Lying on both Asia and Europe, Turkey is an amazing destination that should be added to everyone’s bucket list. Whether you want to experience an ancient culture, architectural wonders, cosmopolitan cities, amazing landscapes, and secluded beautiful beaches, a visit to Turkey will give you exactly that even beyond your wildest imaginations. There are so many beautiful places in Turkey that choosing where to go can be a challenge as everything is worth a visit. So in this post, I will be sharing the best places to visit in Turkey to give you an idea of what you can’t miss while you discover this beautiful Eurasia country.
Before you travel to Turkey, these are some Turkey travel essentials that you must know or have in order to make your trip more fun and fulfilling. Here are Turkey’s must-haves.
– The endless number of hotels in Turkey can make it hard to choose the perfect one, so I recommend using booking.com or Hotelscombined to compare different hotels in terms of prices, reviews, and location. But if you’re a backpacker who prefers hostels, Hostelworld has a variety of hostels in each city of Turkey to make your search easier and faster.
From stunning long beaches, beautiful summer towns, incredible Unesco world heritage sites to ancient ruins, here are some of the best places in Turkey that will be memorable to you forever.
Best places to visit in Turkey
There is no doubt Istanbul is one of the best cities to visit in Turkey. With the endless archeological sites, Istanbul was named partially a Unesco world heritage center. For most travelers. Istanbul is the gateway to Turkey making it the most visited place in Turkey and Europe and not far behind in the entire world.
This cosmopolitan city that sits in both Asia and Europe connected by the Bosporus strait is the heart of Turkey’s history and culture with a number of famous landmarks that everyone should visit. Some of the must-see tourist attractions in Istanbul include but not limited to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Pera Museum, the Grandbazaar, and so many others.
I’ve written a couple of posts about Istanbul previously which can help you enjoy your stay in this amazing megapolis city. Whether you’re just traveling to Istanbul for the first time, looking for free things to do, want to know how to enjoy Istanbul on a budget or you’re all about experiencing Istanbul at night – these posts will help you plan your Istanbul trip better.
Accommodation: Check out the top rated places to stay in Istanbul
Cappadocia is undeniably one of the major Turkey destinations mostly known for hot air ballooning. With countless perfect pictures of hot air balloons over the fairy chimneys on Instagram, Cappadocia has increasingly become one of the best places to go in Turkey.
Commonly referred to as one of the most beautiful places in Turkey, the numerous caves, breathtaking landscapes, and underground cities make Cappadocia a place like no other in the entire world.
Taking a hot air balloon ride is the highlight of visiting Cappadocia. Though the ride starts as early as 5 am, the serenity and amazing views of the caves and the fairy chimneys it provides makes up for the time waken up. The other fascinating thing to do is to visit the Kaymakli Cappadocia underground city – the underground city is made up of 100 tunnels with access to go through the stables, the church, the kitchen and literally everything that goes on in this underground city.
For hikers, Cappadocia has a number of hiking trails you can take to appreciate this amazing place even more. You can also visit the famous Love valley which has pointed rocks that were formed due to a volcanic eruption. While still in Cappadocia, make sure you don’t miss the Goreme open-air museum which is also listed as a Unesco world heritage site with amazing wall paintings inside the rocks, a feature that will take your breath away. Now if you were still wondering what to see in Turkey, then the hot air balloons in Cappadocia should not be missed.
Pro tip* Just like any tour, how best you experience the Hot air ballooning ride entirely depends on the tour you choose. So I’d recommend you to go with this highly-rated ride to have the best out of your once in a lifetime experience. This Hot air balloon ride is the most highly-rated ride that I’d recommend you to book to get an experience like no other.
Also, do not miss out on the experience of sleeping in a cave while in Cappadocia, Sultan Cave suites offer an exquisite experience but there are also a number of hotel caves like Kaya Konak cave hotel, Mithra cave hotel, Rox Cappadocia and many others. You can also check out more cave hotels in Cappadocia from here.
Once a religious centre of the early Christians and a trade centre of the ancient world, the ruins of Ephesus are now one of the top destinations in Turkey and also one of the most visited archaeological sites in Turkey. This ancient city of Ephesus was constructed in the 10th century BC and housed over 300,000 people during its time. Ephesus was also one of the seven churches of Asia that are talked about in the book of Revelation in the Holy Bible.
One of the best features to see at Ephesus is the Library of Celsus which was originally constructed in 125 AD but has since then been reconstructed from its original pieces. The Library of Celsus was constructed with an exaggerated entrance and with a capacity to hold up to 12,000 scrolls making it one of the most impressive buildings of the Roman empire.
Just next to the ruins of Ephesus, you can also visit the house of Mary, Meryemana which is believed to be the place where Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus lived and later died. The house is currently a chapel and a place of pilgrimage for believers who want to get miracles from this sacred place.
Visiting Ephesus also gives you a chance to see the Temple of Artemis which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world even though it’s now left with only one column standing tall among the ruins of the temple.
Some other places to visit in Ephesus include; The Ephesus Archaeological Museum that showcases artefacts from the ancient city of Ephesus including the statue of Artemis, The Basilica of St John, Grotto of the Seven sleepers and many others. All these sites have made Ephesus one of the best places to visit in Turkey.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Ephesus
Located in the district of Fethiye, Oludeniz ( also known as Blue Lagoon in Turkish) is a small beach resort town perfect for a romantic getaway. Regarded as one of the best destinations for paragliding in the world due to its panoramic views, Oludeniz is definitely one of the best Turkey holiday destinations.
Due to the rich underwater with different species of fauna and caves, Diving is highly popular in Oludeniz for both professionals and beginners as there are many diving agencies that provide diving lessons to newbies. Snorkeling is also popular along the beach providing water lovers with countless activities to do.
When you want to experience the serene and secluded places while taking in all the amazing views and beautiful landscapes, Oludeniz is one of the places in Turkey to enjoy all that.
You can book a once in a lifetime paragliding experience in Oludeniz from here and if you want to enjoy the underwater species, don’t forget to sign up for snorkeling or diving.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Oludeniz
Famously known for the mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down the white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside, Pamukkale (translated as “cotton castle” in English) is one of the country’s natural wonders and also one of the must see places in Turkey. The white travertine cascades resembling frozen waterfalls were created by the waters of thermal springs reacting with air.
Due to the fragility of this place and in hope to preserve this natural wonder, some areas are closed off for swimming or paddling and visitors are required to take off their shoes to access the open areas. Swimming is permitted to enjoy the Pamukkale antique thermal pool that is also at 36 degrees Celcius plus the health and beauty benefits they provide.
To get the most of your Pamukkate visit, I’d advise you to visit at sunset. Watching the sunset coloring the travertine with amazing colors is an amazing experience, – one you cannot see anywhere else.
Other than enjoying the surreal white travertine terraces among the green farming fields, there are other things to do in Pamukkale that you should not miss out. These include; visiting the Pamukkale castle – perfect if you want to get away from the crowds as it’s always ignored by tourists, the Karahayit hot springs which are 55 degrees Celcius and are rich in minerals, Laodikeia which was a Roman commercial center and so many others.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Pamukkale
With a beautiful coastline, amazing beaches, friendly people, great food, its no wonder that this beautiful resort town of Marmaris is one of the popular places to holiday in Turkey receiving over a quarter-million people in summer.
It’s perfectly located on the Turquoise coast with beautiful sand beaches, clear turquoise water with amazing underwater life making it perfect for snorkeling.
There are so many things to in Marmaris from spending a day on a boat cruise to Dalyan river, visiting the rock tombs, enjoying a mad bath, to visiting Jesus Beach. Marmaris doesn’t disappoint when it comes to having a good time in summer making it one of the best holiday destinations in Turkey. You check out more Marmaris excursions from here.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Marmaris
If you’re looking for cities to visit in Turkey, then this city of Antalya located on the coastal area of Turkish Riviera should be added to your Turkey bucket list.
If you’re a beach lover and the same time fancy history, then a trip to Antalya will be well worth it. The city is divided into two sections – one with amazing white sand beaches of Turkey’s Turquoise coast and the Labyrinthine old town which is full of stunning historic sites.
The Antalya museum is considered to be one of the best museums in Turkey showcasing a number of artifacts excavated across the Turkish coast with the archaeological section offering displays from the Bronze Age to Byzantium. Yivli Minare Mosque (also known as the Alaaddin Mosque )is another historical landmark to visit in Antalya. Other historical features to see in Antalya include; Hadrianus Triumphal Arch which was erected prior to the visit of the Roman Emperor in 130 AD is also a magnificent entrance to the old district of Antalya, Perge which was home to the Hittites in 1500 AD – the ruins of the area has a Roman theatre, a big stadium with columns dating back to the days when the apostle Paul supposedly stopped here while on one of his missions, the Roman Fortress also known as Hidirlik Kalesi and many others.
Since Antalya is not all about history, beach lovers can also have an amazing time on the endless number of beaches from Konyaalti Beach which has a backlog of mountains at the end of the coastline to Lara beach which is believed to have the softest sand in Antalya. With a countless number of things to do, there is no doubt Antalya is one of Turkey’s best places to visit.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Antalya
Holiday places in Turkey might be many, but Bodrum exceeds them all. What used to be a simple fishing village along the Mediterranean sea of Turkey’s coastline change in the1940s when tourism boomed and has now become one of the best destinations in Turkey.
Even though Bodrum is famously known for its incredible yacht marina and endless boat cruises on the crystal clear waters, there are tons of other things to do. From taking a half-day cruise or a full-day cruise to soak in the panoramic views of the turquoise sea to sunbathing on the white sand beaches like Yahsi which is considered to be the best beach in Bodrum. Most cruises like this full-day Bodrum cruise or this half-day Bodrum cruise offer chances to see the underwater species by snorkeling, and swimming in the dreamy waters of the Mediterranean.
Just because most tourists come here to enjoy the sun on the beach, it doesn’t mean that there is no place for history lovers. As you already know, history is part of Turkey and Bodrum showcases that aswell. Built by the Knights Hospitallers of St John between 1402 and 147, the Castle of St. Peter is a must-visit while in Bodrum. The castle houses an underwater archaeology Museum which has a number of stunning artifacts that were retrieved from the underwater.
Other than the castle of St Peter, other historical sites to visit in Bodrum include; Mausoleum which is in ruins currently but was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Bodrum theater which was constructed in the Roman era but has now been restored and fully functional for certain events in Bodrum and the Myndos Gate also known as Myndos Kapisi.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Bodrum
9. Mount Ararat
If you’ve read some facts about Turkey, you know that Mount Ararat is the mountain where Noah’s ark which is talked about in the bible landed. Although there is a bit of controversy about it, this theory has been widely accepted by Christians and some archeologists around the world.
This snow-capped mountain is a dormant volcano that last erupted on June 2, 1840. Apart from the religious signifance it holds, most tourists visit Mount Ararat for a great hike and the incredible views it provides. To be able to climb this historical mountain, a climbing permit and a licensed guide are required.
The trek is normally 3 to 5 depending on the climbing package you choose and the climbing season is between June and September with the best time being July and August as it is always raining in June. But if want to go mountain skiing, then March and April would be perfect. You can opt for a 3-day mount Ararat climbing tour or the 5-day climbing tour to experience this Holly mountain of Ararat.
10. Patara Beach
Spanning a whopping 18 kilometers long and 300 m wide, Patara is the largest beach on the Lycian coast of Southern Turkey. The tranquility it provides is perfect for travelers looking for great unique nature and absolute seclusion.
With such a long Mediterranean coastline, revelers can enjoy the beach without worrying about the crowds as there is literally enough space for everyone to feel some kind of privacy. There is also a number of water sports at the beach including but not limited to surfing, windsurfing, diving and kiting.
Even with that beautiful sand beach, Patara is not only about swimming and sand bathing. Just behind the beach, there are a number of ruins of the ancient Patara including a Colonnaded street and a theatre that sat almost 5,000 people at the time it was in use.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay around Patara Beach
From the bustling cities to ancient attractions, Izmir has both the modern and ancient charm to it. The city is also one of the oldest settlements of the Mediterranean basin, something that can be clearly seen from all the ancient and historical building around the city.
Some of the historical places not to miss in Izmir include;
- The Agora open-air museum which is located right in the city center of Izmir. With stone arches and cisterns dating back in the 4th century, Agora is one of the best-preserved remains from the ancient city of Izmir (which was known as Smyrna).
- The Asansor which was constructed in 1907 to transport goods and people from Karatas to the steep hillside
- Pergamon – a powerful ancient city that houses some of the well-preserved ruins from that period especially the Pergamon Altar.
Since Izmir has a great Mediterranean climate, with long and hot dry summers, it is also a perfect destination for a holiday in Turkey to enjoy the sea breeze and incredible sunsets over the sea. Other places of interest in Izmir include the shopping streets, art galleries, survived castles, and many others.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Izmir
This fourth most populous city and the most industrialized metropolitan center in Turkey is also the former capital of the Ottoman Empire. Bursa was originally famous for being the largest center of the silk trade and agriculture in the ottoman entire, but the current industrialization has turned it into one of the major Turkey places to visit.
From stunning imperial mosques and a dip into the ancient world, Bursa has a tonne of places that you shouldn’t miss out on your Turkey trip and some of which are; The Muradiye complex which has a historic Cemetary and a park to wander around, Uludag which is Turkey’s most famous mountain and ski resort – for ski lovers, this is one of the must-visit places in Turkey.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Bursa
Though many people confuse Istanbul to be the capital city of Turkey, It is actually Ankara which is the country’s capital. Even though it is a political, commercial and industrial city, Ankara is also one of the best places to visit in Turkey.
Ankara might not reach the level of Istanbul’s historical atmosphere but it houses one of the most important Museums in Turkey and that is the Ataturk Mausoleum also known as Anitkabir. It was constructed between 1944 and 1953 to be the final resting place of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey.
Other places to visit in Ankara include; Ahi Serafettin (Aslanhane) Mosque and Tomb which is a 700-year-old Mosque but unfortunately, only open during prayer time – meaning that the only chance of seeing this place is if you go there immediately after the call for prayer. For art lovers, visit the Museum of Anatolian civilizations holding artistic wealth of 7500 years plus a number of artifacts dating back in 2600 BCE.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Ankara
Just like Izmir, Side is a resort town with a touch of ancient history. Located on the Mediterranean coast, Side is one of the top places to visit in Turkey to soak in the sun and sand bask without missing out on the ruins of the ancient Roman empire.
Located right on the harbor with standing columns looking out to the sea is the Temple of Apollo and Athena, which is a great place to visit while in Side to enjoy the Mediterranean as well as the ruins. Other historical places to visit in Side include the Side Museum, Side’s theatre which was the largest in ancient Pamphylia with a sitting capacity of 15,000 people and many others.
Since Side is now more popular for its “tropical” feel, many travelers go there to enjoy the endless summer days and beautiful beaches. One of the beaches not to miss is the East Beach which is also the most popular in the area. While at it, visit the Manavgat waterfalls for amazing views as the falls sit on River Manavgat. So if you were looking for where to visit in Turkey, then Side should be added to your list of Turkey’s attractions to see.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Side
If you’re looking to be taken aback in the past, then Konya is one of the places to go in Turkey. With a big number of museums, monuments, and historical sites, Konya has become a popular tourist destination in Turkey.
Just like in some other cities in Turkey, Konya prides itself in hosting great whirling dervish shows which is both a form of entertainment but also a means of worship and prayer. Aside from enjoying whirling dervishes, Konya presents a number of places to visit that will make you appreciate the Turkish culture and history even more including;
The Sehitler Abidesi, a monument erected as a tribute to the Canakkale war, the Mevlana Museum whose most notable feature is the tomb of Rumi who was an Islamic scholar and poet from the 13th century, Konya Archaeological Museum which takes you centuries back in history and so many others.
Accommodation: Check out the top-rated places to stay in Konya
There are so many amazing places to visit in Turkey but these are the best and I hope they inspire you to travel to this incredible Eurasia country. Have you been to any of these places? Share with me your experience in the comment section.
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