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Right after the War of Independence, Ankara was made the fledgling Turkish Republic's new capital, in part because it was a barren, dusty steppe city more or less in the middle of nowhere, and therefore considered to be secure. The city still feels that way somewhat, despite being the center of Turkish political activity and having a population of more than 4 million. But although it doesn't come close to having historical richness or vibrancy of Istanbul, Ankara is nonetheless interesting because it's home to the fascinating and enduring legacy of Mustafa Kemal, founding father of the secular Turkish Republic. The capital city is a monument to Atatürk's overpowering will.
For travelers looking to go to Cappadocia and other formerly hard-to-reach parts of Central Anatolia, the emergence of several low-cost airlines with direct flights to Kayseri and Nevşehir means it is no longer necessary to spend a day in Ankara if you don't want to.
If you do chose to visit Ankara, in a day or so you can learn a great deal about Turkey's history, both ancient—at the highly regarded Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, repository of the best archaeological treasures found in Turkey—and modern, by visiting the Anıtkabir, Atatürk's mausoleum. Dining, nightlife, and hotel options are increasingly diverse, and since this is a government and college town, you'll find more relaxed attitudes here than in many other parts of Anatolia. The capital also provides a logical base for exploring the ancient ruined sites of the Hittite Empire, which are contained within a triangle in northeastern Central Anatolia bounded by Hattuşa, Yazılıkaya, and Alacahöyük. All the Hittite cities can be seen in a day trip from Ankara if you have a car.
Ankara at a Glance
- Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi (Museum of Anatolian Civilizations)
- Anıtkabir (Atatürk's Mausoleum)
- Ankara Kalesi (Ankara Citadel)
- Cumhuriyet Müzesi (Museum of the Republic)
- Etnoğrafya Müzesi (Ethnography Museum)
- Gençlik Parkı
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