Beautiful Amasya is located in the narrow valley of the Yeşilırmak River, bordered on both sides by the soaring peaks of the Pontic Mountains. This location results in its extraordinary picturesqueness, as well as its strategic importance on the communication routes leading through Anatolia. In Turkey, Amasya is famous as the "capital of apples".
Continuously inhabited for 7,500 years, Amasya was called Hakmış in Hittite times. After the Hittites, it was inhabited by Phrygians, Cimmerians, Lydians, Persians, and Armenians. In the 4th century BCE the city was conquered by the troops of Alexander the Great, and then, in the years 333–63 BCE, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Pontus. A reminder of these times are the tombs carved in the rocks towering over the city.
At the end of Pontic times, Strabo, called the 'first geographer', was born in Amasya. This name is due to the authorship of 17 books in this field (in addition to 47 historical volumes). Strabo was not only a theoretician, but also a traveller who visited Europe, the western part of Asia, and North Africa.
As an interesting fact, it is worth mentioning that 50 kilometres from Amasya, Julius Caesar uttered the famous formula "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered"). This happened after the Battle of Zela (now Zile), in which he defeated Pharnaces II, the son of the ruler of Pontus, who attacked the territories belonging to Rome.
In the Roman times, when Amasya was called the 'first city', it was not only an administrative centre but also a cultural one. After the division of the Roman Empire, Amasya found itself within the Byzantine Empire. Most of its population at that time were Greeks.
After 700 years of belonging to Byzantium, Amasya was conquered by the Turkmen Danishmendid tribe, whose emirs made it their capital. Shortly thereafter, it was taken over by the Seljuks. During their reign, many Islamic schools, mosques, and tombs were built in the city, many of which have survived to this day.
Amasya was annexed to the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Bayezid I the Lightning in the 13th century. In Ottoman times, Amasya continued to play an essential role as a training camp for future rulers. The sons of the sultans were sent there to gain the experience necessary to manage the empire as the city's governors. What was important here was the fact that near Amasya there were villages inhabited by various ethnic groups: Pontic, Armenian, Bosnian, Tatar, Turkish, Arab, Kurdish, etc.
In modern times, too, Amasya witnessed important historical events. It was here that on June 22, 1919, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his fellow fighters announced the start of the Turkish War of Independence.
After the establishment of the Turkish Republic, a significant part of the population of Amasya was resettled to Greece and replaced by Turks from the areas that had fallen to the Greeks.
Lovers of history and architecture will certainly not be bored in Amasya. The largest and most famous attraction of the city are the Pontic tombs (tr. Kral Kaya Mezarları) carved into the rock in the mountain slope rising above the city on the northern side.
The citadel located even higher, above the tombs, also called Harşen's Castle, dates back to the times of the Pontus Kingdom, but the first fortifications were built in this location already in the Early Bronze Age. The castle was destroyed and rebuilt many times and consists of eight lines of fortifications and a 150-meter-long tunnel carved in the rock.
The local museum, located in the southern part of Amasya, is one of the most interesting institutions of this type in Turkey. In addition to the usual ethnographic section, there are exhibits from Hittite times and real mummies from the 14th century CE. There is also a Seljuk-era tomb in the museum's garden.
The district of Ottoman houses, Hatuniye Mahallesi, is a real treat for people fascinated by the architecture of the Ottoman Empire. The wooden houses, picturesquely situated over the greenish waters of the Yeşilırmak River (literally 'Green River'), have been largely restored and adapted to modern needs.
In addition to hotels, guest houses, and restaurants, there is the Hazeranlar Konağı estate, which houses a museum exhibition presenting the interior of an Ottoman-era house and an art gallery.
Moreover, there are several historically important mosques in Amasya. The oldest of them is the Gök Medrese Camii (Mosque of the Heavenly Madrasa) built in the 13th century for the Seljuk governor Torumtay. The Burmalı Minare Camii (Mosque with Spiral Minaret) also dates back to the Seljuk times.
The Gümüşlü Camii (Silver Mosque) dates back to the 14th century, representing the early Ottoman style. A little later (in 1419) Bayezid Paşa Mosque was created, which foreshadows the style developed in Bursa, in the form of the Green Mosque.
The largest mosque complex (so-called külliye) in Amasya belongs to Sultan Bayezid II Mosque from 1486. The complex includes a madrasa (Quranic school), a fountain, a soup kitchen, and an astronomer's house.
Another madrasa in Amasya is Büyük Ağa Medresesi from 1488. Built on the orders of the chief eunuch of Sultan Bayezid II, it also currently serves as a theological seminary for boys. They are training to become theologians who know the entire Quran by heart. Naturally, its interior is not open to visitors.
Amasya is an easy city to get your bearings. Located in a river valley, it is naturally divided by Yeşilırmak River into two parts: northern and southern. The city's main communication routes run along the river on both banks.
On the southern side there is a thoroughfare route through Amasya, leading from Çorum and Tokat towards Erzincan and Erzurum. The south side is the modern face of the city, there are larger shops, banks, ugly concrete buildings, and a local museum.
There is a railway line along the northern bank of Yeşilırmak, with trains from Samsun to Sivas. The railway station is located approximately 2 km west of the city centre. The greatest tourist attractions are located in this part of Amasya: the fortress, the tombs of Pontic rulers, and the older district of the city, famous for its well-preserved wooden houses from the Ottoman era. Some of these houses are hotels and guest houses, beautifully situated on the banks of the river.
By train: The line from Sivas to Samsun runs through Amasya. To get here by train from Istanbul or Ankara, you need to change trains in Sivas. According to the latest available information, trains on this route run once or twice a day. Travel time to Sivas is 5.5 hours and to Samsun - 3 hours. Please note that train timetables in Turkey tend to change constantly.
By coach: numerous transport companies provide frequent communication both with distant metropolises (Ankara - 5 hours drive, Istanbul - 10 hours, Malatya - 8 hours) and with nearby cities (Çorum - 2 hours drive, Samsun - 2 hours, Tokat - 2 hours ).
By car: coming from the west, from the direction of Ankara, follow the signs for Samsun. The route numbers are: 200 (E88), 190, and 785. On the way you pass through Kırıkkale, Sungurlu, and Çorum.
After Çorum, there are two access options: a longer (358 km), but higher category road leads through Merzifon and Suluova (route no. 795), and a shorter (335 km), mountain road (no. 180) leads directly to Amasya. To take this shorter route, turn right 19 km after Çorum and drive through the small towns of Mecitözü and Gökhüyük.