Welcome to the ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Turkey, where we uncover hidden gems and must-see attractions that will leave you in awe. With a rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant culture, Turkey offers a truly unforgettable travel experience. Whether you’re seeking ancient ruins, stunning beaches, or bustling cities, this diverse country has it all.
And if we are taking a look at the travel trends, it looks like Turkey is trending! So what better occasion to see the best of Turkey in one place?
Immerse yourself in the ancient wonders of Istanbul – the city where East meets West, where you are in Europe and Asia, in different parts of the city – and explore its iconic landmarks like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
Venture further and discover the stunning natural beauty of Cappadocia, with its fairy-tale-like rock formations and hot air balloon rides that will take your breath away.
Head to the Mediterranean coast and unwind on the pristine beaches of Antalya or explore the ancient ruins of Ephesus.
For nature lovers, the otherworldly landscapes of Pamukkale, with its terraces of thermal waters, and the stunning waterfalls of Antalya’s Duden Park are not to be missed.
No matter where you choose to go in Turkey, you’ll be captivated by its beauty, history, and warm hospitality. And yes, I have many friends who go here almost every year, enjoying the all-inclusive service, relaxation, and comfort provided by the resorts.
Get ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime and uncover the hidden gems that make Turkey a truly remarkable destination.
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Turkey: Hidden Gems and Must-See Attractions
Included in this guide to the best places to visit in Turkey are:
- Best places to visit in Turkey
- Mount Ararat
- The Turquoise Coast
- The Best Time to Visit Turkey: Seasonal highlights and considerations
- Tips for Traveling in Turkey: Cultural etiquette and essential travel advice
- Hidden Gems in Turkey: Off-the-beaten-path destinations and unique experiences
- Mount Nemrut – Nemrut Dağı
- Sumela Monastery
- Lake Beyşehir
- Mount Ida
- Gobekli Tepe
- Göynük Canyon
- Şirince Village
- Must-See Attractions in Turkey: Iconic landmarks and historical sites
Istanbul: The vibrant fusion of East and West
Istanbul, the cosmopolitan city where East meets West, is a vibrant and bustling metropolis that seamlessly blends ancient traditions with modern living and is one of the best cities to visit in Turkey.
Here, you can immerse yourself in the rich history and marvel at the architectural wonders that dot the cityscape. One of the must-see attractions in Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia, a magnificent Byzantine church turned mosque turned museum turned mosque again, since 2020. Its impressive dome and intricate mosaics will take your breath away.
Another iconic landmark is the Blue Mosque, with its six minarets and stunning blue tiles adorning its interior.
But Istanbul is not just about historical sites. The city is also a treasure trove of vibrant markets, such as the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, where you can get lost in a maze of colorful stalls selling everything from spices to textiles.
Don’t forget to indulge in some traditional Turkish cuisine while you’re here. From succulent kebabs to mouthwatering baklava, Istanbul’s food scene is a feast for the senses.
And let us not forget about the Turkish Delight – famous and appreciated worldwide! And yes, one of the souvenirs my husband always brought home – even when he was just stopping by in the airport on a 2-3 leg travel.
Cappadocia: Exploring the surreal landscapes of fairy chimneys and underground cities
If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, Cappadocia should be at the top of your list. This mesmerizing region is known for its surreal landscapes, characterized by cone-shaped rock formations known as fairy chimneys.
One of the favourite activities here is to take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise and witness the breathtaking beauty of Cappadocia from above.
As you float gently in the sky, you’ll be able to capture stunning panoramic views of the rock formations and the ancient cave dwellings that dot the landscape.
This can be an awesome idea for an anniversary or birthday travel experience!
Do not think for a moment that Cappadocia is just about its natural beauty. It is also home to a network of underground cities, carved out of the soft volcanic rock by early Christians fleeing persecution.
Explore the labyrinthine tunnels and chambers of Derinkuyu Underground City or Kaymakli Underground City and marvel at the ingenuity of the ancient inhabitants.
These underground cities, with their hidden churches and ventilation shafts, offer a fascinating glimpse into the past. Plus, imagine that the people back in the day have found solutions without the engineering knowledge we have access to today. Impressive, really!
Pamukkale: Experiencing the natural wonders of terraces and thermal waters
Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, is a natural wonder that will leave you in awe and it is also one of the iconic tourist attractions in Turkey.
This mesmerizing site is famous for its terraces of white mineral-rich thermal waters, created over thousands of years by the flow of calcium-rich hot springs. As you walk along the terraces, you’ll feel like you’re walking on cotton, as the mineral-rich water cascades down the terraces, creating a surreal landscape.
The site is also home to the ancient city of Hierapolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the well-preserved ruins of this ancient city, including the theater, the necropolis, and the Roman baths.
Don’t forget to take a dip in the thermal waters of Cleopatra’s Pool, believed to have healing properties.
Ephesus: Stepping into the ancient world of Roman ruins and Greek mythology
Step back in time and immerse yourself in the ancient world as you explore the ruins of Ephesus.
This ancient city, once a bustling port and a center of trade, is now a well-preserved archaeological site that offers a glimpse into the grandeur of the Roman Empire.
Marvel at the magnificent Library of Celsus, with its towering columns and intricate façade. Visit the Great Theater, where gladiators once fought and performances were held. And don’t miss the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Ephesus is an interesting mix of Roman ruin and Greek mythology. According to legend, Ephesus was founded by the Amazons and was the site of the Temple of Artemis, dedicated to the goddess of the hunt.
Make sure you explore the ancient city and let your imagination run wild as you walk in the footsteps of ancient Greeks and Romans.
Fethiye: Where History and Nature Embrace
Nestled along Turkey’s spectacular Turquoise Coast, the charming seaside town of Fethiye offers an idyllic Mediterranean getaway.
Fethiye boasts stunning beaches, ancient ruins, outdoor adventures, and natural beauty waiting to be discovered. Start your Fethiye visit at Ölüdeniz Beach, acclaimed for having one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines.
Step into Fethiye’s Old Town, a seamless blend of traditional Ottoman architecture and contemporary markets. Lose yourself in the bustling Paspatur Bazaar, relish Turkish flavors at local eateries, and absorb the town’s vibrant spirit.
For a secluded escape, Butterfly Valley’s untouched beauty beckons, accessible only by boat.
You can get by boat to Kekova Island as well, an unspoiled paradise scattered with Byzantine ruins and charming seaside villages. Join a sailing tour to explore this protected area’s bays, inlets, and underwater remains. Read this comprehensive insider’s guide to Fethiye to see everything to see and do here.
Antalya: Relaxing on pristine beaches and exploring ancient ruins
Antalya, located on the Mediterranean coast, is a paradise for beach lovers and history enthusiasts alike. This is one of the top destinations in Turkey for summer vacations!
And it is no surprise, as Antalya has crystal-clear turquoise waters and golden sandy beaches, making it the perfect place to unwind and soak up the sun. Spend your days lounging on the beach, swimming in the refreshing waters, or trying out various water sports.
If you want to go beyond the beaches, then you need to know that the city is also home to a wealth of ancient ruins that will transport you back in time.
Visit the ancient city of Aspendos and marvel at its well-preserved Roman theater, which is still used for performances today.
Explore the ruins of Perge, with its ancient stadium, theater, and Roman baths.
Last – but definitely not least – don’t miss the Antalya Museum, where you can learn more about the region’s rich history and see artifacts dating back thousands of years.
Bodrum: Unwinding in a coastal paradise of turquoise waters and medieval castles
Bodrum, located on the Aegean coast, is a coastal paradise that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and rich history – as many other parts of Turkey.
With its crystal-clear turquoise waters, picturesque coves, and pristine beaches, it’s a haven for sun-seekers and water enthusiasts. Spend your days swimming, snorkeling, or simply relaxing on the beach.
When you take a break from soaking up the sun, head to the impressive Bodrum Castle, a medieval fortress that overlooks the harbor. Explore the castle and its Museum of Underwater Archaeology, which houses a collection of ancient shipwrecks and artifacts.
Don’t forget to visit the ancient theater of Halicarnassus, one of the largest theaters of the ancient world.
Troy: Discovering the legendary city immortalized in Homer’s Iliad
Who doesn’t know the Greek myth of the Trojan horse?
It is time to step into the pages of history and discover the legendary city of Troy, immortalized in Homer’s Iliad. Located in the northwest of Turkey, Troy is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
Explore the ruins of this ancient city and learn about the war, the Trojan War, the legendary conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans.
As you wander through the ruins, you’ll come across the famous city walls, the remains of ancient houses, and the reconstructed wooden horse, a symbol of the Trojan War. Don’t miss the opportunity to climb to the top of the ancient citadel and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Take some time to imagine the war taking place – and all the action from the Iliad coming to life!
Mount Ararat: Conquering the highest peak in Turkey and searching for Noah’s Ark
For adventurous souls and nature lovers, Mount Ararat is a must-visit destination.
Located in eastern Turkey, Mount Ararat is the highest peak in the country and is believed by some to be the resting place of Noah’s Ark. Embark on a challenging trek to the summit, where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and the chance to touch the sky.
The trek to Mount Ararat is not for the faint of heart, but the sense of accomplishment and the stunning beauty of the landscape make it all worthwhile. Don’t adventure on the mountain unless you are experienced!
As you make your way up the mountain, you’ll pass through rugged terrain, snow-capped peaks, and alpine meadows. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, such as ibex and golden eagles, and soak in the serenity of this remote and untouched wilderness.
The Turquoise Coast: Sailing along the stunning Mediterranean coastline and visiting secluded bays
The Turquoise Coast, also known as the Turkish Riviera, is a stretch of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea that boasts some of the most beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters in the world.
One of the best ways to explore this stunning coastline is by sailing on a traditional Turkish gulet. Set sail from one charming seaside town to another, stopping at secluded bays and hidden coves along the way.
As you cruise along the Turquoise Coast, you’ll have the opportunity to swim in the pristine waters, snorkel in vibrant coral reefs, and sunbathe on deserted beaches.
Visit the charming town of Kas and explore its ancient ruins. Discover the hidden gem of Butterfly Valley, a secluded beach surrounded by cliffs and home to over 80 species of butterflies.
Don’t miss the breathtaking Oludeniz Beach, with its turquoise waters and stunning natural beauty.
The Best Time to Visit Turkey: Seasonal highlights and considerations
Turkey experiences a diverse range of climates, from Mediterranean in the coastal regions to continental in the interior. The best time to visit Turkey depends on the activities and attractions you plan to explore.
If you’re looking to soak up the sun and enjoy the beaches, the summer months of June to September are ideal. However, these months can be quite hot, especially in the interior regions.
For those interested in exploring historical sites and cultural attractions, spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) offer milder temperatures and fewer crowds. These seasons are perfect for city sightseeing, trekking, and exploring ancient ruins.
Winter (December to February) is a great time to visit if you’re interested in winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding. The mountainous regions of Turkey, such as Uludag and Palandoken, offer excellent skiing opportunities during this time.
When planning your visit to Turkey, it’s important to consider the religious holidays and festivals that take place throughout the year.
Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer for Muslims, and the Eid al-Fitr holiday that follows, can affect travel and accommodation availability. The dates of these holidays change each year based on the Islamic lunar calendar.
Tips for Traveling in Turkey: Cultural etiquette and essential travel advice
Before embarking on your adventure to Turkey, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the country’s cultural etiquette and essential travel advice. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip:
1. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, such as mosques and monasteries. Women should cover their shoulders and wear skirts or pants that cover their knees. Men should avoid wearing shorts.
2. Learn a few basic Turkish phrases, such as “hello,” “please,” and “thank you.” The locals will appreciate your efforts to communicate in their language.
3. Be respectful of local customs and traditions. Avoid public displays of affection, especially in more conservative areas.
4. Stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun. Turkey can get hot, especially during the summer months. Drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
5. Be cautious of street vendors and taxi drivers who may try to overcharge tourists. Always agree on a price before getting into a taxi or purchasing goods from a vendor.
6. Take precautions to ensure your safety. Keep your valuables secure, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid walking alone at night in unfamiliar areas.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to navigate Turkey with ease and make the most of your travel experience.
Hidden Gems in Turkey: Off-the-beaten-path destinations and unique experiences
While Turkey is home to many famous tourist attractions, there are also plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here are some off-the-beaten-path destinations and unique experiences that will take you off the tourist trail:
1. Mount Nemrut – Nemrut Dağı
Located in southeastern Turkey, Mount Nemrut is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its giant stone statues that date back to the 1st century BC. Watch the sunrise or sunset from the top of the mountain and witness the statues casting long shadows.
2. Sumela Monastery
Nestled in the Pontic Mountains in northeastern Turkey, the Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery that dates back to the 4th century located at a 1200 meters height on a steep cliff.
Explore the stunning frescoes and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Step back in time wandering the wonderfully preserved Ottoman quarter of this town, full of historic homes and cobblestone streets.
4. Lake Beyşehir
Swim, boat, or relax by this large – the largest in Turkey – freshwater lake surrounded by mountains and forests in Konya province. Nearby Beyşehir town features Ottoman architecture.
Located on the border between Turkey and Armenia, Ani was once a thriving medieval city and is now an impressive archaeological site and one of the hidden gems in Turkey. Marvel at the ruins of the city’s churches, palaces, and fortifications, and imagine what life was like during its heyday.
6. Mount Ida
One of the off-the-beaten-path destinations in Turkey is Mount Ida. Located in western Turkey, Mount Ida is steeped in mythology and is believed to be the birthplace of Greek gods and goddesses.
Prepare to embark on a hiking adventure and explore the mountain’s lush forests, crystal-clear streams, and hidden waterfalls.
7. Gobekli Tepe
Situated in southeastern Turkey, Gobekli Tepe is an archaeological site that dates back over 11,000 years, making it one of the oldest known human-made structures and one of the unmissable Turkey hidden gems.
Here you will definitely marvel at the massive stone pillars and intricate carvings that depict animals and mythical creatures.
8. Göynük Canyon
In Ankara Province a special place awaits outdoor lovers. Dramatic rocky cliffs, pine forests, and mountains surround this epic canyon in Kızılcahamam district, a paradise for outdoor adventures.
9. Şirince Village
This quaint hillside village in Izmir province is renowned for fruit wines, traditional stone houses, and stunning valley views.
It is close to the nearby historic Ephesus ruins already recommended above and it is one of the hidden gems in Turkey.
How about visiting the breathtaking Temple of Athena? You can do that in Assos, Çanakkale Province. Here you will find marvelous Aegean sea views, ancient ruins, charming boutique hotels, and bohemian cafes.
As you can see, by venturing off the beaten path in Turkey, you’ll have the opportunity to discover lesser-known destinations and step back in time, discovering more about the country’s history.
Must-See Attractions in Turkey: Iconic landmarks and historical sites
There are many must-see attractions in Turkey that showcase its rich history and cultural heritage. Here are some iconic landmarks and historical sites that you shouldn’t miss. Some were already mentioned above among the best places to visit in Turkey, and they are just mentioned here, without more details. Other important places were not presented in detail above, so have a few more words about them.
When deciding where to go next, see what is available in the area and try to discover as much of Turkey as possible.
- Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
- Mount Ararat
- Topkapı Palace, Istanbul – Once the opulent imperial residence of Ottoman sultans, this lavish palace complex is now a museum showcasing treasures and intricately decorated relics.
- Blue Mosque, Istanbul
- Göreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia – See fascinating rock-cut churches, dwellings, and Byzantine frescoes at this museum carved into the unique landscape of Cappadocia. This is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
- Basilica Cistern, Istanbul – An atmospheric, beautifully eerie underground chamber filled with long marble columns and dim, mood lighting. A must-see in Istanbul.
Turkey is an impressive country, with many wonderful places to visit. Whether you are an architect buff, a history aficionado, or are just looking for a place to relax and get tanned, Turkey has something for you.