Malatya is a relatively new city by Turkish standards, although its ancient name, Malidiya, dates back to Hittites, a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.
In 1838, during a war between Ottoman Empire and the forces of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, the Ottoman army seized what was then the town of Malatya, forcing the local population to Aspuzu, then a collection of cottages amidst the orchards in the outskirts of the town. After the war, the people decided not to return to their battered town, settling permanently in Aspuzu, and renaming it to Malatya (the abandoned old town, 10 km north of the current city, has later been re-populated, and is now called Battalgazi, covered in its separate article).
Today, with its population of more than 400,000 inhabitants, Malatya is the largest city of central-eastern Anatolia, where gently rolling steppes of Central Anatolia give way to heavily-rugged terrain of Eastern Anatolia. The plateau on which Malatya lies is surrounded by higher mountains, some of which are covered with orchards that produce the apricots, for which the city is famous.
Unlike rest of Eastern Anatolia, much of the urban population speak a non-dialectical standard Turkish, sometimes with a slight accent.
Local people are generally friendly and helpful.
A semi-arid continental climate reigns in the area. In summers (May onwards), daytime is sunny and hot, enough to walk around comfortably in just a t-shirt, however, nights and early mornings are cool enough that you will want to pack along a jacket or a sweater.
Malatya Erhaç Airport (IATA: MLX) is 30 km away from the city center and can be reached by shuttle buses of the airlines and taxis. Flights leave from Istanbul and Ankara. Turkish Airlines THY , AnadoluJet , Pegasus Airlines and Onur Air have daily flights to Malatya.
If bought one month prior to the flight date, a one-way flight between Istanbul and Malatya costs between 114 and 154 TL, depending on the company.
There are daily services of 4 Eylül Mavi Treni from Ankara. The Mavi Tren departs at 3:10PM, arriving in Malatya at 7AM next morning, and has couchette and soft sleepers, a restaurant car, as well as standard seating cars attached.
From Istanbul, Güney Express and Vangölü Express, which are bound for further southeast and east from Malatya respectively, call at Malatya station on alternating days, 6 times a week. They share the same route for most part of their long journey across the country, calling at İzmit, Eskişehir, Ankara, Kayseri, and Sivas, among many other smaller towns and cities, before arriving to Malatya. Their paths diverge east of Malatya—while Güney Express heads for Diyarbakır and Batman, Vangölü leads to Tatvan on the Lake Van via Elazığ and Muş. Both has standard seating cars, compartment cars, couchettes, and sleeper cars available.
Trains to Istanbul. Depending on the day of your trip, you'll either take Güney or Vangölü Express out of Malatya. They depart around 5:50PM six days a week, offering beautiful views of the apricot orchards surrounding the city and wilder vistas of Upper Euphrates Valley further out on the way before the night falls in spring and summer. While the scheduled arrival time to Istanbul is 8:29PM the next day (i.e., a duration of more than 24 hours), they are generally several hours late, and that usually means they arrive after the midnight—when Istanbul's public transportation is in a very reduced operation. So, assuming that the keeping your budget down is why you preferred train over other means of transportation in the first place and therefore you may want to avoid hefty taxi rides across the city, in order not to stuck at the station in the middle of the night, make sure you have arranged your accommodation at least for the first night in Asian Side, where the terminal train station of Istanbul, Haydarpaşa, is located.
A standard seat in a pullman car (like those in buses) costs 30.75 TL for a ride between Malatya and Istanbul. Note that neither Güney nor Vangölü Express has a restaurant car attached, so make sure to pack along some supplies (there is a large Carrefour supermarket near the station) as the nearest convenient stop is in Ankara, about 20 hours away (as the other long-enough stops, Sivas and Kayseri are both scheduled in the dead of the night).
Malatya's train station is located northwest of the city centre, in residential suburbs of the city, about 200 metres off the çevreyolu–intercity highway (look for the small white sign saying TCDD Gar at the roundabout with a big-box store named Carrefour at one side). From the city centre, it takes around one and a half hour to get to the station even with a relatively quick pace, but fortunately public bus lines #1A and #1B as well as a number of minibuses connect the station with the central square quite frequently.
Malatya can easily be reached by car, via Kayseri-Malatya motorway, which is numbered D300.
There are many domestic coach firms from Istanbul bus station. The coaches, reach Malatya via Ankara and the journey takes nearly 15 hours. Beydağı Turizm , Aksoğanoğlu Zafer Turizm , Kernek Turizm have at least 5 daily coaches to Malatya within the specific times of the day.
Buses from Ankara, which also shortly call at Kayseri bus station on the way, take between 9 and 11 hours depending on the service, costing 35 TL on the average. In addition to some of the local companies based in Malatya listed above, nation-wide Metro Turizm operates on this line, too.
Malatya's bus station (otogar) lies at the western outskirts of the city, on the highway from Kayseri and way out of city centre. Luckily, quite frequent public buses, which call at the stops on the highway in front of the station (cross the street for eastbound buses, i.e., those heading for the city), connect it with the city centre (although not all of the buses calling at that stop make it to the city centre—some proceed to the suburbs on the other side of the city via the intercity highway). The earliest public bus services start around 6AM.
The name of the bus stop in front of the otogar (as well as the administration of the station itself) is Maşti, so look for that in bus signs when getting from elsewhere in the city.
The bus station has an official tourism information office, an internet cafe open 24-hr, toilettes (which cost 0.75 TL), as well as benches which might offer a quite uncomfortable sleep if you arrive in the middle of the night. The place is calm and safe through the night with a visible presence of security officers.
The city has a wide number of public buses, some fairly modern and some quite old, easily recognizable by their flashy yellow colour and big Malatya Belediyesi ("Malatya City Council") banners on the sides. However, not every of them heads into downtown, some ply up and down the intercity highway (which is named Çevreyolu on the maps and such, literally "ring road", however it's a wide avenue through the residential neighbourhoods of the city rather than a motorway surrounding the city nowadays), which lie a few blocks north of the main street of city centre. The bus stops at the central square are called Valilik or Vilayet (both means "Governer's Office", and it seems there is no fixed standard for it—it's possible to see both words on bus signs), so make sure you catch one heading for there when you want to make it right to the downtown. A ride, regardless of the distance or the direction, costs 1.25 TL.
Once in the center, everywhere is easily accessible by foot as the city lies on a fairly flat ground, except for southern neighbourhoods leaning against a steep hillside, which an average traveller takes little, if any, interest anyway.
- New Mosque (Yeni Cami) (at the central square). A beautiful mosque built in 1912, and one of the few in Turkey featuring three minarets. The one on the side—top of which was demolished long ago—was perhaps the minaret of an older mosque on site. Free.
- Just across the street from the New Mosque at the front yard of Governer's Office is the last standing statue of İsmet İnönü, a native of the city and the second president of Turkey (in office 1938-1950), who was later blamed for instituting a cult of personality for himself after the death of Turkish Republic's founder, Kemal Atatürk.
From the central square, a stroll of 800 metres along the Fuzuli Caddesi (Street) will bring you to Kernek Square (Kernek Meydanı).
- Waterfalls Park (Şelale Parkı), Kernek Meydanı. A park on the side of a hill with lots of water features. A man-made waterfall running through a concrete canal and getting stronger at each upper cascade is the main attraction. The park surrounds a small hydropower plant harnessing the power of the waterfall—the reason why the waterfall exists in the first place—although the plant is not open for visits. Some open-air cafes line the cascading water canal. Free.
- Museum (Müze), Kernek Meydanı (next to the park), ☎ +90 422 321-30-06, fax: +90 422 324-98-98. Tu-Su 8AM-noon 1PM-4:45PM. 3 TL.
The waters of the waterfalls park keep running along a canal spanned by pleasant foot bridges in the leafy median strip of Hamit Feritoğlu Caddesi, unofficially known as Kanalboyu (literally "along the canal"). A stroll of about 500 metres along the Kanalboyu will bring you to another square.
- On the side of the square is Hürriyet Park, the largest in the city.
- At the side of the entrance of the park is a statue of Kemal Atatürk, complete with his cloak, next to a guy, presumably symbolizing Turkish youth, who is wearing nothing but a fig leaf.
Heading back to northwest from here along Kışla Caddesi—which has a beautifully landscaped wide median strip, which includes benches and palm trees (yes, palm trees. Like those that are found in tropical paradises. All thanks to legendary cold hardiness of Trachycarpus fortunei species)—you will arrive back at the central square; drawing a triangle in the city. However, there are a few more sights on the way, which might slow down your pace a bit.
- Atatürk Museum (Atatürk Evi Müzesi), Kışla Caddesi (very close to Hürriyet Park). Tu-Su 9AM-noon 1PM-5PM. The historic mansion in which Kemal Atatürk stayed during his visits to the city.
- There are also a number of other historic stone buildings along the Kışla Caddesi from the late Ottoman or early Republic eras, which look quite stately and impressive.
- At yet another square on your way, there is an old-looking clock tower, which actually was built recently but is nice anyway.
- There is a large park east of the city, on the highway to Elazığ with a large pond and distant views of the Karakaya Dam lake. Minibuses and public buses heading for Üniversite pass by the entrance of it.
- Northwest of the city centre (on Boztepe Caddesi a block north of intercity highway-çevreyolu), there is a ruined Armenian church that is...well, ruined. Only its outer walls are standing and the neighbourhood in which it stands seems to be a somewhat rough one, so a distant look from the highway might suffice unless you have a special interest in the Armenian heritage of the region.
- Visit during the Malatya International Arts and Apricot Festival in July.
- Go to Malatya Park AVM (shopping mall), the largest mall in eastern Turkey. An ice skating rink and a movie theater with subtitled films are also available there.
The city is known for huge apricot orchards of the surrounding countryside, and it's possible to sample a number of local products based on apricot, from the usual dried apricots to highly unique shish kebabs with grilled apricots.
There are a number of cafes along the Kanalboyu, some of which serve hookah (nargile).
- Nostalji Cafe (opposite the Yeşil Sinema). Housed in a two-floor historic building, this is the place to try traditional drinks such as Turkish coffee, sahlep, or kefir.
- Genç Girişimciler Derneği, Kışla Caddesi. The only pub in Malatya.
- Murat Palancı Oteli Turgut Temelli Cad. No: 26 Malatya; +90-422-3251003
- Yeni Butik Oteli Yeni Camii Karşısı Zafer iş Hanı No:1 Malatya; +90-3231424
- Otel Avşar. Çevreyolu, Eski Otogar Karşısı Malatya; +90-422-3248491
- Bezginler Hotel Çevreyolu Adliye Kavşağı No:12/3 Malatya; +90-422-3241252
- Altın Kayısı Hotel. Istasyon Caddesi 44200 Malatya; 90-422-2114444
The area code of Malatya is (+90) 422.
There is an internet cafe on the corner of Kernek Square and Fuzuli Caddesi, opposite the Waterfalls Park.
- Battalgazi — the original site of the city of Malatya, Battalgazi has some remnants from its past, including the beautiful Seljuk-built Great Mosque
- Elazığ — another regional city to northeast, surrounded by mountains and lakes; hub for visiting the old town of Harput
- Mount Nemrut — Malatya can be a convenient hub to the well-known sacred mountain, topped by head statues devoted to ancient Gods. During spring and summer, you can join the daily trips starting from the tourism information centre in the city hall (Vilayet).
- Darende — historic town to west with traces of past civilizations
- Kayseri — several hours to west, Kayseri is a good hub for visits to Cappadocia, or onward trips to Ankara, the national capital