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Aksaray is a city in Central Anatolia, 240 km southeast of Ankara and about 50 km west of Cappadocia. In 2021 the city had a population of 247,147, with another 68,000 living in the small towns and villages of Aksaray Province.

Aksaray is highly underrated—it is lively and authentic with barely any tourists, cheap accommodation and countless interesting sights around.


Cappadocia was a Persian kingdom from 331 BC to 17 AD and its last independent ruler Archelaus thought it would be neat if this town was named Archelaïs. He was unpopular with his subjects and ran out of money - the Romans invited him to Rome to discuss ways they could help, and when they'd done discussing, Archelaus was mysteriously dead. So the Romans took over the territory and renamed the town Colonia, just so everyone understood their status.

The town was on the Silk Road, the trading highway to Konya from the east of the country, and away over the far mountains from Persia. It came under the rule of the Seljuks from the 11th century, who adorned it with their distinctive architecture, building stout caravanserai to protect the travelling traders. The next brief dynasty was the Karamanids, then the Ottomans won it in 1470. By then the town had its present name of Aksaray meaning "white palace", of which no trace remains. Many residents relocated to Constantinople at that time, so there's a neighbourhood of Aksaray in present-day Istanbul.

Later trade was of salt (essential in the days before refrigeration) harvested from the great salt lake to the north. Aksaray today is an industrial town that you pass through on the road to Cappadocia but don't linger.

Get in[edit]

By bus[edit]

  • 1 Otogarı (4 km west of town just off D750 / D300.). The main bus station is modern but has limited facilities. Take a dolmuş to get downtown—the fare may be included in your bus ticket, enquire when booking.

Buses from Istanbul run every hour or so via Gebze and Ankara, taking 10 hours for a single fare in 2022 of 300 TL. (From Ankara takes 3 hr 30 min.) These buses continue via Konya and Isparta to Antalya, another 9 hours.

Buses from Izmir run every hour or two via Uşak, Afyon and Konya to Aksaray; from Konya takes 2 hours. They continue across Cappadocia via Nevşehir, Göreme and Avanos to Kayseri.

From Nevsehir bus station (west of town) a local minibus is no more than about €3 (50 TL as of May 2022). Larger bus companies will also take you along the ride, just don't pay more than for the minibus. Get of near the center of Aksaray, not at the bus station.

By road[edit]

By road from Istanbul head east past Ankara onto O-21 towards Adana. Exit at Acıkuyu onto D757 / D750 into town. D300 is the east-west highway Kayseri-Cappadocia-Aksaray-Konya. D750 south eventually rejoins O-21.

By train[edit]

There is no railway service to Aksaray. YHT fast trains run from Istanbul to Ankara and Konya.

Get around[edit]

It would make sense to rent a car (check Google Maps and ratings), but as soon as you are out of the city hitchhiking is also possible. So, it can be a good idea to rely on buses and your thumb if you are not in too much of a hurry.

  • 2 Eski Garaj. The former bus station on Atatürk Blv in town centre. Dolmuş routes radiate from here.


  • 1 Grand Mosque (Ulu Camii), 717th Sk. It's also known as Karamanoğlu Mehmed Bey Mosque, as it was built in 1408 during the Karaman reign. The detached minaret was added in 1925. Free. Ulu Camii (Q6038539) on Wikidata Grand Mosque of Aksaray on Wikipedia
  • Governor's Office and other handsome early Republican buildings are in the square 200 m southwest of Grand Mosque. The street on the square's north flank is optimistically called Turizm Cd.
    Courtyard of Sultan Han
  • 2 Zinciriye Medrese, Belediye Cd 28. M-Sa 09:00-17:00. This was built in 1336 and has a fine facade. Enter from the east via the elaborate Crown Gate. In the 19th century it became a jail then a museum and is now a library and cultural centre. Zinciriye Mosque is 200 m north. Free. (Q6070199) on Wikidata
  • Kılıçaslan Hamams are 12th century bath houses on the riverbank opposite Red Minaret Mosque. In modern times they became garbage dumps but are under restoration.
  • 3 Red Mosque and leaning minaret (Eğri Minare Camii), Nevşehir Cd 2. The mosque and minaret date from 1306, the Seljuk era. The red-brick minaret leans (hence Eğri) at an angle of just over 3°, with its upper section collared by steel braces. It looks more like an old factory chimney in Salford than the leaning tower of Pisa (tilt 4°), but you can't blame the tourist office for trying. The tilt probably reflects subsidence shortly after construction and appears stable. Free. Aksaray Red Mosque (Q116044582) on Wikidata Red Minaret Mosque on Wikipedia
  • Bridges. Walking from the leaning minaret down the river, you will see many beautiful bridges that get illuminate during the night.
  • 4 Yusuf Hakiki Baba Complex. Includes the elegant tombs of Islamic saint Somuncu Baba (Sheyh Hamid-i Vali 1331–1412) and the scholar Cemaleddin (Şeyh Cemaleddin Aksarayî’ni, 12th century). There's also a mosque, library, display place and exhibition hall.
  • 5 Aksaray Museum, Konya Cd 16 (500 m east of Otogar next to Grand Çakıroğlu Hotel), +90 3822155636. Tu-Su 09:00-16:30. Small but informative museum of the area's history and prehistory. Free. Aksaray Museum (Q6015876) on Wikidata Aksaray Museum on Wikipedia
  • Science Museum (Aksaray Bilim Merkezi), Değirmen Sk (200 m north of main museum), +90 382 215 5636. Tu-F 09:00-17:00, Sa Su 10:00=18:00. Child-friendly science museum. Free.

Further afield[edit]

Many more places are in close reach around Güzelyurt, like Ihlara valley.

Çanlı Kilise
  • 6 Sultan Han (40 km west of town). Daily 08:00-18:00. A caravanserai of 1229, one of the finest Seljuk structures. Astride a trade route, it's a sturdy little fort designed against banditry and thievery not major assault. A decorated marble gateway leads into the open-air summer courtyard, now lined by souvenir shops. The kiosk mosque in the middle has steps to keep the camels out. A second courtyard is covered for winter shelter. Sultan Han (Q3503565) on Wikidata Sultan Han on Wikipedia
  • 7 Ağzıkara Han (17 km east of town). A richly-decorated caravanserai of 1230/40. Access has been closed for years. Ağzıkarahan (Q794728) on Wikidata Ağzıkara Han on Wikipedia
  • Tepesi Delik Han (another 5 km along that road). It is nowadays a cafe, souvenir shop and filling station. Alay Han another 10 km east is derelict.
  • 8 Acemhöyük (18 km northeast). An archaeological site with nothing for casual visitors to see. But look out for its artefacts in museums: the finest, the "Pratt Ivories", are now in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art but were probably looted. Acemhöyük (Q8438175) on Wikidata Acemhöyük on Wikipedia
  • 9 Çanlı Kilise (meaning "bell church") (in the hills 15 km south of town). It's the ruin of a 10th / 11th century Byzantine church, and the chief building of an ancient village cut into the mountainside. It looks like the village fell on hard times, as the houses were later subdivided, and abandoned in the 14th century. Approach by the road from Akhisar village, which crosses the hills into Ihlara Valley. Çanlı Kilise (Q6006070) on Wikidata Çanlı Kilise on Wikipedia
  • 10 Hasan Dağı (30 km south of town, approach it from the north flank.). The twin-peaked dormant volcano looming southwest of town. The east summit is at 3,069 m and the west at 3,253 m—the prominence is only 1,000 m as it sits on the Anatolian plateau. It arose some 10 million years ago when the African tectonic plate collided with Eurasia: the last eruption was 3000 years ago but as the tectonic plates are still in motion, it's considered dormant not extinct. Access is from the north, along the unsealed road off D750 at Taşpınar through Gözlükuyu to Karkin. A track suitable for 4WD hairpins up from Karkin to the trailhead at Hotel Karbeyaz. The summit ascent is not technically difficult but be prepared for strong cold winds and snow underfoot. Mount Hasan (Q1302768) on Wikidata Mount Hasan on Wikipedia
  • 11 Tuz Gölü (meaning "salt lake") (Best accessed by the road north of Aksaray.). A name applied to dozens of saline lakes in Turkey but in season this is the largest, some 40 km north-south by 20 km east-west. In summer it dries up completely, leaving salt pans and a completely white, flat landscape - effectively a salt desert. You can walk around or even harvest salt with your own hands. Known in ancient times as Tatta (Greek: ἡ Τάττα), it was a freshwater lake which at some point in prehistory had its outlets blocked and the climate became arid, so it evaporated and became hypersaline. In spring and autumn, migratory birds throng its lagoons and salt pans on their route between Europe and Africa. It's best to visit in early summer when there's ankle-deep water to paddle into and view the dreamlike mirror-reflection of the sky and far shore. Access is from various points along D750 towards Ankara.
    One area to visit is the distinctly pink southeast pool, wherever you can find a track branching that side of the highway—though, never stop on busy D750. Maybe pass by the turnoff from the town of Şereflikoçhisar, as this track leads to commercial salt pans.
    12 Altuğlar at the junction of D750 and D757 is a good access point for Tuz Gölü especially approaching from Ankara; a rash of souvenir kiosks tells you tourists are expected. Access is free, you can buy overpriced salt and soap but that's better bought in town and comes from the same place. Don't pay for cleaning your feet, just walk straight out to the bus park, where you will find plenty of water for cleaning the buses. Wear good shoes and sunglasses as the glare from the saltpan intensifies the sunlight.
    Lake Tuz (Q211823) on Wikidata Lake Tuz on Wikipedia
  • 13 Kaman (East from Tuz Gölü across the Kızılırmak Valley.). The town is mildly famous for its walnuts regionally, but is otherwise undistinguished. Kaman (Q1074968) on Wikidata Kaman, Kırşehir on Wikipedia
  • 14 Çağırkan (8 km (5.0 mi) further east of Kaman.). Daily 08:00-19:00. The wonderful Prince Mikasa Memorial Garden (free entry), a hillside Japanese garden combining all traditional design elements. The perimeter of the garden, which seamlessly morphes into the barren outcrops towering over, is marked by serene Scots pine stands, all in a great contrast with the open fields and the arid steppelands below. Its supposedly unlikely location is due to the excavations conducted by Japanese archaeologists at the Kalehöyük mound next door; the finds are exhibited in an adjacent. Museum: 20 TL as of 2022. Çağırkan (Q10839246) on Wikidata


Ihlara Valley, the canyon of Melendiz River
  • 1 Lunapark, 33rd Cd. (1 km west of town centre). Daily 14:00-00:00. A chain fairground.
  • Ihlara valley – For hiking and rock-climbing near Güzelyurt.


  • Migros is the main supermarket, on Atatürk Blv opposite Eski Garaj. It's open daily 09:00-22:00.
  • Nora City is a shopping mall 200 m northeast of Migros on Atatürk Blv.
  • Lots of small neighbourhood stores, A101 is the main chain.


  • 1 Künefeland, +90 3822136344. Daily 10:00-00:00. Just a 4.1 rating on Big Brother, but definitely worth a visit with sweet, delicious and affordable Künefe.
  • Riverside along Ebulfeyz Elçibey Cd is the main eating strip. Choices include Sofra, Etci, Künefeland, Has Döner, Şehzade, Çiğerci Bahattin, Elçibey, Domino's Pizza, Omur Baba and Kardeşler.
  • Several more in the park upriver.


  • Mert Birahanesi is at Kalealtı Cd 58. Don't look for head-banging music in Teknobar just south, it's a construction company.
  • Many cafes and restaurants serve beer.


Sleep? Mount Hasan is dormant not extinct
  • 1 Grand Altuntaş Hotel, Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu Blv 150 (5 km northeast off D300), +90 382 212 0808. Smart comfy hotel on the highway to Cappadocia. B&B double 1,500 TL.
  • 2 Grand Çakıroğlu Hotel, 5719th Cd (block south of road to bus station), +90 382 217 1010. Clean modern hotel 3 km west of town, free parking. B&B double 800 TL.
  • Grand Saatçioğlu Otel, Turizm Cd (200 m southwest of Grand Mosque), +90 382 214 2020. Clean, comfy and central. B&B double 800 TL.
  • 3 Melendiz Hotel (Ağaçlı), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Blv (junction of D750 and D300), +90 382 215 2400. Modern hotel with spa at north edge of town, convenient for motorists. B&B double 1,000 TL.
  • 4 Otel Ahsaray, Ebulfeyz Elçibey Cd 1, +90 382 216 1600. Smart clean hotel just off D750 junction. B&B double 1,000 TL.
  • 5 Süvari Hotel, Taşpazar, 800, +90 3822155050. Comfortable and clean hotel with breakfast. From €27 B&B.
  • Tezcan Otel is a basic but acceptable place off Vehbiby Cd, a block east of Zinciriye Madrasa.
  • Üç Yıldız Otel, Bankalar Cd 57 (northwest side of Grand Mosque), +90 382 214 0000. Üç Yıldız means "three stars" which is about right. Very central, good value for comfort and welcome. B&B double 800 TL.


Aksaray and its approach roads have 4G from all Turkish carriers. As of Nov 2022, 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.

Go next[edit]

  • Güzelyurt and Ihlara valley – 30 km southeast are the closest parts of strange Cappadocia scenery, a fantastic landscape of volcanic tufa and ancient religious sites.
  • Nevşehir, Göreme and Avanos – Cappadocia's main tourist bases.
  • Kayseri – Further east has an ancient citadel and old town.
  • Konya – Was the home of the Mevlani, the Sufi "whirling dervishes".
  • Ankara – North, is a sprawling modern city but with many sights of interest in its historic centre.

Routes through Aksaray
Ankara (S) ←  N  S  NiğdeAdana
AfyonkarahisarKonya  W  E  NevşehirKayseri
ZonguldakAnkara  N  S  (W / E) → PozantıTarsus

This city travel guide to Aksaray is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.