Situated in the central Anatolian province of Aksaray (part of the world-renowned Cappadocia region), Sultanhan is the biggest caravaserai in Turkey and one of the largest ones in the world.
What is a caravanserai?
Before we start, let’s first understand what a caravanserai is.
“Caravanserai, in the Middle East and parts of North Africa and Central Asia, [is] a public building used for sheltering caravans and other travelers. The caravansary is usually constructed outside the walls of a town or village. A heavy-doored gateway, high and wide enough to admit loaded camels, it can be secured from within by massive iron chains, which are drawn across it at night…” (taken from britannica.com)
Another definition from wikipedia.com helps us comprehend the social importance of a caraavanserai:
“A caravanserai was a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day’s journey. Caravanserais supported the flow of commerce, information and people across the network of trade routes covering Asia, North Africa and Southeast Europe, most notably the Silk Road.” (taken from wikipedia.com)
Sultanhan is a 13th-century monastery that was built in 1229 by the Seljuk Sultan, Kayqubad I. It is the largest of the caravanserais in Turkey. According to the inscription recovered, the architect of this medieval caravanserai is Muhammad ibn Khalwan of Damascus.
The structure consists of open and closed sections which were used periodically during summers and winters.
The 13-meter-high gate of the caravanserai is a one of the most notable parts of Sultanhan. Ornamented with astounding artisanal carvings, Islamic decorations and characteristic Seljuk patterns, its remarkable state of preservation marvels the visitors.
The rooms and sections of Sultanhan, which can be visited today, were used as a kitchen, dining hall, bathhouse, lounge and chambers where travelers spend the night.
Another notable spot in Sultanhan is the square shaped stonemasonry masjid that can be found erect at the center of the open-air hall which is followed by the main gate of the caravanserai. Also known by the named of köşk masjid, this Islamic worship complex was used by the guests of Sultanhan in the past centuries.
Tourist information about Sultanhan
Sultanhan is open everyday between 8am and 5pm. Due to the pandemic, some unannounced abrupt changes might occur in visiting hours. To confirm if Sultanhan is open, you can call the following number prior to your visit: +90 382 242 20 11.
Entrance is free of charge.
You can park your vehicle anywhere around Sultanhan for free. The location of the most convenient and spacious parking area is as it follows: 38.248826, 33.546353
Grab some snacks from the local bakeries around
After you complete your visit, or perhaps prior to commencing your tour of Sultanhan, I recommend you to grab a simit (Turkish style bagel) from the surrounding bakeries. Bogeler Bakery, that is a minute away from Sultanhan by walking, is a good option.