10 Best Places to Visit in Turkey, Beyond Istanbul
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Itching to explore the best places in Turkey, beyond the iconic streets of Istanbul? You’re in for a treat! I’m here to spill the beans on the best places to visit in Turkey, beyond Istanbul. During my short visit to Turkey, I didn’t have much time to explore all of it. After much research, I decided to trade some days off from Istanbul and add them to other cities.
Looking for must-see attractions in Turkey? Oh, we’ll go way beyond that! Get ready to swoon over Cappadocia’s surreal fairy chimneys, which seem straight out of a fantasy tale. And hold your breath as we step into the grandeur of Ephesus, where history comes alive amidst marbled ruins. Turkey’s off-the-beaten-path surprises are just as thrilling!
Without further ado, let’s explore the top Turkish destinations that are sure to steal your heart.
1. Alacati, Aegean Region: A Serene Seaside Escape
Tucked away on Turkey’s Aegean coast. Alacati is a charming gem that has managed to retain its tranquillity despite gaining popularity among travellers. This town is famous for its narrow cobblestone streets, adorned with vibrant bougainvillaea, and its well-preserved stone houses. If you ask me, Alacati is one of the best places to visit in Turkey! It is a perfect blend of bohemian elegance and laid-back vibes!
What to Expect: Enjoy lazy days wandering through boutique shops, art galleries, and local cafes. The town’s windswept beaches are a haven for windsurfing enthusiasts, and its rolling vineyards produce some of Turkey’s finest wines. Alacati also boasts an authentic weekly market, where you can savour local vegetarian delicacies.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and Autumn offer pleasant weather without the peak tourist crowds.
Ideal Stay: 2-3 days.
Best Way to Get There: Fly to Izmir and take a scenic drive to Alacati. Or take a bus from Istanbul.
2. Kas, Mediterranean Region: A Hidden Coastal Retreat
For those seeking a peaceful coastal haven, Kas is a perfect getaway! With its untouched natural beauty and laid-back ambience. This small Mediterranean town offers a blend of history meets chill beach vibes. Often overlooked in the Turkish Riviera, Kas is right there on the top Turkish destinations that stole my heart! If you are planning a visit to Antalya, try and keep a day or two for Kas.
What to Expect: Explore the charming harbour, dotted with fishing boats and lined with delightful cafes. Take a boat tour to discover nearby hidden coves and the sunken city of Kekova, an underwater archaeological site. History enthusiasts will appreciate visiting ancient Lycian tombs carved into the cliffs overlooking the town. As the sun sets over the sea, indulge in delicious Mediterranean cuisine at local restaurants.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and Autumn for warm weather and fewer tourists.
Ideal Stay: 2-3 days.
Best Way to Get There: Fly to Dalaman Airport and take a scenic drive to Kas. Or take a bus from Antalya.
3. Antalya, Mediterranean Region: The Turquoise Gateway
Nestled on the turquoise coast of the Mediterranean, Antalya is a vibrant city brimming with history and natural beauty. This coastal gem is famed for its stunning beaches, ancient ruins, and lively atmosphere, making it one of the top Turkish destinations for travellers. Apart from the coastal bliss, Anatlaya is a brilliant place to experience Turkey’s nightlife.
What to Expect: Stroll through the charming old town of Kaleici, where ancient Roman walls meet modern boutiques and cafes. Explore the well-preserved ancient theatre of Aspendos, which still hosts performances today. Antalya is also home to some of the must-see attractions in Turkey like Duden Waterfalls, Kursunlu Waterfalls and Sualada Islands offer a refreshing escape.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and Autumn for pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
Ideal Stay: 3-4 days
Best Way to Get There: Fly directly to Antalya Airport, well-connected to major cities. Or take a bus from Cappadocia.
4. Cappadocia, Central Anatolia: Unearth the Fairy Chimneys
Imagine a world straight out of a fantasy novel, where peculiar cone-shaped rock formations rise from the earth-like chimneys of an enchanted village. Welcome to Cappadocia, a mesmerizing wonderland nestled in Central Anatolia, Turkey. Undoubtedly one of the must-see attractions in Turkey! The unique landscape of Cappadocia, adorned with fairy chimneys and ancient cave dwellings, is a sight that will leave you awestruck. A lot of people would say Cappadocia is one of the best places to visit in Turkey.
What to Expect: Take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise to witness the magical panorama from the skies. Explore the ancient cave churches and monasteries carved into the soft rocks at places like Göreme Open-Air Museum. For a true taste of local life, stay in one of the charming cave hotels that offer a truly unique experience.
Best Time to Visit: Spring (April to June) and Autumn (September to November) provide mild weather and captivating landscapes.
Ideal Stay: 3-4 days.
Best Way to Get There: Fly to Kayseri or Nevşehir, both airports provide easy access to the region. Or take a bus from Ankara.
5. Ephesus, Aegean Region: Step into Ancient Grandeur
Step back in time and walk in the footsteps of ancient civilizations as you visit the awe-inspiring ruins of Ephesus in the Aegean Region. Once a thriving port city and one of the grandest cities of the Roman Empire, Ephesus now stands as a magnificent archaeological site, offering a glimpse into its former grandeur. Ephesus is the top Turkish destination for all history buffs.
What to Expect: Stroll along the well-preserved marble streets and marvel at the intricately carved façade of the Library of Celsus. The Great Theatre, with a seating capacity of over 25,000, will leave you astounded. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, though only a few remnants remain today.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and Autumn offer pleasant weather for exploration without the summer crowds.
Ideal Stay: 2-3 days.
Best Way to Get There: Fly to Izmir and take a short drive to Ephesus or a bus from Bodrum.
6. Göbekli Tepe, Southeastern Anatolia: The Cradle of Civilization
Venture deep into the heart of Southeastern Anatolia to uncover the mysteries of Göbekli Tepe. Regarded as one of the oldest temples in the world! This archaeological treasure predates Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids by thousands of years. Sadly I couldn’t make it due to the short duration of my trip. However, a number of tourists recommended the place.
What to Expect: Wander amidst the intricately carved stone pillars, arranged in circular formations, that hold stories of ancient beliefs and rituals. The site’s discovery has challenged conventional theories about the development of human civilization and provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of our prehistoric ancestors.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and Autumn offer pleasant weather for exploration.
Ideal Stay: 1-2 days.
Best Way to Get There: Fly to Şanlıurfa and take a short drive to Göbekli Tepe.
7. Mount Ararat, Eastern Anatolia: Conquer the Legendary Summit
Rising majestically on the eastern horizon of Turkey, Mount Ararat beckons adventurers and nature lovers alike. This iconic dormant volcano is the country’s highest peak and is steeped in legend and history. According to ancient tales, it was on these very slopes that Noah’s Ark came to rest after the Great Flood.
What to Expect: Reaching the summit of Mount Ararat requires a challenging climb, and while technical skills are essential, the reward is beyond compare. The breathtaking panoramic views from the top, encompassing vast landscapes and neighbouring countries, will make you feel on top of the world. For those seeking a less daunting adventure, there are plenty of trekking opportunities in the surrounding foothills, offering a glimpse of the mountain’s grandeur.
Best Time to Visit: Summer (July to August) provides the best climbing conditions.
Ideal Stay: 5-6 days for the full climbing experience, or 2-3 days for trekking in the foothills.
Best Way to Get There: Fly to Erzurum or Van, both offering access to the region.
8. Bodrum, Aegean Region: The Turkish Riviera
For a taste of paradise along the Turkish Riviera, head to the enchanting coastal city of Bodrum. This bustling resort town, set against the backdrop of sparkling turquoise waters and lush hills, has long been my favourite destination in Turkey. If you are looking to swim in the Mediterranean waters, Bodrum will be at the top of your list of best places to visit in Turkey.
What to Expect: Spend your days basking in the sun on stunning beaches or setting sail on a traditional Turkish gulet to explore secluded coves or the Orak island. In the heart of the city, Bodrum Castle, built by the Knights Hospitaller in the 15th century, stands as a reminder of the region’s rich history. The vibrant nightlife, upscale boutiques, and lively bazaars offer a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and Autumn for pleasant weather and a more laid-back atmosphere.
Ideal Stay: 2-3 days.
Best Way to Get There: Fly to Milas-Bodrum Airport, just a short drive away. Or take a bus from Kas or Alacati.
9. Mount Nemrut, Southeastern Anatolia: Marvel at Ancient Statues
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to an extraordinary collection of monumental stone statues and tomb sanctuaries built during the reign of King Antiochus I. This one is straight out of the history lesson! If you want to visit only one ancient site in Turkey I’d say visit this one.
What to Expect: Venture to the summit of Mount Nemrut and be greeted by the iconic stone heads of ancient gods and kings. The sunrise and sunset views from this lofty height is a brilliant sight. The combination of history, mystery, and natural beauty makes Mount Nemrut a must-visit place in Turkey destination.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and Autumn for mild weather and clear skies.
Ideal Stay: 2-3.
Best Way to Get There: Fly to Adıyaman and take a short drive to Mount Nemrut.
10. Safranbolu, Black Sea Region: Time Travel through Ottoman Architecture
Step into a living fairy tale as you arrive in Safranbolu. This one is a charming town nestled in the Black Sea Region of Turkey. One of the best places to visit in Turkey! The well-preserved Ottoman architecture, with its red-roofed houses and cobblestone streets, creates a picturesque setting that feels like a journey back in time.
What to Expect: Wander through the cobbled alleys of the historic district and admire the ornate wooden mansions, some of which have been converted into charming boutique hotels. The Safranbolu Houses are a testament to the town’s significance as a prominent trading centre during the Ottoman era. Don’t forget to savour local delights, especially the saffron-infused delights that give the town its name.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and Autumn for milder temperatures and blooming flowers.
Ideal Stay: 1-2 days.
Best Way to Get There: Fly to Ankara or Zonguldak, and a bus from either.