Around 11km northeast of Urfa, 'Pot Belly Hill' was first excavated in 1994 by a team led by Professor Klaus Schmidt. Their discovery of a ritual complex dated to the pre-pottery Neolithic era (around 10,000 BC) has turned the previously accepted theory that religion followed the evolution of agriculture on its head.
The small site, protected by a space-age-style dome, contains a complex of circular buildings containing megalithic T-shaped pillars now thought to be the world's first place of worship.
Animal carvings can be seen on the sides of Göbeklitepe's anthropomorphic T-shaped pillars, some of which tower up to 5.5m high. A raised wooden boardwalk leads around the site allowing you to see the pillars below from all sides and study the stylised carvings of foxes and vultures.
In 2018, Göbeklitepe was made Turkey's newest Unesco World Heritage site, though don't expect masses of ruins as you'd see in Turkey's much younger classical-era sites. Göbeklitepe's fame comes from its significant role in furthering our understanding of early human history and culture. The visitor centre at the entrance provides a good introduction to the site with a short – and rather dramatic – video presentation on Göbeklitepe's importance. From near the visitor centre, a regular shuttle bus zips to and from the hilltop archaeological site.
Geomagnetic surveys and ground-penetrating radar systems have identified another 16 ancient megalithic rings buried nearby, and at present only 5% of the entire site has been excavated, with archaeological work here continuing.
A return taxi to Göbeklitepe from Şanlıurfa, including waiting time, is around ₺120.