Considering a trip to Turkey?
What are you waiting for? As one of the world’s few countries with land in 2 continents, Turkey has a rich diversity of people, places and cultures that is sure to intrigue and delight every visitor.
In fact, for most travellers, there is simply too much to do in the limited time you’ll have! So how do you pick and choose?
We’ve rounded up our 10 best places to go in Turkey, divided into popular hotspots and out-of-the-ordinary destinations.
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We’ll help you decide which of these Turkish destinations are best for your travelling style with information about each place below.
But before you go too far down the rabbit hole, let’s talk logistics.
Depending on your nationality, it’s likely that you’ll need a visa to cross the border, whether you’re coming by land, air, or sea.
(Did you know that Turkey is surrounded by water on three sides? Count them: the Aegean, Black and Mediterranean seas!)
The easiest way to get your Turkish visa is by applying online for an eVisa. That way, you don’t have to make an appointment at the nearest embassy. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the house — or your couch!
As long as you have a valid passport, you can do the whole application online. Then the official authorisation is sent to your email.
Some nationalities have to provide extra documentation, so before you get super excited about planning your trip, it’s best to check out the requirements and see how many hoops you’ll have to jump through.
Once you know how long you can visit Turkey for, you’re ready to plan how many (and which!) destinations you want to see in that time.
Here are our recommendations for the best places to see in Turkey that aren’t Istanbul.
(Surely you’ve already heard of Istanbul! It’s number 8 on the list of cities with the most international visitors, just after New York City!)
A popular resort destination, sunny Antalya is the largest Turkish city on the Mediterranean coast. Along with spectacular sandy beaches, mesmerizing blue waters, and a lively nightlife, the city also boasts a long and fascinating history.
Legend has it that Antalya was founded when King Attalos II of Pergamum commanded his soldiers to ‘Find me a paradise on earth’ back in the second century BC. It’s been occupied ever since. Walking through Kaliçi, the charming old town, you’ll see beautiful ruins from the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman empires.
The Cappadocia region is known for 2 things: hot air balloons and beautifully unusual rock formations called fairy chimneys. Combine the two and you’ve got a surreal dreamscape to explore by land or sky. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Turkey.
And it doesn’t stop there: mysterious underground cities are another fascinating feature of the area. The largest, Derinkuyu, has 8 different levels and is big enough to shelter 20,000 people along with their animals and food supplies. It could be completely closed off to the world above with large stone doors.
Strolling through the ruins of the ancient port city of Ephesus is like being in an open-air museum. Not much remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but there are many incredibly well preserved sites to marvel at. The impressive Celsus Library was the third-largest library of classical antiquity, and the expansive Great Theatre could seat 25,000 spectators.
Ephesus played an important role in Greek, Roman, and Christian history, and is one of Turkey’s main sightseeing attractions. It’s incredible to think that you are walking the same streets that were once graced by larger-than-life figures including the philosopher Heraclitus, Cleopatra, Marc Antony, Alexander the Great, Saint Paul, Saint John, and the Virgin Mary.
Turkey’s top beach destination would have to be Fethiye and neighboring Ölüdeniz, known as Turkey’s Blue Lagoon. The beautiful azure and turquoise waters are surrounded by white sandy beaches and green pine trees.
For adventurous travellers, this is also a world-famous spot for paragliding, with unbeatable views over the sea from the top of Mount Babadag.
A stunning seaside resort town, Marmaris is a picturesque destination surrounded by pine tree-lined mountains and beautiful beaches. There is a buzzing city life, with loads of cafés, restaurants, bars and clubs, as well as live music.
Along with urban delights like shopping at the Grand Bazaar or visiting the Marmaris Castle and Archaeology Museum, you’re spoiled for choice with natural activities like sailing and boat trips, snorkeling and scuba, and treks into the mountains.
If you prefer to wander off the beaten path, try…
This city was a center of learning and art in the 13th century, and is home to the tomb of Rumi, the renowned Persian poet, Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic from that time period. Following Rumi’s death, his followers formed the Mevlevi Order, or the whirling dervishes, who use a unique ceremonial dance to bring them closer to God. By spinning in circles over and over again, white skirts flaring, the whirling dervishes enter a type of meditative trance that lifts them into the spiritual plane.
To gain a glimpse into this fascinating tradition, tourists can visit Turkey’s Mevlana Festival that takes place in Konya each December, or catch a weekly ceremony held each Saturday throughout the year. The city also has many museums and architectural sights worth visiting.
Mardin’s golden stone buildings are built into the slopes of a steep hill, overlooking the plains of Mesopotamia, the Cradle of Civilization. Church bells mingle with calls to prayer as you walk through the narrow cobbled streets and contemplate the centuries past. As the most remote spot on our list, Mandarin offers adventurous travellers a Turkish destination well off the beaten track.
Atop one of the highest peaks in the Eastern Taurus mountain range is a temple-tomb built by King Antiochos I of Commagene (69-34 BC). Enormous statues of seated Greek and Persian deities are only made more interesting by the fact that they were decapitated at some point in the past 2,000 years. Their heads are scattered around the site, complete with pointed hats. The effect is eerie and mysterious, and many travellers who make the mountainous journey say this was their favorite place to visit in Turkey.
To see an impressive ancient city in Turkey without the crowds that flock to Ephesus, visit the ruins of the Pergamon. First a Greek and then a Roman city, Pergamon dates back more than 2,300 years. Within walking distance, you can visit the towering altar, the incredibly steep theatre, and several temples and sanctuaries.
Meaning “long lake”, Uzungöl refers to a magnificent blue lake and the village located around it. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges covered with trees, visitors come to enjoy the beauty of nature and get away from it all. Hiking is one of the main attractions, although the views are so amazing you could easily sit quietly and gaze out over the lake all day long.