Foreign tourists visiting Istanbul's renowned sixth-century structure in Turkey, Hagia Sophia, now face a significant fee of 25 euros (approximately $36) per person, which came into effect on Monday, Jan. 16. The fee is prominently displayed at a side entrance designated for foreign visitors, with the main entrance reserved exclusively for Turkish citizens.
Turkey Imposes €25 Fee for Foreign Tourists to Visit Hagia Sophia
The entrance ticket allows visitors to access a discreet tunnel, ensuring that their presence does not disturb the ongoing prayers. Some local press has likened this entrance to a "garage entrance," highlighting its less prominent status.
Today Online reported that the implementation of this fee took many tourists by surprise, with only a handful of them choosing to pay on the first day. An official overseeing the entrance admitted that tourists were taken aback, noting that the monument had been free to enter just a day earlier.
Even non-Turkish Muslim visitors, including those who wish to pray, will be subject to the new admission fee, as confirmed by an anonymous official.
Hagia Sophia, originally constructed as a Byzantine cathedral in the sixth century, was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. In an effort to promote secularism, it was later transformed into a museum during the modernization of the Turkish Republic.
However, in 2020, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a conservative leader, controversially reconverted it into a mosque, drawing support from his religious followers but criticism from secularists. This decision also led to condemnation from Western governments, Russia, and Christian leaders.
The admission ticket grants access to the upper gallery and the museum located within this UNESCO World Heritage site, which remains a popular tourist attraction, as per the news report.
The new fee, announced by Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy in October, represents a significant change in Hagia Sophia's accessibility for international visitors.
Turkey's Eastern Express Train Attracts Tourists for Winter Adventures
Turkey's Eastern Express, a famous overnight train, is becoming a top choice for tourists in Turkey. This train journey, which starts in Ankara and ends in the snowy eastern region of Kars, is about 1,300 kilometers long and takes roughly 24 hours. Operated by the Turkish State Railways (TCDD), it stops at 53 stations along the way.
People of all ages enjoy this train ride, especially the winter scenery. According to the Daily Sabah, the route goes through several cities, including Erzurum, Erzincan, Sivas, Kayseri, and Kırıkkale. Passengers love the view, particularly in Kars, known for its beautiful snow cover.
Travelers from inside and outside Turkey are taking this train for various winter activities. They can go horse-drawn sleighing on Çıldır Lake, visit the Ani Ruins (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and ski in Sarıkamış. Besides these, they also explore Kars' history and taste local foods.
The Eastern Express runs every day, while the Touristic Eastern Express, more focused on tourists, operates three times a week. This special train, popular among travel lovers of all ages and from different countries, departs from Ankara on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from Kars on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. This train service in Turkey is getting more attention each year.
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