Turkey Absolute Musts

Terraces in Pamukkale, Turkey. Turkey Absolute Musts

Most Beautiful Natural Spot

Turkey is a big country abundant in astonishing natural sites and so it was really hard for us just to choose just one for our Turkey Absolute Musts. Therefore we’ve chosen two, which cannot (I repeat: cannot!) be missed.

Whether you come to Turkey as a member/participant of a package tour or as an independent backpacker or hitch-hiker, Cappadocia is the place to go for its natural beauty. This breathtaking volcanic landscape, which is unique for its rock formations, lies on 1000m high plateau in Eastern Anatolia.

You should definitely come here also if you are a history buff, for this region contains several underground cities, tunnels and temples, where early Byzantine Christians used to hide from Persian and Arabic invaders in the 6th and 7th centuries.

The main city in this area is Nevşehir. The best towns to stay is are: Göreme (with its National Park, added to the UNESCO World Heritage list) and Ürgüp.

View over the landscape, taken from the village of Üçhisar - Cappadocia, Turkey, Turkey Absolute Musts

The dream-like Pamukkale is located in Western Anatolia and consists of hot springs that formed sedimentary rock terraces and the bluest warm water pools . Hard to describe if you are not a scientist, but most definitely one of the most extraordinary geological phenomena you can find on this planet.

And not only is it beautiful, but also relaxing, as you can soak yourself in this blue water and white mud.

There is also a little something for amateur historians, as above the pools there is a Greco-Roman ancient city of Hierapolis dating back to the 2nd century BCE.

Ruins of Roman columns - Hierapolis, Turkey, Turkey Absolute Musts

Best City / Town

Unquestionably the best Turkish city is Istanbul, which is the only city in the world situated on two continents. By population it’s the second biggest metropolitan area in Europe and you can definitely feel its grandeur in the air.

Istanbul is a place where you can find jaw-dropping historic buildings (like the famous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia or Topkapı Palace, to name just a few),  as well as western bars and clubs which will make you feel at home. If you are going to be in Turkey only for a short while, you should definitely go via Istanbul. It’s one of those cities you have to see before you die.

The Blue Mosque, taken from Sultan Ahmet Cami - Istanbul, Turkey, Turkey Absolute Musts

If your time in Turkey is less limited you should also visit Mardin in Southeastern Anatolia. It’s a picturesque town with narrow alleyways, soaring minarets and a bustling traditional market. It’s also a melting pot of Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian culture.

View over the rooftops - Mardin, Turkey, Turkey Absolute Musts

We also have a soft spot for the capital of Turkey, Ankara, but that might be because we had a really good time there, stayed with a great CS host and met some top people. Ankara is not an obviously beautiful city, but it has its own unique charm, so if you’re around you should pay it a visit.

View over the city - Ankara, Turkey, Turkey Absolute Musts

Best areas for hitch-hiking

If you are looking for empty roads and stunning landscapes, Northern Anatolia is a must go place for you. It’s mainly a mountainous area with narrow, often single-lane dirt winding roads overlooking dramatic precipitous gorges.

There aren’t that many tourists there, so out of novelty value alone you are bound to get a lift. People are more conservative here, but much friendlier than in the tourism-spoiled west part of the country.

Dramatic canyon with overcast sky - Northeastern Anatolia, Turkey, Turkey Absolute Musts

The main city in this region is a sleepy town of Kars. The main tourist attraction are the ruins of the medieval Armenian capital of Ani

Beware: The roads in this region are not in a very good condition and are often closed for a number of hours.

Tourist Trap

Depends what you like, but we found some cities/towns in the west (e.g. Kuşadası) to be overflowed by drunk Westerners, full of cynical and fed up locals sick with tourists and everything being slightly shinier and devoid of its real character. The beaches in those places are obviously beautiful (but again filled with people you wouldn’t like to spend time with), but the culture you encounter there is not the true Turkish culture. So if you want to see the real Turkey, as opposed to Turkey seen through a travel agent’s brochure, go to the east!

Sunset on the beach - Kusadasi, Turkey

written by: Ania

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  • Nice choices. I would add Troy. It’s just so amazing to stand somewhere that legends are built on. At some point you need to see some Greco-Roman ruins there. A stadia, that theater high on that spectacular slope near the Aegean (forgot its name). I don’t see how you can visit Turkey and miss the ruins. Ephesus is too touristy but if you can swing by at an off-beat time, that would be very worthwhile too. Walking the stone road that Marc Antony & Cleopatra walked arm in arm is pretty special.

    • You are certainly right, the Greco-Roman ruins in Turkey are fabulous! We loved Ephesus despite the hoards of tourists! The library and the baths were amazing!
      We will surely include these places in the next post where we intend to describe all the Turkey‘s highlights. Thanks for the suggestion and the comment, much appreciated!