Turkey is a fascinating place to visit, with its rich culture and long history. It is the crossroads between the Middle East and Europe as well as the setting for many ancient Greek myths.
There is therefore no shortage of amazing destinations to visit in Turkey. Let me tell you about the best travel destinations in Turkey.
Istanbul itself warrants a few days. Book a hotel either in the heart of the historic Sultanahmet district or the more modern Taksim district depending on your tastes.
See the world famous Hagia Sophia cathedral/mosque, tour the palace of the Ottoman sultans, visit ancient byzantine roman ruins. Eat delicious cuisine and discover there is way more to Turkish food than only kebab!
Take a bus (four hours) or fly to Gallipoli to see the site of the famous WWI battleground in which the national spirit of Australia and New Zealand was forged and father of the future Turkish state Kemal Ataturk made his name.
Trenches are preserved and reconstructed and much of the battleground is just as it was, so as the guides tell you admirable stories of bravery from both sides you can look around you and see it just as it was.
Just a very short distance from Gallipoli is the ancient city of Troy. The ruins were rediscovered and excavated in the 1870s in one of the world’s first archeological projects, and the walls of the legendary city are remarkably well preserved considering they’re about 3300 years old.
Think about these legends you’ve been hearing all your life as you stand beside the actual walls. There is also, of course, a replica trojan horse you can climb into.
Another five hour bus ride (or short flight) will bring you to the Izmir area. From Izmir it is a short distance to the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ephesus. These are some of the best preserved ruins from the early Christian era, an era in which Ephesus featured prominently (recall “Ephesians” is one of the books of the bible). Walk the city streets with the walls of houses and buildings still standing higher than you, marvel at the inside of Roman era homes and various tradesmen’s shops, as well as of course an amphitheater and one of the earliest Christian churches.
Visitors to this area also usually book a tour to Pamukkale, another ancient city ruin, but also a natural hot spring. You can swim in the pools constructed to collect the naturally heated water believed to have therapeutic properties.
Also the calcium from the hot springs has formed a unique series of frosting-like terraces.
From Izmir its another four hour bus ride to Fethiye on the “turquoise coast” — Turkey’s beautiful Mediterranean coast. From here you can go to the nearby Saklıkent Gorge — a narrow gorge you can hike up, sometimes waist deep in water, for a fun and invigorating adventure.
Also just outside of Fethiye is the ghost town of Kayaköy, abandoned by the Greek residents in 1923 in the face of growing Turkish nationalism. Yet another great day trip in the Fethiye area is the nearby Oludeniz beach, a famous beach people travel internationally just to visit.
Paragliding from the heights above Oludeniz is also popular.
There are several places on the turquoise coast from which you can embark on a “blue cruise” on a small boat spending a few days visiting various sites along the coast and spending your days swimming and relaxing on the deck. One of those locations happens to be Fethiye.
You can leave Fethiye, spend several days seeing quaint fishing towns, ancient pirate havens, and seaside caves, before arriving in Olympos. Turkish Olympos (not to be confused with the Olympus in Greece) is a beachside valley full of hostels full of young tourists enjoying a rather bohemian relaxation, and dancing the night away. There is also some more ancient roman era ruins here.
From Olympos you can take an overnight bus to Cappadocia (or catch a flight from Antalya). Cappadocia is a truly unique and amazing place. Surreal limestone “fairy towers” jut up above the small towns and valleys. Ancient people bored whole cities out of the soft rock, and you can tour several of these ancient underground cities.
Even today, modern dwellings in the region are often bored into cliffs so the back rooms are essentially caves and thus well insulated. In your hotel you will likely have the option of staying in a cave room. Another thing Cappadocia is famous for is hot air ballooning to take in the gorgeous surreal landscape from the air in the morning. The perfect way to wrap up your epic Turkish holiday!
There are of course other places in Turkey one can visit , but these are generally regarded as the best travel destinations in Turkey. You can visit these sites in the order I’ve described them here, reverse the loop to go around in opposite order, or mix and match the destinations as you desire, since transportation within Turkey is easy.
There’s cheap internal flights between all major cities and the bus network is extremely good. You can always find an overnight bus for all the long legs. I don’t need to say I hope you enjoy your trip, because I know you will!