Wonderland Eurasia cost around £650million and was once hailed as one of Turkey’s ‘symbols of pride’ – but it shut one year after its grand opening and has been left in decay since 2020
With 26 roller coasters once giving families days out they’ll never forget, Wonderland Eurasia has been left to crumble rubbish everywhere and food still in fridges. The venue, also known as Ankapark, was once hailed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as “one of the symbols of pride for Turkey”.
However, it was suddenly shut down and left to decay the year after its grand opening. When it was launched in March 2019, six years after it had first been announced, the park had much to boast about within its 1.3-million-square-metre site and excitement was certainly building.
Now, its only visitors are burglars who constantly try to steal cables and other recyclable parts. Since the amusement park plans were announced by the then-mayor Melih Gokcek ten years ago, his grand scheme quickly found itself be-set by legal issues and political scandals – and it didn’t have a happy ending.
Among its attractions, Ankapark offered loads of big thrill rides as well as 2,117 smaller amusement rides, all housed in 13 huge tents. The large outdoor area included a majestic fountain built to sprinkle water in jets as high as 120 metres, and the park featured among other decorations large statues of dinosaurs and robots.
Wonderland Eurasia, which reportedly cost around £647million to the Ankara municipality, had the capacity to host some five million visitors per year. The issues at the park, the management of which was granted to a private firm, started early on, as one of its roller coasters broke down two days after the inauguration. The big problem was that park had been launched despite some of its rides not being finished and remaining off-limits to paying guests.
The unfinished state of the park was noticed by visitors too, with one taking to Tripadvisor in July 2019 to say: “This theme park still needs at least more six months in my opinion as most of the mature rides and games are either under construction or haven’t opened yet, and we weren’t even told about that before buying the tickets which led to us being disappointed and frustrated.”
Despite it being partially closed, the park was loved by many visitors, with one writing on the tourism advice website: “Wonderful place to have great time with family and friends. Definitely the best in Turkey, not just Ankara.” The enthusiasm of many of its guests was not enough to keep the venue open, as less than one year after it was launched its management shut it down as it was struggling to pay electricity bills.
Ankapark had sparked controversy even prior to its construction, as it was built on the Atatürk Forest Farm, a large recreational farming area owned by the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry and housing farms, greenhouses, restaurants and a zoo. Following its closure, the park sat in ruins for years, with its rides covered in dust and many of its attractions and statues broken down.
Excited Ankapark Enterprises General Director Cem Uzan explained when it opened that the attraction will work to attract tourists from the Middle East, China and Russia. Uzan said: “We try to improve tourism activities in Ankara. Our Chinese partners will bring nearly 500,000 Chinese tourists. Our aim is to bring Russian and Middle Eastern ones. “If more tourists come here in this context, Ankara will have a proper income, developing its touristic structure. Thus, we will establish another income source for Ankara.”
But it was all over, before it started. In the summer of 2022, the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality surveyed Ankara residents on how the park’s site, which it had acquired following a court ruling, should be used. The poll showed locals wanted the area to be redeveloped into a green area as the final rides were long taken.