The country we know as Turkey is officially called the Republic of Turkey (with the accepted English spelling of Türkiye). The country was established in 1923 after the end of the Ottoman Empire. The whole country of Turkey itself is comparably slightly bigger than the size of Texas. Since Turkey uses the metric system, that means the country has an area of 783,562 km2. In the United States, where we use the imperial system, that’s around 302,535 mi2. So imagine Texas as its own country, something the state has thought about itself on more than one occasion. In terms of land mass, they would do just as fine as Turkey is now.
In Turkey, close to 50% of the land is used for agriculture, and another 15% is forested. The country is home to the only city that spans two continents. That city is Istanbul, which is officially on both the continent of Europe as well as Asia. Turkey has the privilege of bordering several bodies of water, meaning plenty of beaches. This includes the coastline on the Black, Aegean, and Mediterranean Seas. The country is home to 19 World Heritage sites.
The 7 Largest Cities in Turkey
Known for the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, modern-day Turkey packs a punch with all types of people, whether they be travelers exploring the exciting sights of Istanbul or historians seeking out remnants of Constantinople. But what are the biggest cities in Turkey, and what’s there to see?
Most places will give you the largest cities by population. However, that’s only telling you how many people have managed to make a place their home. So today, we’re taking a look at Turkey from above. That is, what are the biggest cities in Turkey according to land area? Let’s check them out!
7. Kahramanmaraş – 3017 km2/1,165 mi2
Kahramanmaraş is the seventh largest in land mass in Turkey. It is located in the country’s southeastern corner, bordering Syria, nestled at the foot of Ahir Mountain. A beautiful city with a rich history, it has most recently been the center of a Turkish-Syrian earthquake just this month, leaving much of the city in wreckage and disarray. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t amazing things and places in the city! Kahramanmaraş is known for its famous thick ice cream. We’re talking literally cut-with-a-knife thick. Folks come from all over the world for this delicious treat made with a mix of goat milk and the local flora called sahlep. It’s a powdered tuber from a family of purple orchids local to the region.
6. Fethiye – 3059 km2/ 1,181 mi2
Welcome to the gorgeous coastal town of Fethiye, the sixth largest land mass in Turkey, making its home on the renowned Turquoise Coast. Fethiye is not just all blue, coastal waters from which the Mediterranean region gets its name. Here, the tombs of long-dead historical figures rise from the ground like jagged teeth, including the Tomb of Amyntas, a large, ancient Greek tomb that can be dated back to the 4th century BCE! The presence of Greek history is because the area that Fethiye inhabits today was once part of Lycia, which was Persian and then Greek through the Macedonians. This amazing bit of history is open to the public. You can find this tomb, as well as many other historical sites in Fethiye.
5. Trabzon – 4685 km2/ 1,809 mi2
Trabzon is the fifth largest city by landmass in Turkey and is located in the northeast of the country, bordering the Black Sea. Another coastal gem, this is the city that is home to the historical church, one-time-hospital, past museum, and current mosque, the Hagia Sophia, meaning the “Holy” or “Divine Wisdom” in Greek. Throughout history, the city has been known by many different names, including Trebizond, when it was the capital of an empire of the same name. In terms of history, this building in this city is a beautiful example of the Byzantine architecture associated with Turkey.
4. Istanbul – 5461 km2/ 2,109 mi2
It may shock some, but the most famous city in Turkey is actually only the fourth largest in terms of landmass. So although Istanbul can have its claim to fame as a city that takes up two whole continents and has been a site of struggle and history, it doesn’t hold a candle to a few cities when it comes to physical space. Istanbul does however, have the largest population size, with 20% of Turkey’s population calling the ancient city home (a whopping 8,803,468 people, comparable to New York City’s current population of 8,467,513!) and one of the most comprehensive and intense areas to look at Ottoman and Byzantine architecture and art.
This historical city is also a seaport with three sources of water called the Three Seas touching it: Golden Horn — a drowned valley; the Bosphorus — the main channel that connects the Mediterranean to the Black Sea; and the Sea of Marmara. There is so much to see here and over 2,000 miles to explore!
3. Izmir – 7340 km2/ 2,834 mi2
Coming up hot on number three is Izmir, a city of almost three thousand miles and the third largest Turkish city. Once known as Smyrna, this city lies on the coast of the Aegean Sea. Initially, the ancient Greeks settled the land, lending it more of a Grecian feel than other Turkish cities. Izmir has the claim to fame of emperor and king Alexander the Great rebuilding it. But what is there to do in Izmir? One could take a stroll down the coast and enjoy the gorgeous Agean, picturing for a moment the Greek and Persian ships that used to sail those cerulean waters. Or, if one were feeling less Greek and more Roman, one could take a stroll across the miles of the city to visit the Roman agora (or marketplace) that is now an open-air museum!
2. Mardin – 8891km2/ 3,433 mi2
Mardin comes in as the second largest city in Turkey in terms of landmass. Its name comes from a subset of the Aramaic, meaning “fortress.” The city has a UNESCO protection on it that prohibits any new types of construction within the parameters of its old city — that’s how important the history of Mardin is! Mardin is located in southeastern Turkey, where it borders with Syria. While the city has ample space of almost 3,500 miles, the population is barely at 123,000 people, closer to the size of a smaller New England city than a metropolis of the Mid-Atlantic states. Historically, the city goes down into the Mesopotamian plain, boasting thousand-year-old heritage in a country already thick with ancient history — though this time, a bit different than the Mediterranean flavor the rest of Turkey is used to.
1. Konya – 38873 km2/15,009 mi2
The biggest city in terms of landmass is finally here: Konya, a city in the center of Turkey to the south of the Turkish capital of Ankara. With over 15,000 miles of land, Konya shares the deep history that its fellow Turkish cities do in terms of ancient civilizations like the Ottomans, Byzantines, and this time, the Sufis, a religious Muslim group still practicing in many countries of the world today. During the Renaissance, famous Turkish carpets were exported from Konya to show wealth in European circles. The city’s jewel, though, is the historic Alaeddin Mosque, surrounded by a lush, green park with the same namesake. As the biggest city in terms of landmass, Konya also boasts a large population, with over 2 million people calling the city home.
And that’s that! We’ve explored Turkey’s seven biggest cities in terms of landmass! Check out some honorable mentions, including the city of Sivas (2,768 km2/1,069 mi2), Eskişehir (2,678 km2/1,034 mi2), and the capital of Turkey, Ankara, which is the tenth largest for landmass at 2,516 km2/971 mi2. Amazing that the city doesn’t even hit 1,000 miles, but it’s the capital of the country!
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