Day 10 was our final “real” day of the trip, as Day 11 was spent driving from Malatya back to Ankara. And it was a great day to end with! We decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and go to Hasan Paşa Hanı for a full Turkish breakfast. It is a 16th century Han (former traveler’s inn) with a large 2 level courtyard. The upper level is filled with breakfast spots and the ground floor has a mix of breakfast areas and small shops. Definitely pick an upper level spot for great views!
Even at 9 am on a Saturday it was hopping! Turkish breakfast doesn’t take too long though, as it all comes out at once, so the turn over was pretty fast. DH and I love Turkish breakfast, but the kids eat very limited parts of it. Breakfast included tea, coffee, or water, plus various types of cheeses, jams, honey, olives, cucumbers, tomato slices, various other spreads and pastes, bread basket, spring roll things, potato wedges, and a dish of egg and et doner (thinly sliced meat from a spick). This was a fairly typical Turkish breakfast, though the type of egg dish can vary. I more typically see sucak (Turkish sausage) rather than et doner. One time we got yaprak sarma (grape leaves wrapped around rice), which is DD’s favorite Turkish food and thrilled her. Breakfast for the 2 adults was 130 tl (about $17). The kids just shared off of our platter.
After breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and headed to Mount Nemrut, a 2.5 hour drive away. We drove over the Euphrates River, which was cool as that morning we also saw the Tigris River–two in one day! The turn from the main road to the mountain road was a bit tricky-combination of construction, very small mountain road, and GPS being a bit off. We wound up through a village and through some very narrow roads and then started seeing signs for Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dağı), which helped! This is the point to navigate to.
But what is Mount Nemrut? If you’re like I was before this trip, you’ve never heard of it. They are giant stone heads (that used to be one giant stone statues) on top of a mountain that were built by King Antiochus I Epiphanes, who ruled from 64 to 38 BC. He had 3 terraces cut into the mountain and installed massive statues of himself and various gods (Greek and Persian). This mountaintop became a sanctuary to worship the king. Not much is left of the north terrace, but many of the heads (and in some cases bodies) remain on the East and West terraces. This site wasn’t fully documented until the 1990s! (though it was found earlier).
Statues include lions and eagles, as well as King Antiochus, Tyche (goddess of fortune), Zeus, Apollo, and Hercules. The bodies are 8-9 meters tall and the heads are 2.5-3.5 meters tall.
There is a visitor’s center as you approach the site. During high tourist season, you park there and take a dolmus/shuttle up to the actual site. But with low tourist numbers, we got to park, have a bathroom break, buy entry tickets, and then drive the rest of the way up. Entry was 25 tl or free with MuseKart. The site is open sunrise to sunset according to their signs. The visitor’s center was cute. Western toilets, very cute gift shop, and a small cafe with beverages and tost (panini style bread with sausage and kasarli cheese inside. Could also request just cheese).
From the final parking lot, there is a short but fairly steep hike up to the statues. Hiking up to the East Terrace is definitely harder than to the West Terrace. The East side (which we did) had (at least in mid October) a ton of beetles that the kids called “Dumb Beetles” because they really just flew around and ran into things. They were annoying and flew at kid eye level (didn’t get as high as my eyes) and they kept running into us. Didn’t bite or sting. Just ran into things. The West side didn’t have as many. The East side also had rougher terrain at the end. You could go up the West side, circle the top to the East, and then finish the circle and go back down the West again.
The views at the top were great and the labels were in English and Turkish. On the East side we were the only ones there, and on the West there were a few other tourists. Numbers increase the closer you get to sunset, unsurprisingly. We enjoyed our walk around the top of the mountain, and we even were able to do a quick FaceTime chat with my mom and stepdad from the top to let them do a quick armchair travel “trip”! I was impressed we had good enough reception up there!
On the way down, we stopped at the cafe for a snack, and then headed on to Malatya. This portion of the drive gave us the most debate as to the best route. We consulted Google and Apple Maps. Apple Maps has better satellite imagery than Google Maps by far. We decided to take the route that GoogleMaps suggested as the shortest time-wise, though definitely the most winding. I’d say the maps were an accurate portrayal of the route, but it was a bit unnerving!
We spent 2.5 hours winding down from the mountain top north to Malatya, with all but the last little bit being very narrow and twisty. Not a route to do in the rain or in the winter. Snow or ice or slickness would be a significant challenge. We had many sections of road that were technically 2-way but we were very glad not to meet another car coming our way. It was a gorgeous route though! DD gets very motion sick, so I was worried about her-but she slept the entire way down! And then tried to claim it was not a twisty road as she slept through it! I spent the entire drive warning DH of upcoming hairpin turns by staring at my phone GPS. Both the car GPS and phone GPS occasionally lost reception and had no idea where we were. We did the last bit of the road in the dark and we were glad most of it was daylight. Especially since our original plan had been to do Mount Nemrut at sunset, which would have made the whole drive in the night. Depending on your route, there are closer places than Malatya to spend the night. However, we wanted to head towards the direction of Ankara for our final drive home.
We spent our final night on the road at the Ramada in Malatya. It has a parking garage and our room had a king and a twin. No dinner restaurant in the hotel, but across the street was a pizza place called Orient Pizza. It was decent pizza and very cheap, so the kids were happy. The bed in the hotel was comfortable.
We didn’t see anything in Malatya except the hotel and the pizza place. If we had had more time, the apricot and copper bazaars are supposed to be quite good and there is Aslantepe, a Hittite site, not too far out of town. There is also an Archaeological Museum that my guide book recommended.
On day 11, we drove from Malatya back to Ankara. It was 7.5 hours of pretty easy driving. The half way point is Kayseri, which made it a logical lunch spot. On the Eastern side of Kayseri as you bypass it there are a few restaurant options. We ended up passing Kayseri, and stopping at Çalıbey et lokantası which was very conveniently located right off the road. It had a large parking lot, large restaurant clearly popular with the traveling crowd, and decent bathrooms.