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The BEST Places To Visit In Turkey & Other Top Attractions

By Daisy Li

I spent some of my most memorable days in Turkey. With notable cultural and historical significance, there are many places to visit in Turkey. The country’s trans-continental geographic location brings about complexity and vibrancy unlike any other.

I often think of the nights when I swam in the Mediterranean Sea under the golden Alayna Castle; the days when I walked through the marketplace amid crowds of laughter and chaos; the mornings when I woke to the smell of sweet coffee and mouth-watering pastries.

Needless to say, after visiting more than 20 countries, Turkey remains one of my favorite destinations.

In Antalya, I taught English to a hundred or so high school students. In Olympos, I lived in a wooden bungalow by vast mountain ranges. In Side, we trekked through well-kept ruins and fast streets.

In Kemer, I danced till the sun came out. In Goreme, I witnessed the rising of hot air balloons. In Denizli, I met some of the most down to earth bikers.

In Mugla, I frequented a beachside bar. In Canakkale, I read the Odyssey by the historical site of Troy. And in Istanbul, I wandered along streets that offered the perfect mix between ancient and modernity, peace, and excitement.

It’s quite difficult to summarize the country with just a city or two, so here is a list of the best places to visit in Turkey, a list that will hopefully offer you a little bit of everything.

Best Places to Visit in Turkey: Map of the Itinerary

If you find yourself with a lot more time, try to concur the entire list to the right. These are some of the best places to visit in Turkey, as they combine history, nature, city-living, and lots of exciting activities.

There are plenty of buses and public transportation.  Rideshare is also becoming increasingly popular within the country. I have also hitchhiked with ease.

Of course, always take precaution, be aware of current sociopolitical events, and most importantly-have fun!

Old City, Istanbul

Jessica from One Girl, Whole World

The city of Istanbul is an amazingly complex, vibrant, interesting, delicious place. It’s challenging to briefly summarize over 3,000 years of history, but the city has sat at a cultural crossroads for millennia and seen empires rise and fall. At various points, it was the capital of the Roman Empire (as Byzantium), the Byzantine Empire (as Constantinople), and the Ottoman Empire, and was once the largest city in the western world.

travel to turkey

Istanbul Turkey Sunset, The best places to visit in Turkey

The city is hilly but very walkable, with a tram through tourist areas. There are three main areas: Sultanahmet (where many of the famous sites are), the European side, and the Asian side. Many of the most well-known sites are grouped together, including Hagia Sofia (one of the most famous buildings in the world), the ancient Basilica Cistern, and the gorgeous Blue Mosque. And that’s just scratching the surface! Make sure to wander through the Spice Market, take a ferry across the Golden Horn, and watch the sunset over the water as you listen to the call to prayer—they really help you capture the feel of the city.

Turkish cuisine is arguably one of the best in the world. The list of must-try foods is crazy long and includes doner kebab, all types of baklava, menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs), kunefe, and the famous Turkish coffee. One of the best ways to experience Turkish cuisine is to find a great walking food tour, which allows you to sample many different dishes together.

Turkey Tip 1#: One thing to know is that most mosques are closed on Fridays and Hagia Sofia on Mondays, so you’ll need to plan your schedule accordingly.

Troia Archaeological Site, Çanakkale

If you like history and/or have watched Troy (Brad Pitt), you’d be familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse. The tale goes that the Greeks built a huge wooden horse that was used as a disguise to trick the people of Troy, before taking over the city.

Half an hour away from Çanakkale, one of the best places to visit in Turkey is the Troia Archaeological Site, where a mock-up of the Trojan Horse has been built. A walk along the historical grounds will unveil a complex and intriguing past.

Between the sights and attractions, the ancient setting of Troy is sometimes bypassed for its more glamorous counterparts. However, if you are looking to explore a more well-rounded chunk of Turkey in one month, Troia archaeological site shouldn’t be missed. It takes a few hours to walk around this ground and approximately an hour for the journey back and forth between Çanakkale.

Opening hours
Apr – Oct: 8 am-7.30 pm
Nov-Mar: 8 am-5 pm

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Çanakkale is also a gateway to the Gallipoli WWI battlefields. The Gallipoli Campaign was waged by the Entente powers in an attempt to weaken the Ottoman Empire and overtake Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). As you can see, there is a lot of history behind this rather quiet city.

It is definitely worth a 2-3 day stopover if you are traveling between Istanbul and Izmir.

Best Places to Visit in Turkey

Ephesus, Izmir

Lisa from Clumsy Stray Cat

Izmir is a charming city south of Istanbul. It is known as a vibrant beach city and has some of the most lovely markets for cheap goods. With lots of popular bars and ample modern restaurants, the city is in stark contrast to the historical side of Turkey. A beer by the harbor or a sunset ride on the ferry is some of my favorite activities within the city.

Another reason that makes Izmir worth a stay, is that the beautiful ancient city of Ephesus lies just an hour away from this metropolitan.

You might have heard of Ephesus, or you might not. But if you’re even remotely interested in history, then you must definitely take a tour of Ephesus in Turkey. It is one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the Mediterranean area, and one of the most remarkable places to visit in Turkey.

Built in the tenth century BC, Ephesus is an ancient Greek city that became famed for one thing in particular: The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, all ancient wonders (except for the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt) were destroyed. Nowadays, you can only look at some fragments and pieces of the temple.

The best places to visit in Turkey-Ephesus Izmir

But that doesn’t mean Ephesus isn’t worth a visit – on the contrary. My personal highlight was Marble Street and the Library of Celsus. You could also visit the bath complexes, take a look at the two agoras, check out one of the most advanced aqueduct systems of the ancient world, or walk around the amphitheater, which was used for drama and gladiatorial fights.

Considering this well-preserved ancient beauty, it is not strange that Ephesus is considered one of Turkey’s top sights. Interested? Ephesus is easily accessed from cities like Kusadasi, Izmir, and Selçuk. So don’t hesitate and visit this must-see on your next trip to Turkey.

Pammukale & Hierapolis, Denizli

Denizli is a quint town just a few hours away from Izmir. It is best known for Pammukale, a historic ground that acts as home to the crystal blue on a nearby hillside. This mineral-rich water flows freely through the numerous terraces and has acted as a spa for centuries.

Just minutes away lies the ancient city of Hierapolis that dates back to the 7th century BC. Originally founded near Pammukale as a spa haven, Hierapolis grew into a “healing city” with tens of thousands of residents.

Have a quick dip in the pool and enjoy the luke-warm water that will help rejuvenate your soul!

If you have some more time in Denizli, definitely explore some of its caves. Kaklik Belediyesi is the biggest and one of my favorites. Its cool and fresh air, along with a spectacular waterfall, make is a great hideout for a summer afternoon.

Bodrum, Muğla

Bodrum, Muğla is your ultimate beach town. Many locals tell me that Bodrum is their go-to if they wanted a few wild nights by the Mediterranean. It is not difficult to figure out why-the nightlife in this town is unlike any other.

They say that there are more clubs than beds in Bodrum. I don’t know whether that’s the case, but I’ve definitely heard that the clubs in Bodrum are the real deal.

If you are somewhat familiar with the clubbing scene in Turkey (particularly that along the Mediterranean Coast), you’d know how sophisticated these places are. Most of the clubs I’ve visited were glamorous, to say the least. The lights and decorations were modern, the setup was impeccable, and everyone was dressed to a T.

Other than clubs, Bodrum is also known for its romantic beach-side views. If this sounds like your cup of tea, spend a few  nights dining and wining in Bodrum before heading towards Fethiye, where you can relax and rejuvenate.

Best Places to Visit in Turkey

Fethiye & Myra, Muğla

Inna from the Executive Thrillseeker

Fethiye is different from other resorts of the Antalya coastline. There is a lot of lush greenery and flowers, amazingly fresh air with pine aroma, pearl-white beaches, and the turquoise sea. I found it to be a great place to visit if you are tired of Turkish “all-inclusive” hotels and are eager to enjoy the beauty of nature, high level of service and relaxation on the cleanest beaches of cozy bays or small islands. Other than being famous for its paragliding activities, Fethiye is also a great place for historic discovery.

Oludeniz-Beach in Fethiye Turkey

The most popular place for swimming in Fethiye is the bay of Oludeniz. The bay is located 15 km from the city, and there are no hotels on its coast: for the sake of nature conservation, construction is prohibited here. Riding on boats here is also impossible, so the water is amazingly transparent which makes it by far my favorite swimming spot in Turkey.

What else is there to see in Fethiye?

Because of the earthquakes in the Fethiye region, there are almost no monuments of antiquity left in this medieval town, but still, some interesting sights remain:

  1. Ruins of the Knight’s Castle built in the 15th century;
  2. Ruins of the Roman theater built in 2nd century BC;
  3. Rock-cut Lycian tombs, among which the most remarkable is the Tomb of Amyntas (it looks particularly impressive at night when illuminated);
  4. Lots of statues and artifacts belonging to the Greco-Roman period that can be found in the Fethiye Museum.

If you feel like exploring more historical sights, take a day trip to the ruins of Myra.

Myra is an ancient city founded approximately in the 5th century BC. Myra once was the most important city and a religious center of Lycia. At present, you can visit an open-air museum where you can see some remains of the past such as an amphitheater, sarcophagi, tomb rocks and Lycian rock-cut tombs that are especially mysterious and spectacular.

The most convenient way to get there would be, of course, renting a car. However, getting by public transport is also possible – take a bus to the city of Demre and then a short taxi ride to Myra.

Antalya City, Antalya

A major city along the Mediterranean Coast, Antalya is another amazing place to spend a few days when you are in Turkey. I spent a month teaching English to High School students here and have fond memories of the delicious kebabs, welcoming people, and sweet teas.

A popular destination, Antalya is a wonderful beach city and has a busy bazaar that has a beautiful beach and a busy bazaar running through Keleici (Old Town) leading to a beaming harbor. As a historic site, Old Town has infrastructures dating back to the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman Empires. For those looking for a great night out, Keleici has some small, but amazing bars and clubs.

Antalya is also a great place to get active. From golfing in Belek to whitewater rafting in Koprulu Canyon, from skiing at Davraz to horse-riding up Saklikent Canyon, there is a lot of things to do in Antalya Turkey.

Olympos Ancient City, Antalya

Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan

Olympos sits right on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, with the Greek island of Rhodes not far away. It was once an ancient city that was probably founded around the 4th century BC. Olympos was originally part of the Lycian League and later became part of the Roman Republic and, subsequently, the Roman Empire. The city was even renamed Hadrianopolis at one point, in honor of the Roman emperor Hadrian.

An impressive set of ruins of the ancient city still remains. These include bathhouses and stone sarcophagi. The ruins don’t get that many visitors compared with more popular sites like Ephesus, and parts of them are rather overgrown. This adds to the sense of mystery of the place, and you may feel a bit like Indiana Jones as you explore the site. This area gets very hot in the summer, so take plenty of water and sunscreen when exploring the ruins.

The other main activity that is popular with visitors to Olympus is the hike up Mount Olympos, the city’s namesake. This is usually done at night, in order to see the Eternal Flame of the Chimeras. These are jets of natural gas that spurt out of the side of the mountain. They have been burning for thousands of years and inspired the Greek myth of the Bellarophon and the Chimera

Olympos is popular with a young backpackers, who typically stay at the legendary Kadir’s Tree Houses or one of the other budget resorts offering treehouse accommodations. Now that a paved road has been extended to Olympos, it is also becoming popular with more well-heeled travelers.

Best Places to Visit in Turkey

Alanya Castle, Antalya

Alanya Beach
Just an hour from Antalya lies one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey.

Alanya is located on a small peninsula below the Taurus Mountains. A notable feature of this city is that it is divided into east and west by a rocky peninsula.

You can go to the Eastern Port, town center, and the charming Keykubat beach, while the western part has Damlataş beach.

Many of the buildings built during the Middle Ages became urban landmarks, including Kizil Kule (Red Tower) and the Alanya Castle. If you are interested in history, check out the Atatürk’s House Museum, which documents the former president’s visits to Alanya.
The best places to visit in Turkey-alanya antalya turkey castle

The Mediterranean climate, natural landscape, and historical heritage make Alanya a popular destination for tourism.

One Month in Turkey

Cappadocia, Nevşehir

The best places to visit in Turkey- goreme The best places to visit in Turkey- Cappadocia hot air balloons

A few years ago, I visited a magical place called Cappadocia. This place is so picturesque and full of wonder that words are not enough to describe its beauty. Of course, I had seen photos of Cappadocia before I arrived, but I was not prepared for its actual scenic setting. Without a doubt, I fell in love with Cappadocia at first sight.

The strange landscape of Cappadocia makes it magical. The rock formations are nothing like I’ve seen before. One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Cappadocia is from above. Yes, it may be expensive, but hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia are definitely an experience. The rides usually cost around US 150, including pick up, breakfast, ride, champagne, and the ride back to the hotel.

There are numerous caves in the region, some of which are still inhabited. Of course, most of them have become hotels, so if you visit Cappadocia you can have your own cave. Fortunately, these cave hotels are not only suitable for wealthy travelers, but also for every budget backpacker.

If you love to explore, Cappadocia is meant for you. Its landscape is hilly, which makes it easy to find elevated areas where you can relax for hours and enjoy the views. Some of the most popular views are Goreme’s Sunset Viewpoint, Uchisar Castle, The Three Sisters, and the Red Valley.

Final Thoughts

Turkey is a beautiful and diverse country. There is a lot to see, and more to do. Although this list doesn’t include every single must-visit in the country, these are some of the best places to visit in Turkey and I hope you enjoy them as I did!

Have you been? If so, which was your favorite city in Turkey? 🙂

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