Welcome to İskilip, a historic district located in the Çorum Province of Turkey. With a population of 17,612, İskilip sits on the left bank of the River Kızılırmak and is located 56 km from the city of Çorum, 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Ankara and 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Kastamonu. The town is the seat of İskilip District and is known for its well-watered plain, several miles off the road between Çankırı and Amasya among wooded hills, at the foot of a limestone rock crowned by the ruins of an ancient fortress now filled with houses. İskilip is also known for its saline springs, from which salt has been extracted, and its dry climate. The highest point in İskilip is Mount Teke, which stands at 1700m. With a local economy that depends on agriculture, especially grains and pulses, and forestry, İskilip has a lot to offer visitors looking for a glimpse into Turkey’s rich history and natural beauty.
İskilip is one of the longest-settled areas of Anatolia, with people attracted to the saline springs since the earliest times. Copper was smelted here in ancient times, when the plain was settled by the Hittite and Hatti civilizations from 3000 BC. The area has a rich history that includes being possessed by Paphlagonian kings from 900-700 BC, being mentioned in the Iliad, and being visited by Herodotus. The Galatians and the kings of Pontus also inhabited the area, but were soon displaced by a much stronger civilization. For the ancient Romans, who paid their soldiers in salt, the area had great importance. The Romans and, subsequently, the Byzantines settled here for a thousand years, making İskilip one of their key strongholds on the Kızılırmak. However, Byzantine rule of Anatolia ended in 1071 following the Byzantines defeat by the Seljuk Turks at the battle of Malazgirt, and İskilip was soon settled (1074) by the Danishmend Turks, who brought Islam to the region. Centuries of fighting ensued between further Turkish clans and, from the 13th century, waves of Mongol and Tatar invaders. In 1390, with the aid of Mongolian armies, the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I moved against the Turkish lords who, by now, were in control of this corner of Anatolia. After severe fighting in which an Ottoman prince was killed and the castles of Ankara, Kalecik, and others were besieged, Bayezid (the Thunderbolt) prevailed and the area was brought under Ottoman control. But the castle of İskilip had been seriously damaged, and most of the population dispersed during the fighting, never to return, perhaps wisely, as the area, in 1402, was the scene of even more terrible warfare between Bayezids Ottomans and the Tatars of Timur. Following the Ottoman Interregnum, rule was restored by Bayezids son Mehmed I, but İskilip’s misfortune persisted, with destruction returning in 1509 in a large earthquake known as the little Armageddon. At some stage, the area must have recovered, as, by the 17th century, Evliya Çelebi recorded a fortified town of 150 households, and, in 1849, French traveler Vital Cuinet recorded a city of 2,000 homes with a predominantly Muslim population of 10,563. There were 108 mosques, six dervish lodges, six koran schools, a civic building, five libraries, a market of 510 shops, two caravanserais, four Turkish baths, 18 fountains, a water garden, 18 tanneries, 63 flour mills, six bakeries, 10 coffee houses, a courthouse, a tax office, a post office, a telegraph office, and a census bureau. Gardens were used to grow buckthorn for making natural dye. Thus, it is evident that the town has had a predominantly Turkish population since the 13th century, and the people of İskilip are said to speak Turkish with an accent that is the closest in modern Turkey to the language spoken by those first immigrants from the Central Asian heartland. In the early days of the Turkish Republic, linguists from the Turkish Language Institute conducted research in İskilip as part of the institute’s program to bring authentic Turkish vocabulary into the language.
Modern İskilip is a small town that provides the area with schools and other amenities. The cuisine is typical of much of Anatolia, including a particularly renowned rice-based dolma, wheat soup keshkek, fruit syrup (pekmez), a dry egg-noodle erişte, spice-cured beef pastırma, roasted chickpeas leblebi, a round loaf called Okkalık, and, of course, a local kebab, which is a meat-and-vegetable casserole. İskilip is also home to several notable individuals, including Ahmet Peker, a freestyle wrestler, Ebussuud Efendi, an Ottoman Shaykh al-Islām, and İskilipli Âtıf Hodja, an Islamic scholar executed in the early days of the Turkish Republic for his opposition to the banning of the fez and other symbolic headgear. İsmail Beşikçi, a sociologist, historian, and writer, was born in İskilip and has written on issues including Kurdish nationalism, the founding of the republic, and the period of a one-party state.
Overall, İskilip is a hidden gem that offers tourists a glimpse into Turkey’s rich history and natural beauty. From the ruins of an ancient fortress to the town’s well-known saline springs, İskilip has something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in exploring the area’s history, tasting its delicious local cuisine, or simply taking in the stunning views, İskilip is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.