Turkey has been often termed as the bridge between the east and the west. But I think that Turkey is much more than that. Turkey is a place of incredible landscape, culture, adventure, and cuisines. The country ranks among top travel destinations in the world. From the Roman ruins to the Ottoman palaces, from Byzantine monasteries to Sufi mysticism, Turkey has an eclectic mix of the diverse history and heritage. The landscape is diverse as well with more than 8000 km of coastline divided between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea along with the mountain ranges, lakes, and steppes. For a traveller, there are numerous things to do in Turkey. Nature, ancient ruins, colourful culture, and delectable cuisines, Turkey has something to offer to everyone.
Turkey is thus a perfect place to visit for any type of traveller. So we asked a few of my blogger friends to tell us about their favourite things to do in Turkey. This is what they had to say about Turkey!
Best Things to do in Turkey
Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia
Contributed by Mario Migliore of Rest and Recuperation
There is one photo that all people who managed to travel through Turkey have: the one in the hot air balloon flying over Cappadocia. Indeed, after the capital Istanbul, this central Anatolian region is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the country.
The starting point for your visit to Cappadocia is the little town of Goreme, with many houses built in the rocks. The surroundings are famous for some stone-chimneys arising from the earth creating a fairy tale scenario. My suggestion is to first hike them or have a horse riding in the area, as it is a marvellous way of exploring it. These “chimneys” have different colours because of the different era they are from and are spread over some big valleys.
But the highlight of your visit to Cappadocia has to be the morning hot air balloon trip over those valleys. Despite being a bit too touristic, it is a must-do. Wake up very early and climb into the balloons before dawn. As soon as the sun starts rising, your one-hour flight will commence. It is very beautiful to see Goreme and the surrounding valleys from above, with dozen of other hot-air balloons in the sky.
So what are you waiting for? Book your flight, prepare your trolley and go for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Go Underground in the City of Derinkuyu
Cappadocia is undoubtedly a fairyland with the incredulous landscape. The rocky hills and the stone spires known as the Fairy chimneys rise up the plains of Anatolia peninsula, while at the same time there are numerous underground passages running beneath the ground. Some of these tunnels are natural while others are manmade. The region is known for its underground cities of which Derinkuyu is the largest one. The city of Derinkuyu extends 200 feet into the ground having 11 floors that is enough to shelter 20,000 people. These underground cities were built during the times of invasion and religious prosecutions. Cappadocians who were a part of the Christian minority had built these underground tunnels for their safety. Below the earth, they lived just in the way that they lived above the ground. There is an extensive network of passages, tunnels, stepped pits and inclined corridors linking family rooms and communal spaces where people would meet, work and worship. It was a world within a world.
Visiting the Ghost Town of Kayaköy
Contributed by Alex and Malin from Timezone Junkies
If you are staying in Fethiye and are looking for something eerie yet very cultural to do then you need to head over to Kayaköy Ghost Town. Due to the population exchange of 2 million people between Turkey and Greece in 1923, this little town was abandoned and left to the elements.
What remains today is a hillside full of decaying and dilapidated buildings that you can wander among freely. Walking around this empty town can feel almost spooky but at the same time really intriguing. The area is actually quite large and you could easily spend an hour or more wandering around discovering quiet spots. There is even an old church which, unfortunately, is closed off to the public.
When you are there, don’t forget to head up to the viewpoint and the chapel to get a great view of the ocean below and Fethiye’s coastline in the other direction. From the viewpoint there is a little trail that runs down to a couple of secluded bays with crystal clear turquoise water.
Make sure you visit Kayaköy early as it can get pretty hot up there and there is little shade available unless you want to escape the sun in an abandoned building.
The fee for entering Kayaköy is 5 TL and just by the entrance is a cafe in case you need some refreshments before or after exploring this fantastic ghost town. We recommend you do a little bit of research before visiting so you can really get an idea of what happened here.
Camping at the Ancient City of Pinara
Contributed by Alex and Malin from Timezone Junkies
This little ancient Lycian city is completely off the beaten path and the chances of you being there with other people are quite slim. It isn’t the biggest or the best-preserved ancient city but the isolated feeling you get when you are there makes up for it.
One thing that will totally blow you away is the giant rock face looming above with what seems like thousands of little tombs carved out of the perilously steep facade. How they even managed to carve these burial tombs out and along with the dangers that this presented is totally crazy. Even with today’s technology, this would be a challenge.
You can come here on a day trip by taxi from Fethiye or if you are feeling adventurous you can bring a tent and do a spot of wild camping on the grassy fields just next to the ancient Roman theatre (obviously ask for permission first).
When we did this we even went to sit in the theatre under a moonlit starry sky! Sitting on the steps of an ancient Roman theatre under the moon with nobody around was very special and still remains a highlight of our time in Turkey. When we were sitting there we could hear lots of rustling in the bushes but couldn’t figure out what was making the noise. It turns out that the whole area is covered in a thriving population of tortoises! In the morning we got to see them all wandering around, they are curious little things.
Entrance to Pinara Ancient City used to cost 5 TL but it is now free and the lovely staff even made us a cup of tea when we were waiting for the rain to stop.
Rafting at the Saklikent Gorge
Contributed by Mal of Raw Mal Roams
The Saklikent Canyon is a place of stunning natural beauty that attracts many visitors seeking adventure. The Park is located in Mugla, southwestern Turkey about an hour drive from a popular sea resort of Fethiye. The gorge is 300 m deep, which is one of the deepest in the world and 18 km long.
When you arrive, there is a ticket office where you pay your entrance fee (only 8 Turkish Lira). The entrance to the park is through a wooden bridge and then through a stream of freezing cold, turquoise water with really strong currents. This is where you will need some water shoes, which also can be rented onsite. Hold on tight to the robe and enjoy the experience. Also, take with you some good sun protection, the sun rays are very strong and you may not realise it being inside the gorge.
Once you’re through the stream, continue left into the gorge. The further you go, you’ll find there will be fewer people and the scenery will get more interesting. You can walk as long or as little as you want and turn back when you’re ready.
When you get back, there is also a place where you can go to the rubber ring rafting! No special skills are required to do that, and it’s a lot of fun. The river takes you down through some epic mountainous scenery.
Carpet Shopping in Turkey
Contributed by De Wet & Jin from Museum of Wander
Carpets are an integral part of Turkish culture and carpet shopping is not only a social experience which shouldn’t be missed in Turkey, but you might end up with a stunning hand-made souvenir that is sure to become a part of your home for the rest of your life.
You must visit a carpet shop when you’re in Turkey, even if you’re not planning on actually buying a carpet. You’ll get more than your fair share of invitations from carpet sellers to come in and look, wherever you find yourself in Turkey. So say yes, at least once.
Once you are inside the shop you’ll be offered something to drink (tea, coffee or a soft drink) and the conversation will start with – Where are you from? What do you do for a living? Which hotel are you staying at? You might think it’s just small talk, but in reality, the seller is trying to suss out what your budget is or how much you really know about carpets.
The seller is likely to ask about your preferences such as colour, size and kind of carpet that you had in mind. Don’t be overwhelmed if you don’t know, the seller will explain the different kinds of carpets and give you a crash course in the different styles and materials used.
Next, more tea will be offered and a few assistants will magically appear which signals the start of the flying carpet show. The assistants will unfurl one carpet after the other, each one as colourful and unique as the next. Sit back, sip your tea and enjoy the show.
If you fancy a carpet, simply signal so that they can put it aside for you. At the end of the show, you’ll have quite a few on the keeper pile. Have a look at them again, and eliminate until you have 3 left. Then the seller will explain the meaning of the motives and point out unique features such as age, story behind the carpet and thread count to help you make up your mind.
At this time, don’t seem too eager to buy. Casually find out the price, which will be about double what you should actually be paying. It’s a good idea at this time to tell him you’ll have to think about it and that you’ll come back again later. Finish your tea, thank them and leave.
If you do want the carpet, return later, look at it again, and start negotiating a price that you’re comfortable with paying. All carpet dealers can arrange shipping or your carpet will be packed for you to carry out with you.
*We visited a few carpet shops (and had loads of tea) when we were in Cappadocia. We recommend Dowry Carpet in Goreme for a good selection of carpets and fair prices without the hard sell.
Visit the ancient city of Ephesus
Contributed by Rhonda Krause from Travel? Yes Please
Ephesus is an impressive archaeological site near the Aegean Sea, on the western shore of Turkey. This former port city was once an influential trading centre and its value led to it being conquered several times throughout its history. Over the years, Ephesus was ruled by the Greeks, Lydian Kings, Persians, and Romans.
Today, Ephesus is known for its collection of well-preserved ruins. Much of the remaining structures were built during Roman rule, the most prosperous time in Ephesus’ history, but there are also remnants from the Hellenistic and Early Christian period.
Two of the most notable structures you can see at Ephesus are the Library of Celsus and a huge stone amphitheater capable of seating 25,000 people. Other ruins include monuments, gates, temples, fountains, and a shopping street.
Ephesus is most easily visited from Izmir (about 80 km from Ephesus) or Kusadasi (about 20 km away). The archaeological site is also included on some Mediterranean cruise itineraries. It’s best to visit with a local guide so that you can learn about the different ruins and hear interesting stories about the city’s history.
Visit the ancient ruins of Ani
Contributed by Dariece from Goats on the Road
We backpacked around Turkey for 5 weeks and during that time, we barely even scratched the surface! Not only is the culture and history fascinating, the people warm and welcoming and the architecture grand and ornate, but Turkey has some of the best food in the world.
This truly is one of the more underrated travel destinations. A typical tourist route might take in Istanbul, Cappadocia, and the thermal springs of Pamukkale, but for those who venture farther east to the city of Kars, you’ll be rewarded with an off-track experience like no other.
Located just a 45-minute drive from Kars, you’ll find the ancient ruins of Ani, which sit on the banks of the Akhurian River — the natural border between Turkey and the country of Armenia.
Once an important city on the East-West Silk Road trade route, Ani was the capital of the Armenian Kingdom between 961 and 1045, although now it sits in ruins as if forgotten about…and on the wrong side of the border!
This incredible site is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by rolling green hills, numerous ruined churches and monasteries dot the landscape.
There are around 10 buildings of significant importance remaining — don’t miss The Church of the Redeemer (dating from 1034-1036), which is actually only half of a building! Lightning struck here in 1957 and what remains is just half of a church. Another must-see is Church of St. Gregory The Illuminator which sits on a cliff overlooking the river.
The setting of Ani is stunning, and wandering around here really makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Make the effort to travel here during your trip to Turkey.”
A trip to the ancient city of Olympos
Contributed by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan
This ancient city on the Mediterranean coastline southwest of Antalya was originally founded around the 4th century BC as part of the Lycian League. A few centuries later, it became part of the Roman Empire and was renamed Hadrianopolis after the emperor Hadrian. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the same Hadrian who build Hadrian’s Wall across northern England. Nowadays the city lies in ruins, largely forgotten and overgrown. But the fact that the stone sarcophagi, bathhouses and other ruins are being reclaimed by Mother Nature just makes them all the more evocative. They’re certainly not overrun with tourists like Ephesus and other more popular archaeological sites in Turkey.
In addition to the ancient ruins, the area’s other main attraction is Mount Olympos, after which the city is named. Most people who hike up the mountain do so at night, for two reasons. The first is that during the day the heat can be quite oppressive, at least in summer. And the second reason is to view the
Eternal Flame of the Chimeras, which is most visible at night. The flame is created by jets of natural gas, which spurt up out of the ground and self-ignite. They’ve been burning for thousands of years and are the inspiration behind the Greek legend of the Bellarophon and the Chimera.
Sailing down the Turquoise Coast
Contributed by Claire from Stoked to Travel
The Turquoise Coast in Turkey is mesmerising, and a sailing trip along its twinkly blue warm seas is definitely one of the best things to do in Turkey. At one end of this famous coastline is the busy port of Fethiye, and at the other is the resort town of Antalya, with charming villages and harbour ports in between. The very best way to explore this beautiful part of the world is joining a sailing trip onboard a wooden gulet cruise, which is a brilliant and authentic Turkish experience.
Also referred to as the ‘blue cruise’, plenty of local companies run tours onboard the wooden gulet boats, most of which last around 3-4 days. Days onboard the boat can be spent catching rays on the deck, helping the crew to fish, jumping into the twinkling sea and of course, exploring the ports along the coastline. You can also sleep under the stars on the top deck if you visit in the peak months of July and August!
Most gulet boats follow a similar route along the Turquoise Coast and take in most of the same stops. Ölüdeniz is always included as it is the home of some of the best paragliding in the world, where you can run and jump off the top of Badabag Mountain, one of the highest places anywhere for commercial paragliding. Another wonderful stop is the charming harbour town of Kaş, which has interesting boutique stores, fun beach bars and wonderful tumbling bougainvillaea. You can also see some incredible ancient ruins along the Turquoise Coast, including the spectacular Sunken City at Kekova, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This once bustling town was submerged following an earthquake and you can sail right above and alongside it, seeing the ruins of stairs in peoples’ homes and pathways around the town.
A Visit to the City of Troy
Contributed by Jenna from I know the Pilot
The famed ‘City of Troy’ is widely known as the setting for Homer’s ‘Iliad’, the epic Greek poem telling a tale of two betrayals. The expression ‘a Trojan horse’ is still used today, and even inspired the name of a type of computer virus. Though Homer undoubtedly made the city of Troy as famous as it is today, the city features in many other historical accounts from the period.
Interest in the site has never waned, though the actual location was lost for many years. It was correctly identified as the current site in the mid-1800s, and archaeological excavation has been taking place there ever since. It is a monumental project with many different layers and is likely to continue far into the future.
Visiting sites like Troy is a special privilege, and offers a rare glimpse into our magnificent human past. Being able to literally walk in the footsteps of ancient people, along the original roads, is an experience like no other. The city of Troy is made up of numerous layers which have been excavated in sections (some poorly) and have yielded treasure, palace foundations, a cemetery and original, 10-foot city walls, among other things. A recently added museum in the nearby village of Tevfikiye houses many of the smaller objects found, and provides a good explanation and timeline of the site. There are also tour guides often available near the entrance – the site itself can be a little confusing, so it might be best to have someone who can help you understand what you are seeing.
The closest major city – and best place to stay – is Çanakkale, only 30 kilometres away from the site. Day tours can also be taken from Istanbul, though they are long, and with the proximity to nearby Gallipoli, it is a great idea to visit the two sites over a few days.
Visit the Salt terraces of Pamukkale
Contributed by Campbell Louw from Stingy Nomads
Travelling in Turkey, don’t miss the pure white travertine terraces of Pamukkale’s “Cotton Castle”, one of the most famous images from Turkey. The gleaming white calcite terraces look like snowy slopes in photos, but the mineral-rich waters flowing through the fantastic blue pools are nice and warm enough to go for a swim! Pamukkale is a town in western Turkey and tourists flock here to experience these famous salt terraces. Pamukkale means cotton castle in Turkish and the name is self-explanatory if you look at photos. The neighbouring Hierapolis is another famous site to visit at the Pamukkale crystal pools, this ancient Roman spa city was founded around 190 B.C. and the ruins here include a well-preserved theatre and a necropolis with sarcophagi that stretch for 2km. This UNESCO World Heritage site gets thousands of daily visitors arriving in tour buses. The gates open at 6 am.
Tip – We arrived as the gates opened at 6 am and had this entire unreal site to ourselves for over 2 hours! At about 08:00 hundreds of tourist, buses started arriving. If you plan to explore this site independently my advice would be to arrive early and walk around as much of the site as you can for the first 2 hours taking beautiful photos in the soft light with few tourists, then go and enjoy swimming in these amazing pools.
Soak up the Sufi mysticism and watch the whirling dervishes in Konya
Konya is the place where Rumi, the Sufi mystic had lived and left his legacy. For in the heart of the city of Konya lies the tomb of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, one of the most read poets of the world. Konya located near Anatolia is one of the continuously inhabited cities of the country. The city was the capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries and is one of the greatest cultural centres of Turkey. The mausoleum of Rumi is one of the most important places to visit in Turkey. There is a Dervish seminary beside the mausoleum that now serves as a museum and houses several manuscripts of Rumi’s work and other artefacts of the Sufi sect. The best time to visit Konya is during the first half of December when a week-long celebration of Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes’ Festival takes place. The followers of Rumi are known as Whirling Dervishes’ and this annual festival is one of the most important events in Turkey.
The Alaeddin Mosque, ruins of Seljuk Imperial Palace and several Madrasahs dot the skyline of Konya that can be visited as well. You can reach Konya from Istanbul by flight, train or buses. A couple of days stay at Konya is recommended.
Visit the historic areas of Istanbul
For all those heritage and history enthusiasts like me, Istanbul is a paradise. There are 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey and the Historic area of Istanbul is one of the premier ones. Who could ever deny the magnificence of the Blue Mosque or the importance of the Hagia Sophia in the history of Turkey?
Istanbul has a long history with original records of settlement dating back to 6500 BC. The city was called Constantinople during the Roman Empire. The city was also under the Ottoman Empire. In its 1600 years of recorded history, the city was under the rule of as many as 120 emperors and Sultans! The Historic Areas of Istanbul consists of 4 zones illustrating the different era of history. Take a visit to the Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the City Walls, Hagia Eirene, Basilica Cistern and the other historical monuments in the area. As you visit these places, also relive the historical past of Turkey.
Relax at a Turkish Spa
You can either love it or hate it, but before deciding which emotion will take precedence, you must at least have one experience at the Turkish Spa or Hammam. A first visit to the Turkish Spa can be a daunting experience, but this is one of the relaxing things to do in Turkey. Men and women have separate sections for the bath.
Try the traditional Turkish Coffee
To be honest I included this in the list because I am a coffee lover. Even if you are not, you must try the traditional Turkish coffee on your visit to Turkey. The Turkish Coffe has been inscribed into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2013 because of its unique brewing and preparation techniques and the beverages’ importance in the social life of Turkey. Turkish Coffee is served black and strong.
So these are some of the best things that you can do in Turkey. There are many other attractions and things to do in Turkey that can make your trip memorable. Now that you know what to do in Turkey, let us now look at some important information regarding your Turkey trip.
Watchtower Of Turkey – By Leonardo Dalessandri
Turkey Quick Facts
Capital of Turkey: Ankara
Languages in Turkey: Turkish, Kurdish
Time in Turkey: GMT+2 (GMT+3 between Mar-Oct)
Voltage in Turkey: 230 V, 50 Hz and Plug Adapter: Type C & F
Visas for Turkey: You can get an e-Visa for Turkey provided certain criterions are met.
International dialling code in Turkey: +90
International Airports in Turkey:
- Atatürk International (IST) – 24km from Istanbul
- Milas-Bodrum (BJV) – 36km from Bodrum
- Dalaman (DLM) – 5.5km from Dalaman
- Izmir Adnan Menderes (ADB) – 18km from Izmir
- Antalya (AYT) – 13km from Antalya.
What is the currency of Turkey?
The currency is Turkish Lira (TL).
ATMs are available in most areas and major credit and debit cards are accepted in most areas. Tipping to guides and restaurant is expected. Also, Be prepared to haggle.
What is the Best Time to Visit Turkey?
The best time to visit the archaeological sites and cities of Turkey are spring (Apr-May) and autumn (Sep-Oct). The temperature is warm and pleasant during this time. These are also good times to visit the coastal areas.
June to August is summer in Turkey when the temperature is the highest. This is a good time for visiting the high altitude areas in Eastern Turkey. Istanbul can be visited all around the year.
How to Get around Turkey?
Turkey is a big country. You can travel around the major cities by flight, which is a better option if you have less time in hand. Turkey’s intercity buses are excellent and efficient and serve most areas.
Train Network is also there but it is not extensive. However, a few routes are viable, for example, the train from Istanbul to Ankara.
You can self-drive in Turkey and it will offer you flexibility but you also need to be careful. Road accidents are common.
Did you like the post? What are your favourite places in Turkey? Let us know in comments below.
Pin this for a later read!