10 Iconic Places To See in Turkey

Turkey has it all and more. Whether you’re itching to chase ancient ruins steeped in history or eager to discover Istanbul’s old haunts filled with rich culture, there is something to suit everyone’s tastes and interests. In this comprehensive blog, I will guide you through the most iconic places to see in Turkey, ensuring you get the most out of your journey to this fascinating country.

Written by Eve Edinburgh

Travel Talk Contributor

From its breathtaking landscapes to its vibrant cities, Turkey offers a plethora of experiences waiting to be explored. Let’s dive into the wonders that make Turkey a must-visit destination!

1. Pamukkale

visit the travertines of pamukkale

Take a dip into an otherworldly experience. Pamukkale, known as ‘Cotton Castle’, is a turquoise trove of limestone travertine with gorgeous ivory stone. The mineral-rich waters were thought to have dripped down the cliffside before solidifying into the waterfall formation.

Pro Travel Tips for Visiting Pamukkale:

  1. Visit Early or Late in the Day: To avoid the crowds and the harsh midday sun, plan your visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The lighting is also better for photography during these times.
  2. Wear Appropriate Footwear: You’ll be required to remove your shoes to protect the delicate travertines. Bring along a pair of slip-resistant, waterproof shoes to navigate the wet, sometimes slippery surfaces safely.
  3. Combine with Hierapolis: Take the opportunity to explore the ancient city of Hierapolis, which sits atop Pamukkale. The ruins, including the amphitheater and the necropolis, provide a fascinating glimpse into the region’s rich history.
  4. Plan for a Swim: Don’t miss out on the chance to swim in the Cleopatra’s Pool (Antique Pool), where you can bathe among ancient ruins in warm, mineral-rich waters thought to have healing properties.
  5. Pack a Picnic: Enjoy a leisurely picnic with a view. There are several scenic spots around Pamukkale where you can relax and enjoy a meal surrounded by stunning natural beauty.
  6. Respect Local Customs: As with any travel destination, being mindful and respectful of local customs and practices ensures a more harmonious visit. Engage with the locals, try traditional Turkish cuisine, and immerse yourself in the local culture.

2. Istanbul

visit Istanbul old neighborhoods

A walking tour through Turkey’s capital is all you need. With twisting lanes and colourful neighbourhoods, the pulsing city has a bit of everything. In fact, the city is split into two, the old city and the new city. One moment you can be stalking historical sites and the next you will discover stylish pubs and restaurants.

Pro Travel Tips for Visiting Istanbul:

  1. Explore Both Continents: Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia, so take a ferry ride across the Bosphorus to experience both sides.
  2. Visit Historical Sites: Don’t miss the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace for a deep dive into the city’s rich history.
  3. Try Local Cuisine: Savor Turkish delights like kebabs, mezes, baklava, and the famous Turkish tea and coffee.
  4. Shop at the Grand Bazaar: This historic market offers a variety of goods from spices to textiles, perfect for souvenirs.
  5. Take a Bosphorus Cruise: Enjoy stunning views of the city’s skyline and important landmarks from the water.
  6. Visit Museums: The Istanbul Archaeology Museums and the Istanbul Modern are must-visits for art and history enthusiasts.
  7. Stay in Sultanahmet or Beyoğlu: These neighborhoods offer convenient access to major attractions and a range of accommodation options.
  8. Learn Basic Phrases: A few words in Turkish, like “Merhaba” (Hello) and “Teşekkür ederim” (Thank you), go a long way in making connections with locals.

3. Hagia Sophia

visit Hagia Sophia Istanbul

Hagia Sophia is Istanbul’s majestic mosque that rules the skyline. It experienced a couple of transformations before settling into its final form as a functioning mosque. Visitors are welcome to gaze at the high domes, intricate mosaics and centuries old architecture. This landmark is arguably one of the best places to see in Istanbul Turkey.

4. Cappadocia

see the hot air balloons in cappadocia

Cappadocia is a truly astonishing setting. Located in the heart of Turkey, visitors are mesmerised by the area’s rock formations named hoodoo, or suitable named ‘fairy chimneys’. The chimneys are a natural formation and visitors stroll through the open air museum to fully get a sense of the areas beauty.

Here, sunrise and sunset the sky is speckled with hot air balloons lifted over the fairy chimneys. People take this exceptional opportunity to take a few pics to make friends and family jealous.

Pro Travel Tips for Visiting Cappadocia:

  1. Book a Hot Air Balloon Ride: For breathtaking views of the unique landscape, a sunrise hot air balloon ride is a must.
  2. Explore the Fairy Chimneys: Visit Göreme, Pasabag, and Devrent Valley to see these iconic rock formations.
  3. Stay in a Cave Hotel: Experience the unique accommodation in traditional cave hotels for an authentic touch.
  4. Visit the Open-Air Museums: Don’t miss the Göreme Open-Air Museum to see ancient rock-cut churches and frescoes.
  5. Hike the Trails: Enjoy the stunning scenery by hiking through the valleys such as Rose Valley and Pigeon Valley.
  6. Discover Underground Cities: Explore the underground cities like Derinkuyu and Kaymakli, which were once refuge for inhabitants.
  7. Try Local Cuisine: Taste regional specialties like testi kebab, cooked in a clay pot, and local wines.
  8. Watch the Sunset: Sunset Point in Red Valley offers incredible sunset views over the surreal landscape.
  9. Visit Avanos: Known for its pottery, you can watch artisans at work and even try your hand at pottery making.
  10. Dress Comfortably: Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes, as exploring the terrain often involves walking and climbing.

5. Troy

visit the ancient city of Troy Turkey

Despite what social media historians might think, the ancient city of Troy was indeed a real place! The city can be visited today and has even been a tourist destination since the classical era. Luckily, you won’t find modern day Troy teeming with mythical monsters. Instead, you can admire the beautiful sea views and fascinating ruins from the safety of the Turkish hillside.

6. Derinkuyu Underground City

visit derinkuyu underground city

Also located in Cappadocia, there is an entire civilisation right underneath your feet. Derinkuyu is the deepest network of the underground cities at 280 feet below ground. Visitors are welcome to explore the tunnels and alleyways that take you into the legendary city. Aside from its status among the best places to see in Turkey, Derinkuyu underground city is valued as a testament to the ancient civilisations that resided in Anatolia.

7. Visit Butterfly Valley

visit the butterfly valley turkey

Visit a stunning, secret paradise and walk amongst the butterflies. Butterfly Valley is tucked away in Turkey’s South West coast and spoils visitors with sapphire blue sea and sublime canyons. A short trail to the waterfalls will magically immerse you with tiger butterflies and moths during the spring and summer.

8. St. Nicholas Island

visit st nicholas island turkey

Make a great escape to the isolated St Nicholas Island. Located on the south coast, this patch of paradise encourage relaxation, snorkelling and exploration of the remains of human dwellings.

Did you know that Santa Clause is Turkish? Oddly enough, legend has it that St Nicholas Island is not far from where Santa Clause was laid to rest!

9. Dalyan

visit dalyan turkey

Gorgeous beaches with white sands and crystal waters. What more can you ask for? Ancient ruins sunk into the cliff face and mud baths, Dalyan is an incredible experience. If you come at the right time of year, you will find baby turtles sprouting from the sand and migrating into the ocean.

Highlights of Dalyan Turkey:

  1. Kaunos Ancient City: Explore the ruins of this ancient city, including its impressive rock tombs, an acropolis, and a Roman theatre.
  2. Iztuzu Beach: Known as Turtle Beach, it’s a protected area famous for being a nesting site for loggerhead sea turtles.
  3. Dalyan River: Take a boat tour along the scenic river, passing through lush reeds and spotting wildlife along the way.
  4. Mud Baths and Thermal Springs: Relax and rejuvenate in the natural mud baths and hot springs, believed to have therapeutic properties.

10. Ephesus

visit ephesus turkey

Ephesus is one of the best preserved ruins that can be found. This amazingly conserved city has miles of monuments to explore, for a day can you be fully immersed in the Turkish past.

Pro Travel Tips for Visiting Ephesus:

  1. Start Early: Arrive early to avoid the crowds and the heat, especially during the summer months.
  2. Wear Comfortable Shoes: The site is large and involves a lot of walking over uneven terrain.
  3. Bring Water and Snacks: There are limited facilities inside the site, so come prepared to stay hydrated and energized.
  4. Don’t Miss the Highlights: Key attractions include the Library of Celsus, the Great Theatre, and the Terrace Houses.
  5. Visit the Ephesus Museum: Located in nearby Selçuk, it houses artifacts and exhibits that provide further context to the ancient city.
  6. Explore Nearby Sites: Consider visiting the House of the Virgin Mary, believed to be the last residence of Mary, mother of Jesus.
  7. Check the Weather: Summers can be very hot, so plan accordingly and wear a hat and sunscreen.
  8. Stay in Selçuk: The nearby town offers a range of accommodations and is a convenient base for visiting Ephesus.

Whether it’s by land or sea, Turkey has much to offer. From the buzzing city to the slow motion vibes of sailing, Travel Talk Tours have a range of tours to suit every taste that can be discovered Turkey Tours here.

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