A prosperous regional capital with a population of around half a million, Denizli is known for its textiles and its breed of cockerels with distinctive crows and very sharp claws. It lies above the Büyük Menderes valley on an historical trade route, and the 13th-century Seljuk caravanserais between here and Dogubeyazit on the Georgian border are on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. The one at Akhan, just east of the town, is particularly impressive. Almost unknown to anyone, bar local scholars, are Denizli’s magnificently painted village mosques.
Among nearby ancient sights are the ruins of the Seleucid city of Laodiceia, 6km north of Denizli, built for Antiochus II, and one of the Seven Churches in the book of Revelations. Some 15km further north is the ancient spa town of Hierapolis, which drew its wealth from the extraordinary hot mineral springs and travertine rock formations of Pamukkale, still a major tourist attraction.
The province’s biggest secret, however, is its exquisite painted mosques. Sadly only a handful survived, and until a book published in Turkey in 2012 recorded them, they were virtually unknown to the art historians. Stunning pictures of these interiors featured in a major 36-page article in Cornucopia 48, with a commentary by Professor Serpil Bağcı. Plain looking from the outside, little more than barns, in fact, their colourful prayer halls, galleries, mirhabs and minbars are carved and painted with flowers, trees and geometric patterns. Many were decorated in the 18th and 19th centuries, some by Sufi followers, and are reminiscent of Anatolian medieval wooden mosques. All lie within a 50km radius of Denizli, notably at Akköy, Belenardiç, Boğaziçi, Kızılcabölük, Kocaköy and Yazır Köyü.
Denizli is 205 miles from Marmaris, 270km from Izmir, and as the transport hub of southwest Anatolia is easy to reach. It lies on the Izmir-Ankara rail route, which passes through Selçuk (Ephesus). There are also regular buses to the town and to Pamukkale/Hierapolis. Laodiceia is en route to Pammukale, 15 minutes’ walk from the bus stop. Denzili-Çardak airport is 65km east of the town and has flights to Istanbul and Izmir. The airport bus from the city takes around an hour.