A country that is not on many people’s radar to enjoy for their holidays is Turkey. When my husband first suggested traveling to Turkey, I had many questions about what this country had to offer and travel safety concerns. I think the media have not shined a bright light on Turkey; therefore, many people don’t consider it a destination to explore.
My husband and I have visited this beautiful country three times and find it more attractive and exciting each time we visit to make it our home. Turkey offers a wide range of activities for travelers to experience. If you love the outdoors, you will find that the landscape is impeccable no matter the season.
I have listed some of my top picks of cities to visit in Turkey.
Turkey’s most iconic city and once home to the Ottoman and Byzantine Empire’s capital, Istanbul is one of the world’s largest cities. When most people think about travel to Turkey, Istanbul is the only destination that comes to mind. Turkey has much to offer travelers, and Istanbul is definitely at the top of the list of cities to explore.
With each new ruler in Turkey’s history, an impression of their legacy was left behind and can be seen across the city. Istanbul is the only city in the world where it is on two continents, Asia and Europe. In addition to history and the breathtaking skyline, tourists can experience some of the best restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and some amazing farmers markets in the country. Top attractions are Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar, Galata Tower, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace.
In northeast Turkey, within the Black Sea region, is Trabzon, one of the most fertile lands due to the weather climate. Nearby is one of the largest tea-producing areas in Turkey. The lush green landscape with miles of tea plantations is a beautiful site to visit. Located on the cliff face is a 4th-century Sümela Monastery, which indeed captures your attention. Visit Atatürk House, a white colonel style home with colorful gardens. Stop in Uzungöl, a valley nestled between beautiful mountains that will surely make you think you are in Switzerland.
Along with some fantastic sites to visit, you must explore the unique cuisine of this region of Turkey. Popular dishes to sample are the fried anchovies (called Hamsi) or their meatballs. Another favorite to sample is the kuymak, which is a cheese fondue made with butter and cornflour. Very tasty indeed! Although pide or flatbread is eaten throughout Turkey, Trabzon bread is unique to this region.
A seaside town on the southern coast of Turkey is Alanya, offering a multitude of historical sites, beautiful beaches, breathtaking mountains, and much more. The city’s heart sits on a rocky peninsula with a 13th-century castle guarding the water’s edge. Visit the Alanya Castle and fortress, where you can get a panoramic view. Join a fun evening on a pirate boat as you party the night away. Alanya is one of Turkey’s top traveled destinations in the summer for its long white sandy beaches and many stunning resorts.
In addition to its unbelievable coastline, are outstanding day trips. North, visit the Köprülü Canyon and spend the day rafting the river. Another canyon to see is Turkey’s hidden gems, the Sapadere Canyon, where you can enjoy the natural beauty and cascading waterfalls. Cool off and visit the Dimclay River, where you can enjoy relaxing in a canopy sipping tea, eating lunch while the water flows beneath you.
Interested in white water rafting in Koprulu Canyon, click HERE.
Rich in history, natural beauty, and delicious cuisine make Sivas a popular destination. Sivas is in the central part of Turkey and is one of the largest provinces in surface area. Although it has withstood time, it grew most popular during the Republic, Seljuk, and Ottoman periods. One of the most beautiful city squares in the country is Kent Square, where you will find many historical buildings around the perimeter. The Republic’s foundation is located at the Sivas Congress and is the headquarters of the National Struggle. Visit the Double Minaret Madrasa, Buruciye Madrasa, Sifaiye Madrasa, and Kale Mosque, found along Kent Square’s perimeter. One of my favorite buildings to visit is the Gök Madrasah because of the colorful and unique mosaic tiles and the Ulu Mosque, which I enjoyed immensely. Kesik Bridge and Eğri Bridge are historical and compelling places to visit.
If nature is more your style, visit Gökpınar Lake. Sivas has so much to offer it should be on your list to see in Turkey.
If you want to be in the middle of the Turkish Riviera, you must visit Antalya. I must say I am a bit partial to this city because I live here. Antalya is a mix of old and new, which makes it great for visitors. The Old Town, called Kaleici, is the city’s heart with cobblestone streets outlined with Ottoman-era mansions. Near Old Town is a small harbor to rent a boat for the day or visit to see the Lower Duden Waterfall. Antalya has two beach areas, Lara and Konyaalti. If you enjoy museums, you must explore the Antalya Museum, the country’s best museum with a collection of Hellenistic and Roman artifacts from Turkey’s southern region.
The beauty of visiting Antalya is not far from other top attractions to see on day trips such as Side, Alanya, Kemer, Kaş, Kalkan, Isparta, and so many others. Within the Antalya province are three waterfalls to enjoy, Upper Duden Fall, Kurşunlu Fall, and Lower Duden Fall. If visiting historical sites is more your style, nearby is Perge, Aspendos, Side, Myra, Termessos, just to name a few. I have enjoyed the people, the culture, and the lifestyle in Antalya and hope you consider it for an upcoming vacation.
Visit my blog at Traveling Lens Photography and read more about interesting places in Turkey.
Situated in Central Anatolia of Turkey is Cappadocia, known for hot air balloon rides and fairytale landscapes. Due to ancient volcanic eruption and erosion, these bizarre rock formations have led to caved homes, drawing tourists from around the world. When the Romans invaded during the 4th century AD, many Christians found refuge here, creating unique cave churches located at Göreme Open Air Museum.
I highly suggest visiting several other towns nearby, such as Ürgüp, Göreme, and Avanos, where you can enjoy pottery studios, partake in a pottery demonstration or visit a carpet weaving school and learn about how Turkish rugs are made and designed. You will find various cave hotels, restaurants, nightlife, and attractions such as museums, rock castles, underground tunnels, old Greek villages, monasteries, and handicraft markets.
Want to learn more about Avanos Carpet Weaving School click HERE
Fethiye and Oludeniz are two towns near each other (5 miles) and offer visitors some of the most fun and exciting activities in all of Turkey. I highly recommend signing up to paraglide from the top of Babadag Mountain that has you landing on the beach of Oludeniz. Fethiye is an important Lycian city of Telmessos, and scattered throughout are some of the most monuments artifacts such as the Tomb of Amyntas. Fethiye Museum is an excellent place to understand Lycian history better, especially if you’re planning to head to other attractions such as the ancient cities of Tlos and Letoön (that are nearby).
Day trip to Kayakoy (8 km), nicknamed the “ghost town,” should be on your list of activities. During the 1920s, this once-thriving city with a mixed population of Greeks and Turks was part of the 1923 Population Exchange, creating heartbreak and deserting the city. Other interesting places nearby to visit is Saklikent Gorge, Pinara, and Xanthos.
One of Turkey’s most famous blue flag beaches is in Oludeniz. The white sandy beaches and turquoise-blue waters with picturesque views of colorful paragliders descending from the sky while you are sunbath is something you will always remember. Postcard-perfect!
Want to learn more about Fethiye and Oludeniz click HERE.
With over 8,000 years of ancient history, lovely coastline, museums, multicultural cuisine, Izmir is considered one of Turkey’s most romantic cities to visit. Highlights include the enchanting Roman/Greek agora marketplace and the Acropolis. Nearby is one of the most impressive ancient cities Pergamum and Ephesus. Stroll the market streets of Kemeralti, the famous bazaar, to find an array of Turkish products to take home with you. Get a stunning view on top of the hill where you will discover Kadifekale Castle (meaning Velvet Castle), offering an insight back in the time of Alexander the Great. For a spa day, Balçova offers a thermal bath of legends, the Agamemnon Baths. Visit some of the most unique designed mosques, such as the Yali Mosque near the Governor’s Mansion at Konak Square. One of the best things to do in Izmir is to walk on the long seafront promenade, Kordon.
A picturesque city of classic ancient ruins of the Pamphylia period as well as modern-day resorts overlooking sandy white beaches, Side is on a small peninsula off the Mediterranean coastline. This small but robust town is full of fantastic sightseeing, nightlife, and outdoor adventures to experience.
As you stroll to one of its most famous historical ruins, the Temple of Apollo, you will find many shops, eateries, and nightclubs to entertain you. North of the city is the Manavgat River, where you can view one of the many waterfalls scattered throughout Turkey’s southern region. If touring a museum is on your list, Side Museum has one of the most elaborate Byzantine period exhibits. Many excellent day trips are optional from Side to Antalya, Alanya, and Köprülü Canyon.
Want to learn more about Side click HERE.
Influenced by the Greeks, Bodrum is an elegant port city located in the Mugla Province. Halicarnassus was once the name of this city was filled with marble buildings, temples, statues, and paved streets. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to see is the Mausoleum, the famous legendary travel writer Herodotus’s birthplace. Today, Borum’s fascinating ruins, stunning beaches, luxurious resorts attract the rich and famous from all over the world. No visit to Bodrum would be complete without seeing the Castle of St. Peter (Bodrum Castle) built-in 1402 by the Knights Hospitaller. Other sites to see are the ancient amphitheater and the Myndos Gate.
With endless options, Marmaris offers a magnitude of attractions for an incredible vacation. Marmaris dreamy beaches, watersports, water parks, boat trips, day-cruising, sailing adventures, cycling, hiking, horse riding, climbing, and high-class restaurants are serving some of their exquisite local wines. The Old Town (historical city center) is where you will find the Marmaris Castle, a harbor and marina, along with other 16th century buildings to canvass. Near the Marmaris Harbor is lively bars, pubs, shops, and restaurants. Aqua Dream Water Park and Atlantis Water Park are two fabulous places to enjoy with your family. If you want to spend the day on the water, take a boat trip to the coves or a trip to Paradise Island.
Turkey has so much to offer for a vacation that it is hard to pick only ten places to consider. If you are traveling with family, want a romantic honeymoon, or an all-inclusive resort, I am sure you can find it in Turkey. Most of these cities offer a wide range of hotel stays that will meet your budget. Most cities provide public transportation or taxi, which are inexpensive. Once you are at your destination, speak with your hotel front desk/operator to arrange day trips, boat excursions, and other activities to make your vacation memorable.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places in Turkey and around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.
Inshallah (God willing!)