If you find yourself in Şanlıurfa (potentially the city where Abraham was born), you can easily hop over to the “World’s First Temple“. Yes, you read that right: even before organized religion, even before agriculture, our ancestors built an impressive spiritual site that we today know as Göbekli Tepe.
Göbekli Tepe was first discovered in 1963, although back then the archeologists only knew it was a Neolithic site, but had no idea that it would turn all their theories about the Neolithic Revolution and the origin of religion on their heads.
When serious excavations began in 1995, the site was dated at least 12000 years old. That was more than surprising.
See, this meant that it was inhabited before the onset of agriculture and the first permanent settlements, yet it resembled a religious site – something that only came about with the settling down of hunter-gatherers. Revolutionary finding!
How to get to Gobekli Tepe with Public Transport
There are two buses per day that go there from Urfa. The first one is at 10:00, the second one at 13:00. You can get the bus from here, opposite the small regional bus stations :
A one-way trip costs 15 lira. It wasn’t very packed and all of the people inside were tourists, although very few weren’t Turkish.
The trip takes approximately 30 minutes, although in my case it was around 45 minutes. Why, you ask? Halfway the driver decided to visit a friend, so just parked the bus and went out to leisurely chat with him. On the way back he picked a few figs to make it up to the passengers.
A few minutes after that we were surrounded by two dozen kids that wanted to hitchhike. They might have wanted something else, I am not sure, but at least a few boarded the bus and rode for a couple of minutes before the driver forcibly made them leave. It was a bit hilarious and quite confusing.
The Archeological Site
Once at the top (it’s a tepe, meaning hill after all) you will get access to nice views of the area. The scenery is a bit bland though:
Get a ticket from the building right next to the bus stop. It costs 100 TL, which I’d say is totally a rip-off, as only 5% of the site is excavated. However, as with other UNESCO sights in Turkey, the price is quite inflated.
You get to read a bit about the history of the place and how the excavation has been going through the years in an adjacent museum.
After that hop outside and walk 200 meters through a shaded tunnel to get to the bus stand for the shuttle to the top. I was willing to walk the 1 km, but it was a nice surprise that the shuttle was free.
At the top, you will be met by the huge protective roof over the main site.
There’s a path around the site with info stands giving information about each of the rooms on the main site. Here are some pictures:
All in all, from getting your ticket to seeing the site won’t take you more than 90 minutes, even with fastidious picture taking.
Getting back to Sanliurfa
The bus going back departs precisely at 12:00 giving you exactly enough time to admire Gobekli Tepe, but not a minute more.
It was the same bus, the same passengers, and the same driver and on the way back he stopped at the same place to pick up something from the same friend he talked with on the way there. We ate figs again and saw the same kids too!