With historic stone houses clinging to a citadel-topped mountain that overlooks a vast plain below, Mardin has a magical setting. The city was hit hard by the violence of the 1980s and ’90s, and since it’s populated largely by Arabs, but on the edge of the Kurdish zone, it slid off Turkey's tourist map. The return of calm to the region has meant that travelers are rediscovering this enchanting city's mazelike old town, intricately decorated homes, and lively bazaars. Mardin has been featured in several popular Turkish TV drama series, and has become popular with tourists from Istanbul and other western Turkish cities. Some nice hotels and restaurants have opened up to serve them—there’s even a film festival.
Sitting like a crown that looks down on a wide plain below, Mardin is a wonderful place to wander. The narrow streets are lined with old stone homes, gorgeous mosques, and a bazaar where donkeys still carry most of the goods. Spend the day walking around, then relax in the evening at the terrace of one of the local restaurants and look out at the view of the plains below and the stars above. Although there are some ugly cement homes that have been built in recent years, the local authorities are actively demolishing them and the remaining historic homes give the city a great deal of charm. The stone used to build the old homes is the color of golden sand and looks especially beautiful at sunset. A short distance outside the city is the still active Syriac Monastery of Deyrul Zaferan, parts of which date back to the 5th century.