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Immerse yourself in Anatolia’s captivating history on an expedition to modern-day Bogazkale to visit the ancient city of Hattusa. Given their immense historical value, these magnificent remains of the fallen capital of the Hittite Empire joined the long list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1986.
Ankara or Cappadocia hotel
Time-traveling machines may strictly belong to sci-fi films and books, but historical sites have proven time and again that you don’t need one to travel to the past; all you need is a good pair of eyes and your imagination.
Hattusa is one such site, and considering its Hittite roots; it is the only one of its kind. The ancient city will transport you 4000 years back to the bronze age and reveal the story of a people considered a myth for the better part of modern history.
The site is pretty extensive, so prepare for a couple of hours of trekking and a few engaging history lessons, facts, and legends.
Even now, 1400 years later, the entrance to the Hittite capital of Hattusa feels like the entrance to the greatest city in the world.
Depending on where you’ll be at the time of the tour, private transfer from your hotel to Alacahoyuk or early morning drive from Ankara or Cappadocia to Bogazkale.
The story of the land where Hattusa lies starts around 5,000 years ago, three millennia before the birth of Christ. An indigenous people, the Hatti, occupied the land around modern-day Bogazkale and called the area “Land of the Hatti.” They established a small city-state called Hattusa and, over the centuries, managed to keep their state intact despite occasional attacks from the Akkadians. However, after maintaining their civilization for close to a thousand years, their downfall would come at the hands of the neighboring city of Kussara (presumably the origin of the Hittites). Kusarra’s ruler, King Anitta, laid siege to Hattusa and managed to breach its walls. With no intentions of Annexing the city-state, set the city ablaze and cursed the land, declaring that no king after him should resettle Hattusa, lest the Stormgod strikes the new king dead.
The curse didn’t hold for long because decades later, a new king from Kussara went on to rebuild the city. The Hittite-speaking king even changed his name to Hattusili (translates to “one from Hattusa“). By rebuilding and resettling Hatussa, the king set the foundation for what would go on to become the Hittite Empire. The capital of this new empire was the city of Hattusa.
The empire was ruled by about 27 Great Kings during its lifetime, most of whom had royal seats in Hattusa. The capital had to be changed twice after suffering attacks by the Kaskians, but the Hittites returned to Hattusa each time.
The city peaked between the 17th and 13th centuries BC, during which the Hittites enjoyed control over most of Anatolia and their rule reached as far as northern Syria. This expansion resulted in a clash with the Egyptians, culminating in the Battle of Kadesha and signing the first-ever peace treaty in human history.
Hattusa covered an area of 1.8 square km, having both inner and outer city walls. The inner city was home to several temples and administrative buildings housed in a large citadel, with the acropolis sitting on a high ridge. The outer city had elaborate gateways, four temples, and numerous residential structures. In addition, it had an 8km wall that surrounded the entire city. At its peak, the town could have housed up to 50,000 inhabitants.
In the 13th century BC, internal repressions allowed the Phrygians a window to invade Hattussa, during which they burnt and demolished the city. A small Phrygian settlement returned to the town in the 9th century BC, followed by the Romans and Byzantines, but it never regained its former glory.
Before its discovery in 1833, Hattusa was much like Atlantis; there were many myths and legends around it, but no one could prove it ever existed. Luckily, archeological excavations have brought the ancient city back to life, or at least partly.
During your visit, Hattusa’s ruins will give you a glimpse of life in the Hittite period. First, start at the Lion Gate, named after the lion statues carved on either entrance side. There is also the King’s Gate and the magnificent Sphinx Gate. Next, marvel at the modern reconstruction of a section of the city wall, explore the awe-inspiring Yer Kapi (an impressive stone tunnel 70m long) and try to decipher Hittite inscriptions on other attractions on the site.
The ancient site of Hattusa sits 124 miles (200km) East of Ankara, about a 4-hour drive from the city.
To get to Hattusa from Cappadocia, you will have to travel approximately 95 miles (153 KM) in about 3 hours.
The company provided an excellent guide in Tayfun who was very familiar with the site and very informative on the Hittite history and civilisation. Our driver, Mustafa, was very professional and drove sensibly in the quite heavy rain that lasted most of the drive to and from the site. Fortunately, the visit itself was mostly in dry conditions. The trip lived up to my expectations and I would recommend it to anyone interested in archaeology.