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Are you looking to explore the best places to visit in Turkey? You’ve come to the right place. Turkey offers astounding diversity when it comes to its main attractions – the ancient ruins of Ephesus, the white travertine terraces of Pamukkale, and bustling cities like Istanbul. Each destination offered something unique, from architectural marvels to culinary delights, making Turkey a truly enriching travel experience.

Beautiful view on Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.
Photo credit: AlexAnton/Shutterstock.

One of my favourite experiences while travelling through Turkey was the breathtaking views at sunrise over the otherworldly Cappadocia landscapes on our very own hot air balloon ride. Second to that was strolling through the charming alleyways of Alacati and standing in awe of the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul’s historic center.

Natural travertine pools and terraces in Pamukkale, Turkey.
Photo credit: MehmetO/Shutterstock.

Turkey is considered the gateway between Europe and Asia and where East meets West. In this guide, I’ll take you through the popular Turkey destinations that you absolutely must include in your Turkey itinerary. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or someone who loves to soak in the local culture, these Turkey attractions offer a little something for everyone.


Istanbul is a bustling city where history and modernity coalesce in the most captivating way. 

In the Sultanahmet district, the historic city center and the best area to stay in Istanbul for first time visitors, you’ll find the Hagia Sophia, one of the city’s main attractions. The building is an architectural marvel with its massive dome and stunning mosaics, and the neighboring Blue Mosque is definitely worth a visit, too, with its intricate tilework and six minarets. 

Galata tower in Istanbul, Turkey.
Photo credit: Guitar photographer/Shutterstock.

Just a stone’s throw away is the Topkapi Palace, a sprawling complex that once served as the Ottoman sultans’ residence; its Harem and the Imperial Treasury are must-sees. Don’t forget to stroll through the Grand Bazaar for all the best Turkish souvenirs.

Arnavutköy, situated on the Bosphorus in Besiktas, is a charming and often overlooked neighborhood in Istanbul. Known for its wooden yalis, which are Ottoman-era mansions built from timber and adorned with Art Nouveau decorations, Arnavutköy has a diverse heritage and is distinct from the district of the same name near Istanbul Airport.

For a more modern city vibe, cross the Galata Bridge to explore the Beyoğlu district, home to the bustling Istiklal Street and the historic Galata Tower. Stroll through the seaside district of Karakoy, with its numerous restaurants offering trendy and local cuisine alike.

Hagia Sophia mosque and museum of Istanbul, Turkey
Photo credit: AlexAnton/Shutterstock.

Don’t miss a Bosphorus cruise – the one that departs at sunset offers breathtaking views of the city’s skyline, including the iconic Dolmabahçe Palace. Although Istanbul is not the capital city of Turkey, it’s the only city in the country offering this diversity of world heritage sites and archaeological sites in the country.

Cappadocia Region

Cappadocia is like stepping into a different world altogether. The region is renowned for its unique “fairy chimneys,” towering rock formations that look like something out of a fantasy novel. 

Back view of young woman exploring valley with rock formations and fairy chimneys near Uchisar castle in Cappadocia Turkey
Photo credit: BlueOrange Studio/ Shutterstock.

One of the best things to do in Cappadocia to experience its surreal landscape is on a hot air balloon ride. I took a sunrise flight, and the views were absolutely breathtaking: rolling hills, deep valleys, and the Göreme Open-Air Museum in the distance. Speaking of top Turkey archeological sites, the museum is a must-visit; it’s a complex of rock-cut churches adorned with Byzantine frescoes. Nevertheless, riding in one of Cappadocia’s hot air balloons is a bucket list experience, to be sure.

ATV Quad Bike in front of mountains landscape in Turkey
Photo credit: givaga/ Shutterstock.

Cappadocia is also a popular destination for adventure seekers, as there are many opportunities for ATV rides through the valleys and traditional villages and hikes along the Red and Rose Valleys. It’s a perfect locale to bring your family members and loved ones for a trip of a lifetime.

Hot air balloons flying over Cappadocia, Turkey
Photo credit: givaga/Shutterstock.

Don’t leave without exploring the underground cities like Kaymakli, which once served as hiding places for early Christians.

Pamukkale Thermal Pools & Hierapolis

When it comes to Turkey attractions that offer both natural beauty and historical significance, Pamukkale Thermal Pools, otherwise known as ‘cotton castle,’ and Hierapolis top the list. The thermal pools of Pamukkale are a surreal sight, with cascading white terraces filled with warm, mineral-rich water. It’s one of the best places to visit in Turkey for relaxation and unique photo ops. 

Blue cyan water travertine pools at ancient Hierapolis, now Pamukkale, Turkey
Photo Credit: Serghei Starus/ Shutterstock.

But don’t stop at the pools as the adjacent ancient city of Hierapolis offers its own set of wonders. From the remarkably preserved Roman theater to the Cleopatra Pool filled with ancient columns, Hierapolis is a must-visit for history buffs. 

Hierapolis ancient city Pamukkale Turkey, young woman with hat watching sunset by the ruins Unesco
Photo credit: fokke baarssen/ Shutterstock.

To make the most of your visit to this popular Turkey destination, aim for weekdays and remember to pack water shoes for the slippery terraces.

Ephesus Ancient City

Ephesus is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts and is easily one of the best places to visit in Turkey. 

This ancient city was once a bustling port, and today, its ruins offer a glimpse into life during the Roman Empire. The Library of Celsus is the crown jewel, with its ornate façade that has remarkably stood the test of time and is a great representative of an ancient Greek city. 

Celsus Library in Ephesus - Selcuk, Turkey
Photo credit: muratart/ Shutterstock.

But that’s not all, the Great Theatre, capable of holding 25,000 spectators, is another awe-inspiring site. I was particularly struck by the Terrace Traditional Houses, which showcase intricate mosaics and frescoes. 

If you’re planning a trip to this popular Turkey destination, consider hiring a local guide to delve deeper into the city’s rich history. And don’t forget to visit the nearby Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Antalya is the go-to spot for anyone looking to combine history with a bit of seaside relaxation, making it one of the most popular Turkey destinations on the Mediterranean coast and the most southern stop on the Turkish Riviera. 

Port in Antalya old town or Kaleici in Turkey
Photo credit: saiko3p / Shutterstock.

The city’s Old Town, Kaleiçi, is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, historic houses, and charming boutiques. The Hadrian’s Gate, a triumphal arch built in honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, is a must-see. Antalya is also one of the best cities for vibrant nightlife, with many foreigners hitting up pubs and wine bars.

But Antalya isn’t just about history, its beaches are equally captivating. Konyaaltı Beach with its 7km stretch of pebbled sand is perfect for a day of sun and surf. 

For a unique experience, take a day trip to the Düden Waterfalls, where the water cascades straight into the sea. If you’re an adventure seeker like me, try paragliding off the cliffs for an unforgettable view of this must-visit Turkey attraction.


Kaş is a hidden gem along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast and a must-include in your list of best places to visit in Turkey. This charming town is a haven for water activities, so I couldn’t resist the allure of scuba diving to explore the underwater ruins of an ancient shipwreck. 

Kaputas beach. People enjoying sun and sea at the beautiful turquoise sea and sandy beach of Kaputaş. Sunset over the sea in the background. Mediterranean, Kaş, Antalya – TURKEY
Photo credit: fotopanorama360/ Shutterstock.

For those who prefer staying above water, the boat trips to the nearby Kekova Island are a treat. The island is home to the Sunken City, the ruins of an ancient town partially submerged in water. 

On land, the Lycian rock tombs offer a glimpse into the region’s ancient history. If you’re looking for a less crowded, yet equally stunning, alternative to the more popular Turkey destinations, Kaş should definitely be on your itinerary.


If you’re a beach lover, Oludeniz should be on your radar. This coastal paradise is famous for its Blue Lagoon, a secluded bay with crystal-clear waters that’s perfect for snorkeling and paddleboarding. 

Aerial view of Blue Lagoon in Oludeniz, Fethiye, Turkey
Photo credit: Mikolaj Niemczewski/ Shutterstock.

But what really sets Oludeniz apart from other Turkey attractions is paragliding. Launching from the Babadağ Mountain and soaring over the stunning coastline is an experience I’ll never forget.  While the beachfront is bustling with cafes and shops, the nearby Lycian Way offers hiking trails through pine forests and ancient ruins. 

So, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or someone who just wants to soak up the sun, Oludeniz offers a unique blend of activities that make it a must-visit spot in Turkey.


Nestled along Turkey’s southwestern Turquoise Coast, Fethiye is a blend of natural beauty and ancient history, making it a compelling stop on any Turkey itinerary. The town is your gateway to the famous Ölüdeniz beach, but don’t overlook the local attractions. 

Lycian Rock Tombs outside Fethiye TurkeyLycian tombs in the Turkish city of Fethiye. The tombs of Amintas carved into the rock rise above the city.
Photo credit: Andrii Marushchynets/ Shutterstock.

The Lycian rock tombs, carved into the cliffs overlooking the town, are a sight to behold, especially at sunset. For a different kind of experience, I took a day trip to the Butterfly Valley, a secluded area accessible only by boat, teeming with unique butterfly species. 

If you’re into water sports, the calm waters around the Twelve Islands are ideal for sailing and snorkeling. Fethiye is a versatile destination that caters to a range of interests, making it one of the best places to visit in Turkey.


If you’re after a mix of culture, history, and beachside relaxation, Bodrum is your go-to spot in southwestern Turkey. The Bodrum Castle, built by the Knights Hospitaller, now houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, a must-visit for history buffs. I was particularly captivated by the ancient shipwrecks and artifacts on display. 

Castle of St. Peter Bodrum Marina, sailing boats and yachts in Bodrum, Turkey
Photo credit: AlyoshinE / Shutterstock.

But Bodrum isn’t just about history, it’s also one of Turkey’s premier beach destinations. The sandy stretches of Gümüşlük and Yalıkavak are perfect for sunbathing and water sports. For a unique experience, take a traditional “gulet” boat tour to explore the nearby islands and coves. 

Akyarlar Village in Bodrum Town
Photo credit: Nejdet Duzen/ Shutterstock.

With its blend of the old and the new, Bodrum is a popular Turkey destination that offers something for everyone.

Alacati & Cesme

Alacati and Cesme are the epitome of Aegean Sea charm, drawing both windsurfers and architecture enthusiasts. 

Alacati, Turkey - May 22, 2018 : Alacati street view in Alacati Town. Alacati is populer historical tourist destination in Turkey.
Photo credit: Nejdet Duzen/Shutterstock.

Alacati is renowned for its stone houses and windmills, but what caught my eye were the narrow streets lined with boutique shops selling local crafts. If you’re into windsurfing, the consistent winds make Alacati one of Turkey’s top spots for the sport. 

On the other hand, Cesme offers thermal baths and beautiful sandy beaches like Ilica Beach, known for its shallow, warm waters. Don’t leave without trying the local specialty, “kumru,” a unique type of sandwich. 

With their distinct offerings, Alacati and Cesme deserve a spot on your list of best places to visit in Turkey along the Mediterranean Sea.

Mount Nemrut

Mount Nemrut is a bit off the beaten path but well worth the trek. Listed among the top UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey, it is famous for its colossal stone heads, and remnants of a 1st-century royal tomb. 

mount nemrut in Turkey.
Photo credit: kataleewan intarachote/ Shutterstock.

I recommend visiting at sunrise as the experience of watching the day break over these ancient statues is surreal. The site also offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, which is dotted with additional ruins like the ancient Commagene Kingdom’s steles and statues. 

If you’re an avid hiker, there are several trails leading up to the summit that offer their own set of historical and natural wonders. For those interested in archaeology and history, Mount Nemrut is a Turkey attraction that offers a unique glimpse into the country’s rich past.


Side, located on Turkey’s southern coast, is a perfect blend of beachside relaxation and historical exploration. The town’s ancient ruins are its main draw, with the Temple of Apollo offering an iconic sunset view that I found to be a photographer’s dream. 

Old ruins in Side, Turkey at sunset - archeology background
Photo credit: Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock.

The well-preserved Roman amphitheater, which once hosted gladiator fights, is another must-see. But the roman ruins of Side isn’t just a haven for history enthusiasts, it’s also a popular Turkey destination for beachgoers. The East Beach is ideal for families, with its calm waters and array of water sports. For a quieter experience, head to the West Beach, which is less crowded and offers stunning views of the nearby cliffs. 

Whether you’re into history or just want to soak up the sun, Side has something for everyone.

Ancient Ruins of Troy

The ancient ruins of Troy offer a unique experience that goes beyond the typical historical site. This is the setting of Homer’s “Iliad,” and walking through the ruins, you can almost imagine the epic battles that took place here. 

Troy ruins ancient city in Turkey
Photo credit: Lillac/Shutterstock.

One of the highlights is the reconstructed walls of Troy VI, which give you a sense of the city’s former grandeur. When I visited, I was particularly intrigued by the replica of the Wooden Horse where you can actually climb inside it for a panoramic view of the site. 

If you’re a literature or history buff, the onsite museum provides valuable context with artifacts and interactive displays. Unlike other Turkey attractions, Troy brings mythology and history together, making it a compelling stop on any Turkey itinerary.


Izmir is a city that defies the typical tourist clichés. Known as the “Pearl of the Aegean,” it’s Turkey’s third-largest city and a hub of contemporary art and culture. 

Empty Konak Square view with historical clock tower. It was built in 1901 and accepted as the official symbol of Izmir City, Turkey
Photo credit: Evannovostro/Shutterstock.

The Konak Square, with its iconic clock tower, is a bustling center of activity. What caught my eye was the Kemeraltı Market, a labyrinthine bazaar where you can find everything from spices to handwoven textiles. 

For a dose of history, the Agora, ancient ruins in the middle of the city, offers a stark contrast to the surrounding modernity. But what sets Izmir apart is its burgeoning arts scene. The Arkas Art Center had some thought-provoking exhibitions when I visited. Izmir offers a unique blend of the old and new, making it a must-visit Turkey destination for culture enthusiasts.


Located along the Black Sea coast in north eastern Turkey, Trabzon is a departure from the typical beach and ancient ruins narrative. Lush mountains surround the city, and it’s a gateway to the Sumela Monastery, a cliffside wonder that looks like it’s straight out of a fantasy novel. 

Mountain village of Uzungol in Trabzon, Turkey. (Long Lake)
Photo credit: Cem OZER/Shutterstock.

I was amazed by the intricate frescoes inside the monastery, which you can reach via a short but steep hike. For nature lovers, the nearby Uzungöl is a stunning lake surrounded by green hills, offering opportunities for hiking and picnicking. 

Trabzon is also famous for its tea gardens; don’t miss the chance to sip on some of the freshest Turkish tea you’ll ever have. This city is a must-include in your list of best places to visit in Turkey, especially if you’re keen on exploring diverse landscapes.

Pontic Mountains

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, the Pontic Mountains are a Turkey attraction that you can’t afford to miss. Unlike the country’s more arid regions, the Pontics, a national park, offers lush green mountains and is a haven for trekking and mountaineering. 

Rize, Turkey: Historical Ottoman (Timisvat) Bridge over the Fırtına Deresi Valley. and magnificent nature view, rafting sport is done in the creek and there is zipline activity. 11.06.2021
Photo credit: nurdem atay/Shutterstock.

One of the highlights is the Kaçkar Mountains, the range’s tallest peak, which offers challenging trails and panoramic views that are nothing short of breathtaking. The area is also rich in wildlife where you might even spot the elusive Anatolian leopard if you’re lucky. 

For a different kind of adventure, the Fırtına River offers excellent opportunities for white-water rafting. With its unique alpine scenery and adventure activities, the Pontic Mountains offer a different slice of Turkey that’s equally captivating.


Safranbolu is a delightful detour from the usual Turkish attractions, offering a glimpse into Ottoman empire-era architecture and lifestyle. The small town is named after the saffron flower, and you’ll find local shops selling everything from saffron-infused soaps to spices, highlighting the traditional Turkish way. 

Traditional ottoman houses in Safranbolu, Turkey
Photo credit: MuratGungut/Shutterstock

What really stands out is the well-preserved traditional Ottoman houses, complete with intricate wooden carvings and multi-tiered gardens. The town also has several hammams (Turkish baths), and I highly recommend the experience as it’s both relaxing and culturally enriching. 

For a panoramic view of Safranbolu, head to the Hidirlik Hill, especially during sunset. With its unique architecture and local charm, Safranbolu is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience Turkey beyond its more famous destinations.

Best Time to Visit Turkey

When it comes to the best time to visit Turkey, it really depends on what you’re looking to experience. 

ISTANBUL, TURKEY. Beautiful Istanbul sunrise landscape with colored clouds. Istanbul Bosphorus Bridge (15 July Martyrs Bridge. Turkish: 15 Temmuz Sehitler Koprusu)
Photo credit:Resul Muslu/Shutterstock.


For beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts, the summer months from June to September offer warm temperatures and clear skies, especially along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Do note that if you decide to visit a popular resort town with pristine beaches, book your luxury hotels early!

Spring & Fall

However, if you’re keen on exploring Turkey’s rich history without the crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October. I found October to be particularly pleasant for exploring the most popular tourist attractions, famous beaches, charming old town centers and archeological sites like Ephesus and Troy. Historical sites like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and the ancient ruins of Cappadocia will also have fewer tourists during this time. 


For winter sports and unique experiences like hot air ballooning over snow-covered landscapes in Cappadocia, December through February won’t disappoint. Each season offers its own set of unique experiences, making Turkey a year-round destination.

Final Thoughts on the Places to Visit in Turkey

Turkey is a land of contrasts and a melting pot of cultural heritage, making it one of the best places to visit for a rich and diverse travel experience. 

From the bustling markets of Istanbul to the serene beaches of Antalya and the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia, the amazing country of Turkey offers a myriad of unforgettable sights and activities. 

Whether you’re a history buff, a Sunseeker, or an avid adventurer, Turkey’s popular destinations and hidden gems have something for everyone. So go ahead, start planning your Turkey itinerary, and get ready to explore all the incredible Turkey attractions that await you.

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Haley Blackall

Haley is the founder of the global travel blog, Haley Blackall Travel. She has travelled to 40+ countries across 5 continents over the last 15 years. She loves to share in-depth travel guides and recommendations to help travellers get the most out of their vacation time, including her favourite boutique hotels, things to do and travel itineraries.

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