Opening hours: 09:00 - 17:00
Looming above the northern bank of the river is a sheer rock face with the conspicuous rock-cut Tombs of the Pontic Kings (Kral Kaya Mezarları.
The tombs, cut deep into the rock as early as the 4th century BC, were used for cult worship of the deified rulers. There are 18 tombs in these valleys, all of them empty.
Climb the well-marked steps to the ticket office. Just past the office the path divides: turn left to find a couple of tombs reached via a
rock-hewn tunnel, or right to find more tombs and the remnants of the Palace of the Maidens (Kızlar Sarayı). Though there were indeed harems full of maidens here, the palace that stood on this rock terrace was that of the kings of Pontus, and later of the Ottoman governors. In the cliff behind the terrace are several more tombs. You’ll have to pass through the hole in the wall and scramble up the rock-cut stairs to get to them, but the views over the town make the effort worthwhile. You can walk around the tombs to see how they have been cut away from the rock face, but beware of couples in dark corners!
Another Pontic tomb, the Mirror Cave (Aynalı Mağara), is apart from the others on the road in from Samsun. It’s worth visiting if you have time and is a pleasant 4km walk from the main square; follow the river north until you cross the Yeşilırmak Bridge, then look for the signpost on your right.
Although built during Pontic times, it’s likely that this tomb was later used as a chapel by the Byzantines who painted the fast-fading frescoes inside. With a Greek inscription high on the façade, this is one of the few tombs to have any type of adornment. If you’re feeling lazy, a taxi will run you there and back from the centre for about €5.