Hasankeyf is a small village located along the banks of the Tigris River in southeastern Turkey.
IMPORTANT NOTE: As of July 30, 2012, access to the main citadel has been closed, and is unlikely to reopen in the near future. The reason provided was for visitors' safety.
Hasankeyf has a history spanning millennia, with excavations around the citadel dating back to 3000BCE, and most cliff dwellings being around 2,000 years old. It was perhaps inhabited first by Assyrians and/or Urartians, and then most certainly by successive Roman, Byzantine, Turkic, and Arabic dynasties. Much of the old architecture of Hasankeyf standing today bears the signature of the Ayyubid sultan el-Melik el-Adil Sultan Salesman (1378-1432).
Unfortunately, Hasankeyf is slated to be inundated upon the completion of a dam project that has been in the works for over 50 years now.
Hasankeyf is far from the rest of Turkey, but one can easily reach the city of Batman by bus or rail, and then cover the remaining hour or so of travel by minibuses (dolmuş) regulated by Hasankeyf town council (Hasankeyf Belediyesi). It costs 3 TL/person. It's also possible to reach Hasankeyf by taking Batman-Midyat-Mardin minibuses.
Hasankeyf is rich in history throughout the ages. The main archaeological highlight of Hasankeyf is the citadel on the very top of the town, overlooking the river. Considering how extensive these ruins are, an entire day (or two) could easily be spent exploring.
The grand days of Hasankeyf are long gone, so most sights are in a state of disrepair, or even partially ruined (which is made worse as the much needed funds for renovation are blocked due to the dam project), although all are intact—and beautiful—enough as to allow you to imagine what they were like back in the day.
Aside from the spectacular heritage sites, thousands of caves exist in the cliffs that surround the city with old shepherd paths through narrow side canyons and along the tops of towering limestone cliffs. Many of the caves are multi-storied and water-supplied. Until the 1970s many families still lived in the ancient cliff dwellings (signposted Mağaralar) along the river, but now there aren't more than a few inhabitants. Churches and mosques were also carved into the cliffs and numerous ancient cemeteries exist throughout the area as well.
The great thing about Hasankeyf is that the lack of Western tourists — and pretty much anyone at all — really makes you feel that you're pretty off-the-beaten track. Find a local guide to take you on some of the trails carved into the rock with beautiful views of the valley.
There are a couple of places to eat in town, offering typical Turkish fare and good prices.
When entering restaurants, make sure that you ask for prices prior to ordering. If they will not give you a menu of prices, go elsewhere as you may be charged an extortionate amount. Look which restaurants are busy with locals - they may not be as picturesque, but you can get good food at a decent price.
A glass of Turkish tea (çay) costs 0.50 TL at the open-air village coffeehouse by the new (highway) bridge, and you should not pay more than 1TL anywhere.
As far as sleeping options are concerned, there are two hotels along the river and normally the prices are reasonable but not as cheap as other similar quality hotels in this region of the country. However, the prices are negotiable because there are very few tourists due to the closure of the site
It's also possible—and legal according to military polices at the checkpoint on the road from Mardin—to wild camp on the banks of Tigris. The northern bank (the one on which the village is not located) seems to be more discreet, quiter, greener (like a finely mown patch of lawn), and has better views (of the ruins). If it's weekend, to avoid some (excessive) attention, just wait for the evening to arrive, so the local daytrippers from Batman leaves the place, to erect your tent. Also take usual precautions against scorpions — don't leave your tents and bags un-zipped, check your footwear before wearing them, don't remove rocks, and don't wander out of grass/humid areas at night.
If you go for a meal at one of the restaurants on stilts on the southern bank you are allowed to spend the night on the comfortable mattresses with the soothing sound of the river. (Inform yourself about meal prices before you order. Menus are not necessarily available.) Toilet facilities are scarce, though.
While you will see locals taking a dip in the river in summer, it is better to be on the safe side and save your eagerness for somewhere else. The riverbed is deeper and the current is stronger than they appear in the first glance, and indeed a number of lives is lost to the river every year in this very place.