Karaman is an industrial city in Central Anatolia, Turkey, with a population in 2012 of 141,630. It has an interesting medieval centre, with a castle and several mosques and museums, and it's also a stopover on the overland routes to Adana and Cyprus.
Karaman stands at an altitude of 1000 m on the fertile plateau of central Anatolia. Its livelihood has always depended on agriculture and today it's a major centre for durum wheat (which is ground up to make bulgur), for pulses and fruit, and for biscuits and other confectionery. In ancient times it was known as Laranda (Greek: Λάρανδα) and many invaders thought it was worth seizing, including the Roman / Byzantine Empire. But the fellow who most put his stamp on the city was Karamanoğlu Mehmet Bey, Mehmet the 1st, who in 1256 founded a Karamid dynasty and something of a buffer state in this turbulent region. He briefly held Konya and famously proclaimed Turkish as the official language, not Persian or Arabic. He was soon hunted down by his enemies but the Karamid state continued until 1468, when it was conquered by the Ottomans. The regional capital moved to Konya, and Karaman became a dusty neglected place, which meant that its medieval centre was left intact.
The nearest airports are Konya, Mersin and Adana, all with at least daily flights to Istanbul.
YHT trains speed from Istanbul (three per day via Eskişehir, five hours) and Ankara (seven per day, two hours) as far as Konya. These connect with local trains and buses east to Karaman, taking 70-90 min.
One train per day, the Toros Express, runs to Adana: its timetable is Konya 14:30 > Karaman 15:49 > 20:17 Adana, and Adana 07:45 > Karaman 12:11 > 13:32 Konya. (As of March 2021 this and all other non-YHT trains remain suspended.)
The railway from Konya to Karaman has been upgraded for YHT trains, which should start in May 2021. Travel time from Konya will then drop from 70 to 35 min; timetables have not yet been announced. Construction continues on the next section, Karaman to Ulukisla, billed for completion in 2023. There may be disruptions to the Adana trains while this is under way.
- 1 Karaman railway station (Karaman Garı) (North edge of old town).
The main highway D715 between Konya (100 km north) and Mersin passes through Karaman. Here Highway D350 branches east via Eregdi to Kayseri and points east. The 2 bus station is at this junction, about 1 km west of town centre.
Buses operated by Özkaymak run frequently direct to Istanbul (12 hours), Ankara (6 hours), Antalya (8 hours), Konya (2 hr 30 min) and Adana (4 hours).
Their buses also run frequently south to Silifke (90 min). Change there for a dolmus to Taşucu, the nearby ferry port. For foot passengers only, a hydrofoil runs May-Sept 3 times a week to Girne (Kyrenia) in Northern Cyprus. An overnight car ferry runs year-round, leaving both ports 3 times a week at midnight to arrive at 06:00. See Northern Cyprus “get in” for current timetable and fares.
Walking will get you to all points of interest within the city. Dolmuses ply all the main streets.
You need your own transport for the caves and canyons beyond the city, or join an organised tour, or negotiate a taxi to take you out there for a few hours.
- 1 The castle (Hisar or Karaman Kalesi), on a knoll in town centre, was probably built in the 11th or 12th century by the Byzantine Empire. It was captured by the Seljuks of Anatolia, Karamanids and finally the Ottomans, who restored it in 1465. The castle consists of three concentric ramparts, with the innermost being the citadel. Until the mid-20th century much of the town of Karaman was still enclosed within the outermost ramparts. All those buildings have since been demolished and the entire area is now a public park.
- 2 Karaman Museum, Turgut Özal Cd 3. Tu-F 11:00-16:00. This covers the history of this region from the Stone Ages through to the Ottoman period. It also includes Hatuniye Medresesi adjacent, an ornately decorated madressa.
- Aktekke Mosque (100 m east of the museum at 52 Ismet Paşa Cd) was built in 1370; it holds the tombs of the mother and other members of the family of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-73), founder of the Dervishes. The mosque is open daily 07:00-21:00.
- Karaman Tanıtım Merkez at 3 İsmet Paşa Cd is a separate small museum in an Ottoman house, open daily 09:00-17:00.
- Yunus Emre Mosque holds the tomb of Emre the poet and Sufi mystic (1238–1328). It's at Yunus Emre Cd 22.
- 3 Karaman Ibrahim Bey Mosque at İmaret 70 was built in 1433, part of a complex with a public soup-kitchen, İmaret.
- 4 Tartan House at Mansurdede 73 is a traditional Ottoman house that may be open to visit.
- 5 Hürrem Dayı Evi at Koçakdede 344 is another charming Ottoman house.
- Can Hasan was a settlement in the Chalcolithic or Copper Age of 5500-3000 BC, now overgrown by the village of Alaçatı 15 km northeast of Karaman. It was excavated in the late 20th century and you can see its pottery and artifacts in the various museums, there's nothing to see in the village.
- 6 Manazan caves are in a limestone gorge 20 km east of town. In the Byzantine period they were enlarged into dwellings, storage and burial chambers: "Manazan Woman" (now in Karaman Museum) was found here. There are more in Taşkale village east.
- 7 Incesu cave is a natural cave of 1356 m decorated with stalactites, stalagmites and travertine pools. Vehicles can approach up the dirt track from Taşkale. The regional tourist board are trying to promote the cave as a health resort, good luck with that.
- 8 Güldere is a village in the hills 40 km south of the city with a scenic canyon. You can drive part-way; you'll need bug repellent if you hike.
- 9 Binbirkilise literally means "1001 churches" though it's more like 50. It's a region 30 km north of the city, around the villages of Madenşehri, Üçkuyu and Değle on the slopes of Karadağ, an extinct volcano. The area is dotted with the ruins of Byzantine Christian buildings from the 3rd to 8th century, with monasteries, churches, cisterns, dwellings and so on. They were abandoned once Christians were able to live in the bigger cities.
- 10 Çatalhöyük: this Stone Age settlement is usually accessed via Konya.
- Hamams in town remain closed in early 2021.
- Gyms and fitness centres remain closed in 2021.
- Turkish World Culture Park is the grandiose name for the park, sports fields and picnic area off D715 at the south edge of town. Barbecues are permitted.
- Football: only for the die-hard fan, Karamanspor play soccer down in the minor leagues. Their home ground is Kemal Kaynaş Stadium, capacity 2250. It's next to the railway station so you might be tempted to hop on the train and watch nearby Konyaspor, who play in Süper Lig, the country's top tier.
- Migros is the main store in city centre, at Kemal Kaynaş Cd 57. It's open M-F 10:00-20:00, Sa Su 10:00-17:00.
Plenty of cheap eating places along Ismet Paşa Cad running east from the museum, and Istasyon Cad running north.
- Eredempark Cafe and Restoran Dunya Mutfagi, 17 Ismet Paşa Cad +90 338 212 3003
- Opposite Nas Otel on Ismet Paşa Cd are Türkü Bar and Cadde Gazino. Both remained closed in early 2021.
- 1 Nas Otel, Ismet Paşa Cd 30, ☏ . Very central, some street noise, mid-range going on basic but they mostly keep it clean. B&B double 200 TL.
- Nadir Business Hotel is nearby the Nas, double 250 TL.
- 2 Bayrakci Otel, Özcan Genç Cd 4, ☏ . This is one of the closest to the railway station, fine for a stopover.
- 3 Demosan Spa & Otel, Mut Cd 70, ☏ . A good choice in Karaman, clean and modern with spa and pool. B&B double 300 TL.
- 4 Grand Karaman Otel, 15 Temmuz, Şehitler Blvd 34 (Hwy D715, 500 m west of bus station), ☏ . Modern high-rise with conference facilities, edge of town but convenient for motorists and buses. B&B double 300 TL.
As of Feb 2021, Karaman has 4G from all Turkish carriers. 5G has not reached this area.
For Istanbul, Ankara, Konya, Eskişehir, Adana and Cyprus follow directions in “Get in”.
For Goreme in Cappadocia , with its fairy-chimney landscape, travel to Konya whence a bus runs 4 times a day, 3 hours.