Field evidence from north–south transects tests three tectonic models for Tethys in Western Turkey for when a Late Palaeozoic ocean was closing and an Early Mesozoic ocean opening. In Model 1, a Palaeozoic ocean subducted southwards, rifting continental fragments from Gondwana and opening a Triassic Neo-Tethys to the south. Closure and collision occurred by latest Triassic time. In Model 2, a wide Palaeozoic Tethys subducted northwards with an active Eurasian margin and a passive Gondwana margin. The northern Gondwana margin rifted in the Triassic; fragments either remained nearby (Taurides) or drifted northwards (e.g. Karakaya) attached to a north-subducting plate. New oceanic crust replaced Palaeo-Tethys with Neotethys and back-arc marginal basins opened along the south Eurasian margin (e.g. Küre). In Model 3, a Palaeozoic ocean also subducted northwards opening wide marginal basins. A wide Southern Neotethys opened along the Gondwana margin. Rifted Eurasian (Anatolides) and Gondwana (Taurides) fragments collided in mid-Tethys by latest Triassic time. Field evidence from the Pontides supports north-dipping subduction models (Model 2 or 3 above). Key features are a south-vergent, HP–LT accretionary prism, magmatic arc and back-arc basin system bordering the Eurasian margin. Also, evidence from the Tauride Mountains favours Model 2 over Model 3. Critically, the Anatolides and Taurides appear to have a common history and were unlikely to have been located on opposite sides of Tethys, as in Model 3.