Adana for a combined city and mountain break

By | Category: Travel destinations
Looking over Lake Seyan

Looking over Lake Seyan

Adana, the fifth most populated city in Turkey, lies on the banks of Seyhan River and is located in the unspoiled Adana Province in Çukurova region. This ancient city which goes back to the Neolithic Period also has strong connections to early civilizations such as that of the Sumerians, Assyrians, Persians and Romans.

Despite being only about twenty miles from the Mediterranean Sea, Adana is comparatively unknown to tourists and it is only in the last few decades that tourism has begun to develop here. Yet the city has a rich heritage going back 8,000 years and would prove to be an ideal candidate coupled with a beach for a twin centre holiday say with the beach at Yumurtalik.

I found Adana a very clean and lively city, blessed with the beauty of a central park. This modern city has all the features of a European city with newly furbished streets in the shopping district and high rise hotels and residential buildings, but it has kept its Eastern character in the old town with traditional mosques, schools (Madrasah), Hamams and the Bazzar.

serving tea - Turkish style - at breakfast

serving tea – Turkish style – at breakfast

I started my day in the region by having a delightful Turkish breakfast in a restaurant in Parkzirve atop a hill overlooking Lake Seyhan and the Seyhan Dam, which was built as a hydroelectric barrier in the 1950s. It was refreshing to be in an atmospheric setting watching the opposite island below and the ships crossing the waterway. A typical Turkish breakfast includes local bread, a variety of olives, tomatoes, cucumber and ham  with fresh double cream, honey and jams washed down with Turkish black tea served in a small, traditional slim glass teacup. It is a tradition for Turks to go out for their breakfast and have it in a local restaurant. Our breakfast would not be complete without Turkish coffee in a little decorated cup served with sweet Turkish delight.

one of many sunflower fields

one of many sunflower fields

Before going back to the city I headed to the countryside to find the natural beauty of the vast fields of wheat, corn, sunflowers and other produce. We drove in winding narrow roads through the Taurus Mountains and stopped for a short break to see Yerkopru where a river disappears under the rocks. We continued our journey in steep roads across green velvet forests higher and higher until we reached a huge valley surrounded by a long range of mountains.

Varda viaduct

Varda viaduct

We approached the Varda Viaduct, a railway bridge with stone arches and foothold structural columns built by German engineers in 1916, during the Othman era, to connect Istanbul to Baghdad. This man made structure has made appearances in films including the James Bond Film, Skyfall, in 2012. The site is a tourist attraction with a kiosk next to the rocky mountain serving Turkish tea and coffee to visitors who travel there for leisure and hiking. I was told that the train only runs once a day early in the mornings, therefore it is safe for people to wander on the railway line when there is no train.

the river passing through the canyon

the river passing through the canyon

We continued our journey snaking around the mountains, passing the small villages and watching the villagers in the scattered wooden houses. There were rocky green forests on both sides of the road. At one point our car stopped for several minutes when the road was blocked by a sea of sheep that were herded by two shepherds. We reached an open field where on one side was a huge valley and, on the other, a rocky mountain within a canyon called Kapikaya Kanyonu. A river was passing through this breathtaking sight causing sheers in the rocks. Here, families hike and walk and it provides an undemanding trek for all but the most unfit.

The Tarsus Mountains

The Tarsus Mountains

It was a long morning to discover the countryside around Adana. After having a traditional lunch in one of Adana’s trendy streets in the Liberation Quarter – full of cafes and restaurants – I decided it was time to learn about the old city.

Like many cities in the UK, you can tour the city in an open-air bus which is what I did. As we passed through the city, we could sense and see the warmth of the people as we heard greetings from passerbys in the streets who were waving at us. It was a bright, sunny day and an ideal time for local people to do window-shopping in some of the fancy boutique streets and wander around in the parks. Our first stop was Olgunlasma Enstitusu opposite Attaturk Park. This is a small museum or really a gallery displaying Islamic artwork, including calligraphy and handcrafts from students who work for the institute. Many of them were inspired from clothes and artwork from the Ottoman period.

The Oil Mosque

The Oil Mosque – Yag Cami

We continued our journey in the streets of Adana in the modern part of the city and eventually got out of the bus in the corner of a street market to experience the old town. There were several stands selling fruit, vegetables and dates in the street market of Ali Munif. At the end of the street was Yağ Cami (Oil Mosque), an historical monument that was built in 1501 over the ruins of a church. It was called ‘Oil Mosque’ because it used to be next to an oil market in the sixteenth century. We continued our journey through Ali Munif in a uniformly designed market built to resemble the traditional old markets. There were many shops selling fishing nets and tools. At the far end of the market and close to Ziyapasa Park is a Clock Tower built in 1882 and claimed to be the highest clock tower in Turkey. Abidin Pasha the governor of Adana built the tower in the heart of the old town so that it could be seen by locals and farmers from all directions.

Opposite the tower is Carsi Hamami, an old bathhouse built in 1529 which is still in operation and provides services half day to women and half day to men. We continued our journey in the old town through Ziyapasa Park and reached the Great Mosque (Ulu Cami), built in 1513 in Kızılay street close to Ramazanoğlu Hall, an old residence and government office in 16th century. Opposite the mosque is an old Madrasah that is part of Ulu Cami complex. The mosque architecture is a combination of Seljuk and Mamluk styles.

inside the mosque

inside the mosque

We continued our tour of the city in the bus until we reached a Stone Bridge called Taşköprü. The ancient structure is a Roman Bridge built in the 2nd century crossing over Seyhan River connecting two parts of the town. It also used to be a key trade route between the Mediterranean Sea and Persia carrying all kinds of goods. It has been designated as a pedestrian only zone since 2007, in order to preserve its heritage.

The end of our tour was a visit to the magnificent Sabancı Central Mosque (Merkez Cami) built in 1989 by Sabancı family who own the largest companies in Turkey. The exterior and interior of this largest mosque in Turkey is very similar to Selimiye Mosque in Edirne and the Blue mosque in Istanbul. As I entered the mosque, which is decorated by Arabic calligraphy inscribing verses of Quran, I felt a great sense of its spirituality.

One of many date stalls in the market

One of many date stalls in the market

My day trip in Adana and the surrounding countryside was only a glimpse of a beautiful city, which has a lot to offer to visitors. The closeness of Adana to Mersin and Tarsus makes it a great place to stay and plan a visit to several nearby historical sites including the main attraction such as the roman road, St Paul’s church and well, the ancient bath house, the Grand Mosque and the old neighborhood in Tarsus. As you drive along the coast with palm trees in the Mersin region you get the same feeling as you get in the south of France going from Cannes to Monte Carlo or St Tropez. You also have many options to visit ancient sites around Mersin including Kızkalesi castle, Alahan Monastery, Tasucu St. Thecla sanctuary, Aynalı (Glinka) Cave, Yerköprü Waterfall, Mamure (Anamur) Castle, the ancient city of Anamurium and many more interesting sites.

I certainly wish to return to this region and visit all those must see places in Adana and taste the variety of fruits, cuisines and Turkish delights.

gondola's ply some of the waterway attracting tourists to see some of the sights. If it wrks in Venice, then why not here?

gondola’s ply some of the Seyhan River attracting tourists (and locals) to see some of the sights. If it works in Venice, then why not here?

Getting there:

There are no direct flights to Adana. Turkish Airlines runs regular flights from Gatwick and Heathrow to Adana via Istanbul. From London Victoria, both Gatwick Express and Southern have services to Gatwick but Southern is cheaper and the journey time is only a little longer. Heathrow is served by the tube (Piccadilly line) and Heathrow Express.

For more information about Adana and Turkey, visit http://www.gototurkey.co.uk or click here.

Images and story © Mohammed Reza Amirinia

For more images of the Adana region visit www.amirinia.com/turkey or click here.

 

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