Places of interest
The prime reason you should visit Hatay is the Antakya Archeology Museum (Antakya Arkeoloji Müzesi), which houses a world famous collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics. Stunning jewelry, statues, tombs and archeological findings belonging to various periods discovered at the excavations executed in Harbiye, Antakya, Aççana, Çevlik and Iskenderun are exhibited in the museum.
A little outside the city is the holy site where St. Peter`s Grotto is situated. The cave church, where St. Peter preached and founded the Christian community, was declared as a holy place by Vatican in 1983. The Iron Gate of Antioch is to the south of the grotto among the ruins of the city. The Castle of Antioch offers a panoramic view of the city.
At Harbiye, 8 km beyond Antioch, you can delve into history and mythology as you visit the ancient city where Apollo fell in love with Daphne, and Mother Earth, in order to save Daphne, turned her into an elegant tree. The story weaves on further to say that the waterfalls of Harbiye were formed from the tears of Daphne.
Take a swim at Samandag to cool off from the hot and humid Antakya weather, or walk in the footsteps of St Paul and St Barnabas at the ancient city of Seleuica Pieria, 6 km south of Samandag. This city was a busy port at the time when St. Paul and St. Barnabas made their first missionary journey from here. The most interesting monument here is the Tunnel of Titus, which is a huge canal, dug for the purpose of diverting waters of Orontes River. Another highlight here is the rock tombs with their impressive facades relating to the Hellenistic period.
Take a drive to the Kapisuyu village and from the Zeus Temple, you get a breathtaking view of the harbor, golden beach and lush, fertile plain lying below.
Hatay is a treasure trove of archaeological history. The ancient city of Tel Aççana is located on the Antakya - Reyhanli highway. At the excavations of Kinet Tumulus, remnants of various periods are still being discovered. Rock and earthen burial grounds were discovered in Kuzuculu and Karakese belonging to the 2nd - 3rd A.D and 4th - 5th centuries A.D, respectively.
From the executed excavations, tombs, glass bottles and pots, cooked earthen pots, oil lamps and signets have been unearthed. Ceylanli was a settlement place in the Byzantine and Gündüzogu Domain periods and there are ruins of the same scattered in the region. The nearby rocks contain rock tombs with inscriptions on them. There was a settlement place in the vicinity of Reyhanli, on the Antakya - Cilvegözü road which was known as "Imma", place of settlement, during ancient times. This location is famous for its promenade areas and tea gardens in the present day. The ruins of a Hittite palace and temple were discovered at the excavations in Tainat, the findings of which are exhibited in Hatay Archeology Museum.
Hatay holds an important place in the history of Christianity and it has developed as an important center for faith tourism. The first Catholic Church of the world, Saint Pierre Church is located inside the borders of Hatay province and draws millions of revered Christians to its portals. The most renowned monasteries of the region are St. Simon Stylite Monastery, Yayladagi Barleam Monastery and Keldagi Barleam Monastery. The important mosques in the province of Hatay are Habib Neccar Mosque, Seyh Ahmet Kuseyri Mosque and Mausoleum, Külliye of Sokullu Mehmet Pasa, Külliye of Payas Sokullu and Ulu Mosque.
Antakya was surrounded by high ramparts at the Seleukus and Roman periods. There were 360 guard towers throughout the ramparts and there was an inner castle on the highest and steepest hill of the Habib Neccar Mountain. The Demirkapi rampart was constructed as a high and strong wall as the continuance of the ramparts over the deep and narrow valley separating Habib Neccar Mountain and Haç Mountain in order to control the rush of floodwaters coming from Hacikürüs creek. This rampart was also used as an entrance gate to the city and it is still standing. Koz Castle, Bakras Castle, Payas Castle, Mancinik (Catapult) Castle and Darbi - Sak Castle are visited by millions of tourists from all over the world.
The Demirköprü Bridge, an important overpass in the medieval age, is located on the Asi River between Antakya and Reyhanli. The bridge was originally constructed from stones and there were towers and gates at the both ends. The towers now lie in ruins but the bridge is still in use. The Dana Ahmetli Bridge, across the Karasu River in Kirikhan Plains has six arches was constructed by well-known Architect Sinan in 16th century.
A number of inns and baths of the Antakya district were constructed by charitable establishments in the last century. Some like the Cindy Bath, Sakae Bath, Meiden Bath, Yen Bath, Kursunlu Inn and Sokullu Inn still operate, and you can rejuvenate your mind, body and soul at these centers. The Reyhanli Hamamat Thermal Spring, located in the Kumlu district on the Reyhanli - Antakya highway, is the biggest thermal spring of the region. Other springs are Erzin Baslamis Thermal Springs, the Reyhanli Bath, Kisecik Village Curative Water springs - all these are known to have curative properties for various ailments and diseases.
The various highlands of the province provide amazing getaways where you can be at peace with yourself. Winding asphalt roads or gravel paths lead into lush green forests; you get a glimpse of sleepy villages nestled amongst vineyards, as you overlook some of the most magnificent views Mother Nature has to offer. These areas make wonderful picnic spots and some areas even offer highland accommodation, which you can book in advance. The Hatay - Tekkoz Kengerlidüz Nature Reserve is unique in that its ecosystem is different to that of the Mediterranean. The main species of trees around Kengerliduz are beech, oak and fir, and around Tekkoz are hornbeam, ash, beach, black pine and silver birch. Animal enthusiasts can come face to face with native wild goats, roe deer, bears, hyenas, wild cats, wagtails, wolves, jackals and foxes that live in these forests.