Midyat, a town tucked away in Southeast Turkey, lives in the shadow of its bigger and more famous neighbor Mardin.
Wait, what? You haven’t heard of Midyat? You’re in for a treat!
So, what’s the deal with Midyat? Well, it’s a place with ancient Assyrian history, historic cobblestone streets, stone houses with caves under them (yes, caves!), and mystical monasteries!
Eski Midyat (The Old Town)
The Old Town of Midyat is the reason most people visit it. A mesmerizing blend of ancient architecture and rich history with narrow, winding streets and intricately designed stone houses.
The town exudes a unique atmosphere, with its well-preserved buildings reflecting Assyrian, Syriac, and Ottoman influences, ancient churches and monasteries as well as newish intricate mosques.
1. Saat Kulesi (The Clock Tower)
The Clock Tower is in the middle of an intersection marking the beginning of Eski Midyat. Unlike many of the next places, Saat Kulesi is a new landmark in Midyat and symbolizes Muslim, Syriac, and Yazidi beliefs.
It was made of a very rare stone called “Nahit Katori” to fit with the rest of the town. Thus, it’s hard to tell that it’s modern and easily blends in. In true Turkish fashion though, the clock doesn’t work.
2. Şen Street
Şen Street is a pedestrian street that starts meters away from the Clock Tower. Lined with markets, restaurants, workshops, and wineries, it’s the lifeline of Midyat’s Old Town.
The market is situated at the start of the Old Town, mostly on the perpendicular Han Street. Shops there mostly sell nuts, jewelry, clothes, and cosmetics.
3. Sahra Suryani Sarap Evi Winery
Talking of wineries, the best and most well-known one on Şen Street is Sahra Suryani Sarap Evi, right at the beginning of the pedestrian part. The owner is a Syriac guy, very fun and knowledgeable about wine.
You can try some of the wines until you find one that suits your palate. Order in-house or buy a whole bottle.
4. Geluske Hani Caravanserai
How about lunch in an authentic Caravanserai, just like in the old times of dusty roads, tired traveling merchants, and the same Turkish hospitality?
Geluske Hani restaurant offers delicious meals for affordable prices, but the actual reason to eat there and not elsewhere is the amazing setting!
5. Midyat Mağaralari (the Caves)
Meters away from Geluske Hani there are caves that have been used as dwellings for over 500 years! They are very reminiscent of the cave houses in nearby Mardin (after all Midyat is like a smaller Mardin) and a little of the cave dwellings in Cappadocia.
There is an entrance fee of 10 TL (0.4$) and it’s totally worth it!
6. Midyat Konuk Evi (the Guesthouse)
Midyat Konuk Evi is the best-known place in the Old Town. It’s a rustic 3-storey house with a cozy cafe and awesome views over the whole town.
Down on the bottom floor, you’ll find a room carved right into the bedrock. Ascending to the second floor reveals a trio of rooms, generously embracing a spacious L-shaped terrace. It’s the perfect spot to soak in the atmosphere.
Venturing higher to the third floor, you’ll encounter another expansive terrace, but here’s the twist – it’s not directly in front of the rooms; it stretches westward. As you make your way up, a snug bay window appears in the corridor near the entrance to a single room, a charming touch.
From this floor, an ascent to the roof of that room awaits. Perched atop this hillside structure, the view unfurls, offering glimpses of Midyat’s enchanting vistas.
This guesthouse is more than just a building; it’s a piece of local history, known for its role as a backdrop in the popular Turkish soap opera Sila.
There’s a small entrance fee to go up.
7. Hercai Konak
Right next to Konuk Evi, on the right side, is Hercai Konak cafe which doesn’t charge an entrance fee, but being a cafe requires you to buy a drink to enjoy the views.
It’s a good option if there are many tourists in the Midyat Konuk Evi and you don’t want to be rushed taking photos and soaking in the views.
8. Mor Şarbel Kilise (The Syriac Church)
This Syriac Church in the center of Midyat Old Town looks very impressive from the outside, carved, yet sturdy. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how it looks on the inside as it has been closed since the Pandemic with no reopening date yet.
I’ll update if I learn it’s been reopened.
Estel Old Town
On the other side of Midyat is the other hotspot for authentic architecture and beautiful Instagram sets.
Estel started off as a town of its own before being incorporated into Midyat. You can reach it on foot from the Saat Kulesi (~50 minutes) or take one of the dolmuş (public minibus) that travels between the two neighborhoods. A ticket costs 6 TL (0.25$), paid inside the vehicle.
9. Ulu Cami
Unlike the Old Town, which is historically Syriac, Estel is Muslim. You can see proof of that in the face of the 300-year-old Ulu Mosque in the center of the neighborhood.
The mosque has a courtyard, a round minaret, and a single balcony.
10. Midyat Belediyesi Kültür Evi (Municipal House of Culture)
Just meters away from the mosque you can find the House of Culture. Formerly a private home, it was purchased by the Municipality and transformed into an ethnographic museum showcasing a small collection of items about Midyat’s history.
There’s an entrance fee of 10 TL (0.4$).
11. Kent Müzesi (City Museum)
To complete your visit to Midyat, you should check out the City Museum and its collection of exhibits about Midyat and its people.
The most impressive part of the museum is the underground where you will discover a massive underground cave system used as a home, typical of the Midyat region.
The entrance fee is only 10 TL (0.4$).
Monasteries in and around Midyat
Midyat used to be a Syriac Christian town and there is still a sizable community of Christians living in the city and in the smaller villages around it.
12. Mor Gabriel Monastery
This Monastery dedicated to St. Gabriel stands on top of a hill some 20 km southeast of Midyat.
Mor Gabriel Monastery is one of the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monasteries in the world, dating from 397 AD!
If you’re a big fan of Syriac Orthodox monasteries, you should check out these ancient monasteries in Iraq.
Mor Gabriel has an architectural style very typical of the Mardin-Midyat region and is so well-preserved that you could never tell it’s more than 1600 years old (well, to be fair, it was reconstructed in the 19th century)
To get to Mor Gabriel Monastery from Midyat, you can either:
- Hitchhike south on the main road for about 20 km., then walk the remaining 3 km. to the hill of the monastery;
- Take a regional minibus towards Cizre and get out close to Yayvantepe, then continue on foot.
At the monastery you will pay a nominal 10 TL (0.4$) entrance fee and a guide who speaks little English will take you around the grounds. Not all areas are open for visitors, but enough is to give you a good idea of how fabulous this monastery is.
13. Mor Hobil-Mor Abrohom Monastery
Closed since the beginning of the pandemic, unfortunately. Hasn’t been opened yet (August 2023).
You can still go to its front entrance (10 mins on foot from the Old Town) and check it out from the front. It looks imposing and well-kept, but the big gates are not open for visitors. I’m unsure if there are actual monks inside.
14. Meryem Ana Monastery
Closed since the beginning of the pandemic. Hasn’t been opened yet (August 2023).
This monastery also looks well-preserved and looked after, but I couldn’t visit it either, as its doors still remain closed.
Hopefully, it will reopen for visitors soon.
15. Mor Loozor Monastery
Mor Loozor lies in ruins about 8 km northwest of Midyat’s Old Town. You’ll need some imagination if you go there expecting an impressive monastery. Some stones remain, there’s a whiff of mystery, and you can see the monks’ dwellings on the first floor of the remaining ruins.
To get to the ruins, either hike for about 1:40 hours or take a taxi to take you there and back.
How to get to Midyat
Most people travel to Midyat from either Batman or Mardin, with the latter being much more popular. Both cities have relatively frequent, direct minibuses to Midyat.
To get from Mardin to Midyat using public transport, go to Mardin’s Bus Station near the Old Town and take a minibus towards Midyat. There are at least 2 in the morning and at least one more in the afternoon, but for precise details, you have to ask in person.
Where to stay in Mardin
There’s no backpacker accommodation in Mardin and budget options are limited to what you can find on AirBnB.
However, Mardin has some of the most quaint and cute hotels, some set inside caves (like in Cappadocia), some in traditional houses. With impressive interiors and affordable prices, Midyat is an awesome destination for couples!
Here is my top recommendation for a hotel: Shmayaa Hotel.
It is set in an impressive-looking 1600-year-old, restored building, in the historic Eski Midyat. The place just exudes luxury!
Where to after Midyat?
Of course, if you haven’t been to Mardin yet, make sure you make it your next stop.
Otherwise, if you’re going eastwards, you should consider reading my Eastern Turkey Guide.
And if you’re an adventurous traveler seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations, do what I did and take the overnight bus from Cizre (or Diyarbakir, Mardin, or Batman) towards Iraqi Kurdistan!