23 of the Best Places To Visit in Turkey

When choosing the best places to visit in Turkey, get ready for an avalanche of choices. Repeatedly called the bridge between East and West, I often say the country of Turkey is the world’s most beautiful place. However, I admit to being biased because I do not travel anywhere else. Turkey’s ability to amaze is unlimited, though. The proof is in visitor stats that make Turkey one of the world’s most popular touristic destinations.

Whether you want a unique experience or to explore beautiful scenery, Turkey is the best at tourism attractions. In this article, we look at popular places like Ephesus, Istanbul, Bursa, and Izmir. But also suggest off beat places like Gaziantep, Mardin, and little-known villages that delight everyone who discovers their secret. So, let us look at where to go in Turkey.

23 Places to Visit in Turkey

1: Breath-taking Uzungol

In Turkey’s Northeast Black Sea region, Uzungol is relatively unknown to Westerners but is popular with Arabic tourists, who can’t help but be amazed. Traditionally, village locals collect wood from nearby forests to build hotels and houses around the large and peaceful lake. Visit during winter, and landscapes change to a blanket of white snow. Sitting in Turkey’s Kackar mountain range, the lakeside mosque is the focal point of any good photo.

Beautiful-Places-in-Turkey

2: Sumela Monastery in North East Turkey

Clinging to a mountain edge, reaching Sumela monastery is not easy, but it is worth going to this open-air museum to see how monks lived here. Also, in Turkey’s Black Sea region, book your tourist hotel in nearby Trabzon and go on a day trip to see the church carving, monks’ kitchens, and monastery bedrooms. A stone path leads into the main quarters built into the mountainside, and they are nothing short of incredible. On your way down, do stop by a traditional restaurant to taste traditional Black Sea food.

Sumela

3: Visit Charming Simena Village

You will not find luxury in quiet Simena (Kalekoy), but this famous Mediterranean village of Turkey is well known for homemade ice cream flavours. Another reason to visit is views of Kekova Bay from the ancient Byzantine castle. This destination in Turkey stands out for people sailing the Turkish riviera. So, while there, take a slight detour via boat to see the nearby Kekova Island sunken ruins. More about Simena tourist attraction.

Prettiest-Places-to-Visit-in-Turkey

4: Attractions in Colourful Cappadocia

Ancient Greek Cave churches, dipping valleys and weird rock formations form Cappadocia’s surreal landscape. As one of Turkey’s best destinations and notoriously featured in the film Ghost Rider, its importance stems from its history as a hub for early Christianity. In addition, the best attraction is an early morning hot air balloon trip over the fairy chimneys. Many visitors to Turkey often twin a visit with Cappadocia to historical Ephesus. A must-see in Cappadocia is Goreme Open-air Museum and the biblical carving, and during winter, the landscape full of snow.

Cappadocia in Turkey

5: Admire the Pool of Abraham

Also known as Balikli Gol, the beauty of the Pool of Abraham is not its size or visual appearance but the destination in Turkey where Nimrod supposedly threw Abraham into the fire. Situated in old Sanliurfa city, a 2-day stay is a perfect insight into conservative Turkey. After visiting the site, walk a few streets to see the nearby city castle, mosque, and cave of Abraham. More about why you should put Sanliurfa city on your list during a visit to Turkey.

Balikligol in South east Turkey

6: Butterfly Valley Beach in Mediterranean Turkey

This beautiful place in Turkey was unheard of a while ago, but the secret is now out. Reach this rustic destination in the Mediterranean Mugla region by taxi boat from popular Oludeniz. The short beach, backed by a green valley between a mountain range, becomes a breeding ground for butterflies in late summer. Walk the valley to reach hidden waterfalls or soak up beachfront bar vibes.

Butterfly-Valley in med Turkey

7: Historical Places: Celsius Library at Ephesus

The ruins of Ephesus in Aegean Turkey, highlight the Roman Empire’s second-largest city, including a sizeable Hellenistic theatre, temple, and ancient terraced houses with intact, ancient frescoes. One much-admired building of Ephesus city is the Celsius library, the ancient world’s third-largest, holding 12,000 scrolls and the ancient sarcophagus of Roman senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. Without a doubt, Ephesus city is the best place to understand the Greek history of Turkey. Interesting fact – Had Ephesus city survived, it would have rivalled the importance of Rome.

Ephesus in Turkey

8: Roman Terrace Houses of Ephesus

To see the museum houses of Ephesus city, you must pay an extra entrance fee, but it is worth it. Years of excavations have revealed historical mosaics and everyday household items that portray how wealthy citizens of Ephesus city used to live. The museum site is covered and open year-round. You walk specific pathways over the houses but keep an eye out for the amazing view over Marble Street. Did you know Ephesus city was also home to the temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? Read this list about Ephesus city in Turkey.

Inside the Roman terrace houses at Ephesus

9: Visit the Virgin Mary House

Many people visit Ephesus and then leave, but head into the Selcuk hill to see the Virgin Mary House. Many people worldwide believe the house to be where she ascended, so it is now a fully practising place of Worship and pilgrimage run by the Catholic Church. Mary was said to have spent time in Ephesus, with Saint John and Saint Paul, hence the close location. Interesting fact – Did you also know Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Revelation?

House of the Virgin Mary

10: Enjoy Inozu Vadesi in Beypazari

Varied bird species, including the majestic hawk and bald eagle, have turned Inozu Valley into a unique bird-watching haven and government-protected area. Located one hour from Turkey’s capital Ankara, the nearby Beypazari town was built by architects from Ottoman Safranbolu hence a similar appearance in Turkish architecture. Make sure you book into an authentic Ottoman hotel for the ultimate experience. Read about why Beypazari is the best place to go for a nature break in Turkey.

Inozu-vadisi-Beypazari-Ankara

11: Attractions in the Seaside Village of Kas

Remaining faithful to old fishing village roots, the popular seaside town of Kas in Mediterranean Turkey promotes a slow-paced lifestyle. Cobbled streets are filled with whitewashed houses lined with wooden shutters and immense amounts of pink bougainvillaea. Also, walk the main street uphill to see the famous Lycian sarcophagus. Do keep an eye out for amazing sunset views in Kas.

Kas-Turkey

12: Visit Picturesque Olu Deniz Beach

Popular Olu Deniz in Turkey’s Mugla region has sold its heritage to accommodate mass amounts of British tourists who frequent the area, but its amazing beach remains perfectly stunning. White sand, fronted with a crystal blue sea, eventually leads to Turkey’s most famous beach, the Blue Lagoon. Here you can rent a pedalo or lay back and enjoy sunshine rays. Reaching Oludeniz is accessible from many other popular places in Fethiye.

Most-Beautiful-Places-in-Turkey

13: Explore Savsat Sahara National Park

Savsat National Park in East Turkey surprises everyone with its natural green valleys and beautiful landscapes. However, this site is home to Turkish yayla houses and off the beaten track, receiving little promotion or tourism. Hence, this destination in Turkey has few hotels, but most Turkish people drive through the park on a day trip. Without a doubt, Savsat is a great place to visit in Turkey.

Savsat-Sahara-Park-Turkey

14: Beaches and Ancient Ruins at Phaselis

Devastated by past pirate attacks and the Persian invasions in 540 BC, Phaselis ancient ruins sit between sandy and beautiful beaches that feature the majestic Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey in the background. Old Phaselis sits within a protected park of the Antalya region in Turkey. There is an entrance fee, but the cost pays for itself. The best ruins include the ancient water aqueduct. Phaselis is a perfect day trip from many places in Antalya, and Summer is the best time to visit.

Best places to visit in Turkey

15: Places in Spectacular Mesopotamian Mardin

Mardin old town in southeast Turkey is waiting to join the UNESCO World Heritage collection. From the old rooftop terrace houses, visitors find themselves in front of a beautiful landscape view of the ancient Mesopotamia plains. Another place to visit within an hours drive is Midyat that also displays old Ottoman architecture. When visiting Mardin, you will discover a different cultural identity from the rest of Turkey. One of the best places to see the Ulu Cami Grand Mosque.

Mardin Turkey

16: Baklava in Gaziantep City

After Mardin, fantastic Gaziantep city should be on your list. The old city part of Gaziantep is where to explore. See Tarihi Yenihan, Gaziantep city war museum, old mosque, the Coppersmith bazaar, Gaziantep Mevlevi Museum, and of course, the castle with its fantastic sight over the city. However, a must-do is to head to a traditional restaurant to taste baklava. Turks say the best recipe in Turkey originally came from Gaziantep city. Handy tip – Many people combine Mardin, Gaziantep city and Sanliurfa city over a week’s trip, and the best way to get there is a connecting flight from Istanbul.

Turkey Travel Pictures

17: Adventure at Beautiful Pamukkale

Famous as a spa centre during Roman times, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aegean Pamukkale, and nearby Hierapolis ancient city ruins, became Turkey’s most visited tourism destination in 2014. Swim in Cleopatra’s pool water, paddle in terraced pools, explore the preserved ancient city ruins and don’t miss the on-site museum. After visiting Pamukkale in the Denizli region of Turkey, many tours head to Kusadasi to spend the night before visiting Ephesus the next day. Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s most popular attractions. The best time to visit is during summer.

Pamukkale Thermal pools

18: Istanbul Places: The Hagia Sophia

Once the capital of Turkey, old, nostalgic Istanbul city steeped in Ottoman and Byzantine vibes is now a top travel destination in the world for city breaks. Within it, a must-see is an old church and former museum of Hagia Sophia. Ancient Christian frescoes combined with Islamic calligraphy and renowned architecture make this landmark building a top visited attraction in Istanbul. Also, see the nearby Blue Mosque, one of the best landmark buildings to visit in Turkey.

Beautiful-Places-to-Visit-in-Turkey

19: The Ottoman Dolmabahce Palace

Many people in Istanbul city visit Topkapi Palace, the former Ottoman Empire’s ruling centre. Yet, in my opinion, Dolmabahce palace is better. As their command centre, when the empire disbanded, the palace screams of luxury and shows the Ottoman sultans’ fantastic lifestyle. Sitting in Istanbul’s Besiktas district, also sign up for a guided harem tour.

Gardens of Dolmabahce palace

20: Visit The Basilica Cistern

Put Basilica on your list to visit. This is an Istanbul city museum with a quirky ambience because it is underground. The cistern supplied the palace with water but was forgotten and lay in disrepair before being rediscovered in the 16th century. On a visit, wooden platforms lead through the cistern, to the back, where the famous Medusa heads sit. This site is nearby the Hagia Sophia of Istanbul city.

Basilica Cistern

21: Galata Bridge and Tower in Istanbul

After visiting Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, head into the Eminonu district and take a stroll across Galata bridge, or visit a restaurant underneath to sample fresh fish. The place to end, though, is the great Galata tower of Istanbul. If you have a head for heights, the top viewing platform displays Istanbul in all its glory. Additionally, at night, Galata tower restaurant sells tickets for a Turkish night show, a common theme that tourists in Istanbul like. (List of places in Istanbul to visit all year round.)

Skyline with the tower

22: Historical Sites of Bursa

Sitting in North-west Turkey, Bursa is a popular year-round city to visit to see UNESCO landmarks, the local bazaar and go skiing at the great Mount Uludag. Bursa city was the Ottoman Empire’s former capital before they conquered Istanbul, hence the historical importance of old Ottoman buildings. Bursa city is also famous for its local dish, Iskender kebab. Aside from being a tourist attraction, Bursa is the most popular place for middle-eastern nationalities because they like similarities in food, culture, and traditions. Bursa can be visited on a day trip from Istanbul.

bursa

23: Be a Tourist in Izmir City

Great Izmir is Turkey’s third-largest city and a year-round destination if you want an alternative to Istanbul. The old city part, Konak point, is where to start your tour of attractions. Take in the clock tower, Konak mosque, Agora, and Kemeralti bazaar. Also, head uphill to Kadifikale tourist attraction for a fantastic sight over the Peninsula. If time allows, take a day trip to Alacati town on the outskirts of Izmir. This resort is famous for its old stone cottages and being the top windsurfing spot in Turkey. Do stop by a traditional restaurant to taste the regional cuisine.

Izmir Clock Tower

More About Turkey

To discover more about the best places to visit in Turkey, browse through the rest of the blog. Articles highlight the best of places, including Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, Gaziantep, and Ephesus. I also recommend lesser-known destinations to put on your bucket list and the culture, traditions, and food of Turkey.

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Follow Natalie:
Hi. I'm Natalie, a freelance travel blogger and writer specializing in the country of Turkey. I love hot summer days, historical sites and coffee.

17 Responses

  1. artwin
    |

    An amazing guide, thanks you! It’s a pity I have actually already visited half of those, but, on the contrary, I now have 7 additional places to visit when I travel to Turkey the next year. Best of luck in your future travels! 😉

  2. Lotte
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    All these places look amazing! I have been to Turkey twice but haven’t visited any of these… I see there is much more to explore in you beautiful country! Thanks for the inspiration:-)

  3. You are not crazy at all – just adventurous – Don’t decide yet. See how you feel when you get here. If you do decide to go, then you could do a four day trip because loads of flights out of Istanbul to that region or if you are hesitant about going solo, sign up for a guided group tour instead.

  4. Ellen
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    Thanks for your response Nat!

    I haven’t been to Turkey before and I don’t have a lot of experience travelling on my own, so maybe I’m a bit crazy! I’m an Australian going on a student exchange at Bogazici University in Istanbul for a semester later this year and am hoping to do some travelling while I’m there – but perhaps I should be focusing on other regions 🙂

  5. Hi Ellen, I recently spoke to some friends who had been in the winter and they said the only difference was increased presence of refuges. If you are an experienced solo traveler and have been in Turkey before, then I would go. Just remember it is very different from Istanbul or the west. Have you been anywhere else in Turkey?

  6. Ellen
    |

    Hi Nat,

    Would Mardin and Urfa be safe for a solo female traveller at the moment, given the conflict in Syria?

    I really want to go but feel a bit nervous about it!

    Love your blog!

    Ellen

  7. mohamad
    |

    hi
    thank u because of sharing your great information about beautiful places in turkey
    I have been in Istanbul two times. I had good time there.
    I would like to see the other beautiful regions specially in eastern of turkey. I need your guide to plan a good 5 days trip to visit these regions. I saw some beautiful visions in your photos .I like the nature of east & north east of turkey so much.
    mohamad
    Tehran , iran

  8. Erika Hepburn
    |

    The second post on Turkey that catches my eye today (previous one was about Istanbul) – absolutely beautiful – maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. I’m bookmarking this.

  9. The Pamukklale looks particularly fascinating. I’ll bet it’s rather stinky though.

  10. Renuka
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    Beautiful photos! Turkey is definitely on my wish-list. Hope it’s on my radar quite soon! 😉

  11. Franca
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    The more I read about Turkey, the more my interest in visiting it grows. Thanks for sharing these list, considering I’ve never been to Turkey, having some tips and directions is always appreciated 😉

  12. Deb
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    Great list. I want to see them all. We’ve only been to Istanbul and there is still so much to discover. What looks most intriguing to me is Pamukklale. That’s beautiful.

  13. Nat
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    Sounds wonderful Emiko – If you like the Lycian way, you should read Ayse’s Trail. It is about a woman who has walked it 16 times!

  14. Emiko
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    I’m so glad you added Kas. Definitely the highlight of time in Turkey! What a laid-back and truly beautiful village. I went walking along the Lycian path just outside of Kas just this Friday, totally unprepared – no water, no food. On the way back to Kas, I was so tired and hungry. Just when I thought I couldn’t walk anymore, I saw a man and woman sitting on their balcony so I said, ‘merhaba.’ He waved back and then ran down, bringing wish him fresh fry bread his wife had just made. I was so struck by this incredible act of kindness. Can’t wait to go back to Kas as soon as its warm:)

  15. I know some of these amazing places but never heard of Savsat which sounds fantastic. The thrill of looking out over the plain of Mesopotamia from Mardin is hard to beat. Loved this post – well done, Natalie! You are pretty amazing yourself!

  16. Great list! Savsat National Park looks wonderful.

  17. zof
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    I visted Uzungol during my November trip to Trabzon and I’d recommend it to everyone. What a pretty place.