Nemrut Daǧı or Mount Nemrut—2,134 meters (7,001 feet) high and located outside the town of Kahta—is one of the oddest and most spectacular sights in southeastern Turkey and simply not to be missed. Essentially an enormous necropolis and one of the most ambitious construction projects of the Hellenistic period, the summit was created when a megalomaniacal pre-Roman local king cut two ledges in the rock, filled them with colossal statues of himself and the gods (his relatives, or so he thought), then ordered an artificial mountain peak of crushed rock fifty meters high to be piled between them. The king's tomb and those of three female relatives are reputed to lie beneath those tons of rock.
In 62 BCE, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene, immensely proud of his royal power and intending never to be forgotten, decided to sit and watch the sun rise and set with his family of gods and goddesses forever atop the mountain top. His tomb is flanked on all sides by huge statues of himself, two lions, two eagles, and various Greek, Armenian, and Iranian gods (including Apollo, Zeus, Tyche, Vahagn, Aramazd, and Ahura Mazda).
After the death of Antiochus, at some point the heads of the statues were severed from their bodies. Mount Nemrut fell into obscurity until 1881, when a German engineer, employed by the Ottoman Sultan to assess transportation routes, was astounded to come across the statues covering this remote mountaintop. Archaeological work by the American School of Oriental Research began in 1953, and now many of the colossal bodies sit silently in rows, with the two-meter-high heads watching from the ground.
Nemrut Daǧı is generally considered the eighth wonder of the ancient world and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The best time to visit Mount Nemrut is early morning, as the sun rises with breathtaking brilliance and shimmers on the ruins.