Here is your complete guide to all the best places to visit in Turkey that I have discovered as a local living in Turkey.
This guide has beautiful places in Turkey, from ancient sites, palaces, rock formations, beautiful beaches, hot air ballooning, scenic views, underground cities, amusement parks, and all the most famous places with countless historical landmarks and a seaside town (or 10) for every kind of traveler.
That means there is something for everyone – and I’ll show you my favorites. My guide offers all the best places in Turkey to visit for history, food, nature, partying, and more.
Sure, not every destination will suit you, but I aim to provide a list so you know what you want to do and what you want to experience; then, you can find the ideal place that will suit you best.
For instance, if you want to enjoy the nightlife, it’s not a good idea to head somewhere like Adana, Aydin, Trabzon, or Rize. However, my husband and I always find fantastic opportunities to party the night away in Istanbul, Izmir, the province of Antalya, and any beach resort south on the Mediterranean coast.
If you want to enjoy history, you’re probably not going to find what you’re looking for that much in Marmaris (well, we have never). Still, in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, you’ll have more history than you can possibly absorb into your brain! With Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Bosphorus Strait, and dozens of Turkish baths, to name a few.
It comes down to what you want and then figuring out where you want to go.
Let me give you some ideas on where to go in Turkey…
Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!
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Izmir is also a great shopping spot, with several other malls and plenty of your international names. If you want traditional souvenirs, you’ll find these in most places, but you can’t beat Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar for choice and experience!
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2. Istanbul/Izmir/Antalya/Beach Resorts
Most people are surprised when they see the amount of nightlife in Turkey. Sure, it’s not everywhere you look, and some of the smaller cities and towns still tend to be more traditional in terms of beer houses, mainly for men, etc., but you’ll find many International and modern bars, too.
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Adana is a beautiful city of contrasts, where ancient traditions meet modernity. Enjoy a relaxing boat ride along the Seyhan River and visit the Grand Mosque’s striking architecture. Don’t forget to savor Adana kebabs, renowned for their delicious blend of flavors.
There is nothing you won’t find here, including traditional Turkish food. Turkish food all over the country is delightful, and if you can head to a small village, be sure to try the homemade fare there.
Places To Visit In Turkey If You Want Nature
Nature lovers, take note; here are the places in Turkey to head to to get your dose of lush greenery.
5. Saklikent National Park Antalya/Cappadocia
One of the most iconic travel photos worldwide is one of a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia, which is a true must-visit. The strange landscape around here is something to behold, and the so-called ‘fairy chimneys’ formed by years of rock erosion are genuinely magnificent. You can even stay in a traditional cave hotel!
Alternatively, or possibly also, head to Antalya’s Saklikent National Park. You can go canyoning, rock climbing, or sailing down the river, but it’s genuinely breathtaking whatever you choose to do.
6. Koprulu National Park
Nature enthusiasts will find paradise in Koprulu National Park. Raft down the Köprüçay River through stunning canyons or go hiking amidst pine forests. The park’s natural beauty and outdoor activities make it an excellent destination for adventure seekers.
Its name means “cotton castle” in Turkish; Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s best tourist attractions that everyone will love, from kids to the most well-traveled people.
Whether you’re into nature or not, you’ll undoubtedly be impressed by the extraordinary features of this vast thermal spring. This natural UNESCO World Heritage Site is in inland southeastern Turkey but makes a great day trip for the major coastal cities.
Millennia of endless water flow and mineral deposits have created a stunning collection of travertine terraces, pure water, and snow-white limestone shimmering in the Turkish sun. Since antiquity, people have visited these hot springs and pools when it was the location of the Roman city of Hierapolis (Holy City).
Pamukkale is easily one of the best places to go in Turkey for a day trip from the coastal resorts. Although the terraces and pools are off-limits to visitors nowadays, you can still see them up close on footpaths. The on-site Roman ruins and museums are worth visiting, too.
Nestled on the southwestern coast of Turkey, Akyaka is a hidden gem that beckons travelers with its serene charm. This picturesque town is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and water sports lovers.
The crystalline waters of the Azmak River wind their way through Akyaka, offering opportunities for kayaking and paddleboarding. Stroll along the charming boardwalk and indulge in fresh seafood at waterfront restaurants. Akyaka’s unique architecture, with its traditional Mugla houses, adds to the town’s allure.
For a perfect day in Akyaka, explore the surrounding pine forests and soak in the natural beauty of this coastal paradise.
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Places To Visit In Turkey If You Want History
So, where are the best places to visit in Turkey to learn about history?
Turkey is packed with history; if you want to look at natural history, you should head to the south eastern region. While traveling there isn’t forbidden by any means and is relatively safe provided you’re careful, certain restrictions and places are not ideal to go to.
Many governments warn their citizens not to go to the border area with Syria, for example. This is quite a shame because Mardin, which isn’t too far from the Syrian border, is one of Turkey’s oldest and most historic sites.
Despite that, Istanbul is the best place to go in Turkey for history, hands down, if not the entire world. There are more historical places to see in Turkey than you will ever have time to visit on one vacation!
Çannakale, located on the shores of the Dardanelles, offers a gateway to ancient Troy and the historic Gallipoli Peninsula. History buffs will be enthralled by the remnants of the ancient city of Troy, where the famous Trojan War unfolded. The Gallipoli Battlefields, a poignant reminder of World War I, is a solemn but essential stop for those interested in history.
Çannakale’s waterfront promenade provides breathtaking views of the strait, and the city’s warm hospitality ensures a memorable stay. Experience the intersection of history and natural beauty in Çannakale.
11. Ancient City Of Ephesus
Located near the present-day town of Selçuk on Turkey’s southeast coast, Ephesus is one of the world’s most magnificent ancient ruins and is one of the top places to go in Turkey for ruins.
This ancient Greek city dates from as far back as the 10th century BC, after which it grew to become one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League in Classical Greece. The Roman Empire conquered this stunning city in the 2nd century BC.
Now, the ruins of this ancient city are a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Ephesus is easily one of the best sites in Turkey to visit ancient architecture and history. It was home to the fabled Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Simultaneously, other iconic buildings include the imposing Library of Celsus, the Gate of Augustus, and the Tomb of John of the Apostle. If you only have time to visit one historic site in Turkey, this should be it.
Another spectacular Turkish site dating from antiquity is Aspendos. This ancient Greco-Roman city is near Antalya on the southern coast of Turkey. There’s plenty of history to discover and learn about here, making it one of the best places in Turkey to visit for history buffs. The absolute star main attraction, however, is the massive Aspendos Theater.
One of the best-preserved theaters from antiquity, the Aspendos Theater, dated from the 2nd century AD, was once able to seat no fewer than 12,000 spectators. It is exceptional for its superb acoustics and impressive architectural design. The Theater of Aspendos is even more remarkable because it’s still in use today—it hosts the annual Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival.
13. City Of Safranbolu
Another one of the many beautiful places in Turkey, the old City of Safranbolu, used to be an essential stop on the main east-west trade route between Europe and Asia in the 13th century. UNESCO designated it World Heritage for its significance to historic trade and its well-preserved buildings.
The Çarşı District is home to beautiful Ottoman Empire architecture, including hundreds of red-roofed traditional houses that line cobblestone streets. Other top attractions in Safranbolu include the 17th-century caravansary of Cinci Han and the restored Tarihi Cinci Hamam bathhouse.
14. Mount Nemrut
By now, you’ve probably noticed that several of the best places to visit in Turkey are historical or cultural sites. And here we have yet another historic UNESCO World Heritage Site in Turkey. Mount Nemrut is no different.
Also known as Nemrut Dağ, Mount Nemrut is situated in south eastern Turkey and is one of the tallest mountains east of the Taurus mountain range.
This striking mountain is topped with several ruins, buildings, and famous statues. It is assumed to be the mausoleum of Antiochus, the former late-Hellenistic king of Commagene, which originated after Alexander’s empire fell. Seeing the temple tomb’s colossal statues and sculpted slabs is an experience that makes the trip out there more than worth it.
Places To Visit In Turkey If You Want Authentic Culture
So, where are the best places to visit in Turkey to experience culture?
If you’re looking for a breathtaking Turkish city to add to your travel list, look no further than Trabzon. This Black Sea gem in northeast Turkey is known for its stunning natural scenery, rich history, and delicious cuisine.
One of the must-see sights in Trabzon is the Sumela Monastery. Nature lovers will also enjoy exploring the Uzungol Plateau, hiking through the Altindere Valley National Park, and relaxing at one of the many scenic beaches.
No visit to Trabzon would be complete without sampling some of the local dishes like hamsi (anchovies), karadeniz pidesi (black sea bread), and kuyu kebabi (lamb cooked underground).
So, if you’re looking for a city with everything – from beautiful landscapes to tasty food – make sure to put Trabzon, Turkey, on your radar!
Sanliurfa, often called the “City of Prophets,” is a unique place of historical and spiritual significance. According to local legend, it is the birthplace of the biblical prophet Abraham. Visit the vibrant bazaars of Sanliurfa, where you can shop for colorful textiles, spices, and handicrafts.
The city’s stunning Balikligol (Pool of Sacred Fish) is a serene oasis surrounded by gardens and historical sites. Witness the mesmerizing dance of the sacred fish said to bring good luck. As you explore Sanliurfa, you’ll be immersed in a city where legends from ancient times and modern life coexist harmoniously.
Diyarbakir, located in southeastern Turkey, is a city of ancient walls and rich traditions. The city’s iconic black basalt walls, dating back to Roman times, encircle the old town and stand as a symbol of its resilience through centuries.
Explore the bustling, narrow streets of Diyarbakir, where you can savor traditional Kurdish cuisine. Don’t miss the chance to taste the delectable mutton dishes and baklava. The city’s Grand Mosque and the Hevsel Gardens along the Tigris River are must-visit attractions. Diyarbakir’s cultural heritage and warm hospitality make it a popular place for those seeking authenticity.
Konya is a city in Turkey that is full of history and culture. There are many fun things to see and do in Konya, making it a great place to visit. Some top sights include the Mevlana Museum, the Alaeddin Mosque, and the Selimiye Mosque.
There are also plenty of outstanding restaurants and shops to explore. If you’re looking for a city full of character and culture, Konya is definitely worth a visit.
Mardin, perched on a hilltop in southeastern Turkey, is a captivating blend of history and culture. The city’s ancient stone buildings, adorned with intricate carvings, transport you back in time.
Explore the narrow alleyways of the old town, where the scent of spices fills the air from bustling bazaars. The iconic Mardin Houses, made of local beige stone, offer a glimpse into the region’s architectural heritage. Don’t miss the chance to savor traditional Mardin cuisine, which combines flavors from Arabic and Turkish influences. As you wander through Mardin, you’ll discover a city where history and tradition harmoniously coexist.
20. Any Village
Many tour operators will take you into local villages and let you see the local way of life. If you visit cities and towns, sure you’ll see some of it, but it’s usually touched by modern life and changed a little. You must visit a local village to see how people live off the land, focus all their time and energy on family, and value communities. The food is also excellent!
Turkish people, by nature, are very welcoming, and hospitality is high on their list. If you meet a local family and they invite you to their home, you’re more than blessed in terms of the culinary delights that will come your way, too!
The good news is that many villages are close to the main tourist resorts on the south coast of the Turkish Riviera, so you can do this if you hire a car too.
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21. Northern And Central Turkey
Turkey is a safe country and provided you listen to advice, e.g., the advice we gave before about not going close to the Syrian border, you’re more than fine. This is a huge country, and it’s exceptionally welcoming. Thanks to a very high-quality long-distance bus network, traveling around Turkey is straightforward, meaning you can go from place to place relatively cheaply.
If you want to leave the main tourist resorts and cities, head to the Black Sea Coast, with destinations in Turkey such as Rize and Trabzon. Do be aware that during the winter, however, this part of Turkey sees heavy snowfall, but it’s beautiful to see! Central Turkey is also a delight, and this is where the capital city of Ankara is situated.
Gaziantep, often called the “City of Gastronomy,” is a culinary haven in southeastern Turkey. Renowned for its delectable dishes and rich culinary heritage, Gaziantep offers a feast for the senses. Sample the world-famous Baklava, prepared with layers of thin pastry, pistachios, and honey, at local bakeries.
Explore the Gaziantep Castle and the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, which houses remarkable ancient mosaics. The bustling markets of Gaziantep are perfect for indulging in traditional sweets and savory delights. With its culinary delights and historical sites, Gaziantep promises a delightful journey for foodies.
Edirne, a city steeped in history, is a treasure trove of architectural marvels and cultural richness. Known for its stunning Selimiye Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Edirne’s skyline is dominated by its magnificent dome and minarets.
The city’s annual Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival is a testament to its cultural heritage, attracting participants and spectators from all over the world. Edirne’s Ottoman-style bridges, including the Meric River Bridge, offer captivating views and a glimpse into the past. Sample Edirne’s famous liver and meatball dishes at local eateries and immerse yourself in the grandeur of this historic city.
Places To Visit In Turkey If You Like The Cold
We’ve got the tourist spots in Turkey that are still fun while cold.
Do you think the best places to visit in Turkey are reserved only for the summer months?
Wintertime in Turkey can be magical, a great opportunity to relax, recharge your batteries, and see the traditional way of life. Of course, you can still embrace plenty of hectic action in the large cities, especially Istanbul.
Did you know that Cappadocia Is open all year round?
This beautiful fairy chimney landscape in Central Turkey is iconic for the hot air balloons flying high at sunrise every day. You might not know that Cappadocia isn’t close, so you can still head there and enjoy the beautiful scenery even when the weather is freezing and the snow is falling.
While hot air balloons are subject to cancellation at any time of year, depending upon weather conditions, it’s more likely to be the case during the winter months – don’t let that stop you, however, as there are many days when flights take off exactly as scheduled!
Even if you can’t get on the balloon, there are many things you can do around Cappadocia, with walking trails, cuisine, museums, archaeological sites, and, of course, the chance to stay in a cave museum!
Winter in Turkey is undoubtedly something you should do. While you might not be able to jump into the sea and get a suntan, you’ll experience something far more valuable – authenticity!
Places To Visit In Turkey For All
Turkey’s capital city, Ankara, is a modern metropolis with a rich history. Explore the awe-inspiring Atatürk Mausoleum and the ancient Roman Temple of Augustus. The city’s museums, vibrant nightlife, and diverse culinary scene offer a glimpse into contemporary Turkish life.
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26. South Coast
Finally, if you want to kick back and relax, get a tan, and enjoy the summer temperatures (although be warned, they’re hot), you should definitely head south and visit one of the many tourist resorts on the south coast.
27. Side Antik Kenti
Side Antik Kenti is a seaside archaeological wonder that transports you to the ancient world. Stroll through the well-preserved ruins of temples, theaters, and baths overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a perfect blend of history, sun, and sea.
Belek is a coastal paradise known for its luxurious resorts and pristine beaches. It’s a golfer’s dream destination with world-class golf courses. Relax by the turquoise waters, take a dip in the Mediterranean, or explore the nearby ancient ruins.
Lapped by the Mediterranean and Aegean Coast, you can also choose between some of the most beautiful places in Turkey.
Nestled along the stunning Aegean Sea, Kusadasi is a traveler’s paradise. With its crystal-clear waters, Kusadasi offers some of the most breathtaking beaches in Turkey. Beyond the shore, you’ll discover the ancient ruins of Ephesus, where history comes to life. Stroll through the bustling bazaars, savor the local cuisine, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of this coastal gem.
Bodrum is a coastal town that effortlessly combines history, culture, and natural beauty. The Bodrum Castle, overlooking the marina, is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. Relax on the pristine beaches during the day, and as the sun sets, immerse yourself in Bodrum’s vibrant nightlife, filled with bars, clubs, and restaurants.
If you’re seeking a lively beach destination, Gumbet is the place to be. Known for its energetic atmosphere, Gumbet offers many water sports, beach parties, and vibrant nightlife. During the day, you can explore nearby Bodrum or bask in the sun along the golden shores.
Tucked away on the south western Turkey coast, Icmeler is a hidden gem known for its tranquil charm. The beach here is a haven for relaxation, and the town’s friendly locals make you feel right at home. You can leisurely stroll along the palm-lined promenade, indulge in delicious Turkish cuisine, and unwind in this serene coastal retreat. It is always a place where you can really unwind.
Marmaris is a diverse coastal town that caters to all types of travelers. Whether you’re interested in water sports, a boat trip to a secluded cove, or exploring the picturesque old town, Marmaris has it all. Don’t forget to visit the famous Marmaris Castle and enjoy a taste of the local nightlife.
With its dramatic cliffside castle and two stunning beaches, Alanya is a coastal paradise with a touch of history that never disappoints me. Explore the centuries-old Alanya Castle, offering panoramic views of the coastline, and then relax on Cleopatra Beach, said to be the favored bathing spot of the ancient queen herself. Alanya’s vibrant markets and dining scene add to the charm of this captivating destination.
Not to mention, these cities along the southern coast are perfect for day-tripping to Greece!
Whether you are looking for panoramic views, water sports, natural wonders, or small town feels, you can see that there is the perfect place to go in Turkey for everyone.