Well done, you! And now here comes some even better news because Konya makes an excellent base for excursions out to several other fascinating destinations, most of them no more than an hour’s drive away.
Çatalhöyük: The first and most famous of these nearby attractions has to be the Neolithic site at Çatalhöyük (Fork Mound), 33 kilometers to the southeast near the dusty small town of Çumra. These days the dramatic discoveries at Göbeklitepe, near Şanlıurfa, have stolen some of Çatalhöyük’s thunder but until recently this was one of those mysterious ancient sites that set romantics all aquiver as they dreamed of the dim and distant past and the days when the cult of the Mother Goddess prevailed in Central Anatolia. Actually, modern archeologists are not as convinced as they used to be about that goddess. Turns out much of the mythology arose from one roly-poly statuette recovered from a grain bin into which it could quite possibly have fallen accidentally. But the thing about Çatalhöyük, like so many prehistoric sites, is that hard facts are impossible to come by. In their place come theories that tend to change with the Zeitgeist.
If you’ve already visited Ephesus and Aphrodisias you may find Çatalhöyük a tad disappointing. Although there’s a small on-site interpretation center and a replica of what archeologists think the houses excavated from inside the tell (settlement mound) would have looked like, the rest of the site consists of a series of mud-walled holes in the ground that won’t make a lot of sense to you without someone to explain them. Suffice to say that the 9,000-year-old settlement at Çatalhöyük appears to have consisted of homes that were entered from the roofs via ladders, that were designed to a standard plan, and that served as burial places for their inhabitants when their days were done (their skeletons were buried beneath benches reminiscent of the sedirs that later adorned Ottoman houses). What might appear to be streets running between the houses were, in fact, large rubbish dumps. Strangely, no public buildings have been identified at the site -- no temples, no town halls, no meeting chambers -- a fact that on its own makes Çatalhöyük different from other archeological sites.
Excavations have been ongoing since 1961 but still only a tiny part of the site has been uncovered, which means that there’s still ample scope for theories about life here to change again. The best of the finds are on display in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara with just a few paltry offerings in the Konya Archeological Museum. Scattered across the flat surrounding plain are several other evocative tells that still await excavation.
Sille: If Çatalhöyük is the most famous of Konya’s neighboring attractions, the pretty little village of Sille, just to the north, is by far the easiest to get to, with buses leaving from in front of the Şerafeddin Cami on Mevlana Caddesi every half-hour. Sille was once a Greek settlement strung out along a valley surrounded by craggy rocks, and recently most of its attractive wood-and-stone houses and ancient monuments have been restored, making it a great place in which to while away a few hours. The most conspicuous monument here is the huge Byzantine church of St. Helena that stands at the far end of the village near the last bus stop. Dating back originally to 371, it was extensively restored in 1833 when Turkey’s minority populations were given permission to rebuild their places of worship. In the 1880s money from wealthy traders in İstanbul flooded in to pay for new frescoes. Now the building is being given a complete makeover, which means that for the time being you may only be able to admire the dome, the brickwork and the chunks of Roman marble embedded in the walls.
No matter. Just a short walk away is a wall of rock studded with cave churches, the fading frescoes on their walls and the graves cut into their floors reminiscent of Cappadocia, while up on the hillside the shattered remnants of the Küçük Kilise (Small Church) offer a great viewing point for getting the lay of the land. That done, you can stroll back through a village that will remind some British visitors of Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds except that at Bourton there would be none of the litter that here disfigures the stream running alongside the road. The houses are delightful, with geraniums brightening up their window ledges, and there’s a fine mosque with a delightful wooden porch right in the center, although sadly its doors are kept locked.
If you can do so, time your visit for lunch-time so that you can sit down for a meal at the inviting Sille Konak, housed in one of the finest of the old houses. Bamya çorbası (okra soup) is just one of the local delicacies on offer.
Karapınar: For carpet dealers Karapınar was once a name to conjure with but until recently there was little reason for a casual visitor to trek the 96 kilometers east of Konya to visit the town. Now, however, it’s well worth hopping the bus from the Eski Garaj (Old Bus Station) near the Aziziye Cami to visit the Sultaniye Külliyesi, a mosque complex built for Yavuz Sultan Selim between 1563 and 1566 that dominates the town center. The mosque is attributed to the famous Ottoman architect Sinan and bears many of his familiar hallmarks, including a cluster of domes. His famous name was not enough, however, to protect the attendant buildings that had been demolished and have only recently been rebuilt. Now the old shops of the arasta bazaar fronting the mosque are busy again and men sip tea in the sun in what was once the old imaret (soup kitchen). The Valide Sultan Müzesi supposedly occupies the hamam named after Sultan Selim II’s mother Hürrem Sultan (the same Roxelana whose better known hamam in Sultanahmet Square recently reopened for business as İstanbul’s most luxurious bathhouse) although you’ll be lucky to find it open. Meanwhile a collection of fragments of ancient marble columns and capitals adorn the mosque garden.
Karapınar itself is a sleepy town whose old mud-brick houses have mainly ceded place to the usual concrete apartment blocks. Curiously, the locals get about in little three-wheeler vehicles that will remind some visitors of Bangkok’s traffic-dodging tuk-tuks. There’s an unexpectedly good hotel, the Koçaklar (Tel.: 0  755 64 44), just across the road from the mosque in case you fancy extending your stay here. And why would you want to do that? Well, seven kilometers to the southeast is the Meke Gölü, a lovely volcanic crater lake with an island in the middle of it rather like the jam in a doughnut.
Lystra (Kilistra): One last sight is a little more difficult to get to without your own wheels and that is Lystra, an ancient settlement in the village of Gökyurt, 45 kilometers southwest of Konya, where St. Paul is believed to have stayed on all three of his missionary journeys across Anatolia. The main attraction here is a striking church cut clean out of the rock rather like the monuments of Lalibela in Ethiopia. As at Sille, there are traces of other Cappadocian-style churches and troglodytic dwellings scattered about here. To make matters even better, the countryside around Gökyurt has a peaceful pastoral quality to it, making it perfect for picnicking.