Turkey is a huge country with so much to see, and these hidden gems of Turkey have to be on your list! They are too fantastic to miss.
Türkiye is a vast country. Most people don’t realize how big it is. It’s enormous, packed with world-famous destinations, beach resorts, and ancient cities. There are, however, also many hidden gems in Turkey to visit, allowing you to experience an undiscovered Türkiye that most visitors don’t get to see.
Most tourists flock to the most popular places, such as Antalya, Izmir, Bodrum, Marmaris, Cappadocia, Ephesus, and Pamukkale (those places are 100% worth a visit), but that means that some of the most unique and beautiful spots are being overlooked.
Anyone who goes to off-the-beaten-path destinations in Turkey gets to enjoy some of the most beautiful villages in Türkiye, an authentic way of life, and some stunning natural scenery.
It’s impossible to write a complete list of all the hidden gems this vast country has to offer, but let’s whittle it down to a top 7 list to give you some ideas for your next visit.
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Map Of The Hidden Gems In Turkey
Istanbul Hidden Gems
Most people stick to the central reaches of Istanbul and don’t venture further, but that’s a mistake!
In the Fatih area, beyond Sultanahmet and Eminonu, you’ll find Balat, a charming residential area that is famous for its pastel-colored houses.
There are some fantastic coffee spots here, and it’s an outstanding place to try Turkish coffee for the first time. However, make sure you wear comfortable shoes because there are some seriously steep hills around this area!
2. Yildiz Park
Beautiful Yildiz Park can be easily missed if you don’t know about it beforehand. It’s hidden away from the main street, and the signpost from the main road is in Turkish, so you could quickly drive past it. As you travel between Besiktas and Ortakoy (where the Bosphorus Bridge is), you’ll find this stunning park, which is up a slight hill from the main road.
Once you go inside, you’ll be blown away at how such a green and peaceful space can be nestled in the middle of such a huge city. There is a river that runs through the park, small animal statues throughout, places to sit and have picnics in the summer, and a café, too. It’s a must-visit.
3. Camlica Hill
This is another spot you need to do your research about before you go, and if you miss it, you’ll definitely regret it because the view from the top of this hill is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
It’s not the easiest place to get to, although you can find tours that go there. Despite that, it’s somewhere to go on your own steam if you want a peaceful time, and if you go later in the afternoon, you’ll get to see the most amazing sunset.
Located on the Asian side of the city, around 20 minutes from Uskudar, you can also visit the jaw-droppingly beautiful Camlica Mosque, which is the largest in the city.
This is a trip for which you’ll need plenty of camera space. There is also a great small restaurant at the top of the hill, where you can buy refreshments, toast, gozleme, and ice cream.
4. Belgrad Forest
Istanbul is full of hidden gems!
Belgrad Forest takes around 40 minutes to get to from the centre of Istanbul, but it’s more than worth it. This huge forest is one of the most peaceful places you’ll ever visit, and it’s so beautiful. Just walk, breathe in the fresh air (a great thing after being in such a huge city for days), and check out the wildlife.
It’s not so easy to get to, and you will need to either take a taxi (which can be expensive) or a combination of Metro and taxi, but you can also find tours which go there.
5. Rumeli Fortress
You can see Rumeli Fortress if you take a Bosphorus Tour, but it’s best to take the bus down to Bebek from Besiktas and get off when you see the huge castle coming into view. You can go inside this massive castle and check out a stunning view, but you’ll also be amazed at how big and how well-preserved it is.
This fortress was built by the earliest Ottomans (around 1452) to watch for invaders by sea, and history is all around you. You should also head over to Bebek once you’re finished, which is within walking distance, and breathe in the fresh sea air. This is an upmarket part of the city, and if you want to try fresh seafood, this is the place to go.
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Historical & Cultural Hidden Gems
6. Sumela Monastery, Trabzon
In the Macka region, you will find Trabzon City and the Sumela Monastery. This crazy high monastery is a 1600-year-old ancient Orthodox monastery of the Panaghia located 1200 meters high on a cliff.
7. Mount Nemrut, Adiyaman
This particular sight is very off the beaten track for most tourists visiting Türkiye for a beach break, but if you want to stretch your legs and see something truly magnificent, it’s more than worth the effort.
Mount Nemrut is located in Adiyaman, in southeastern Turkey, not too far from the Syrian border – do not let that put you off, as this is still a popular tourist destination and, as such, safe to visit. The mountain has stunning views, but that’s not what it is famous for.
It’s most famous for its enormous carved stone heads that sit almost randomly at the top of the mountain and on the path leading to the summit. Nobody is 100% sure how they got there, but the theory is that they were put there to show the power that Alexander I yielded back in the day.
You can see this fantastic and quite jaw-dropping sight at any time of the year; indeed, it is one of those unique places to visit in Türkiye, but this part of the country does have freezing temperatures and a lot of snow during the winter. So, between April and October is the best time to go.
You can fly from Istanbul or Ankara to Adiyaman Airport, and many guided tours will take you to the site from there – as a side point, a guided tour is the single best way; it’s best not to attempt it on your own.
8. Ishak Pasha Palace, Doğubayazıt
If you really want to head off the beaten track, head to Doğubayazıt, which sits on the Turkish/Iranian border. This vast palace dates back to the early Ottoman Empire, and the Ottoman architecture is stunningly beautiful and ornate.
The views from the top of the hill are like nothing you’ll see anywhere else, and it’s never packed with visitors either (because of how far away from everything else it is), so you’ll be able to wander freely. Make sure you go for the sunset, as the whole place seems to glow.
9. Gobeklitepe, Urfa
A visit to the ancient Gobekli Tepe temple in Urfa is necessary for anyone visiting Sanliurfa or surrounding areas.
Sanliurfa is a very traditional city in the southeast of the country, and Gobekli Tepe is located around 12km away from the town center. The ruins around here are extremely old, with some archaeologists claiming they go back to around 9000 BC. Despite its age, you can see some exceptionally well-preserved spots, including massive pillars with intricate designs.
The whole complex is stunning, and you can learn more about it from the museum. However, bear in mind that the area is still being excavated so that it could grow even larger in a few years.
10. Hasankeyf Fortress, Batman Province
Located in the east of the country, you’ll find the old town of Hasankeyf, and its fortress is a must-visit. The area around it is now a reservoir, but the castle itself overlooks the water, and there are some great hiking trails around it. The castle itself dates back to Byzantine times, and it’s enormous; inside, you’ll find ancient cave dwellings, houses, and a huge mosque.
This part of Turkey is full of ancient ruins and areas of natural beauty, and it’s certainly somewhere that most people don’t go because it’s far away from the beach resorts and Istanbul. However, it’s somewhere that will show you a totally different size of Turkey and allow you to explore some serious history.
11. Dalyan Lycian Rock Tombs, Dalaman Region
History and beauty collide at the Lycian Rock Tombs, which most people stumble upon by accident! If you’re staying anywhere in the Dalaman region, you’ll see trips to the Sultanyimud baths and Turtle Beach, where the loggerhead turtles lay their eggs during nesting season.
However, they don’t tell you that on your way from the Sultanyimud mud springs to Turtle Beach, you go on a riverboat tour of the Dalyan River, and as you do that, you sail past what can only be described as a piece of historical beauty.
Carved into the soaring rock face, you will find tombs – literal tombs. These date back to the 4th century and were created by the Lycians, who believed that angels transported the dead to the afterlife. They wanted to make life easier for the angels, so they built these tombs at the highest vantage point.
A mud bath and Turtle Beach trip is a great way to see these tombs, and you also get to see a couple of other areas of interest, all rolled into one price! Trips are available from resorts in the Dalaman region, including Icmeler, Marmaris, Fethiye, Hisaronu, Dalyan, and Olu Deniz. The tour will take you a couple of hours longer if you’re staying in Bodrum, but it’s well worth it.
12. Arykanda, Antalya Province
The Lycian Way stretches from Fethiye to Antalya, and along that path, you’ll find countless ruins and towns that belonged to the Lycians. Arykanda was formerly a town within the civilization, and back in the day, it was known for its entertainment and fun.
The ruins are very well preserved, and it’s a huge site that covers a large area. You’ll need to spend at least a couple of hours if you want to see it all, and there are superb views over the mountains too.
This town was also home to a huge bath complex, the largest in the whole of Lycia, and you can check that out, too.
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Natural Wonder Hidden Gems
13. Pigeon Valley Cappadocia
It is unknown who the first settlers of Pigeon Valley were or when they arrived. However, since the human settlement of the Cappadocian territory began with the Hittites and persisted for millennia, it’s safe to believe that several civilizations populated the region for a long time.
Although various peoples inhabited Pigeon Valley, the first noteworthy communities were created by early Christian settlers, who favored the area for its defensiveness and seclusion as they fled persecution. We also know that the people of Pigeon Valley started practicing pigeon keeping in the 9th century to produce pigeon guano for their vineyards.
14. Muradiye Waterfall, Van
Van is located in the far east of Turkey and is famous for its huge lake; however, Muradiye Waterfall is a hugely underrated spot and one that most people don’t get to see because of its location. The waterfalls are around 18 meters in height, and you’ll see mist and rainbows and hear thundering noises when you visit.
Because this area gets very cold during the winter months, the water sometimes freezes, which really makes for memorable photographs.
15. Butterfly Valley, Fethiye
The great thing about this gem is that it’s so close to Oludeniz in Fethiye, so you can catch a boat (there are several during the summer months), and you’re there in 20 minutes.
This is a stunning natural area that is only accessible by boat due to the soaring cliffs that hug around it. There is a large green space at the back for camping, but the white sand, blue sea, and view as you move closer to the sea are stunning. It’s also known to be a hotspot for endangered types of butterflies, which can be seen at various times of the year – spring is a good time if you want to butterfly spot.
16. Subterranean Calcium Travertines Of Kaklik Cave, Pamukkale
Kaklik Cave is a subterranean calcium travertine formation located in Pamukkale, Turkey. The cave is approximately 12 meters high and 15 meters wide. It is one of the largest known caves of its kind. The cave was formed by the flow of thermal spring water, which deposited calcium carbonate on the walls and floor over time.
The resulting travertines are a dazzling white color. The cave is open to the public, and visitors can explore its many rooms and chambers. The cave is also home to a variety of animal life, including bats, snakes, and spiders.
17. Duden Waterfalls, Antalya
Every year, millions of visitors head to the Antalya region, but few know about the beauty of the waterfalls that are just a stone’s throw from Antalya International Airport! These coastal waterfalls are arguably among the most beautiful places in Turkey to visit.
The waterfalls are formed from the cascades of water spilling down Mount Taurus before heading down to the sea. As the light fades and the sun sets, the water begins to glisten and forms beautiful waterfalls that you must catch on film.
Duden Waterfalls are situated in a protected park, so there’s plenty of greenery to chill out in, and it’s never too crowded, apart from during important national days in Türkiye when locals head out with their family members to spend some time together in the sun.
You can reach the waterfalls on your own steam by hiring a car; they’re only around 15 minutes from the airport, or you can book a tour like this, which is probably the easiest way. Tours take you to the foot of the waterfalls, or you can go on and see them cascading into the sea for yourself.
18. Gilindire Aynalıgöl Cave, Aydıncık, Mersin Province
This huge and stunningly beautiful cave is a recent addition to Turkey’s list of must-visits, but it’s been around for a lot longer than before it was discovered. In fact, scientists believe that the underwater features of the cave developed during the Ice Age and that the earliest humans used the cave for shelter in the late Neolithic age.
The cave goes underground very deeply, and it can get quite hot and humid the further down you go. The range of weird and wonderful stalactites and stalagmites will blow your mind, and the lake right at the bottom of the cave is a wonderful sight – it glows bright blue.
Beach Resort Hidden Gems
19. Akyaka, Dalaman Region
If you’re visiting places in Turkey off the beaten path and staying in Icmeler or Marmaris, you might not be aware of the literal paradise that is waiting for you, just 20 minutes away by car!
Akyaka is a beach resort but tends to be more for locals than tourists. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t go as it’s pretty busy with foreign visitors during the summer months. The beautiful thing about Akyaka is that it’s set at the foot of a high, soaring mountain, the water is beautifully cool no matter what the month, thanks to the almost constant breeze, and you can walk out for a long distance in the shallows before the water seems to have any depth to it!
Aside from the beach, the Azmak riverboat trip is a must-do! This is a shaded, icy-cold river paradise you must see to believe. It’s almost like the Everglades, but much smaller and thankfully devoid of alligators! Be sure to check out the traditional fish restaurants that sit on stilts at the side of the river, serving local catch from around the region.
It’s effortless to get to Akyaka. You can hire a car and drive (only 20 minutes), or you can take the local dolmus bus service, which stops at the bottom of the hill, and you need to walk for 10 minutes in a straight line to arrive in the town. You could also get a taxi from Marmaris if you wanted to splurge a little; this would cost you around 300 lira returns (do haggle your price beforehand), which currently works out at about 30 Euros.
20. Incekum, Dalaman Region
First, let’s get the pronunciation right to avoid embarrassing mishaps. This is pronounced IN-JE-KUM. With that out of the way, let me tell you why you should go.
If you love beaches, this is a spot for you, but if you love jaw-droppingly beautiful, clear water and white sand beaches, with shady trees in the background and a tractor that takes you from the parking lot to the actual beach because it’s so private – this is for you!
You will need to pay a small fee to get into Incekum, but that’s a good thing, and it’s a meager cost; in 2020, the entrance fee was 25 lira, which works out at about 2.50 Euros. The entrance fee covers the transportation to the beach, down a long country road, ensuring that this stunningly beautiful area remains clean and well preserved. The numbers are also controlled, so it’s never too crowded.
I can’t explain in words just how stunning this beach is. A day here is never enough. You can reach Incekum by car from Marmaris or Icmeler in about half an hour, but it is a pretty winding road, so if you are car-sick, be warned!
There are also stunning sights to see on the way, including a panoramic view over the sea from almost the top of a mountain. Absolutely one of the most incredible hidden gems in Türkiye!
Turkish City Hidden Gems
The seaport of Canakkale is located on the Asian coast of Turkey’s Dardanelles strait, in a region rich in ancient and modern history, as well as myths and legends that have stood the test of time.
In reality, many of the sights and activities in Canakkale are linked to the stories that have made the city famous. What is now Canakkale, which was first occupied about 6,000 years ago during the Copper Age, has seen numerous invading armies pass through the region and has been ruled by many states.
The legendary Trojan Wars and the Gallipoli Campaign, the most well-known battle between the Allied Forces and the Ottomans in World War I, both took place nearby, as did the epic love story Hero and Leander from Greek mythology.
The best activities to do here are going on a historical tour in Gallipoli, visiting the many museums inside the city, admiring the huge castles, and paying your respects at the monuments for the martyrs of the deadly First World War. This is easily one of the most incredible hidden gems in Turkey.
When thinking about a beach break in Türkiye, most people fixate on the south coast, but the Black Sea Coast in the north is magnificent. This spot is off the beaten track for most tourists, but it’s pretty busy with locals.
Surprisingly, this is one of the most incredible non-touristy places in Turkey on the coast. Amasra has a truly authentic feel, and despite its small size, it is a fantastic place to visit. There are several beaches and plenty of walking opportunities around the coastline. You can go on a boat trip or head to Amastra Museum and learn more about the local area.
A must-do is to head to a traditional Turkish restaurant and enjoy some fantastic cuisine. The seafood around here is divine and very fresh.
23. Akdamar Island, Lake Van
We’ve already mentioned Van in passing, but the beautiful Akdamar Island on Lake Van itself deserves a mention. With huge mountains all around it, the island sits right in the middle of this huge body of water, and you’ll find ruins of Armenian churches there, dating back to around 900 AD. The nature around this island is also extraordinary indeed, and it’s certainly one for your camera reel.
It’s not the easiest place to get to, but you can take a boat from Gevas, which leaves on a daily basis during the warmer month.
24. Alacati, Izmir
Izmir is a bustling and well-visited city, but Alacati remains a hidden gem. This city suburb has a genuinely charming and authentic feel to it, full of traditional houses with colorful doors and old mills that used to work hard back in the day. If you love food and wine, this is also a place to head for you, as it’s packed with local restaurants and cafes with some of the best food you have ever eaten.
Head to the beach to cool down in the summer sun and check out how clear the water is. It’s also a place where there seems to be a constant breeze, which makes it an excellent spot for watching professional windsurfers and kite surfers – you can even try it for yourself!
Why not stay for a few days to soak up the chilled-out atmosphere? Alacati is easy to reach from Izmir (around 1 hour, depending on traffic), and you’ll also find tours that take you there for the day. If you’re looking for lesser-known destinations in Türkiye to visit, this is a fantastic option.
Adana, Turkey’s sixth-largest city, sits alongside the Seyhan River and is surrounded by the rolling hills of the Cukurova region, which was immortalized in Yaşar Kemal’s classic novel Memed, My Hawk.
It’s best known for producing Turkey’s Adana kebab, and foodies would most likely prioritize trying this dish in one of the city’s restaurants when visiting. This city, on the other hand, has a lot more to give visitors.
Adana is one of the best towns in Turkey for exploring because the hinterland is dotted with archaeological sites and historic tourist attractions. It is also a great place to base yourself as you can travel to the eastern Mediterranean coast area of Turkey from here.
Kumköy is an exquisite city located near Antalya. It is known for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. Visitors can enjoy plenty of activities, such as swimming, sunbathing, windsurfing, and more. There are also many restaurants and cafes lining the beaches, making it the perfect place to relax and take in the incredible views.
Kumköy is also home to many historical monuments and historic sites, such as the Church of St. Nicholas, which dates back to the Byzantine period. Other attractions in the area include the Kumköy Mosque, an ancient amphitheater, and a picturesque lighthouse. There are also plenty of shops and boutiques to explore, making it an excellent place for shopping.
Kumköy is easily accessible from Istanbul by car or public transport. It is also within walking distance of Kilyos, another popular beach town on the Black Sea coast.
The Baklava Center in Turkey is well-known among foodies. The sweet treats of Gaziantep are well-known throughout the world. Beyond the sugar rush, there’s a lot to explore.
The Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum is a popular site. The museum houses one of the world’s most important collections of Roman-era mosaic floor art, all of which were rescued from the nearby Belkis-Zeugma archaeological site before it was submerged under the Birecik Dam’s waters.
Wandering the old town area of Gaziantep is one of the city’s true pleasures. Its numerous baklava shops and compact bazaar alleys, which are packed with traditional craftwork stores and historic coffee houses, could easily take up an entire day of your time. So, if you’re planning a culinary tour of Turkey, Gaziantep is absolutely one of the towns in Turkey to visit.
The history of Mardin reads like a “who’s who” of conquest. The Assyrians, Arabs, Seljuk Dynasties, Kurdish, Persian, Mongols, and Ottomans have fought over the town.
Today, this town of old stone houses spreads out underneath a cliff ridge in a maze of labyrinthine alleyways, providing plenty of old-world atmosphere and activities.
Mardin’s timeless allure attracts a new generation of tourists who want to soak up the cultural heritage rather than invade and conquer, thanks to its abundance of historic houses, some of which have been transformed into luxury hotels. It’s definitely one of those unique places to visit in Turkey if you’re looking for that undiscovered Turkey!
Located at the east end of Turkey, Kars is often referred to as a “Winter Wonderland” due to its high altitude and severe weather conditions.
It is possible to see snow in Kars pretty much all year long. As a result, this city is home to a beautiful ski resort, Sarikamis, set on the foothills of the Allahuekber Mountain Range, making it one of the greatest, although also the most remote location to enjoy a Turkish winter.
Another aspect of Kars worth noticing is the Armenian influence in this city. Even today, a significant portion of locals have Armenian roots.
The most famous landmark here is the remains of the ancient Armenian city of Ani, which dates back to medieval times. Aside from the gorgeous churches still standing tall and proud, the scenery is also remarkable here in Ani, a fantastic place to experience off-the-beaten-track Turkey.
Konya is a romantic place, the kind that would entice poets and dreamers alike. It’s no surprise that Mevlana Rumi, the famous Sufi poet and whirling dervish, wrote his famous, heartfelt verses here in the 13th century. The Mevlana Museum, which is decorated with beautiful roses and houses the tomb of the renowned poet, should undoubtedly be your first stop.
Its Semahane houses a museum of religious artifacts from the time period. For an evening walk and a cup of Turkish tea, visit the Alaeddin Tepe Park.
The Tile Museum and the Museum of Wooden and Stone Carving represent the other fine arts in Konya, ensuring that all art lovers have a great time!
The whole of Aydin Province is basically an open-air museum as this is where you’ll find countless ruins that date back to the earliest Greek rule. The greater Aydin area is also home to Ephesus, which isn’t particularly hidden, but it’s a must-visit all the same.
Just visiting the small towns and villages around Aydin via a road trip will show you countless ancient ruins, beautiful beaches, and some great food.
Diyarbakir is a large city in the country’s southeast, and it’s a very traditional and cultural palace to visit. The area around the city is stunningly beautiful and very natural, and the city itself is famous for its walls, which are still well-preserved today.
The food in this part of the country is simply divine, and if you like spicy food, you’ll love it here!
Which of these seven hidden gems in Turkey will you head to first?