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10 Best Things To Do in Turkey That You Can’t Miss

things to do in Turkey
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This is Turkey, a beautiful land, located on a geographical bridge between Europe and Asia. It is a land with great variety of natural wonders and long history, full of famous attractions and hidden gems. This country is a paradise for travelers who want to explore, as well as for tourists who just want to relax there on a vacation.

But how to arrange your journey there, and where to begin from? Take a look at these 10 best things to do in Turkey for more ideas and impression!

10 Best Things To Do in Turkey

Cross the strait between Europe and Asia in Istanbul

Turkey is one of the few countries located on two continents. And the boundary between Europe and Asia passes not just through the country, but through one of the largest cities in the world- Istanbul. 

Bosphorus
Bosphorus

Istanbul is divided by the narrow Strait of Bosphorus, connecting the Black with the Marmara seas. And the big city is like a guardian between those two seas, and between two continents- a splendid crossroad of important sea and land roads. 

Istanbul
Istanbul

So, come to Istanbul, the cultural heart of Turkey! It has thousands of years of history, so plan at least 2-3 days to explore it- from the most ancient ruins of the antic Byzantion to the modern skyscrapers of the 21st century mega city. Visit its landmarks- Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Kapili Carsi market, and the tram on the old part of Istanbul. 

And then- cross the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia! You can do it on the bridges over the strait, or by a short ferry cruise. And you can enjoy stunning city and sea views all the time.

Enjoy the stunning beaches in the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean coast of Turkey is considered to begin from the city of Bodrum to the border with Syria. Dozens of famous cities and resorts are lined at the coast, including Marmaris, Fethiye, Antalya, Alanya, Silifke, Mersin, Iskenderun, and more.

The geography of the Mediterranean coastal land includes mainly high mountains- the branches of the Taurus Mountains, as well as some plains. In some places, you can see steep mountains, rising about 2000 m directly from the sea. One of such places is the fantastic beach of Oludeniz near Fethiye, with turquoise blue waters, white pearl-like small stones, and the majestic Mt Babadag rising over the beach.

Kaputas Beach
Kaputas Beach

And there are a lot more beaches on this long coastline. Many of them are small, hidden between tall cliffs and canyon mouths. If you follow the coast from west to east, you should visit also Kabak Beach near Fethiye, Patara Beach (the largest sand beach in Turkey), and the fairy Kaputas Beach near Kas. Further east don’t skip Mermerli Beach near Antalya and Cleopatra Beach near Alanya. All of these beaches are a must to visit if you decide to follow the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

Travel back in time to some of the most glorious ancient cities in the world

You probably have heard that Turkey has long history. But you can be even more surprised to see how rich this history is, and how many remains it has left. There are areas where you can see ancient ruins everywhere around the road.

Many kingdoms and empires ruled over the land of Turkey. The kingdoms of the Hittities, Caria, Lycia, Phrygia, Lydia, Persia, the Macedon Empire, Pergamon, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, as well as many other minor kingdoms and states have left a lot of traces. And the most glorious of them can be found near the Aegean coast of Turkey. They flourished during the Roman times and although today they are only ruins, you can be really impressed by their image.

Ephesus
Ephesus

So, plan a trip to Ephesus, a world class city of the ancient Roman times. Ascend to the hill of Pergamon and enjoy the spectacular views of the ancient remains and one of the steepest Roman theaters in the world.

Pamukkale
Pamukkale

Wander around Laodicea and Hierapolis, with its special gem Pamukkale. Dive into the historical layers of Troy and research the story of the Trojan War. And if you love history, go further, there are many more and more of them, telling stories from the ancient past.

Penetrate deep into the grasslands of Eastern Anatolia

Anatolia grassland
Anatolia grassland

If you enter Turkey from the west, first you can see a subtropical landscape. But when you proceed further east, you will notice how the geographical features change. The pine and olive forests gradually replace with vast steppes and rolling hills. Sometimes, these hills open for spacious plains, and sometimes they rise into high mountains. And the eastward you travel, the higher the mountains rise.

Here, in Central and Eastern Anatolia, you can explore the best of the local people’s life. Unlike the touristy developed Aegean and Mediterranean Turkey, everything here is preserved as it is. Yes, everything here is in Turkish, tourist destinations are rare, and in general, this vast area is off the beaten. And it is great for those who want to experience the beauty of the Asian grasslands.

So, if you go to Istanbul or the coastal areas of Turkey, and you have time for more adventures, rent a car or take a long distance bus to the far east of the country. The cities of Kayseri, Sivas, Malatya, Erzincan, Erzurum, and many more, as well as their surroundings can bring you to another world, where you can taste the best of the Turkish life, unchanged by modern tourism.

Dive into the fantastic landscape of Lake Tuz

Lake Tuz
Lake Tuz

Turkey has very diverse geographical landscapes and features. But do you know that is has also one of the saltiest lakes in the world? Yes, probably you have heard about the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan, but Turkey also has its own “Dead Sea”, with almost the same type of water. 

Lakes like Tuz are called hypersaline lakes. The name “Tuz” itself means “Salt”. This one, and the other hypersaline lakes are many times saltier than the world ocean. They are endorheic basins, with no outlet to the ocean. And almost no life exists in their waters. 

So, you can go to Tuz and see it- a vast wide field with extremely shallow water. The field is mostly white due to the layer of salt that covers the bottom. And due to the high salinity, the water is thick, with almost no waves. And the calm water with the white bottom create a fantastic landscape.

Hike the Lycian Trail

This is one of the most spectacular trekking routes, not only in Turkey, but in the world! It is about 500 km long and follows the mountain chains along the western part of the Turkish Mediterranean coast, in Western Turkey, between Fethiye and Antalya. And following these mountains, it also follows the sea coast.

The Lycian Trail is not modern. It is an ancient mountain road, built by the ancient Lycians, from more than 3000 years ago. It has served the local cities like Xanthos, Patara, Myra, and more. In the following centuries, this road was gradually forgotten, but in recent times it was discovered again. After its discovery, it was turned into a tourist trail.

Today, the Lycian Trail is well-developed for hiking tourism, with lodges for spending the night, trail signs, and other facilities. And since it follows the Mediterranean coast, most of the time you can enjoy fantastic views of the sea, its bays, beaches, and promontories from above. Finally, while you walk on this trail, you can combine mountain trekking with some of the most beautiful beaches in Turkey!

Try the best of the Turkish food

Turkish Food
Turkish Food

Ok, now we don’t talk about a particular destination, but no matter which destination in Turkey you go, your visit would not be full without trying the local Turkish cuisine. Yes, there are “foodie travelers” that go travelling especially to focus on local food, but even if you are not a “foodie”, you should try the local meals.

What makes the Turkish food so special? It comes from the times of the Ottoman Empire that reigned over the whole Eastern Mediterranean region, the Balkans, part of Caucasus and the Middle East. At the same time, the origin of the Turks is Central Asia. All of this geographical mix has created wonderful cuisine with a lot of tastes. 

For breakfast, you can try gözleme or börek with yoghurt, called ayran. For lunch or dinner, there are various dishes, some with meat, some without, like kofte, doner, dolma, sarma, and many more. And you can find these in every city, relatively cheap even in the large restaurants. If you eat meat, just don’t look for pork, because Turkey is a Muslim country. This is a long topic, so take a look at this article about the Turkish cuisine

Wander in the forests around the Black Sea Coast

Now, let’s focus on another region of Turkey- the northern part of the country. This is the area along the Black Sea coast. In general, it is an off the beaten area, far from the main tourist streams. But it doesn’t mean that it is less attractive.

The area around the Black Sea coast is a long strip of land. The sea coast itself is mostly rocky and steep, with not too many beaches. But it keeps some interesting gems like fishing villages and historical sites. The cities of Sinop, Samsun, Ordu, and Trabzon keep a lot of secrets from the ancient and medieval history of the region.

Trabzon
Trabzon

Unlike the interior of Anatolia, the Black Sea region of Turkey is covered by lush forests. They are broad-leaved in the lower areas, and coniferous-alpine in the high mountains. Here you can find a lot of hiking trails through valleys, lakes, and mountain summits. You can visit some local villages, untouched by the modern times, as well as some amazing historical sites like Soumela Monastery, located in the mountains above Trabzon. 

Climb Mount Ararat- the highest peak in Turkey

Ararat
Ararat

This is the point, where the new world begins, as it is written in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Here is the place, where the Arc of Noah and his family found a ground after the Flood. No matter whether you believe this story or not, Mount Ararat is a unique mountain that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Mount Ararat is a stratovolcano, currently inactive. It is 5137 m high, and consists of two peaks- Big and Little Ararat. The peak of Big Ararat is covered by ice cap, and in general, it rises more than 3000 m over the surrounding lands. Although it is in Turkey, the mountain is a national symbol of the neighboring Armenia.

Climbing Mount Ararat is a challenging and life changing adventure. However, it is not alpine- you don’t need to be a climber with mountaineering equipment (like those that climb Mount Everest, K2, and other alpine peaks). Mount Ararat is accessible just by normal hiking. But due to the high altitude and steep terrain, its level of difficulty is quite high. Today, there are hiking expeditions, organized by local travel companies. But if you can’t climb the mountain, even just observing it from below is worth! 

Fly by hot-air balloon over Cappadocia

Cappadocia
Cappadocia

Of course, how can we talk about things to do in Turkey without mentioning Cappadocia? In recent years it has become so popular that the image of Turkey among many travelers appears as scenery of fantastic rock formations with ancient dwellings and plenty of hot-air balloons flying over them.

Actually, Cappadocia is not just a point, but a whole region in Turkey, located east of Ankara, with the cities of Nevsehir, Kayseri, Aksaray, Sivas, Nigde, and Kirsehir. It is a mountainous area with long history, mostly covered by the Anatolian grasslands. The famous rock formations with hot-air balloons are located only in certain points in the region. And the most popular point of them is the area around the village of Göreme. 

Hot-air ballooning in Cappadocia is spectacular- not only the panoramic views from the balloons, but the whole landscape with balloons- today one of the popular symbols of Turkey. You can also go trekking in Ilhara Valley, Monastery Valley, and Urgup, exploring the ancient history, the fantastic rock formations, and the local culture.

Lake Van
Lake Van

So, this is Turkey in short. Of course, there are many other things that you can do there- this country is so big and full of attractions. For example, I would also mention visiting the Lake Van, exploring the ancient cities around Urfa, scuba diving around Fethiye, and more, and more. In fact, you would need to spend at least one year to explore Turkey in full. But even if you do two or three of the things mentioned above, it can be an unforgettable and life changing experience.

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