There is far more to Turkey than the packed holiday resorts. Explore the sites away from the crowds to find ancient architecture and some extraordinary landscapes. From snow-like natural wonders to hippy beach retreats here is my choice for 10 of the most beautiful places to visit in Turkey…
One of the most ancient cities in the world, Istanbul at times overshadowed even ancient Rome, serving as capital first to Byzantine and then to the Ottoman Empire. At every turn in the city you fall over beauty. It teems with Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman palaces, mosques, churches, monasteries, monuments, walls, and ruins. The Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the mosques of Süleymaniye and the Blue Mosque dominate the skyline.
Antalya is best known as being the Turkish Riviera and is the most stunning part of Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline. It is a blend of thriving modern city and ancient history on your doorstep, boutique hotels, and restored Ottoman mansions. Heading up into the mountains, you can make the most of the beautiful scenery by visiting the spectacular Düden or Kursunlu waterfalls.
Patara was once the major naval and trading port of Lycia, located at the mouth of the Xanthos river. Now it is a wide, stunning smile carved on to the landscape of Turkey. This bohemian beach retreat is also an incredibly biologically diverse national park rich in birdlife. It sits not far from the sites of Letoon and Xanthos, and a day trip from Kalkan, Kas or Fethiye. Beautiful 12 km-long Patara Beach, voted one of the top beaches in the world by Times Online, is an easy 10- to 15-minute stroll away from the major ruins at Patara.
Ruggedly and rustically beautiful, Ankara is the capital of Turkey. It is the country’s second largest city after Istanbul and the centre of Turkish government. It has historically been a vital and much fought-over crossroads of trade. The city was famous for its long-haired Angora goat and its prized wool mohair. The historical centre of Ankara is situated upon a rocky hill, which rises 150 metres above the plain on the left bank of the tributary of the Sakarya river.
5. Temple of Hadrian
The facade of this ancient and wondrous temple has four Corinthian columns supporting an exquisite curved arch, the middle of which contains a relief of Tyche, the goddess of victory. Although the carvings are replicas, with the originals in Ephesus, the quality and setting transport you back in time. The pedestals with inscriptions in front of the temple are the bases for the statues of various emperors, while inside the temple above the door a human figure, probably Medusa, stands with ornaments of acanthus leaves.
Alanya is a paradise of sun, sea and sand. If you want more of the cultural vibrancy of Turkey, Alanya is a beautiful place to start. It works as a great holiday centre with its pristine sandy beaches, modern hotels, and quality fish restaurants. The cafes that ring the harbour are popular gathering places for tourists and locals, with three blue flag beaches and many sights, including Damlatas Cave, the Archaeology and Ethnography Museum, and the Dim Çayi Valley.
Fethiye is a very traditional Turkish market town that is spread around a beautiful natural harbour on a wide bay. It is a big centre for scuba diving and sailing on a stunning piece of natural coastline. Fethiye has a very traditional lifestyle and offers a change of pace for travellers always on the go. The most famous beach in Turkey is Olu Deniz (Dead Sea) near Fethiye, a serene lagoon beach with turquoise waters – a far cry from the arid and rugged areas to the south.
Cappadocia is a stunning region of rock formations, subterranean churches and underground cities, the scale of which is simply overwhelming. There are hundreds of underground buildings in the region. Two of the most unmissable are Kaymakli, which has eight levels, and Derinkuyu, which descends some 55 metres. Nevsehir, the capital of Cappadocia, is a great place to base yourself when visiting. The surrounding area is a popular trekking route amid the breathtaking and alien rock formations called Peri Bacalari or ‘Fairy Chimneys’ – easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Turkey.
This once thriving ancient Greek city has seen it all and lived to tell the tale. A major Roman site on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era. Famed for housing the Temple of Artemis in 550 BC, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Ephesus now houses some of the finest examples of classical architecture to be found in the region.
Few people can ever say that they’ve seen snow at 40C. A hot spot on the backpacking trail and one of Turkey’s most impressive natural wonders, the Pamukkale mineral spa, translated as ‘cotton castle.’ Stunning white terraces of calcium-rich warm waters spring up from the earth and cascade over low cliffs, forming the crisp, snow-like landscape.
Written by guest writer James Falkner. James writes on behalf of Ecole Suisse de Langues (ESL) and is a passionate exponent of cultural enlightenment through language learning.