Few countries boast the cultural, historical and natural diversity that Turkey does. No matter who you are and what you want to see, Turkey’s got something for you! Check out some of my top choices below!
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Turkey for Urbanites
With no introduction needed, Turkey’s most famous city, Istanbul, lives up to its reputation for great food, history, architecture and culture. This has been recognized by the local and international communities, including UNESCO World Heritage status.
Recommended Sites: In addition to the usual tourist destinations in the Sultanahmet District, be sure to venture out to Cihangir /Galata neighborhoods in the Beyoğlu District) and Kadikoy on the Asian side.
Often overlooked, Ankara is an important stop for those wanting to connect with Turkey’s modern history. The Father of the Turks, Atatürk, was laid to rest here in Ankara, which he declared the capital of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
Recommended Sites: Anıtkabir (Atatürk’s resting place), Ulus (Ankara Castle, Suluhan , Haci Bayram Mosque) and Tunalı (bars, restaurants on/near Tunalı Hilmi Caddesi, Kuğulu Park).
Turkey’s third largest city, and located on the Aegean Sea, Izmir is known by all as Turkey’s most liberal city. This former Greek city (Greek name: Smyrna) has it all! You can shop, visit ancient ruins, snag a deal at the bazaar and have a drink on the water. If it weren’t for the Turkish you hear on Izmir’s main pedestrian street in Alsancak, you could swear you were in Europe!
Recommended Sites: Alsancak District (Izmir), Kemeralti Market (Izmir), Library of Celsus (Efes), House of Mary – the site of Jesus’ mother’s death (Efes), fruit-wine producing village of Şirince.
Turkey for Nature Lovers
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and known as Turkey’s natural wonder, Pamukkale (meaning Cotton Castle in Turkish) is a must-see. Pamukkale is made up of mineral forests and petrified waterfalls, used since the end of the 2nd century B.C. as a thermal spa.
The Lycian Way is a 509 km/316mi, 25-day way-marked footpath around the coast of Lycia in southern Turkey, from Fethiye to Antalya. If you’re into hiking, stunning beaches, ancient ruins, meeting locals and experiencing Turkey in a unique way, consider taking this historical route. For more information click here, here and here.
With cave hotels, underground cities, unique rock formations and Byzantine ruins, who wouldn’t want to visit Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia? This area is, you guessed it, a UNESCO World Hertiage Site and for obvious reasons. Coming to Turkey and not visiting Cappadocia is a huge mistake. Just 48 hours is enough to see it all and take a world-famous sunrise hot air balloon ride!
Recommended Sites: Göreme Open Air Museum, Uçhisar Castle, fairy chimneys (Pigeon Valley), Kaymaklı or Derinkuyu underground cities.
Turkey for Beach Bums
From what I’ve heard and seen, any part of Turkey’s west coast is heaven for any beach bum out there! For a complete list, click here.
Butterfly Valley (Ölüdeniz)
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Where would you add to this list?