The country of Turkey, being the 37th largest in the world is a traveller’s delight. From the east to the west spanning thousands of kilometres, many places to visit in Turkey are unique attractions. From historical landmarks to renowned sites of nature, most have graced glossy pages of international travel magazines as recommended travel destinations.
Part of the popularity is that Turkey is also an incredibly comfortable country for accessible travel. Therefore, despite its vast landscape, getting quickly from one place to another has boosted the popularity of its countrywide tours. Bearing this is mind; choosing destinations to visit can be overwhelming without intricate knowledge of the country, so we put together our recommended list of the best places. For easy reading, we separated it into genres and occasions.
Places to Visit in Turkey
We think of a honeymoon as a magical adventure. Full of romantic vibes, gorgeous sunsets, comfortable hotels, and things to do for couples, the destination has to have it all. Two places fulfil the criteria perfectly. The first is the central Anatolian region of Cappadocia. An unusual lunar-like landscape hosts fabulous cave hotels with luxury and modern fittings making your hotel room resemble a queen’s boudoir. An early morning sunrise hot air balloon trip is full of romance as you float softly with ease, over the unusual landscape, of fairy chimneys and deep valleys before descending for a champagne celebration.
Other couples activities to enjoy include horse riding, a trek through the scenic Ihlara Valley, gazing over Cappadocia from Esentepe viewpoint or simply relaxing poolside with a tall glass of Cappadocia wine. Four days in Cappadocia is ample time so finish your honeymoon, by sailing the Turkish Riviera. Booking private or cabin charter, a gentle Blue Voyage cruise of the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts, on a traditional gulet boat encompasses summer memories of sailing, swimming, al fresco dining and exploring Turkish coastal villages.
A client once told us that if the kids are happy, the parents will be even happier, so we think the best family places to visit in Turkey are full of cheap activities that are easy to get to and enjoyable for children. For this reason, we prefer family friendly coastal resorts of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Many of them like Kusadasi have waterparks. All offer water sports for teenagers. Family activities include jeep safaris on scenic mountain roads or lazy day boat cruises along the coastline.
British holidaymakers love Gumbet, Yalikavak, and Turgutreis on the Bodrum Peninsula of the Aegean. Marmaris is also a popular family destination as is Mediterranean Fethiye with its smaller holiday resorts of Oludeniz and Hisaronu. We, however, think Antalya is a great family destination. Separating into the smaller holiday resorts, parents generally prefer bustling Alanya and quaint Side. Antalya centre though is perfect for families because child friendly local attractions include the waterpark, Mini City, the Aquarium, waterfalls, the long stretch of Konyaalti beach, Lara Park Sand City, and our favourite of Mount Tahtali and its cable car ride.
Without a doubt, the best place to shop in Turkey is Istanbul, a metropolis fused through its blend of old and new. Foreigners love practising their haggling skills for souvenirs and handicraft items in the exotic and traditional Grand Bazaar. This ancient building emphasises days gone by of the Ottoman Empire with a maze of small shops and alleyways, selling everything and anything. Hyped up shopkeepers, buzzing with adrenaline, banter and joke with thousands of shoppers every day in an attempt to sell their wares and tears.
Across Galata Bridge, though, sits Istiklal Avenue, the busiest street in Turkey and more known for its iconic red tram. Encompassing a variety of old and new premises, shoppers smoothly navigate establishments of brand name western companies to individual boutiques. Antique shops line the back streets of the Cukurcuma district while students and book lovers flock to coffee style bookstores stocking the latest must-read titles.
Istiklal Avenue varies from budget to middle-class shopping, but for a high-end luxury experience, Abdi Ipekci is one of the most expensive places to visit in Turkey for shopping. Premier, high-class brands such as Hugo Boss, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton line immaculate, clean sidewalks, surrounded by international eateries serving the latest trends in cuisine. Sitting in the fashion hungry Nisantasi district of Istanbul, Abdi Ipekci Street is all about living the good life.
Unusual Places to Visit in Turkey
If unusual is, what you are looking for, Turkey will not disappoint, and our recommended first place to visit is the Cotton Castle, White Calcium pools of Pamukkale. This surreal natural landmark in the Denizli region of Aegean Turkey resembles a cotton castle because of solidified spa spring waters that have formed pools down the hillside.
Along with the ancient ruins of the nearby Hierapolis city, its unusual appearance put it onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Meanwhile over in Dalyan, the ancient Lycian rock tombs embedded in a tall rock face, glaring over the Dalyan delta river, wow everyone. Belonging to the former royalty of the Lycian Empire, boats running tour excursions pass them to get to the main attraction of the mud baths. Urban legends say the calcium-loaded dirt makes you look ten years younger, but you do not have to believe that to spend a fun afternoon rolling around in the mud.
Naturally, as a Muslim country, many Islamic landmarks are worth visiting such as the Blue Mosque of Istanbul but religious travellers to Turkey come to see either the Jewish heritage of Istanbul or the historic sites of early Christianity. The Balat and Galata districts of Istanbul were for hundreds of years, popular Jewish settlement areas, and synagogues and the Jewish Museum retraces their history perfectly.
Christian sites of interest also garner international fame. Cappadocia portrays the early days of the religion through its ancient cave churches as seen in the UNESCO world heritage sites of the Goreme Open-Air Museum. The Aegean coast of Turkey is is home to the Seven Churches of Revelation as mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible.
Many people believe the Virgin Mary spent her last days in an old stone house in the hills of Selcuk so it is a popular pilgrimage place. Meanwhile, the jewel in the crown is the ancient city of Ephesus visited by Saint John and Saint Paul. The famous Artemis riots took place in its grand theatre and in nearby Selcuk, historians speculate Saint John’s tomb is in the Basilica named after him.
Areas of Natural Beauty
Turkey has many places to visit in Turkey that emphasise its natural beauty, but one place that contains to wow is the northeast area in specific, the Trabzon district, and Kackar Mountains. Many small villages like Demirkapi plateau that are untouched by tourism hold a cultural heritage story intertwining them with the Georgian and Armenian historical timelines.
Locals, known as the Laz and Hemsin communities of Turkey enjoy untouched landscapes and an old-fashioned but simple way of life. Ayder plateau with its natural spring waters is the ultimate holiday in a mountainous region while the natural lake of Uzungol demonstrates a community who have built their houses and hotels by hand using wood from nearby forested areas. Otherwise, a pinnacle highlight is the 4th century Sumela monastery sitting on a high cliff in the Altindere Valley.
Although holiday resorts of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts wind down during summer, other places still operate from November to April, which is the low touristic season. Naturally, as Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul runs day and night for 365 days of the year.
Open for business, as usual, landmark historical attractions like the Hagia Sophia receive hundreds of visitors a day. Bars and restaurants also carry on as normal albeit rainfall and sometimes snow falls during January to March. Near to Istanbul, Canakkale and more specifically the places of Gallipoli and Troy are a favorite daytime or overnight excursion.
The city centre of Antalya carries on as normal, thanks to its milder winter climate. As such sites like the old town of Kaleici or ruins of Aspendos are easier to explore than in summer because of mild daytime temperatures. Unusual Cappadocia is also open throughout the winter, and it turns into a mystical fairy-tale land when a thin blanket of snow covers the cave churches, hotels, and valleys.
Further Reading: For more suggestions of places to visit in Turkey, see our countrywide and destination specific tours. Otherwise, our Turkey Travel Blog has loads more information to enhance your visit to the country. You can also contact us here to discuss your travel plans with one of our country experts.