Ancient City and Castle of Kastabala
(Kastabala Antik Kenti ve Kalesi)
/ By Josh
Great for: Greeks, Alexander the Great, Romans, Castles
Centred on a rocky outcropping overlooking the Ceyhan river, the ancient site of Kastabala is a beautiful blend of ancient, classical, and medieval ruins. While archaeological work has only recently begun here, the fine colonnades, theatre, and massive piles of rubble make it clear that this was once a rich and thriving city. The picturesque Roman columns and high castle also make this one of Osmaniye’s most photogenic sites.
While much is yet to be discovered in Kastabala (the first legal excavations only began in 2009), there are a number of particularly interesting things to see here. The first sight a visitor will see, even before arriving, is the castle in the midst of the ruins. While a great amount of the castle is in ruins a number of its towers are still in good condition giving a sense of the original plan.
Subscribe to The Art of Wayfaring
The majority of what remains is from the Roman period when the city reached its height, though there are also ruins from the Byzantine period. It’s easy to make out where the ancient streets once ran by the long rows of columns standing in the fields. In some places the digs have revealed the old paving stones, still tightly locked together. Along the streets you’ll find the remains of a temple, the massive red masonry of Roman Baths, a pair of Byzantine churches, and a theatre.
Almost nothing is known about the earliest stages of habitation here other than that the Assyrians and Hittites are believed to have lived at this site. Kastabala doesn’t enter recorded history until 333 BC when Alexander the Great led his army through the region as he conquered his way eastward.
The city continued to be inhabited into the Byzantine period though its not known exactly when the city was abandoned. After the city was abandoned the castle continued to be in use at least by the Armenians and later by Crusaders who established a series of Crusader kingdoms in the area. From Kastabala Castle one can see Toprakkale to the south across the Ceyhan River.
Exactly when the Kastabala Castle was finally abandoned isn’t known.
Over the past few thousand years the names of this site have changed many times. The first names used by the Assyrians and Hittites are unknown though the Romans referred to it as Hierapolis on the Pyramos (as opposed to the better known Hierapolis at Pamukkale. Pyramos refers to the river now called the Ceyhan). Later the Byzantines named it Kastabala (or Gastabala, and sometimes written Castabala). The Crusaders who came to control the region called the castle Boudoin which became Bodrum Castle in Turkish (not to be confused with the castle in the city of Bodrum). To keep things simple we’ve just referred to the site as Kastabala; the name given on most signs and maps.
How To Get There
Kastabala sits on the old Osmaniye-Kadirli road and so it’s no longer the main route for bus traffic. While it is likely that busses do go nearby here it’s most likely a long, slow way to travel and busses are most likely infrequent at best.
As Kastabala is about 15km from the city centre of Osmaniye it’s entirely possible to take a taxi here. The only thing you’ll want to arrange for is a way back as you’re not going to have many taxis waiting around here.
Having your own car is the best way to see any of the sights in Osmaniye and this is no exception. Kastabala is about 15 kms from the Osmaniye city centre and is quite easy to find. From the city centre go north to the village of Cevditiye where there is a bridge across the Ceyhan river. After the bridge follow the Osmaniye-Kadirli road north 5km by which point you’ll see the castle on your right. Signage is quite good most of the way.
For more about car rental and driving in Turkey make sure to read our full drivers guide.
Where To Stay
As this area is rather sparsely populated and not overly touristic, options are somewhat limited. For the most and closest options the Osmaniye city centre is by far your best option. The towns of Kadirli and Düziçi are both limited with only about two mediocre hotels each.
Planning on visiting Kastabala? Make sure to check out this list of other castles in the area!
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.