Brief History of Antakya
Founded in 300 B.C.E. by a general serving under Alexander the Great, this city was the epicenter of caravan routes which extended from Persia and Asia and ended at the Mediterranean. This helped it to both survive and prosper during the Roman and Byzantine empires. Its seaport on the mouth of the Orontes River then served to transport the traded goods even further along to more western-reaching countries. During the Roman empire, Antioch was considered the 3rd largest city behind Rome and Alexandria. It is widely regarded as the earliest site of Christianity. This region is where followers of Christ became officially dubbed “Christians”.
Antakya Places of Note
As with many other cities and destinations around Turkey, numerous archeological and architectural ruins remain throughout, and they are worth checking out. The Church of St. Peter, for example, is an UNESCO world heritage site, one of many in Turkey, and for good reason. Built within a large natural cave, It is believed to be the church where Saint Peter- the first pope- preached the first sermons about Jesus Christ, thus it is considered to be one of the oldest churches in the world.
Habib Enajjar Moschee is the oldest surviving mosque in Antakya, and was constructed in the 17th century during the Ottoman empire. The city’s religious significance for multiple different religions and proximity to Jerusalem makes it a frequent stopping point between followers of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths who are on pilgrimages to the holy cities in the region.
The popular and frequently-visited Hatay Archeological Museum is a short ride from the center of Antakya. This building contains many artifacts found from ancient Antioch that preservationists felt would be better protected and admired if they were exhibited here. The entrance fee is 15tl. Once inside, customers can get a glimpse of Hatay’s history from the neolithic era all the way up to the fall of the Ottoman empire. This museum has one of the largest mosaic collections in the world. Here you can see mosaic floors recently extracted from in the delta of the Orontes River, and learn about their current excavation efforts and new finds.
Nature in Antakya
For those willing to step away from the more bustling views of the city, Harbiye Falls park is an astounding natural landscape with multiple waterfalls. It is a perfect place to take family or friends on a day trip around the area. Many cafes are positioned around the area to sit and relax while still enjoying the outdoor scenery. Some restaurants have taken it even further, positioning their tables in shallow water so those who dine there can kick back with their feet in the cool water. This park is a 2 hour drive from the city center.
The climate in Antakya is fairly reasonable in summer months. Its closeness to the Mediterranean ocean helps with this. Average daily temperatures in June-August range from 19-32 degrees Celsius, July being the hottest month and August the driest.
The Hatay airport, located 19km north of Antakya, is a convenient way to get to the city center. However, due to the airport’s smaller size, it is not as easy to find a cheaper flight, much less a direct one. Many will have more luck flying in through the city of Adana, Şakirpaşa Airport. It is then roughly 3 hours by car or bus to Antakya. This is something to consider once traveling to this region.