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Edessa Travel Guide: Notes to Explore Edessa

May 09, 202311 min read.

Edessa offers visitors an exciting journey into its history, visible in each of its corners. In this Edessa travel guide you will find the necessary information to plan your trip.

Edessa General Information

Edessa, also known as Urfa or Şanlıurfa, is a city in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border. It is the capital of Şanlıurfa province and has a population of around 800,000 people.

This city has a long and rich history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the Neolithic. It was an important site in the ancient world, serving as the capital of the independent state of Osroene and later as a major city in the Roman and Byzantine empires.

In the Middle Ages, Edessa was a center of the Crusader states and was ruled by various European and Middle Eastern powers. It later became part of the Ottoman Empire and remained under Ottoman rule until the end of World War I.

Today, Edessa is a modern city with a mix of old and new architecture. The city is a major cultural and economic center in southeastern Turkey, with a thriving textile industry and many places of historical interest.

Some of its notable gems include the ancient city walls, Urfa Castle, and the Holy Fish Pond (Balıklıgöl), considered a holy place by Muslims and Christians alike.

Construction at the foot of a reflecting pool.

Construction at the foot of a reflecting pool.

Picture of ZEKERIYA SEN on Unsplash

Location of Edessa

Bellow, we show you where is located Edessa:

Map of Edessa on Google Maps

The Best Places to Visit in Edessa

There are several places of interest in the city of Edessa. Here we tell you about some of the many places to visit in Edessa, a city rich in history and culture.

The Citadel of Edessa

It is a fortress dating from the 13th century and is located on top of a hill, offering a panoramic view of the city.

The Rizvaniye Mosque

It is a mosque built in the 18th century, with impressive architecture and exquisite interior decoration.

The Edessa Bazaar

It is a traditional Turkish market where you can find local products, handicrafts and typical food products.

The Garden of the Prophet

A holy place for Muslims and Christians, believed to be the birthplace of Abraham according to Islamic tradition.

The Edessa Museum

It is an archaeological museum that houses a collection of artifacts and historical objects dating from the Bronze Age to Roman times.

Balıklıgöl Lake

It is a sacred place for the Turks, where it is believed that the prophet Abraham threw his son into the lake in an act of faith. Currently, it is a popular place to feed the sacred fish that live in the lake.

The House of Saint Peter

It is an Orthodox Christian church believed to have been built on the spot where Saint Peter stayed during his visit to Edessa.

Gobekli Tepe National Park

Located just outside of Edessa, this national park is home to the ruins of an ancient temple dating back more than 10,000 years, making it one of the oldest archaeological sites in the world.

What to Eat and Drink in Edessa

Experiencing Edessa implies tasting its incredible gastronomic offer, since Edessa is known for its rich and varied cuisine, which reflects the cultural diversity of the region.

Among the most popular dishes are the kebabs, which are made with lamb, chicken or beef, and are served with freshly baked bread, salad and a variety of sauces and condiments.

It is also common to find delicious fish and shellfish dishes, as well as vegetarian options such as fresh salads and roasted vegetable dishes.

Among the typical drinks of the region is Turkish tea, an infusion of black tea leaves that is served hot and drunk throughout the day. You can also find a wide variety of natural fruit juices and refreshing smoothies, ideal for combating the summer heat.

As for the desserts, you cannot miss trying the baklava, a delicious cake made with layers of phyllo dough and honey, or the künefe, a dessert made with cheese, semolina and honey.

In short, Edessa's gastronomy is a delight for the senses, with a wide variety of dishes and drinks that reflect the cultural richness of the region.



Picture of kourosh mirzaei on Unsplash

How Is the Culture in Edessa?

The culture in Edessa is rich and diverse, with a long history dating back thousands of years. The city has been inhabited by many different civilizations over time, and each has left its mark on the region's culture and identity.

Religion is an important part of the culture in Edessa, and the city is considered a holy place by both Muslims and Christians. The Prophet's Garden, for example, is a sacred place for both religions, and is believed to be the birthplace of Abraham according to Islamic tradition.

Music and dance are also an integral part of the culture in Edessa. Traditional music includes instruments such as the oud (a type of lute), the kanun (a type of zither), and the darbuka (a drum), and groups of musicians can be found on the streets and in the city's markets.

Crafts are another important part of culture in Edessa, and the city is famous for its handmade rugs and rugs, as well as ceramics and leather goods. You can also find jewelry and metal objects engraved with traditional designs and floral motifs.

Finally, hospitality is an essential part of the culture in Edessa. The locals are known for being friendly and welcoming to visitors, and it is common to be invited to share a cup of tea and chat with them in the markets and shops of the city.

In short, the culture in Edessa is a unique mix of religion, music, crafts and hospitality, reflecting the diversity and richness of the region.

How to Get to Edessa

There are several ways to get to Edessa, depending on your starting point and budget. Here are some options:

  1. By plane: The closest airport to Edessa is Şanlıurfa Airport (GNY), which is located about 35 kilometers (22 miles) southwest of the city. There are daily flights to Şanlıurfa airport from Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities in Turkey. From the airport, you can take a taxi or a shuttle to Edessa.
  2. By bus: There are regular bus services to Edessa from all major cities in Turkey, including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. The journey from Istanbul takes around 16 hours while the journey from Ankara takes around 10 hours. You can book tickets online or at the bus stations.
  3. By train: There is no train station in Edessa, but you can take a train to nearby cities like Gaziantep or Şanlıurfa and then take a bus or taxi to Edessa. The Turkish State Railways (TCDD) operates regular train services to Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa from Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities in Turkey.
  4. By car: If you have a car, you can drive to Edessa from other cities in Turkey. The city is located about 950 kilometers (590 miles) southeast of Istanbul and about 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of Ankara. The journey takes 12-15 hours from Istanbul and 8-10 hours from Ankara.

How to Get Around in Edessa?

To get around in Edessa, there are several transportation options available. A common way to get around is on foot, as the city is relatively compact and many of the tourist attractions are located in the old town, which is easy to navigate on foot.

Another option is to take a taxi or a dolmuş (a shared minibus), which are cheap and can be found in the main streets and squares of the city.

Taxis are a convenient option for those who prefer to avoid walking long distances, while dolmuş are a cheaper option for traveling longer distances.

For those who prefer a more eco-friendly option, the City of Edessa also has rental bikes available at various locations throughout the city. This is ideal for those who want to explore the city at their own pace and enjoy the scenery.

Lastly, there are also public transport services available in the city, including buses and trams.

Buses are a cheap option and can be found at the main bus stations in the city. On the other hand, the tram is a faster and more comfortable option for those who want to travel longer distances.

Private Transfers

If you are looking for the most comfortable and safe option, here you will find the information you need to book your private transfer with Greca.

Best Time to Visit Edessa

The best time to visit Edessa depends on your preferences and what you plan to do while you're there. The climate in Edessa is generally hot and dry in summer and cool and rainy in winter. Here are some considerations for each season:

  1. Summer (June to August): The summer months can be very hot in Edessa, with temperatures often exceeding 95°F (35°C). However, this is a great time to visit if you enjoy the outdoors and want to explore the city's many historical sites and cultural attractions.
  2. Autumn (September to November): Autumn is a good time to visit Edessa, as the weather is mild and comfortable, with temperatures averaging between 15°C and 25°C (59°F and 77°F). . This is a great time to explore the city's outdoor attractions, such as the Balıklıgöl Pool and the Harran Ruins.
  3. Winter (December to February): Winters in Edessa can be cold and rainy, with temperatures dropping to around 5°C (41°F) or below. However, if you don't mind the cold, this is a good time to visit if you want to see the city's historical sites without the crowds.
  4. Spring (March to May): Spring is another great time to visit Edessa, as the weather is mild and the city's parks and gardens are in full bloom. Average temperatures range from 50 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 20 degrees Celsius), making it a comfortable time to explore the city on foot.

In general, the best time to visit Edessa is in the fall or spring, when the weather is mild and comfortable. However, if you don't mind the heat, summer can also be a great time to visit.

Festivals of Edessa

Edessa is known for its vibrant festival scene that attracts tourists from all over the world. Here are some of the most popular festivals in Edessa:

  1. Cherry Festival: This annual festival is held in June and celebrates the cherry harvest in the region. It includes activities such as cherry tasting, recipe contests and live music.
  2. International Festival of the University of Edessa: This festival is held every year in July and is organized by the University of Edessa. The event includes art exhibits, concerts, theater performances, and a variety of workshops and lectures.
  3. Edessa International Film Festival: This festival takes place in September and features a selection of international films in a variety of genres. There are also workshops and discussions related to cinema.
  4. Euphrates River Festival: This annual festival takes place in October and focuses on outdoor activities such as water sports and fishing competitions on the Euphrates River.
  5. Edessa Winter Festival: This festival is held in December and features a variety of festive activities and events, including Christmas music concerts, light shows, and holiday fairs.

These are just a few of the many festivals held in Edessa, making it an exciting destination for travelers looking to experience Turkish culture and tradition at its best.

Is Edessa Worth Visiting?

Of course! Edessa stands out for its incredible historical legacy and its fascinating culture.

In turn, due to its proximity to Olympia and Delphi, many travelers combine their visit to Edessa with these destinations, so you will find these sites in several of our offers.

Are you looking to marvel at the most incredible landscapes? Do you want to know a fascinating culture? Do you want to visit historical sites?

If your answer is "yes", at Greca we have several proposals for tourist packages to Edessa, which you can modify and adapt according to your needs and times.

There are travel packages for all tastes. Choose your own adventure according to your needs!

More Travel Guides!

If you have been interested in our Edessa travel guide and want to continue learning about this and other wonderful destinations, we invite you to look at the section of all our Travel Guides. Plan your next adventure with Greca!

What kind of weather can I expect in Edessa?

Edessa has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and cool winters. Temperatures can oscillate between 15 °C and 35 °C during the year.

Is it necessary to have any vaccinations before traveling to Edessa?

There are no required vaccinations to travel to Edessa. However, it is recommended to update routine vaccinations, such as tetanus and diphtheria.

Is it safe to travel to Edessa as a solo female?

Edessa is a relatively safe tourist destination for solo female travelers. However, the usual precautions should be taken to avoid potentially dangerous situations, such as walking alone on dimly lit streets at night.

Is English spoken in Edessa?

Turkish is the official language of Edessa, but many people speak basic English, especially in tourist areas. Learning a few basic phrases in Turkish can help you communicate better with the locals.

What kind of clothing is appropriate to wear in Edessa?

Edessa is a conservative city, so it is appropriate to wear clothing that covers the shoulders and legs. It is recommended to avoid tight or revealing clothing.

Is it necessary to haggle in the markets and shops of Edessa?

Yes, haggling is a common practice in Edessa's markets and shops. Buyers are expected to haggle over prices, but always with respect and cordiality.

What are the best ways to experience the culture of Edessa?

A good way to get to know the culture of Edessa is by visiting the city's historical and religious sites, as well as attending cultural events and festivals. It is also advisable to interact with the locals to learn about their customs and traditions.

Is there some kind of social etiquette that I should be aware of before traveling to Edessa?

In general, it is important to show respect and consideration for local traditions and customs. For example, in religious places, it is necessary to remove your shoes before entering and cover your head if you are a woman.

Is it necessary to bring cash or are credit cards accepted in Edessa?

In general, most establishments accept credit cards, but it is advisable to carry cash for small purchases and transactions. ATMs are available in the city to withdraw cash.

What kind of outdoor activities can I do in Edessa?

Edessa offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including nature walks, bike rides, hot air balloon rides, and boat rides on the Euphrates River. There are also several parks and gardens in the city to enjoy a picnic or a relaxing day in the fresh air.

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