11 Best Places To Visit in Turkey: (Best of Turkiye Travel Guide)

In this travel guide, we highlight the best places to visit in Turkey and provide practical, first-hand travel tips based on our personal travels.
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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Croatian-Slovenian full-time travel duo, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists for over 4 years. We write in-depth travel guides about destinations we have personally visited, providing practical travel tips and recommendations.

Best places to visit in Turkey - What to see in Turkey - Turkey places to visit - Galata Tower in Istanbul

Turkey, a land split between Europe and Asia, is a stunning destination where countless cultures have traveled through, lived, and left their mark.

We spent over a month and a half traveling through Turkey and loved it! It left a lasting impression on us, and we can comfortably say that we were utterly surprised at how beautiful, vast, and full of exciting and beautiful places Turkey is.

From famous Turkish landmarks to off-the-beaten-path places, this large European and Asian country has more to offer than many think.

While Turkey is renowned for bustling Istanbul, the ancient city of Ephesus, the fascinating white travertines of Pamukkale, and the famous Cappadocia balloon rides in its interesting landscape, there are hidden gems that often go unnoticed.

In this travel guide, we’ll detail all the absolute best places to visit in Turkey. Through our personal experiences and research, we’ve got an excellent idea of what is worth visiting in Turkey and why!

We visited most of the places we recommend. There are a few that we still didn’t, but we plan to. However, Arijana’s brother Alen, who made countless trips to Turkey, was a great source of information and inspiration for those.

Arijana Tkalčec and Matej Špan at chairlift on Babadag mountain - best place to visit in Turkey for great views of Turquoise Coast
Us taking the newly built Babadag Cable Car on our visit to Fethiye & Oludeniz

Best places to visit in Turkey

Before we start, you might already wonder how to optimize your travel to Turkey so you can visit most of these must-visit places. We wrote and published a Ultimate Turkey Road Trip guide, a detailed account of our road trip adventure across Turkey, complete with the best route, what to see, and first-hand travel tips.

For more details on things to do in Turkey, especially the destinations we recommend visiting in this article, check out all our Turkey Travel Guides. They are full of practical tips on how to visit specific attractions, what to expect, and the best ways to go around so you can optimize your Turkey itinerary.

To help you find the most beautiful places in Turkey, we created a Turkey Travel Map. This map makes it easier to visualize where everything is and to see how far apart some places are.

TRAVEL RESOURCES

BEST EXPERIENCES

  1. Paragliding in Oludeniz
  2. Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride
  3. Bodrum Orak Island Boat Tour
  4. Kas Kekova Boat Tour
  5. Koprulu Canyon Rafting and Canyoning

TRAVEL INSURANCE: Check our recommended travel insurance and save 5% on getting covered.

TRANSPORT

  1. Affordable domestic flights – find domestic flights
  2. Car rental with full insurance – check deals
  3. Long-distance buses – check bus lines

DATA: Get a Turkey eSIM to stay connected and navigate with ease.

1. Istanbul – Vibrant Asian/European Metropolis

Istanbul needs no introduction, as it’s absolutely the best place to visit in Turkey.

Must-see attractions in Istanbul include the iconic Sultan Ahmet area with Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. Don’t miss the stunning Dolmabahce Palace, Galata Tower, and a Bosphorus Cruise.

Istanbul - Best places to visit in Turkey - Turkey's most visited destination
Seagulls and Dolmabahce Palace from Bosphorus Cruise, Istanbul - best places to visit in Turkey

Shop at the bustling Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets, for unique souvenirs, traditional Turkish crafts, and beautiful textiles. The Egyptian Spice Bazaar, also known as the Spice Market, is a paradise for food lovers, with various spices, dried fruits, nuts, and Turkish Delight. Remember to try the local tea, a staple of Turkish culture!

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey - best market to visit in Turkey - best place to visit in Turkey for shopping

This magnificent large city perfectly blends history, architecture, and culture. Once you’re done exploring the city, there are many fantastic places nearby that are worth visiting, like the Princes’ Islands, a tranquil escape from the bustling city, with beaches, horse-drawn carriages, and charming villages to explore.

How to get there: Istanbul is the most accessible place in Turkey to get to and from anywhere in the world by countless affordable flights. It has two large international airports, Istanbul Airport (IST) on the European side and Sabiha Gocken (SAW) on the Asian side.

Where to stay: For first-time visitors to Istanbul, we recommend staying in Sultan Ahmet (Obelisk Hotel & Suites) or Taksim (Sentire Hotels & Residences), two of the best areas to stay as a tourist.

2. Ephesus – Best Ancient City Ruins

Only 1 hour south of Izmir, you can visit Ephesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the site of the best ancient city ruins in Turkey and one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world.

Explore Ephesus one of the best places to visit in Turkey and Turkey's best ancient city ruins

Ephesus was once a bustling metropolis and a significant trade, culture, and spirituality center. Well-preserved structures like the Library of Celsus, one of the most impressive buildings in the ancient world, the Great Theatre, which could seat up to 25,000 spectators, and the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, offer a glimpse into the city’s former glory and skilled architecture.

The city also had a sophisticated water and sewage system, public toilets, and a commercial agora.

We loved exploring Ephesus, as it was like stepping back in time. So, if there’s one ancient city in Turkey you should visit, it’s Ephesus!

How to get there: Ephesus is easy to reach, just one hour from Izmir and 25 minutes from Kusadasi, a famous city for cruise ship arrivals and the ferry from the nearby island of Samos in Greece. We recommend renting a car in Izmir, or booking a guided tour – check this 2-Day Ephesus and Pamukkale tour from Istanbul.

Where to stay: To explore Ephesus, you can stay in Izmir, Kusadasi or the closest town Selcuk, which is also the gateway to the ancient city. We stayed in Deka Evleri in Izmir for a few nights and it was a great base to explore the area. In Kusadasi, Villa Konak is the perfect choice, and in Selcuk, we recommend staying in Akanthus Hotel Ephesus (9.9 rating with over 300 reviews).

3. Turquoise Coast – Beaches and History

Turkish Riviera, also known as the Turquoise Coast, is a stunning 1000km long stretch of coastline in Southwest Turkey, between Izmir and Antalya. With top destinations like Bodrum, Antalya, Marmaris, Fethiye & Oludeniz, and Kas with its beautiful bays and beaches, the Turquoise Coast is worth visiting for its crystal clear waters, picturesque landscapes, and rich historical sites. It’s also home to two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Tomb of Mausolus in Bodrum.

Turkish Riviera, best place to visit in Turkey for beaches, water activities and history - Turquoise Coast of Turkey

On our road trip through Turkey, the Turkish Riviera was a definite highlight. The experience we loved the most was paragliding in Oludeniz, where you take off at Babadag Mountain summit, at almost 2000m, and land right next to the famous Oludeniz beach and the Blue Lagoon.

Top place for paragliding in the world - Oludeniz, best place to visit in Turkey - Turquoise Coast of Turkey
Check availability: Oludeniz Paragliding

The Turkish Riviera is also the best place in Turkey for boat trips, scuba diving, and other water sports. We went on the Kekova Sunken City Boat Tour from Kas, and it was such a fun day out. We saw sites like the remnants of the sunken city of Kekova, visited Simena Castle, jumped into the clear turquoise waters, and swam in the beautiful bays.

Turkish Riviera, best place to visit in Turkey for beaches, water activities and history - Turquoise Coast of Turkey
Stunning bays of Kas, on a Kas Kekova Boat Tour

A popular way to explore part of the Turkish Riviera is by walking the Lycian Way from Fethiye to Antalya, a whopping 500km long marked trail that passes remarkable ancient Lycian and Roman ruins and stunning landscapes.

Best place to visit in Turkey - Lycian Way along the Turquoise Coast of Turkey

How to get there: Milas-Bodrum, Dalaman, and Antalya are the best airports to fly into the Turkish Riviera (check flights). Otherwise, you can also reach many spots from nearby islands in Greece, like Bodrum, Marmaris, and Fethiye from Rhodes (check ferry).

Where to stay: Beautiful resorts in Antalya (Concorde De Luxe Resort – Ultra All Inclusive), comfy apartments in Fethiye (Ten Apart Hotel), and stunning hotels in Bodrum (Roas Hotel).

Car rental in Cappadocia

The easiest way to get around Turkey?

Rent a car! Turkey is very easy to navigate by car, which allows you to explore at your own pace.

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4. Kaleici historic city center of Antalya

Kaleici, the historic city center of Antalya, is a charming area filled with narrow streets, historic buildings, and vibrant markets. Antalya is worth visiting in Turkey, not only for its luxurious resorts but also for its rich history, archaeological sites, and stunning natural beauty. Antalya offers diverse experiences for travelers looking to immerse themselves in Turkish culture and history, from exploring ancient ruins to soaking up the sun on pristine beaches.

Kaleici historic center of Antalya - best places to visit in Turkey
Streets of Kaleici
Kaleici historic center of Antalya - best places to visit in Turkey - walls

Before visiting Antalya, we didn’t think much of it and thought we wouldn’t like it. But it ended up being quite a cool place, and we loved the old town, the Duden Waterfalls, and, of course, the beaches, especially the long Konyaalti Beach.

Old Marina of Antalya - Kaleici historic center of Antalya - best places to visit in Turkey
Old City Marina, Antalya

Antalya is also a good base from which to visit nearby attractions like Aspendos Theater, Termessos Ruins, and Köprülü Canyon and go on boat trips. It’s also perfectly positioned for day trips to Pamukkale, Lake Egirdir, the ancient city of Side, and the resort town of Alanya.

How to get there: Antalya is easy to reach from many destinations, including Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa (check flights).

Where to stay: Stay in the charming Kaleici (Lykia Old Town Hotel) or one of the stunning beach resorts (Calista Luxury Resort).

5. Pamukkale – Stunning Natural Landscape

Pamukkale, also known as Cotton Castle, is a stunning natural landscape of unique white travertine terraces. It is one of the most unique places to visit in Turkey. You can bathe in the thermal waters of some of the pools or the nearby Cleopatra Antique Pools and explore the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, located right above Pamukkale.

Pamukkale Cotton Castle travertines and pools - best place to visit in Turkey

We especially loved roaming around Hierapolis, which was a great addition to seeing the unique landscape of Pamukkale. We can only imagine how lucky the residents of Hierapolis have been to live right next door to this incredible natural wonder. Plus, having thermal springs on site. What a life.

Hierapolis ancient city ruins at Pamukkale - best place to visit in Turkey

About an hour’s drive from Pamukkale, you can explore Aphrodisias, another ancient city on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, named after the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.

We also recommend visiting the unusual Lake Salda, also known as Turkish Maldives, a vivid blue crater lake known for containing lots of minerals and holding some of world’s oldest fossils. It’s about 1 hour and 15 minutes drive from Pamukkale, and while it’s a protected area and soon to be a national park, you can still swim in some designated areas.

Lake Salda - Turkish Maldives - best places to visit in Turkey

How to get there: The fastest way to reach Pamukkale is by flying into Denizli Airport, about 45 minutes’ drive away. By car, you can reach Pamukkale in 3 hours from Izmir and Antalya, and in similar time from Bodrum, Fethiye, and Kas – check car rental. Another option is a guided tour from Antalya/Izmir/Fethiye.

Where to stay: To explore Pamukkale and nearby attractions, base yourself in Pamukkale town (The Cotton House Hotel) or Denizli.

Arijana Tkalčec and Matej Špan on a hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia

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6. Cappadocia – Otherworldly landscape & Balloon flights

Only a three-hour drive away from Ankara or a quick flight from Istanbul or Antalya, you can visit Cappadocia, known for Turkey’s out-of-this-world landscape and fascinating history. Cappadocia is famous for its year-round balloon flights, where in the morning, the sky fills up with hundreds of balloons above the town of Goreme.

While in Goreme, you can stay in one of the extraordinary Cave Hotels carved into the tuff rock. Below, you can find tens and likely hundreds of underground cities, some of which you can visit, like the incredible Derinkuyu Underground City.

Derinkuyu Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey - best place to visit in Turkey

But there’s more to Cappadocia. You can go on great hikes in stunning valleys like Pigeon Valley, Red Valley, and Love Valley and explore the open-air museums of Goreme and Zelve. There are also castles like Uchisar and Ortahisar and various interesting formations like fairy chimneys.

Zelve Open Air museum, Cappadocia - best place in Turkey to see underound cities
Zelve Open Air Museum

The hype about Cappadocia is justified as it’s undoubtedly one of the country’s most beautiful and interesting places. We absolutely loved our hot air balloon ride, and it’s, for a reason, one of the top things to do in Turkey.

The landscape was fascinating, and walking down into the underground City of Derinkuyu was a phenomenal experience. Also, exploring Zelve, a site of once one of the largest communities living in an excavated village, was exciting.

How to get there: Cappadocia and its center, Goreme, is reachable from two airports, Nevsehir with flights from Istanbul, and Kayseri with flights from Istanbul, Izmir, and Antalya, as well as many European destinations like Vienna, Geneva, Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Brussels – Check flights.

Where to stay: Stay in a Unique Cave Hotel in Goreme or excellent hotels and guest houses in the nearby towns of Uchisar (Cappadocia Pyramid Stone House), Ortahisar (Turkish Cave House), and Urgup (Rose Mansions – restored Greek mansions surrounded by green gardens).

7. Ankara – Charming capital city

Ankara, the charming capital city of Turkey, is still one of the top places to visit, even though it’s not as impressive as Istanbul. Known for its rich history and cultural attractions, some must-visit places in Ankara include the ancient Citadel, the Anitkabir mausoleum, and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. Don’t miss exploring the bustling streets of Ulus, sampling delicious Turkish cuisine in the city’s vibrant cafes and restaurants, and going for a Turkish bath.

Ankara charming capital city - best places to visit in Turkey

We liked Ankara, even though it has fewer activities than its counterpart, Istanbul. The Anitkabir mausoleum was a definite highlight, especially the changing of the guard ceremony with soldiers marching.

Our top travel tip for Ankara is to visit the Rahmi M. Koc Museum, a remarkable collection of artifacts from Turkey and global history, science, agriculture, and transport. We loved the rare cars on display!

How to get there: It’s easy to fly into Ankara from all of Turkey, plus most European countries and some in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Where to stay: Ankara has a wide range of great hotels, and the best area to stay is in Ulus, the historic center of Ankara. We recommend staying in Divan Cukurhan, a beautiful and unique hotel in a restored caravanserai built in the 16th century – an Ottoman inn with a marketplace in the courtyard.

Arijana Tkalčec on Kekova boat tour in Turkey

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8. Gaziantep UNESCO City of Gastronomy

Gaziantep, the UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the western part of Mesopotamia, is one of the best places to visit in Turkey for rich culinary traditions and delicious cuisine. It offers a unique food experience, from mouthwatering baklavas to hearty soups (Çorba) and traditional kebabs.

If you’re a foodie, don’t miss this culinary gem and Turkey’s food capital! Explore its bustling markets, sample local delicacies, and immerse yourself in Turkey’s more local and laid-back city.

Baklava in a tray, Gaziantep - best place to visit in Turkey for food lovers
Spice Bazaar Gaziantep - best place to visit in Turkey for food
Esin Üstün, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can visit the fascinating Zeugma Mosaics Museum, which has art dating back to Roman times. And 45 minutes outside Gaziantep, you can visit the Archaeological Site of Zeugma, originally an ancient Greek and later a Roman city.

Zeugma Mosaic Museum Gaziantep - best place to see ancient mosaics in Turkey
Carole Raddato, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We have yet to visit Gaziantep, but Arijana’s brother Alen has, and he had the best time tasting all of the fantastic dishes there. We don’t consider ourselves foodies, but after traveling over the past years, we realized that it’s the food (and people) we remember most after visiting a country or destination. Turkey’s food was delicious, so we’re sure Gaziantep will also deliver on its promise.

How to get there: You can fly directly into Gaziantep from Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya, and some Western European destinations like London, Berlin, and Zurich. Getting there by car or bus from other Turkish cities is quite a drive, as Ankara is seven hours away and Cappadocia is about five.

Where to stay: Stay in the heart of the Old City in Gaziantep in one of the restored caravanserai or Anatolian houses, like the Anadolu Evleri – some of which are over 150 years old.

9. Göbeklitepe and Turkish Mesopotamia

While Gaziantep is the gateway to the historical region of Mesopotamia, the area is large with lots to see. One of the must-visit places in Turkey’s Mesopotamia is Göbeklitepe, the world’s oldest temple complex, which offers a fascinating glimpse into ancient history.

Gobeklitepe - World's Oldest Temple, Turkey - best places to visit in Turkey
Spica-Vega Photo Arts, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Other top places to visit in Turkish Mesopotamia include the ancient city of Harran, Mount Nemrut, Diyarbakir Castle, and the stunning landscapes of Hasankeyf. These destinations showcase the region’s rich history and cultural heritage, making it a must-visit for travelers looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations in Turkey.

Harran Beehive Houses in Turkey Mesopotamia - best places to visit in Turkey to see rare architecture
Mount Nemrut in Turkey Mesopotamia - best places to visit in Turkey

Turkish Mesopotamia encompasses a large area of Southeastern Turkey, so you must cover a lot of ground to visit its many ancient sites. While Göbeklitepe is located right next to Sanliurfa, and Harran is just one hour south, other attractions like Hasankeyf in Batman and cities like Mardin are an additional three to four hours drive to the east.

We highly recommend a three-day combo tour from Cappadocia, which visits Mt Nemrut, Gobeklitepe, Sanliurfa, and Harran, or renting a car and going on a road trip.

How to get there: You can fly into Adiyaman Airport from Istanbul and Ankara, but we recommend flying into Diyarbakir, which also has connections to Antalya, Izmir, and some cities in Germany.

Where to stay: Comfy hotel rooms in Sanliurfa (Kaliruha Boutique Hotel) and Diyarbakir (Amida Boutique Hotel). For a unique stay, choose one of the beautiful stone mansions in Mardin, like Carra Konagi and Maridin Hotel.

TRAVEL TIP

The Mesopotamia area in Turkey was hit the most by the 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake and needs tourists to bring in much-needed business. So, if you’re planning a visit to Turkey, consider adding Mesopotamia to your itinerary. There’s lots of interesting things to see and explore, and you’ll contribute to the economy. Win-win.

10. Mount Ararat and Far East Turkey

Far East Turkey, located in Eastern Anatolia, is the least visited area in Turkey but still has some places worth visiting. Mount Ararat, a dormant volcano and the highest peak in Turkey, is a must-see destination in Far East Turkey. The stunning views from the mountain are a sight to behold, especially after trekking up for four days. The impressive architecture of Ishak Pasha Palace in Doğubeyazıt and Durupinar, a mysterious rock formation, is also worth exploring in this region.

About 2 hours south of Doğubeyazıt, there’s the old city Van and Lake Van, the largest lake and a genuinely off-the-beaten-path place in Turkey. The Akdamar Castle has stunning views of the lake and Mount Ararat in the distance.

Lake Van and Mount Ararat, Far East Turkey

Van is also famous for its Van-style breakfast, which is a full table of delicious dishes, sometimes over 20. We didn’t have the chance to try the Van breakfast in Van itself, but we did have it in Istanbul on a few occasions in Van Kahvalti Evi, a superb Istanbul restaurant serving up Van breakfast. We’re still dreaming of that breakfast!

So, if you can’t make it to this beautiful but hard-to-reach part of Turkey, go for a yummy Van breakfast in Istanbul.

Full table at a Van-style breakfast restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey - best places to visit in Turkey
Van-style breakfast in Van Kahvalti Evi in Istanbul

How to get there: Fly into Van airport from Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya, or Ankara. Getting to Far East Turkey by car is only sensible on a big Turkish road trip. Otherwise, it’s another 4 to 5-hour drive from Batman in Mesopotamia.

Where to stay: Stay in Doğubeyazıt (Tehran Boutique Hotel) or Van (The Conforium Hotel).

11. Turkish Black Sea Coast

The Turkish Black Sea Coast is the greenest part of Turkey, offering a striking contrast to the landscapes in other parts of the country. Trabzon, a city along this coast, offers a mix of historical sites and natural wonders. One of the most iconic attractions is the Sumela Monastery, perched amid lush mountains with a picturesque backdrop.

Sumela Monastery in Trabzon on the Black Sea Coast of Turkey - unique places to visit in Turkey
Kackar Mountains Plateau - Trabzon, Black Sea Coast of Turkey - nature places to visit in Turkey
Kackar Mountains plateau

In addition to beautiful mountains like Kackar, the Turkish Black Sea Coast is home to charming seaside towns and a vibrant local culture waiting to be explored by travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path destination in Turkey.

The Black Sea Coast of Turkey is very long since it encompasses the whole north of Turkey. While some spots, like Trabzon, take more time to reach, you can find beautiful places like Sile, which is just one hour and a half’s drive out of Istanbul.

Amasra Black Sea Seaside Town in Turkey - best seaside towns to visit in Turkey
Fishing village and port town of Amasra

Turkey’s Black Coast is also popular for beach vacations. The best Black Sea beaches are on the European side, in Kilyos, although some of the beaches between Sile and Amasra are absolutely stunning and quite popular.

How to get there: You can fly into Trabzon from many Turkish cities, some German cities, and many Middle Eastern destinations (the lush landscape of this region is extremely popular with Middle Eastern tourists).

Where to stay: There are great hotels in Trabzon (Melissa Suite), mountain resorts (Foleya Mountain Resort & Villas), and seaside resorts (Trabzon Sea Pearl). In Amasra, stay in the Amasra Ceylin Hotel.


Thank you for reading this article about Turkey’s best places to visit. We hope we have provided you with great ideas on what to visit and why. And, above all, helped you plan your trip.

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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Full-time travelers, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists.

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We're Arijana and Matej, a couple and travel blogging duo from Croatia and Slovenia who thrive while slow-traveling. And we have been doing it for over 4 years.

During and after our travels, we love publishing in-depth, researched and above-all, useful travel guides, full of personal first-hand information on the places we personally visited.

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