Some of Turkey’s top attractions include the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul with its iconic Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, the ancient Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus, and the stunning white travertine terraces of Pamukkale. The turquoise waters and beaches along the Turquoise Coast are also a huge draw.
With world-class historical sites, natural wonders, beaches, and mouthwatering cuisine, it’s no wonder Turkey continues to rank as one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world.
Istanbul – Turkey’s Cosmopolitan Capital
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and cultural heart, brimming with historic landmarks and vibrant energy. As the only city in the world straddling two continents, Europe and Asia, Istanbul captivates visitors with its blend of east and west.
The top landmarks in Istanbul include the stunning Ayasophia, a 1500-year-old architectural marvel that has served as a cathedral, mosque, and now museum. The iconic dazzles with its cascading domes and interior blue tiles. And the sprawling transports visitors to a bustling Middle Eastern souk with over 3000 shops under one roof.
A Bosphorus river cruise lets you glide along the strait between Europe and Asia, taking in unparalleled views of Istanbul’s minarets, palaces, and bridges. Hip nightlife districts like Taksim Square and Istiklal Street come alive after dark with trendy bars, clubs and restaurants. Luxury five-star hotels overlook the Bosphorus, while chic eateries serve up gourmet Turkish cuisine.
With its alluring blend of history and modernity, Istanbul emerges as Turkey’s cosmopolitan capital for culture, cuisine and sightseeing.
Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey known for its unique geological formations and cave dwellings. The landscapes of Cappadocia look otherworldly, with hundreds of fairy chimneys dotting the valleys. These natural rock formations have been shaped by erosion into towers with conical tops.
One of the top attractions in Cappadocia is taking a hot air balloon ride over the fairy chimneys at sunrise or sunset. Floating peacefully above the moonscape-like terrain in a hot air balloon is an unforgettable experience.
Many of Cappadocia’s attractions are centered around its unique landscapes. Popular hiking destinations include the Rose Valley, with its labyrinth of rock formations, and the aptly named Red Valley, known for its red-hued cliffs. For stunning views over the whole region, Uçhisar Castle is a must-visit.
Cappadocia is also famous for its cave hotels, where guests can stay in spacious, luxurious cave rooms carved out of the rock. Underground cities like Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı are tourist attractions that give a glimpse into how people lived in this region centuries ago.
With its fairytale landscape and endless outdoor activities, Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s top destinations for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
Ephesus Ancient City
Ephesus was an ancient Greek port city located on the west coast of modern-day Turkey. Today the well-preserved ruins make Ephesus one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey. Some of the highlights include the Great Theater, the iconic Library of Celsus, and the Temple of Artemis.
The Great Theater of Ephesus could seat over 25,000 people and is still used for concerts today. The giant semicircular structure was built in the 3rd century BC but renovated during Roman times. The Library of Celsus, built in the 2nd century AD, was one of the largest libraries in the ancient world with over 12,000 scrolls. The elegant facade with ionic columns still stands today and is an iconic image of Ephesus. The Temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, though only ruins remain today.
In its heyday, Ephesus was a bustling Roman trading city and major port. Today, the ruins sit about 5 km from the coastal town of Kusadasi, a popular cruise ship destination.
Pamukkale is famous for its stunning white travertine terraces and hot spring pools. The surreal white calcium cliffs and deep blue water pools have earned it the nickname “Cotton Castle.” The mineral-rich waters have been a spa destination since Roman times for their therapeutic benefits.
Visitors can walk up the travertines or bathe in the thermal waters. One of the top attractions is Hierapolis, an ancient Greco-Roman city founded around 190 BC. Explore the ancient theater, necropolis, agora, and Roman baths. The Antique Pool offers swimming surrounded by 2,000 year old Roman columns. Pamukkale is a stunning natural wonder and ancient site not to be missed on any trip to Turkey.
Coastal Towns and Beaches
Some of Turkey’s most popular and beautiful seaside towns include Bodrum, Fethiye and Antalya. Bodrum is located on the Turquoise Coast in southwest Turkey and is known for its vibrant nightlife, historic castle, luxury beach clubs and nearby Blue Cruise yacht charters. Fethiye offers a more relaxed alternative to its bustling neighbours with the stunning Oludeniz Beach and Blue Lagoon adding vibrancy to this resort town.
Further east along the coast, Antalya is one of Turkey’s top beach destinations, bordered by high cliffs and surrounded by ancient ruins. Beachgoers flock to places like Konyaalti Beach to soak up the sun and enjoy plenty of water sports.
As well as relaxing on soft sandy beaches, visitors can experience the deep blue waters with activities such as kayaking, sailing, scuba diving, fishing and more. The Turkish coast is also famous for its fresh seafood, from grilled whole fish to a variety of appetisers featuring octopus, oysters and other local fish caught from the Mediterranean and Aegean.
Turkish Cuisine and Food Experiences
Turkish cuisine is considered one of the top 3 cuisines in the world, along with French and Chinese cuisine. Turkey offers a variety of delicious dishes and flavors for food lovers to experience.
Kebabs are one of the most popular Turkish foods, with different regional varieties like İskender kebab, Adana kebab, and shish kebab. Baklava, a sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo dough and nuts soaked in syrup, is a famous Turkish dessert. Turkish coffee, brewed in a special pot and served thick and strong, is the traditional way to finish a meal.
To truly immerse yourself in Turkish cuisine, consider a cooking class in Istanbul or other major cities, where you can learn to make specialties like pide bread, kebabs, and Turkish desserts. Food tours are another great option for taste-testing your way through local markets, restaurants, and street food stalls.