Best Places to Visit in Turkey

Best Places to Visit in Turkey

Turkey is truly where East meets West and it is precisely this mixture that makes travel in Turkey so interesting.  Although its culture is imbued with a deep and reverent respect for Islam, Turkey is a country that attempts to separate the secular and religious beliefs of its citizens.  While it is uncertain what the future holds for Turkey, today the country remains an excellent vacation destination and one of our recommended best places to visit. Travelers to Turkey  seem to have the same observation on visiting – they all want to return again.

Many travelers think there is little to Turkey outside of Istanbul and Istanbul is a hard act to follow.  Crossing the Bosporus into Asia Minor, however,  leads you into an exotic and exciting country.  Read our recommendations on the best places to visit in Turkey and then make your reservations to explore this most alluring travel destination.

If touring outside of Istanbul, we recommend hiring a professional guide at your destination.  Turkey’s cities can be confusing and a competent guide will show you the best attractions and explain to you the significance of the location.  Most of Turkey’s cities and attractions do not have official tourism websites and it is difficult to find comprehensive information online about most of these destinations.  While a good quality guidebook can help,. it is usually much more efficient to hire a competent, local guide.

Istanbul

  • Istanbul is one of the world’s most interesting cities.  Its unique location, literally bridging the gap between ‘East” and “West”, and unique history as a Christian and then Islamic city, is precisely what attracts tourist to the shores of the Asian Continent.
  • Across time, Istanbul (once named Constantinople) has served as the capital of the Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman Empires: the city’s impressive heritage is on display and has been magnificently preserved.
  • From its famous mosques and churches (the Blue Mosque, Süleymaniye Cami, and Hagia Sophia), through palaces (The Topkapi and Dolmbahce), and on to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul is one memorable excursion after another.
Istanbul
Istanbul

Aegean Coast

  • The Aegean Coast of Turkey contains fine archaeological sites, beautiful beaches, great scenery, and a number of towns that are excellent vacation destinations. The Aegean Coast is an area of Turkey you should visit, as it is an enjoyable and rewarding travel destination.
      • Ephesus

        Ephesus, an ancient city in the process of being excavated and restored, is a must see.  Dating from the seventh century BC (and possibly earlier) Ephesus provides a detailed, authentic view of  ancient life: the city’s ruins illustrate how ancient cities worked and how the people played.

        • Ephesus is a site that should interest anyone but it holds special reverence for Christians who believe that the Virgin Mary lived in the area at the end of her life.
        • Ephesus is also known as the location of the Temple of Artemis (also called the Temple of Diana), which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
            • Like all of the Wonders, except the Pyramids at Giza, there remains no trace of the temple dedicated to Artemis, the Greek goddess.

          It is believed that the building was partially destroyed by fire and later  by an earthquake.

Ephesus
Ephesus
      • Izmir ( historical Smyrna)

        • Izmir, known in the ancient world as Smyrna, surrounds a large bay and is working city that serves as a convenient base to explore the Aegean coast: many  prime archaeological sites are relatively close to Izmir.
        • The city has limited attractions of its own, but offers a number of reasonable hotels and good food (including local dried figs).  The city has an interesting archaeology museum (the Izmir Archaeology Museum) and another dedicated to Ataturk, the “Father of Modern Turkey.”
          • Kusadasi

            • Kusadasi (Bird Island) is a resort town with great restaurants, good hotels,  numerous beaches and pleasant hosts.
            • Known for its nightlife, Kusadasi is a good place for anyone interested soaking up the sun and relaxing at the beach.  You may want to see the Byzantine Castle on the actual Bird Island (for which the city is named), as its museum is interesting, though not spectacular.
            • The city’s harbor  is the gateway to Ephesus for many  cruise lines.
Izmir
Clock Tower Edge, Izmir
  • Anatolia

    • Anatolia runs across  southern Turkey and contains numerous first-class archaeological sites.  Get a quality guidebook and “dig up” the places of interest to you.  Anatolia is a wonderland!
      • A quality resort town, Anatalya is a good starting place for your explanation of Anatolia.
  • Cappadocia

    • Most travelers have seen pictures of the mystical, rock chimney dwellings and man-made cave homes in eastern Turkey.  Cappadocia is the area of Turkey known for these dwellings and is a very interesting place to visit.
    • Ürgrüp is a good town to base your exploration of  the area because of its size and the quality of the facilities offered. The Goreme Valley, which is the center of the cave homes, is a must see. Take a tour or hire a guide to  benefit from the cultural richness of this area.
Love Valley, Cappadocia
Love Valley, Cappadocia
  • We have additional recommendations for you that might be just the ticket if you are considering a second visit to Turkey, or are just the adventurous type.
    • Pamukkale in Denizli Province in southwest Turkey is an extraordinary area of hot springs awash with calcium carbonate that has created a unique area of  limestone and travertine. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and noted tourist attraction.  For more information, see the Pamukkale official website.
  • Aizanoi Zeus Temple

    The site is comprised of a stunning, well preserved Roman temple in Anatolia, featuring an ancient market, all built in a Greco-Roman Style.  It is an amazing treasure, but one that is hard to find and out of the way.

  • Nemrut Dagi
    Nemrut Dagi

    Nemrut Dagi

    • Located in eastern Turkey, Nemrut Dagi (photo on the right) is considered by many one of the most remarkable monuments in Turkey, if not Asia Minor.
    • Built in the 1st century B.C. as a burial mound accompanied by incredibly huge, but lifelike statues.  It is thought that the site reflects both Greek and Persian heritage.
    •  If you want to explore this site, we recommend a guided tour as this location is very remote.  See this non-official website for a great video recreating the original plan of Nemrut Dagi.
  • Ankara

    • Ankara, the capital of Turkey, is a gateway to the surrounding region.   Ankara and its surrounding area are not  prime tourist attractions but are worth a look if you are touring the country for  a second or third time.

Additional Resources

The official tourism website for Turkey is GoTurkey.com, where you can find additional details on the places we recommend visiting, as well as information on places we do not cover.

For country facts on Turkey, as well as information of value to travelers (visas, traffic safety and road conditions, medical facilities and health information), see the U.S. State Department’s page on Turkey.

Please note that driving in Turkey can be very dangerous, as the accident rate is unusually high through most of the country.

 

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