Mardin to Hasankeyf using local bus is an easy journey, but will have be to done within the next couple of years before a new dam is built and city will forever be underwater. I took this journey yesterday and have documented exactly how to do it, and what to expect. As well as my personal thoughts about the state of the place. I am not sure that this dam project is a bad thing, seeing that Hasankeyf is covered in trash. I’ll explain why after I give some detail about getting from Mardin to Hasankeyf.

Getting from Mardin to Hasankeyf Using Local Bus

Step 1: Mardin to Midyat;

There are no direct busses from Mardin to Hasankeyf, and I had to transfer via Midyat. In order to get from Mardin to Midyat I just headed to the otogar (bus station) down the hill away from the old town. You will know what I am talking about if you find yourself here. I took a local city bus to the otogar, because I was feeling lazy. The price of the local bus changes daily it seems, but ranges between 1-2 Lira. When I reached the otogar it wasn’t hard to find the bus to Midyat. People will just yell out random city names, so just listen for where you’re headed. The bus ride was about an hour in total from Mardin to Midyat at a cost of 10 Lira and was a cramped and crowded affair. Actually, this was by far the most people I have seen squeeze on the bus in Turkey, and I would say at one point there were over 25+ souls on a bus (a large van really made for 10). The bus eventually reached the Midyat bus station and as I departed I was assaulted with offers for Hasankyf.

Step 2: Midyat to Hasankeyf;

This was the same sort of operation as above. I hopped off at Midyat and on to another crowded bus at a cost of 9 Lira. I was on the last leg of the Mardin to Hasankeyf trip. I knew right away when I had reached Hasankeyf because there were loads of other tourists around, and people trying to sell unnecessary trinkets everywhere. As soon as I got off the bus from Mardin to Hasankeyf, I was asked by many tour operators if I would like their services. A guided tour is completely unnecessary as there actually isn’t that much to explore and see. They aren’t really that persistent, and a simple ‘no’ did the trick. I just walked straight past all the souvenir hawkers and came to a gated-off area. I had to climb some stairs through a restaurant to actually make into the bit that was still open to the public.

Hasankeyf Hasankeyf

After arriving from Mardin to Hasankeyf what did I do?

Well, after such a long trip from Mardin to Hasankeyf I started to explore the caves immediately. The Hasankeyf caves date back to 1800 BC and are still inhabited today. Although mostly unofficially and mostly by the Kurdish people hiding from the Turkish government. This is one of the reasons the locals told me that the government wants these caves flooded, but more on that later in the story. There is really only one direction to take. I walked through a valley of sorts, with caves high on either side. I ran up and down the edges; poking my head into all that I could see, and what I mostly saw was garbage. Have a look at my article I posted yesterday about hanging out with locals in one of caves, if it wasn’t for that experience I don’t know that I would recommend this place in the state it’s in.

Hasankeyf Hasankeyf

Hasankeyf – Turkey’s garbage dump

Everywhere I looked was trash. Mainly in the form of water bottles, empty cigarette packs, and plastic bags. Every cave I poked my head in; trash. I walked over it, around it, and through it. The place reeked of rotten garbage. I don’t know if they have just given up, or if it is always like this. One thing I have noticed is that the locals of Turkey don’t care about litter. They just throw the garbage everywhere, without a care in the world. You don’t often see a foreign tourist doing this, or very few for that matter, but the local Turkish tourists just litter this place with their unwanted plastic, not seeming to be bothered to carry it out with them. I wondered if this trip from Mardin to Hasankeyf was worth it.

Hasankeyf Hasankeyf Hasankeyf

Mardin to Hasankeyf, a journey you may never need to take

Hasankeyf is doomed to be flooded by a government sponsored dam being built. National Geographic recently published an article about it. I spoke to some locals of Hasankeyf about what they thought about this, and the overwhelming opinion was they were being short-changed on the deal. They are being given 40,000 Lira ($20,000) and basically told to get the hell out. New apartments have been built for them to move into, but at a cost of 100,000 Lira. Nearly none afford this and will be homeless. The say that because of the Kurds that are hiding and living in the caves, the government is using this as a quick solution to drive them out. This is all just what locals told me, and I can’t confirm if this is fact. There are sites being set up to save this piece of history like Hasankeyf matters. They are holding a rally later this month. It really does seem like a shame to see this place disappear. Although it may not hold the splendour or excitement of Cappadocia, specifically the lack of fast moving off road vehicles for me to enjoy like I did here, it still is 4000 years old and would be pretty cool to visit if they could deal with the trash issue. For some history of Hasankeyf have a look at the wiki write up.


Final thoughts on my from Mardin to Hasankeyf

This is really hard to say. This place has potential to be really cool. It is rich with history and the landscape is fantastic. If they could get their act together and clean Hasankeyf up it would leave a much more positive impact. It seems like they are just trying to squeeze out every last penny the can form tourists before it is destroyed and have basically given up. It really is a shame to see history disappear in the name of urban development.



I would love to hear other people opinions that have been here as well. Has is always been so messy? Anyone know any updates on what will come of Hasankeyf? Please comment bellow and let my know what you think!

3 Responses

  1. Natalie

    I didn’t notice the mess when I went but yes, the tourism aspect was overwhelming. There is an official group set up by some locals who run walking tours. They are trying to save the area, although it seems to be a done deal. If I remember the website, will let you know. It is very informative and a good read
    Natalie recently posted…The Foolproof Guide to Biking in TurkeyMy Profile

    • Alex

      Thanks let me know for sure! If they cleaned it up it could be fantastic but as you said I think its fate is sealed

  2. Selim

    Hello, thank you for your sharings.

    I have somethings to say about Hasankeyf and its messy situation. Hasankeyf used to be inhabited by Assyrians, and urban Arabic speaker muslims till the second half of the 20th century. Kurds were mostly nomads so when they came to the cities like Hasankeyf, they did not urbanize but they turned these kind of places to wrecked towns as they had no ambition or opportunity to learn some artcrafts from Assyrians or others before they left the region to the Kurds. Same thing did not happen for Turkified old towns in the Western parts of Turkey (Turks used to be nomads as well) because we partially managed to urbanize with the long history living side by side with Greeks and Armenians. As you might have noticed that the historical Islamic period buildings are all made by old Turkish states like Seljuks or Artuklus. So my point is here that throwing garbage is very related with rurality and non-urbanization.

    The dam project will obviously ruduce the capability of Kurdish terorists to operate in the area but I dont think that is the biggest aim. Turkey has no oil or natural gas so it has to produce energy with hydropower. The important historical buildings will be moved to upper areas (minarets and tombs). The rest are abandoned civil buildings of Assyrians and the ruined bridge. The castle from Roman period and the palace ruin on the hill will not be flooded.