For most of recorded history, the Cilician Gates have been the main thoroughfare of travel between Asia Minor and the lands of Syria and beyond. This pass of the Cilician Gates (Πulai Κιλικία in Greek, Gülek Boğazı -the throat of Gülek- in Turkish) has been traveled by the Hittites, Greeks, Alexander the Great, the Romans, Mongols, and the Crusaders.* It was called the Porta Judae (Gates of Judas) by the Crusaders.
This is also likely the path that Paul and Silas took when they went on Paul’s second journey from Antioch (Antakya) through Syria and into Cilicia (Acts 15) to visit the churches that Paul and Barnabas had planted on their first journey. Paul was familiar with this area as he was from Tarsus, which just to the south of the Cilician Gates.
Because it is one of few ways through the Taurus Mountains, it is of great strategical importance. The gates are greatly defensible, as is evidenced in the following anecdote: “An indication of the difficulty of forcing the Cilician Gate comes from the twentieth century: on the 28th of May 1920, five hundred French soldiers were prevented from passing through the mountain pass by forty Turks.” Thousands of years earlier, at the southern end of the gates, Yumuktepe may have been built as a guardian city to the entrance of the gates.
Setting atop the mountain that overlooks the pass, at 1600 meters, is Gülek Kalesi (Castle). It was built during the middle ages and was a strategic location for both defense of the pass, and for the collection of fees from those who would pass the gates, thus making it a very lucrative business for whoever might control the castle.
The castle’s entrance, and the walls leading to it, are still intact. Not much is left to be seen inside the castle, but the views from the top are not to be missed. You can look down to the Cilican Gates themselves, and on a clear day you can see quite a ways.
Warning: Please be aware that the road leading up to the castle turns from paved to very rocky and steep, and there are no guard rails. It is a long way down.
Visiting the Cilician Gates is easy if you have a vehicle. From Adana, get on the Otoban towards Mersin, and from Mersin, get on the Otoban towards Adana. Above Tarsus, take the O-21 Otoban towards Ankara. Drive about 30 minutes (51 km) north, and you will pass through the pass. There is a sign, if you don’t recognize it by narrowness of the pass. If you would like to see the Roman mile stones (pictured above), they are at the rest areas at around the 30 km mark from when you started on the O-21.
If you would like to visit Gülek Kalesi, the road is a bit tougher. You can pass through the Cilician Gates, then get off at the Tekir exit, and heading southwest to get to the village of Gülek. Or instead of going through the Cilician Gates first, you can get off of the Otoban at the çamalan exit, heading north (right). The castle road entrance is on the south side of Gülek. Look for the sign pictured above. The first half of the castle road is paved and smooth, even if narrow. The last half of the castle road is very rocky, narrow, and with steep fall offs. You can park at a widening in the road before you reach the castle entrance. See the map below for more details.