20 Turkey Top Destinations

Purple sunset in Fethiye, Turkey. Turkey Top Destinations

Turkey is a wonderful and welcoming place, full of hospitable people, stunning and varied landscapes, historic locations and tasty oriental cuisine! It’s a must see destination for everyone since it’s truly amazing and backpacker/hitchhiker friendly.

During our month stay in Turkey we managed to hitchhike everywhere, were invited to tea and dinner many times by super-friendly locals and paid for accommodation only once (in Pamukkale) due to the widespread  use of CouchSurfing.

In our recent post we showed you our top choices in Turkey Absolute Musts and tried to pick only Turkey’s crème de la crème. In this article we want to give you some quick ideas for places to visit if you have more time to spend in this fantastic country. We will also show you an example itinerary so you can see all these jaw-dropping spots in the shortest time possible.

Turkey Top Destinations

Istanbulminimum 3 days

Blue Mosque 2, Istanbul, TurkeyIstanbul is an amazing city where East meets West; where the morning call to prayer can be heard together with the throbbing bass coming out of a nearby club; where you can find all types of people starting with orthodox Muslims and ending with drunk backpackers on their first trip to the East.

It’s also home to some great monuments that can’t be missed: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace and Galata Tower, to name but a few.

It goes without saying that any trip to Turkey would be incomplete without seeing and soaking up the atmosphere of this unique city. The historic areas of Istanbul have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Pamukkale + Hierapolis1 full day is enough

Pamukkale, TurkeyThis natural and unique phenomenon can be found in Western Anatolia and consists of hot springs that formed sedimentary rock terraces and the bluest warm water pools. Not only is it beautiful, but also relaxing, as you can soak yourself in this blue water and white mud. Above the pools there is the Greco-Roman ancient city of Hierapolis dating back to the 2nd century BCE.

Tip! Make sure you take your swimming costume/trunks to the pools.

It’s well worth a visit, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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③ – Cappadociaminimum 2 days

Cappadocia, TurkeyThis breathtaking volcanic landscape, which is unique for its rock formations, lies on a 1000m high plateau in Eastern Anatolia. This region also 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.

Tip! Best explored on a scooter which you can hire in Göreme and Ürgüp.

This beautiful place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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④ – Mardin1 full day is enough

The minaret of the Great Mosque - Ulu Camii, Mardin, TurkeyThis picturesque town, located in Southeastern Anatolia, is perched on a hill and overlooks deserty plains around. It will charm you with its narrow alleyways, soaring minarets and a bustling traditional market. It’s also a melting pot of Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian culture. Its top sights include: the Great Mosque built in the 12th century, the Citadel, Zinciriye Medresesi and the 10th century Orthodox Church of Forties.

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⑤ – Ephesus1 full day is enough

The Library of Celsus, Ephesus, Turkey. Turkey top destinationsIt was an ancient Greek city built in the 10th century BC. During Roman rule it was the third largest city in Asia Minor and it was an important commercial and educational centre. The ruins you can see nowadays are very impressive and well worth a visit, especially the Library of Celsus, Roman baths, the Great Theatre and the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Tickets to the site cost 25 Turkish Liras per person (approximately 11 Euro). More information here. As a base, we recommend Kuşadası, its beaches are fantastic although a bit touristy!

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⑥ – The Lycian Way + Fethiye

Purple sunset in Fethiye, Turkey. Turkey Top DestinationsThe Lycian Way is a 510 km scenic hiking path (level medium to hard) along the Mediterranean coast. The name derives from the ancient civilisation, which once ruled the area. The route is easier at the start near Fethiye and gets more difficult as you go further on towards Antalya. You can see the map of the entire route here.
If you’d rather sunbathe than hike, we recommend Fethiye as a charming little resort that’s not absolutely packed with tourists and money-grabbing merchants (for this reason you should avoid Antalya and Marmaris).

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⑦ – Ankara1 full day is enough

Anıtkabir - Kemal Atatürk's Mausoleum, Ankara, Turkey. Turkey Top DestinationsAnkara is not the most beautiful of Turkish cities and it’s not the most obvious travel destination, but we feel that it should be visited on any comprehensive trip to Turkey. It’s the best place to learn about both the country’s ancient and modern history due to the abundance of historic buildings and interesting museums. We recommend visiting the Atatürk Mausoleum (Anıtkabir), Hacı Bayram Mosque built in the 15th century and the Hamamönü neighbourhood filled with narrow streets and historic buildings.

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⑧ – Antakya (Hatay) – 1 full day is enough

Roman mosaics in the Hatay Archaeology Museum, Hatay, Turkey. Turkey Top DestinationsAntakya, known in the past as Antioch, today is a multicultural melting pot of the traditional Turkish, Syrian and Jewish populations. In scale of the whole country it’s considered one of the most liberal places and it’s home to many Alevi families, which are not as strict in their devotion as other branches of Islam. Among its top tourist attractions you will find the Hatay Archaeology Museum with the largest collection of Roman mosaics in the world, the rock-carved Church of St Peter built in the 12th century and a traditional market, like no other in Turkey.

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⑨ – Erzurum1 full day is enough

Çifte Minareli Medrese, Erzurum, Turkey. Turkey Top DestinationsErzurum, enclosed between the rolling hills of Eastern Anatolia, is the main city in eastern Turkey and one of the most conservative places in the whole country. If you are curious about what real Turkey looks like, as opposed to the one seen in beach resorts, head to Erzurum. Its main tourist attractions include the 13th century Çifte Minareli Medrese and the Citadel of Erzurum.

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⑩ – The ruins of the ancient Armenian city of Ani1 day is enough

Close up of The Church of the Redeemer - Ani, TurkeyAni was once the thriving capital of medieval Armenia and was inhabited by 100-200 thousand people. Being an important trade hub, it was bustling with merchants, artisans, wanderers and nobles. It was also an important city for early Christians (called by some the ‘City of 1001 churches’) and apart from places of worship, its buildings and fortifications were among the most advanced structures of its time. Nowadays Ani lies in Turkish territory and has become a ‘tourist’ attraction with not many tourists in sight. It’s so remote and so far from the beaten path that it seems to be almost at the end of the world. Learn more & see the photos.

Tip! The closest city to use as a base is Kars.

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Do you need more inspiration?

11) Troy + Çanakkale 2 days

The Trojan Horse, Çanakkale, Turkey. Turkey Top DestinationsÇanakkale is a pleasant seaside town which serves as a perfect base for the ancient ruins of Troy. Troy is known for being the setting of the Trojan War described in Homer’s “Iliad”. It was founded in 3000 BC and it’s ruins are now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Çanakkale itself you can see the Çimenlik Castle with the Naval Museum and the Trojan Horse that was used in the movie Troy.

Çanakkale is the second city to be situated on two continents after Istanbul.

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12) Safranbolu

Safranbolu, Turkey - photo by Wikipedia. Turkey Top DestinationsSafranbolu is a town in the Black sea region (100 km south from the coast). It’s worth visiting its Old Town which preserves a number of well-preserved historic artefacts (25 mosques, 5 tombs, 8 historical fountains, 5 Turkish baths, 3 caravanserais, 1 historical clock tower, 1 sundial, 1 museum and hundreds of houses and mansions). The town’s name derives from ‘saffron‘ and the Greek word ‘polis’ (city), as Safranbolu was a growing and trading centre of saffron. Today saffron is still grown in the village of Davutobası (22 km east of Safranbolu) and it’s probably one of the highest quality saffrons in the world.

Safranbolu has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its well-preserved Ottoman architecture.

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13) Diyarbakır 2 day is enough

Tigris river and the plains surrounding Diyarbakır, Turkey. Turkey top destinationsDiyarbakır is the second largest city in Southeastern Anatolia and it’s set on the banks of the Tigris river. The most impressive sight are the city walls which are over 5km long and offer nice views on the river and the surrounding plains. They are claimed to be the second largest walls in the world after the Great Wall of China.There are also some nice mosques (e.g. The Great Mosque – Ulu Camii) and churches (e.g. Meryem Ana Kilisesi) in the old town.

Apart from that it’s a traditional Turkish city with no tourists in sight at all. People were surprised we went to visit Diyarbakır, but if you are interested in seeing the every-day life in the countries you go to, then why not give Diyarbakır a chance?

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14) Nemrut Dağı (Mount Nemrut)

Nemrut Dağı, Mount Nemrut, Turkey - photo by Wikipedia. Turkey top destinations

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Nemrut Dağı is a mountain (2,134 m) in southeastern Turkey with large statues on the summit which are assumed to form a royal tomb from the 1st century BC.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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15) Hattuşaş (Hattusa)

Hattusa Liongate, Hattuşaş, Turkey -photo by Wikipedia. Turkey top destinationsHattusa archaeological site are the ruins of the capital of the Hittite Empire who lived in this territory in the late Bronze Age (6000-1200 BC). The ruins are renowned for their urban organization, the types of buildings that have been preserved (temples, fortifications, royal residences) and their rich ornamentation.

Tip! Use the city of Boğazkale as a base.

The ruins have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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16) The archeological site of Xanthos-Letoon

Letoon temple, The archeological site of Xanthos-Letoon, Turkey - photo by Wikipedia. Turkey top destinationsXanthos was the centre of ancient Lycia (6th BCE-7th CE) with the Letoon (a sanctuary of Leto) nearby, which was one of the most important religious centres in the region.

It’s been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it “illustrates the blending of Lycian traditions and Hellenic influence, especially in its funerary art”.

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17) Divriği

Divriği Great Mosque and Hospital, Turkey - photo by Wikipedia. Turkey top destinations.

Divriği is a town located in Sivas Province. Divriği Great Mosque (Divriği Ulu Camii) along with the adjoining hospital (Darüşşifa), which were built in the 13th century, have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the exquisite carvings and architecture of both buildings.

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18) The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne

The Selimiye Mosque, Edirne, Turkey. Turkey dop destinations.

The Selimiye Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Selim II and was built in the 16th century. It is considered a masterpiece and one of the highest achievements of Islamic and Ottoman architecture.

It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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19) Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük

Typical interior at the Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük Turkey - photo by Wikipedia. Turkey top destinations.
Çatalhöyük was a very large Neolithic proto-city settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC, and flourished around 7000BC.

It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site that has been found so far.

Tip! As a base use the town of Çumra.

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20) And what would you recommend?

Turkey map with a question mark. Turkey top destinations.
What should be our number 20 in your opinion? We are very curious to hear where you’ve been and what you liked, so please share your knowledge and experience in the comments!

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Turkey Top Destinations Map

 

blue square  Recommended by our readers. If you have any further suggestions get involved below the line …

.written by: Ania

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5 comments

  • Either Gallipoli Peninsula or Prince’s Islands. Or maybe you include those with Istanbul?

    • Hey, Thanks a lot for the comment and for getting involved. We would include the Gallipoli Peninsula with Çanakkale as its easily reachable from there if you are interested in going to the see the Gallipoli battlefields. As for Prince’s Island, we see at as a trip from Istanbul although we haven’t actually been there ourselves.

  • From my recent discoveries – Amasya is stunning. My unbeatable favorites are still Easten Anatolian settlements – Midyat, Hasankeyf (with its questionable future, unfortunately). Mardin and Diyarbakir are already on the list, it’s a pleasant surprise to see them and some other locations where an ordinary Turk from the West never venture, on the list.

  • All these places are mesmerizing. I liked almost every place in Turkey. But Cappadocia is my favorite as I really loved my Hot Air Balloon ride.

    All these places should always be in a traveler’s diary.

    Last but not the least, great explanation to all destinations. The “Tip” part is the most enticing thing you have added in your post.