Turkey is a country like no other. Aside from being partly European and Asian, its culture is a beautiful concoction of varying influences. You will see traces of Greek, Assyrian, and Armenian customs as you drink from Turkey’s cups. All these influences beautifully shaped the Turkey that we know today, which is at best, a country of diversity, hospitality, and enchanting beauty. Interested in the most enthralling places to visit in turkey? Here’s a list of the most bucket-list-worthy destinations!
This beautiful town in central Turkey is popular around the world for its fairytale-like scenery. Sights from Göreme is made more enchanting by a 1,000-meter high plateau sandwiched by even taller mountaintops that seemingly touch the sky. This town is also beautified by the Monks Valley. Also known as ‘Pasabag’, this area is full of chimney-like cones, carved in tuff stones. Some of these 10 to 15-meter-high cones were split into smaller rock caps, making a perfect hideout among secluding monks. The fascinating peaks, the exquisite fairy chimneys, and the surrounding neighborhood make the perfect 360-degree view for hot air balloon rides.
Up in the Turkish skies, you can see the sun rising against an exhilarating view of the stunning city for an hour, which is more than enough to make your heart melt. Aside from the inspiring natural view, seeing one hundred other hot-air balloons floating magically in the sky is a wonderful feeling. From the sky, your skilled guides will back to the ground with a bang. Trips usually take off early in the morning and end with a toast of champagne, which is a perfect way to conclude any meaningful journeys. What’s even better is after this magical ride, you still have the whole day to explore other best places to visit in Turkey!
This 14-kilometer valley is a breathtaking 100-meter deep canyon where the Melendiz River flows. Here, you will see nature in its purest form as you listen to the soothing sound of the rushing water. You will be welcomed by different varieties of trees, the pistachio tree, being one of the most inviting. Apart from the wonders of nature, there are also many beautiful churches to see by this valley. The Smelly Church, the Church with the Terrace, the Church under the Tree, and the Church with Crooked Stone, are only some of the many houses of God in the area. Many of these kirks reflect the unique and fascinating architecture in Syria and Egypt, making them historically and spiritually-relevant destinations. Going to the valley is a hike, so anyone interested in trekking will truly love Ihlara valley. Although this is an invigorating trip, the climb will eventually tire you. The Belisirma village by this valley has many must-visit restaurants that will truly satisfy your cravings.
The ancient Ephesus City is not a stranger among Christians. In the New Testament, Ephesus was mentioned multiple times, showcasing its significant role in the spread of Christianity. Many scholars believe that the book of Ephesians, which was written around 60 A.D. was a letter from Paul to the Christians residing in Ephesus. Christian or not, you will surely appreciate the long journey this area of Turkey has endured. Because of the troubled times, the Ephesus has withered, you will see its ruins today as nothing short of magnificent. Time and destruction only made this tourist attraction more beautiful and more relevant to the world.
Today, Ephesus is among the best-preserved classical city and is one of the only places left to get a feel of the ancient Roman life. Back in the day, amphitheaters were the stage where Romans performed. The Ephesus Theatre is one of the most beautiful you’d see today. Next to the theatre is a public toilet that’s been around longer than a millennium. Undoubtedly, it’s not available for use but it’s very much available for you to see. There were no cubicles back then and if you can’t imagine what ancient loos looked like, you can avail an exciting tour package asap. Many tours would span 3 hours, which includes visiting the Divine Ceasar temple, Hadrian temple, Odeion, Goddess Rome temple, Pollia, and Trajan fountains.
The House of The Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary is revered by many religions, such as Islam and Christianity. Her home is believed to actually be located at Mt. Koressos across the Ephesus, through the reported visions of the beatified Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. This stone home in Selcuk is a must-see shrine today, blessed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI as a place for pilgrimage. Many Christians believe that Saint John the Evangelist brought the mother of Jesus to this Turkish town where she spent the rest of her Earth-life. Outside the shrine is a Wishing Wall where written prayers can be hung and tied. Every time the wall turns full, the papers and fabrics tied on are burnt for the ashes to reach the heavens. After jotting down your prayer, you can proceed to the water fountain that’s believed to have natural healing properties. If you’re in tip-top shape already, drinking from the well will at least refresh you. It’s one of the purest-tasting drinking waters, according to tourists.
The Temple of Artemis
This fascinating Greek temple in Turkey was built in the 6th century BCE. Its impressive size of 425 feet by 225 feet is twice the size of another Greek temple, the Parthenon. Its 18-meter high columns took 120 years to build, filling everyone’s eyes with amazement. Unfortunately, the fame-seeking Herostratus laid his eyes on this beautiful edifice. He figured that setting it on flame will make him an unforgettable character, and later on he proves to have ruined the temple enough to even gain media attention millenniums after. Apart from suffering arson, this temple also endured flooding and invasion. It was rebuilt twice for these destructive reasons.
Artemis is the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the moon, and chastity. Her importance to the inhabitants of Ephesus was dear, causing them to create a temple in her name. The statue of Artemis was originally made of illustrious materials such as gold, ebony, silver, and black stone. The garment that covered her legs and hips were adorned with animal remains while her upper body showcases many breasts. Her beautiful face is topped with a high-pillared headdress, perfect her divine features.
Looking at the temple, you will see how magnificent the structure is despite having suffered the unkind effects of time. The cultural and historical value of this temple is truly unparalleled. Today, this house-of-worship is among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, making it one of the best places to see in Turkey!
The Cotton Castle
Locally known as Pamukkale, this Cotton Castle is a dreamy destination. It derives its cotton-like surface from the mineral-rich thermal spring, the deposits of which produce an attractive limestone flooring. Walking through the waterfall-like cascades of white travertine will make you realize what an impressive artist nature truly is. The seeming never-ending soft white surface is both comforting and relaxing. If you want this castle all to yourself, visiting at the earliest time possible is key. You’ll have this boundlessly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site sans the hefty crowd. After trudging the magnificence of this castle and dipping to the thermal springs by the area, you can easily slide to the Hierapolis City, a 2,000-year-old kingdom that will wow you. The hot springs in this ancient Greek city have been frequented as a spa since the 2nd century BC. In this relaxing place also lies the final remains of Philip the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. If you’re up for a meaningful vacation, this castle and the ancient city nearby is certainly a must-visit!
This small and quaint town in Turkey delivers big. Göcek has six marinas (Club Marina, Skopea Marina, Municipality Marinas, Marinturk Göcek Village Port, Marinturk Göcek Exclusive, and D-Marin Gocek), making it a yachting paradise. Cruising through the waters in Göcek, your voyage will be surrounded by fantastic sights of beautiful coves and bays. Apart from the gleaming waters, this town also has interesting restaurants, must-see cafes, and a panoramic city center that will make you feel like a star of a beautifully-shot movie. If you’re a fan of Greek mythology, you have one more reason to visit this town. Icarus, the son of a master craftsman, was given wings constructed from feathers and wax. His father, Daedalus, warned him not to fly to close to the ground nor too high near the sun. Unfortunately, Icarus did not heed Daedalus’ warnings and flew high above the waters. When his waxed wings couldn’t hold itself together anymore, Icarus drowned in the waters of Göcek. Today, the Mediterranean turquoise waters of this paradise can be enjoyed through various boating options, making it extremely safe to traverse its waters.
The waters of this 4.5-kilometer Meditteranean beach in Dalyan is multi-award-winning. In 2008, it was hailed as the Best Open Space from Europe, and in 2011, it was considered Europe’s Best Beach Destination. What tourists love about Iztuzu Beach is beyond its fine sand and clear waters. What makes this crystal clean beach even more special is that it is the nesting ground for a lot of loggerhead sea turtles. These sea turtles are well protected here which entails closing the beach at certain hours for better conservation. If you love turtles, beaches, and sustainability efforts, this Turtle Beach will fascinate you! You can reach this beach by boat from Dalyan. The trip is not the shortest but it will lead you to a truly dreamy destination.
On the western coast of Turkey, you will find the traditional town of Alaçat. It’s beautiful architecture, vineyards, and powerful winds make a wonderful Turkish destination. This stunning town was originally founded by the Greeks and Grecian neighborhoods will amaze your eyes. Its narrow streets, fascinating cobblestone pavements, colored windows as a beautiful contrast to the stone houses are a visual feast to many. If you’ve read Mehmet Culum’s second novel entitled Alaçatili, you would’ve had an imagined version of this town. If you are curious about the real-life version, this town does not disappoint. The three main things to do here are to taste their world-class winery, experience the unique Aegean Cuisine, and windsurfing. Windsurfing in Alaçat is one of the most exciting. The never-ending wind and stable seas make it heaven among windsurfers. Whether you’re a newbie or pro, this town is a must-visit for you!
This beautiful city port in southwestern Turkey is a well-famed holiday destination. It is home to seven exquisite bays that are all worth visiting. The village of Gumusluk in the seaside of Bodrum is also popular for its clear waters which is home to the freshest sea-finds. If you love tasty and healthy seafood, this village is perfect for you.
The coastal town of Göltürkbükü is another must-visit in Bodrum. This town came to be after the merging of two coastal villages. Today, you will see a lot of tangerine trees in this beautiful town, which offers illustrious holiday packages. If you want a top of the line club, restaurant, and shorelines, this town in Bodrum is the best pick. Other bays you’d want to visit in this city port are the Yalikavak, Torba, Gündoian, Turgutreis, and Gümbet.
Tomb of Mausolus
Apart from its stunning waters, Bodrum is also the burial place to Mausolus, the ruler of Halicarnassus. King Mausolus reigned from 377-353 B.C. and like other pharaohs, he sought immortality and eternal fame. This is evident through his love for realistic sculptures, even ordering a unique monument to be built to honor him. His monument was designed by Greek architects who continue to impress the populace of today. They’ve built a stone structure as elegant as Greek temples, as tall as the Egyptian pyramids, and as elaborate as an oriental palace.
Since their king died before the completion of his supposed monument, this intricately designed site became his tomb. is a multi-level tomb made of gleaming marble that’s adorned by different statues that represent people and animals. The Romans first used the word ‘mausolea’ to refer to burial places and today, this world evolved to the widely used ‘mausoleum’. The indispensable beauty and historical relevance of this tourist attraction make it one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Great Mosque of Ayasofya
Formerly called the Church of Hagia Sophia, this place of worship was the largest during the Byzantine Empire. After the city fell to the hands of the Ottoman, this church became a mosque and then a museum. As of July 2020, the Hagia Sophia is reclassified as a mosque and is still as beautiful as before. The grandeur of the pendentive dome of this mosque continues to pique the interest of many historians, architects, and engineers. This tourist attraction also contains many notable mosaics such as that of the archangels Gabriel and Michael. If you thought the dome and the mosaic were creative, wait until you see more of the doors. There are many exquisite doors in this mosque, some of them are called Marble door, Nice door, and Imperial door. If you love places that were thoroughly planned and well-built, this great mosque is a worth-while place to visit.
This marketplace is one of the largest and most well-established in Istanbul. Its construction was completed in 1461 by Mehmet the Conqueror. This market was originally called ‘bedesten’ which is an indoor arcade full of shops. From one bedesten, this market place grew to a complex housing 40,000 shops lining over 60 streets and alleys. Today, this marketplace is a site for many finds. You will see exquisite jewelries here, valuable antiques, unique furnishings, elaborately designed carpets and textiles, impressive leather goods, great grabs, and lots of food.
There’s also an available hammam, or Turkish bath, which is essential especially to Muslims who would like to observe their prayers. There are also prayer rooms called mescit around the marketplace. In 2014, this marketplace was hailed as the most visited tourist attraction in the world, having been visited by 91,250,000 visitors by the end of the year. If you want to shop and dine at this covered marketplace, it is inside Istanbul’s Walled city. If you are riding the tram, you can alight at Beyaz?t-Kapal?çar??. There are around 22 entrances and many streets. It’s easy to get lost so make sure you’ve got your digital map with you for easier navigation.
The ancient city of Troy, according to the Iliad, is the setting to one of the most famous battles known to men, the Trojan War. Homer’s Iliad only accounts for the near-ending portion of this war. Legends narrate that once upon a time, gods and goddesses were invited to attend the marriage between a human king and a sea nymph. Almost every god was in attendance except for the goddess of discord, Eris, who was uninvited in the union. In her annoyance, she left a golden apple as a gift to whoever is the ‘fairest of them all’. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite each wants this gift and a conundrum was since born—who is the fairest?
To resolve this conflict, they asked an impartial person who happens to be a Trojan prince named Paris. Each goddess tried to bribe Paris into calling her worthy of the apple because of being ‘the fairest’. In the end, Paris chose Aphrodite who promised him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. Through this promise, his courage was borne. The beautiful Helen of Sparta was stolen by Troy which is the catalyst to one of the world’s most fascinating wars. Since the war has already taken a decade, the wise Odysseus thought of gifting a large and magnificent Trojan Horse to the enemies. Later on, this iconic horse will make headlines for finally ending a long war through a cunning strategy.
Although this war’s being a fact or fiction is debatable, one thing is true—there is a city named Troy in Turkey and its universal value was recognized as outstanding by UNESCO. To better protect this historical site, and the monuments within it, a park was created around Troy. Today, the Troy Historical National Park is available for viewing, complete with the monument of the Wooden Trojan Horse. The archeological site that is Troy is located in Tevfikiye. Just nearby the national park is the four-leveled Troy Museum which displays artifacts related to this ancient city. If you want to know more about this intriguing city’s colorful past, this museum will serve you well.
The ever-calm waters of this blue lagoon are also called the Dead Sea. It has a sandy coastline that creates an idyllic contrast against the vibrant blue waters. With a towering mountain above its shores and a marvelous landscape to stare at, this beach that’s unfazed by storms has easily become a favorite destination among paragliders and scuba divers. If you love the sky, sand, sea, and tons of fun from water activities, the Ölüdeniz beach resort is one of the best turkey places to visit.
This valley on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey is home to a plethora of splendorous butterfly species. It sits at the foot of the 6,480 feet-high Babadag mountain. Apart from the diverse species of around 105 pretty butterflies, this valley also has around 147 species of different flowers, perfect for butterfly pollination and a no less than a stunning view. Various tours provide opportunities for you to camp, hike, canoe, and scuba dive by this valley for a deeper dive into Turkey’s natural wonders.
One of the best vantage points in Turkey is from the seaside town of Ayvalik. The beautiful hilltops are magnificent to look at especially during sunset as you dine tasty dishes from Turkey’s best menu. What makes this town even more interesting is the narration of a legend. According to stories, Satan had to look for a paradise on Earth after being cast out of heaven. In Satan’s search, he found the beautiful Bal?kesir at this northwestern town in Turkey, effectively leaving giant footprints on the rocks by the flat hills. The magnificent view and the interesting stories behind them make Ayvalik one of the best destinations in the country.
The enchanting town of Demre is famous for many reasons. Firstly, it is home to the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas, who is considered by many as the inspiration behind the Santa Claus’ character. In this town, you will see a timeline of Saint Nicholas’s life through the Santa Claus Museum and the World Heritage Site that is St. Nicholas Church. Another reason behind this town’s popularity is due to the fact it used to be Myra, an ancient Greek town which is home to Roman neighborhoods. One of the most outstanding places in then-Myra is the rock-hewn Lycian tombs which is no less than impressive. This tomb is enormous and simply majestic. For a ruin, it is a pretty sight to behold.
In the southwestern part of Turkey lies the remains of the world’s first temple. It sits on a barren plateau, with a long history of quarrying during ancient times. At one of the hill’s edges, a lionlike sculpture was found alongside fragments of flints and limestone, seemingly signifying that the area could’ve been a site for sculpture workshop during the olden days.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is made up of three layers of varying heights. The first layer is believed to be the oldest part of the temple, located in the uppermost hill. The second layer used to house a sanctuary in rectangular rooms. These spaces are windowless, doorless, and contain many T-shaped pillars that are decorated with lion images, attracting the name “lion pillar building”. The third layer’s most distinguishing features are the nearly 200 T-shaped pillars that kept the building strong during its younger years. Some carvings in the pillars at this layer showcased headless humans which may signify unknown supernatural beings.
Being a temple was not the end of Gobekli tepe’s story. Portions of its layers once became a site for agriculture to support the livelihood of the people. In a different time, this site was buried in minerals, human bones, and animal bones for reasons that are yet to be known. Today, this olden temple is an archeological site that describes the jewels of the past and the culture during ancient times. The enchanting temple’s complex is left untouched waiting for scientists and researchers to better understand them.
Kekova is an uninhabited 2 square mile island that’s full of natural wonders. Its clear blue waters make life under the sea apparent, making it a sought-after destination in Turkey. Apart from the sea creatures and coral reefs that reside in its sea bed, the ancient city of Simena lies under the gleaming waters of Kekova.
This olden city was sunken by earthquakes during the second century and today, you can find its ruins on the northern side of this island. In this underwater city, the wonderous inscription of the Lycian alphabet can be found together with their city’s tombs, well-built structures, and magnificent theatre. If you’re yearning for a rare travel destination, this 4,000-year-old city will prove to be a breath of fresh air.
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