If you are looking for some of the best places to visit in Turkey, look no further. Below is a compilation of 11 cities, both coastal and inland, offering some of the best Turkish experiences. This post is written in collaboration with other travel writers as they have shared their experiences.
Turkey can be traveled in anyway you see fit. Having experienced Turkey on a several week tour through the country and visiting for just a couple days on another trip via cruise in Istanbul and Ephesus. I say, stay as long as possible and explore as much as possible, if you can. Either way, your visit to Turkey will be both memorable and life changing.
From stunning coastlines, to bustling city vibes, mountain regions, charming towns, and even the land of Cappadocia, Turkey has it all!
There is a lot of rich history to be discovered in Turkey. Formerly the Ottoman Empire from the 1300’s-1922, the empire collapsed after World War 1 and was essentially off the world map until 1923. The Treaty of Lausanne gave recognition to this Ottoman successor, to become the Republic of Turkey.
Quick tips for visiting Turkey:
- Official language is Turkish. English is widely spoken in tourist cities.
- Currency: Turkish Lira (some places take Euros and USD, but plan to have Turkish Lira).
- Temperature averages: 28 F in the winter and 73 F in the summer.
- US visitors will need a passport, and a visa which can be purchased on arrival. Double check because things tend to change.
Best Places To Visit In Turkey: The Thriving Metropolis Of Istanbul
One simply doesn’t go to Turkey and not visit Istanbul. Deemed as one of the best places to visit in Turkey and in Eurasia, this bustling city truly has it all.
While the Bosphorus separates what we know as European Turkey from Asian Turkey, they are still one in the same. The European side of Turkey has an area that is overflowing with cultural activities and sites such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, The Grand Bazaar, and so much more. Many visitors to Turkey flock to this area of Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, and can see most of the major attractions on foot as they are close together.
The Asia side of Istanbul is where you can get the true feeling of how Turkish people live. Explore the neighborhoods, go shopping on Bagdat Street, visit Kadikoy Marketplace, or even watch the sunset over the Blue Mosque. If nothing else, venture over the Asian side of Istanbul so that you can say you were on two continents in one day!
Best Places To Visit In Turkey: Inland
Pamukkale is unlike anywhere else in the world and is a must-see for anyone looking for the best places to visit in Turkey. For centuries, mineral-rich water has flowed over the Pamukkale cliffs creating calcium deposits of blinding white terraces filled with stunning blue water.
People have traveled here since Roman times to soak in the mineral-rich water. Some people even coat themselves from head to toe in mud.
But what really sets Pamukkale apart are the ancient ruins of Hierapolis that sit above the terraces. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hierapolis was founded in 190 BC and was famous for its medicinal pools. A highlight here is Cleopatra’s Pool where you can take a dip amongst centuries-old columns that fell during the earthquake that destroyed the city.
With its epic landscapes and ancient ruins, Pamukkale is one of the top places to visit in Turkey.
The Greco-Roman ruins at Ephesus are a wonder to behold and one of the best places to visit in Turkey! Located just 20 minutes from the port of Kusadasi, Ephesus is one of the original cities of the Ionian League.
Once home to the Temple of Artemis (one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), today, visitors flock to see the Library of Celsus. While an earthquake destroyed the library in 262 AD, the massive two-story facade is one of the most photographed ruins in the world today. Beyond the Library of Celsus, there are a number of other intriguing buildings within the Ephesus complex, including one of the largest amphitheaters in the world. For lovers of antiquity, Ephesus is a must visit!
Cappadocia is an easy day trip from Istanbul. However, if you can swing it, you may want to at least make it an overnight trip. After all, unless you are spelunking, where else can you sleep in a cave?
In addition to the region being marked by caves and even underground cities, the landscape is simply magical. Fairy Chimneys dot the almost lunar landscape. A hot-air balloon affords the absolute best vantage point for viewing the Fairy Chimneys. But prepare to get up before the sunrise.
If hiking is more your style than ballooning, then trek up to Uçhisar Castle. While the ‘castle” is more a hill with caves than an actual castle, it is the highest point in the region. It offers astounding views over the valley and was once a strategic lookout.
After seeing Cappadocia from above, venture underground to the Underground City of Derinkuyu, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is an intricate tunnel system complete with wells, rooms, ventilation shafts, animal stalls, and even a church.
If you are willing to hustle, you can experience quite a lot of the region in 24 hours. In recent years, travelers have noted that Cappadocia is one of the best places to visit in Turkey.
Ankara is the capital city of Turkey, and therefore has so many things to offer. It’s easy to get there either by train or by air from any major city in the country, and while you are there you won’t run out of things to do. Making it one of the best places to visit in Turkey.
Some of my favorites include going to the oldest part of the city, called Ulus, where you can shop for everything from Turkish rugs to copper. There’s an old fortress to wander around as well, as a traditional Turkish bath, if that is something you are willing to try. Ankara also hosts some of the best museums and memorials in the country, and the most important is the Ataturk Memorial. You should also visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and the State Art and Sculpture Museum, as well as the old Roman ruins and baths.
Make sure to eat some amazing Turkish food while you are there, like Iskender Kebab or my favorite street food, borek. Ankara is always bustling and you will enjoy your visit.
Best Places To Visit In Turkey: Coastal Towns
Located on Turkey’s south coastline and overlooking the Aegean Sea, Bodrum is the perfect location for a seaside escape. With whitewashed houses, blue trim and bougainvillea running wild, it’s reminiscent of many other Mediterranean destinations. The calm, crystal clear waters just invite you in for a swim and there are a multitude of water activities available in the area, from sailing to fishing. Being by the sea means there are many amazing seafood restaurants dotting the shoreline too.
Like all good towns in this part of the world, Bodrum has a lovely little Old Town to explore, and one of the best places to visit in Turkey. It sits at the base of the medieval fortress, Bodrum Castle. In the narrow winding streets are market stalls for anything you can imagine, so there’s plenty of opportunity to grab a bargain.
Bodrum has plenty to see for the history buffs too, as it is located on the spot where the ancient city of Halicarnassus. There is an amphitheater that sits high above the city, an ancient mausoleum, or visitors can make their way to the Pedasa ruins high up in the hills.
The Gallipoli Peninsula in North-Western Turkey is an oasis of green pine trees and grasslands, jutting out into a captivating blue seascape, but it has not always been so peaceful.
During World War I it was the scene of an amphibious invasion by the British Empire. As part of that offensive Australian and New Zealand troops were landed at Anzac Cove on Sunday 25th April 1915.
What was meant to be a quick successful mission became a long and drawn out affair with severe casualties on both sides and what was ultimately a defeat of the British Allies by the Turks.
Since then the Turkish people, under the guidance of their much loved (now deceased) leader Attaturk, extended a hand in peace by allowing foreign countries to maintain war memorials on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Many people go to Gallipoli primarily to visit a site of war, only to find themselves charmed by the incredibly beautiful location, and one of the best places to visit in Turkey.
Gallipoli is best visited by car, crossing the Dardanelles from the Turkish town of Canakkale. Canakkale itself is a not-to-be-missed University town, with a vibrant waterfront promenade and stunning sunset views across the Gallipoli peninsula.
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