress that overlooks the city. It was built by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century and later reconstructed by the Abbasids. From the castle, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside.


Balıklıgöl, also known as the “Pool of Abraham,” is a sacred site where Abraham is said to have been thrown into the fire by King Nimrod. Legend has it that the fire miraculously turned into water and the burning coals turned into fish. Today the pool is home to hundreds of carp that are considered sacred in the local culture.

Natural Attractions of Urfa: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views


Harran is a town located about 45 km south of Urfa. The town is famous for its traditional beehive houses made of mud, which have been used for centuries by the locals to escape the scorching heat of summer. Harran is also home to the ruins of an ancient university, which was one of the oldest in the world.

Şanlıurfa Archeology and Mosaic Museum

The Şanlıurfa Archeology and Mosaic Museum is home to one of the richest collections of Roman mosaics in the world. The museum also has a collection of artifacts from various periods of Urfa’s history, including the Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Ages.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Urfa

Urfa is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Here are some of the best hiking and biking routes:

Dergah Tepesi

Dergah Tepesi is a hill located in the city center that offers great hiking trails and stunning views of the city. The hill is home to several Ottoman mosques and is a great place to explore Urfa’s cultural heritage.

Sorgun Mesire Yeri

Sorgun Mesire Yeri is a recreational area located about 10 km south of Urfa. The area is known for its scenic views of the Euphrates river and is a popular destination for hiking and picnicking.

Best Things to Do in Urfa: Activities and Tours

Here are some of the best things to do in Urfa:

Take a Walking Tour

Urfa is a city that is best explored on foot. You can take a walking tour of the city’s historic sites, including the Göbekli Tepe, Urfa Castle, and Balıkçılar Çarşısı (the fish market).

Try Local Food

Urfa is known for its spicy kebabs and delicious mezes. Don’t miss out on the chance to sample some of the local cuisine, including çiğ köfte (spicy raw meatballs) and baklava.

Week-Long Itinerary for Urfa

If you’re planning to spend a week in Urfa, here’s a suggested itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Urfa and explore the city center.

Day 2: Visit Göbekli Tepe and the Şanlıurfa Archeology and Mosaic Museum.

Day 3: Take a trip to Harran and explore the ancient ruins.

Day 4: Visit the Urfa Castle and Balıklıgöl.

Day 5: Go hiking or biking in the Dergah Tepesi and Sorgun Mesire Yeri.

Day 6: Take a cooking class and learn to make local dishes.

Day 7: Spend the day exploring the local markets and souvenir shops.

Food and Drink Scene of Urfa

Must-Try Dishes

Urfa is known for its spicy and flavorful cuisine. Here are some must-try dishes:

Şanlıurfa Kebabı

Şanlıurfa Kebabı is a type of spicy lamb kebab that is marinated in a mix of chili peppers and tomato paste. It’s usually served with bulgur, grilled vegetables, and homemade bread.


Lahmacun is a thin, crispy pizza-like dish that is topped with minced meat, vegetables, and spices. It’s usually served with a squeeze of lemon and a handful of parsley on top.

Local Beverages

Şalgam Suyu

Şalgam Suyu is a traditional Turkish drink made from turnip juice, salt, and spices. It’s a popular drink in Urfa and is usually served cold with a slice of lemon.


Ayran is a refreshing yogurt drink that is popular throughout Turkey. It’s made by mixing yogurt, water, and salt.

Where to Stay in Urfa: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Urfa has a range of accommodations to suit every budget. Here are some of the best options:

El Mafra Hotel

El Mafra Hotel is a luxury hotel located in the heart of the city. The hotel features spacious rooms with traditional Turkish decor and modern amenities, including a spa and fitness center.

Hotel Ugur

Hotel Ugur is a mid-range hotel located near the city center. The hotel offers comfortable rooms with air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.

Sirince Evleri

Sirince Evleri is a guesthouse located in the historic part of the city. The guesthouse features cozy rooms with traditional Turkish decor and a shared terrace with panoramic views of the city.

What to Buy in Urfa: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Urfa is known for its handmade crafts and textiles. Here are some of the best things to buy:

Kilim Rugs

Kilim Rugs are handmade rugs that are woven using traditional techniques. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, and are a great way to add a touch of Turkish elegance to your home.

Turkish Tea Sets

Turkish Tea Sets are beautifully decorated sets that include a teapot, tea glasses, and a tray. They’re a great way to enjoy a traditional Turkish tea at home.

Local Culture and Customs of Urfa

Urfa is a conservative city with a strong Islamic influence. Visitors are advised to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. It’s also important to be respectful of local customs, such as removing your shoes before entering a mosque.

Best Time to Visit Urfa

The best time to visit Urfa is in the spring or fall, when the temperatures are mild and pleasant. Summers can be scorching, with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius.

Do’s and Don’ts of Urfa


  • Try the local cuisine and traditional drinks.
  • Dress modestly and respect local customs.
  • Learn a few Turkish phrases to communicate with the locals.


  • Drink tap water, only bottled water.
  • Show public displays of affection.
  • Take photos of people without their permission.

Safety and Health

Safety in Urfa

Urfa is a safe city, but travelers should take precautions to avoid pickpocketing and petty theft. Also, be mindful of vehicles when crossing streets as drivers can be aggressive.

Health in Urfa

Travelers should be up to date on routine vaccinations before traveling to Urfa. It’s also recommended to consult your doctor about getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B.

Getting to Urfa: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Urfa

The closest airport to Urfa is Şanlıurfa GAP Airport, which is located about 40 km from the city center. Domestic flights from Istanbul are scheduled daily, and international flights may require a transfer in Istanbul.

Bus Stations Near Urfa

Urfa Otogar is the main bus station located in the city center. Buses operate daily to/from major cities in Turkey.

Other Options

Taxis and private transfers are also available for transport to/from Urfa.

How to Get Around in Urfa

Urfa is a walkable city, and many of the attractions are located within walking distance of each other. Taxis and local buses are also available for longer trips.

Where to Go Next from Urfa: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Here are some nearby destinations and excursions that you can easily reach from Urfa:


Mardin is a historic city located about 150 km from Urfa. The city is known for its beautifully preserved traditional architecture and stunning views of the Mesopotamian plains.


Gaziantep is a vibrant city located about 200 km from Urfa. The city is famous for its rich culinary heritage, as well as its historic landmarks, including the Gaziantep Castle and the Zeugma Mosaic Museum.


Urfa is a city with a rich history and unique culture. Whether you want to explore ancient ruins, wander through winding alleys, or indulge in local cuisine, there’s something for everyone in Urfa. Use this comprehensive guide to plan your perfect trip to Urfa and experience the best of what this fascinating city has to offer.