Turkey

10 AMAZING Places to Visit in Turkey – First Timers’ Guide

Places to visit in Turkey

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Wondering where are the best places to visit in Turkey? You could easily spend a lifetime exploring the historical sites and eating your way through Turkey.

With over 8000km of coastline, Turkey is mostly known for its landscape, beaches, hammams, museums, ancient ruins and incredible architecture built by the might Ottoman empire.

Turkish food is some of the best in the world!

In the land of turquoise, tulips, and adventures, there are so many amazing places to visit! 

Places to Visit in Turkey

Here are ten equally awesome places outside of the country’s cosmopolitan city of Istanbul that are sure to upgrade your itinerary!

Amasya

Places to visit in Turkey

The 2500-year-old Hittite town with an Ottoman spa on a river and the tombs of some Pontic Greek kings should be on your list of places to see in Turkey. I passed through the area when I was driving from Tbilisi to Istanbul.

Ankara

Ankara Architecture

Ankara is the capital of and the second-largest city in Turkey. At an altitude of 850m, Ankara is located in the very heart of the Eastern Edge of the great High Anatolian Plateau.

The city is known for its beautiful and long spread yellow wheat fields, young volcanoes, and a huge number of the Steppe. From the top of the Ankara Citadel, you can get the panoramic view of the city. With so many things to do in Ankara, I’d recommend spending a few days in the city. experiences

Bursa

Places to visit in Turkey - Bursa

Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and its famous for its peaches, silk, towels, and thermal springs. The city is filled with gardens and parks and overlooks a verdant plain. It is situated in the center of an important fruit-growing region.

Bursa, also known as the Green City of Turkey is famous for its beautiful flowers and mountains like Uludağ, most popular in winter for skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. Its highest peak is Kartaltepe at 2,543 m (8,343 ft).

There are various winter sports activities, making it a popular tourist attraction in Bursa. The city has cultural and historical significance and it’s also home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. When in Bursa try the city’s signature dish: Īskender kebab.

Bodrum

Bodrum - Places to visit in Turkey

Located on the south-western corner of Anatolia, where the Aegean and Mediterranean meet. The name Bodrum means “cellar” or “dungeon” and the city was once used as a place of exile by both the Ottomans and the Turkish Republic.

Famous for its stunning scenery, fabulous beaches, sybaritic resorts and clear blue waters that delight yachties, divers and windsurfers.

Bodrum is one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world and the birthplace of Herodotus – an ancient Greek historian known for writing the book The Histories, a detailed record of his “inquiry” on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars.

Best Things to do in Bodrum

Turkish Bath at Tarihi Bardakçı Hamam

For the most authentic Turkish bath experience visit this 1749 Hamam, the oldest human on the Bodrum Peninsula.

Bodrum Antique Theatre

In ancient times, its capacity was about 13,000. Now, it’s a much more intimate 4,000. Find out if there’s a show on while you’re in town

Bodrum Castle

Built-in 1402 and called the castle of the Knights of Saint John, this famous landmark sits on the rugged coastline of the main harbor center in Bodrum town.

Although its ruins are not as extensive as other historical places in Turkey, the main towers and walls still stand. At certain times during the years, it is also the venue for cultural festivals.

Underwater Museum of Archaeology

Also sitting within the grounds of the castle, is this impressive museum, displaying shipwrecks uncovered from the seabed surrounding Turkey.

The most famous undoubtedly is the Uluburin shipwreck dating from the Late Bronze Age.

More than 22,000 dives enabled many artifacts including money and personal possessions to be brought to the surface.

Go on a tour of Kos Island

Kos is the island with the most beaches compared to the length of its coastline, all over the Mediterranean.

It offers crystal clear beaches for all tastes; large or small, sandy or with pebbles, quiet or cosmopolitan, organized or not, on Kos island you will find your summer paradise!

Cappadocia

Places to visit in Turkey

Home to many caves sculpted by thousands of years of erosion, these formations range from precarious pinnacles to stout pyramids.

Read this before visiting Cappadocia for the first time. My tips include things to do, what to expect, and costs to visit this year!

Izmir

Izmir

Known as the Pearl of the Aegean, Izmir is the third-largest city in Turkey with a population of around 4 million. Almost half of the population is under 30, making it one of the best places in Turkey to meet young solo travelers. Izmir is also the second biggest port after Istanbul and a very good transport hub.

How to get to Izmir

Izmir is located on Turkey’s West Coast and reachable by air, rail, road, and sea.

  • Flying to Izmir: Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport is located 20 km south of the city center, has several daily flights to Istanbul, Antalya, and Ankara.
  • Train to Izmir: The main train station is Basmane Gar with train service east to Ankara on the İzmir Mavi Tren and Karesi Ekspresi, and south to Adnan Menderes Airport, Selçuk (for Ephesus) and as far as Nazilli and Denizli (for Pamukkale).

Check availability and rates for the trains to Izmir

  • Driving to Izmir: Izmir’s Büyük Otogar (bus terminal) is huge and busy, with bus service to all parts of the country.
  • Ferry to Izmir: Bus service between Istanbul and İzmir runs in conjunction with IDO fast catamaran ferries four times daily, and one overnight. You depart Kabataş (Istanbul), stop at Bursa.

Check availability and rates for the Izmir Bus

Distance to Izmir

  • The distance between Istanbul and Izmir is 480 km. 5 hours if you drive or 1 min 10 mins by flight.
  • The distance between Izmir and Cappadocia is 670 km. 1hour 20 mins by flight or 11 hours if you travel by bus.
  • The distance from Ephesus is about 1 hour from Izmir (80 km).

Things to do in Izmir Turkey

See the Clock Tower

Places to visit in Turkey

İzmir Saat Kulesi is also known as the Izmir Clock Tower in English, is a historic landmark located at Konak Square. The Clock Tower was built in 1901 as a tribute to the 25th anniversary of the succession of the throne of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

Some architectural features of the Clock Tower:

  • Symbol of the city like a pearl
  • The architect of the tower, Raymond Charles Pere
  • The city gas installation built inside it
  • Stonework ornamented with geometric figures
  • Surrounded by 4 fountains in a circular pattern
  • A clock that works perfectly

Shop like a local at Kemeraltı

Places to visit in Turkey

One of the oldest markets in Turkey and the liveliest areas of Izmir. In Kemeraltı, you can also see artifacts from the Ottoman era such as mosques and historical fountains, and take a picture of these historical assets.

History Lesson at the Atatürk Museum

Located in Kordon (Atatürk Boulevard) was built in between 1875-1880 by a carpet merchant, Takfor. Founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a Turkish army officer, revolutionary, and the first President of Turkey.

Ride the Izmir Cable Car (Izmir Teleferik)

Places to visit in Turkey

For breathtaking views especially in winter, go on the Izmir Cable Car. You need to buy a ticket for the cable car located opposite Izmir Economy University in the district of Balcova.

The cable car will take you to the top of a mountain where you can go hiking or walking or just have tea at the restaurant and return to the ground.

Go on a submarine tour at İnciraltı Sea Museum

Places to visit in Turkey

After their active duty, the Aegean Frigate and the Piri Reis submarine were converted into a museum.

Walkthrough the submarine and you’ll find a gallery, conference halls, and the Naval Scouts dockyard.

Walk along the Kordon

The 6 km sea front-coastline- beginning from Konak Pier to Alsancak train station is called Kordon because locals believe it’s shaped like a cord. 

It’s a great place to watch the sunset or simply just sit and enjoy the breeze.

Çeşme

Things to do in Izmir

Located on the coastline that spans 29 km, Çeşme hosts numerous beaches, each with its own unique texture, thermal facilities, historical and natural beauties.

In Çeşme, you should visit the bazaar, the marina, and the historical Cesme Castle. Çeşme’s world-famous Ilica Beach is an ideal place for families with children with its shallow sea and its golden sandy beach.

Yildizburnu, which gives its name to Ilica, offers a tremendous swim experience at a point where the hot water spring meets the sea.

The beaches of Deliklikoy, Altinkum, Ciftlik, Diamond, Ildir, and Sifne are full in summer. It takes about an hour by car from Çeşme to İzmir!

Ephesus

Places to visit in Turkey

The ancient Greek city of Ephesus is located on the coast of Ionia, three kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province in Turkey. Ephesus served as a crossroads between the East and West for centuries and was home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which was sadly destroyed in the fifth century A.D.

Ephesus is an important Christian site with the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary located in the area. She also lived in the last years of her life in a small cottage near Ephesus. Santa Clause (Saint Nicholas) was born far from the North Pole, in Patara. He’s not the only saint with connections to Turkey — the Virgin Mary’s resting place could be near Ephesus, while Saint Paul was from Tarsus in the south.

Other Biblical figures include the Prophet Abraham, born in Şanlıurfa. After the deluge, Noah may have run his ark aground at Mount Ararat.

Şirince

Şirince

The quaint village of Şirince lies across a hill about 12 km from the ancient city of Ephesus, 85 km away from Izmir. The village is an interesting example of the synthesis of Greek and Turkish influences.

 

 

Şirince Village was formed when people were fleeing Ephesus. They settled in the mountains and named the village Cirkince which translated to ugly in Turkish. The reasoning for this was to keep outsiders from getting curious and coming into the village.

The name was eventually changed to Şirince, which means pretty. Greeks settled in the village and today It’s one of the best regions for olive oil and wine tasting.

Pamukkale

Hot Air Balloon in Pamukkale

The magical cotton castle of Turkey is an area of surreal, brilliant white travertine terraces and warm, limpid pools of Turkey’s picturesque southwest.

There are many things to do in Pamukkale, this majestical region is worth visiting and a sunrise hot air balloon in Pamukkale is one thing to add to your bucket list!

This extraordinary solidified cascade of travertine was formed by mineral-rich hot springs, it’s chalk-White basins, and pool water glimmering with light. Take your swimming costume so you can have a dip in the Antique Pool, the once-sacred bathing area of the spa (said to be good for arthritic complaints).

There is no other location in the world where you can enjoy millennia from limestone deposited by the abundant hot springs, and the colonnaded streets, temples, bathhouses, necropolis, and theatre of the remains of an idyllically located Greek-Roman spa city, Hierapolis.

 

Pergamon

Pergamon was an ancient city located in the Anatolia region, approximately 25 kilometers from the Aegean Sea in present-day Bergama, Izmir Province of Turkey.

The acropolis of Pergamon was the capital of the Hellenistic Attalid dynasty, a major center of learning in the ancient world.

Monumental temples, theatres, stoa or porticoes, gymnasium, altar, and library were set into the sloping terrain surrounded by an extensive city wall.

The city had great strategic value since it overlooked the Caicus River Valley (modern name Bakırçay) which provided access from Pergamon to the Aegean coast.

 

Marmaris

Marmaris

 

Marmaris, on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, also referred to as “paradise” by locals is the perfect place to visit when you need to destress.

In 1522, Süleyman the Magnificent anchored the entire Turkish fleet in Marmaris harbor prior to besieging Rhodes. Today the port city offers some of the best anchorages on the coast, and its home to Turkey’s largest marina. Marmaris is also one of the Turkish Riviera’s celebrity resorts.

My magical Marmaris adventure started when I traveled from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport to Dalaman airport in Turkey (55minutes). I arrived and rented a car to explore the area. I ended up in an area called Akyaka and stopped to ask someone to recommend a restaurant. I was told that the Kordon Restaurant in Dalyan is the best.

First stop was the Marmaris Castle – It used to be an Ottoman castle and now it’s a museum. It’s interesting how the castle was actually built (or rebuilt from an earlier attempt) by modestly named Suleiman the Magnificent, the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman empire.

I also learned that the Greek island of Rhodes is less than an hour away by boat but I decided not to go. Perhaps that would be a trip for another weekend.

I ended up in Knidos – about 90kms from Marmaris. Founded by Greek settlers, Knidos was an important cultural and political center by the 5th century BC, and, with its large natural harbors, the city was also an ancient trading hub for wine and oil.

Today you can see the remains of the ancient Greek city perched upon a steep hilltop, looking out over its natural harbor, Knidos boasts stunning views alongside its ancient ruins.

Troy

Things to do in Istanbul

Troy is the Bronze Age city attacked in the Trojan War, a popular story in the mythology of ancient Greece, and the name given to the archaeological site in the north-west of Asia Minor (now Turkey) which has revealed a large and prosperous city occupied over millennia.

The legendary town of Troy existed in the Anatolia region of northwest Turkey and NOT in Greece. The distance between Istanbul and Troy is 258 km.


Get Insurance before traveling to Turkey

Use travel insurance while visiting Turkey so you are covered for theft and medical expenses. There are a lot of adventurous activities to do in Turkey, and it’s best to have peace of mind while swimming, hiking, and trying some of the best food in the world.

 

 

Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a booking after clicking on a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!

5 Comments

  • Mehemet Altunbulduk
    04/08/2016 at 4:09 AM

    Great read so glad you enjoyed your stay in Marmaris

  • Brise
    03/29/2016 at 1:17 PM

    I like how you travel by yourself, truly going against all fears. It’s about time I do this for myself, big ups to you and thank you for being so informative on you blog

  • Lerato B
    02/23/2016 at 8:35 AM

    South Africans can stay in Turkey 30 days visa free. So you should definitely visit

  • Sebastian
    02/23/2016 at 8:22 AM

    Wow! That’s so beautiful. I love it. Time to subscribe.

  • Casandra
    02/23/2016 at 8:34 AM

    This post makes me feel like booking a flight, leaving SA and going on holiday in Turkey

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