The hillside town of Mardin, Turkey, 625 mi/1,005 km southeast of Ankara and overlooking a plain that extends into Syria, is both picturesque and historically and culturally rich. A variety of churches and monasteries testify to its importance as a center of Syriac Christianity.

The carvings on the minarets of the Ulu and Sehidiye mosques are worth a look, as is the traditional bazaar, the Sultan Isa (Zinciriye) Medrese, and (no joke) the town post office, housed in a beautiful 17th-century caravansaray. The Deyrul Zafaran monastery and the Roman ruins of Dara both make worthwhile half-day excursions. Mardin's relative lack of package tourists may be a refreshing change of pace.

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