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 20 of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Turkey…
1. Blue Lagoon, Oludeniz – a spectacular lagoon made up of varying shades of turquoise
Few places on earth offer such untouched beauty as the Blue Lagoon in Oludeniz. This area of Turkey is what dreams are made of and yes, the water is a spectacular shade of turquoise. Not only is the water the most striking shade of blue, but the lagoon is teeming with sea life.
Snorkeling, Kayaking, and swimming in the lagoon with give you the opportunity to see turtles and sea horses up close, so be sure to bring your gear along with you. Blue Lagoon is located in a protected park, so there is a nominal entrance fee and at times it can get crowded, but no matter how many people are there, you will enjoy a picturesque experience.
Our cool and unusual hotel pick for Oludeniz (near the Blue Lagoon) – Morina Deluxe Hotel
- Belcekiz, 48340 Oludeniz, Turkey
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Hotels and Airbnbs in Ölüdeniz
A video showing the incredible beauty of the Blue Lagoon…
2. Cappadocia – a striking semi-arid region known for its distinctive “fairy chimneys”
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.
Our cool and unusual hotel pick for Cappadocia – Kapadokya Hill Hotel & Spa
- Afetevler Mahallesi, Niğde Yolu 4. km Göre Kasabası, 50170 Nevsehir, Turkey
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Hotels and Airbnbs in Cappadocia
A beautiful video of Cappadocia made by a top travel blogger…
Pamukkale – a town in western Turkey known for the mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces
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.
Our cool and unusual hotel pick for Pamukkale – Doğa Thermal Health & Spa
- Karhayıt Mah. 147 Seyir Sokak No:9/1 PAMUKKALE, Karahayit, 20020 Pamukkale, Turkey
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Hotels and Airbnbs in Pamukkale
A video showing the unearthly beauty of Pamukkale…
Butterfly Valley – one of the most stunning places to explore in Turkey
This is easily one of the most famously beautiful places to visit in Turkey. Not only is the scenery simply gorgeous with pure turquoise waters and a pristine stretch of sandy beach nestled between two towering cliffs (accessed by boat from either Olu Deniz or Fethiye).
But it’s also a special place because of the thousands of butterflies that live in the trees behind – hence it’s wonderful name – so this unique place to visit offers both stunning views and in summer, a kaleidoscope of colour. There are also no buildings or asphalt here to destroy the it’s picture-perfectness and so ensures Butterfly Valley remains one of the most photogenic beach locations in the country!
Hotels and Airbnbs in Butterfly Valley
Istanbul – the most populous city in Turkey and the country’s economic, cultural and historic centre
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.
Our cool and unusual hotel pick for Istanbul – The Elysium Istanbul Hotel & SPA
- Inonu Mahallesi Yedikuyular Caddesi Harbiye Cayiri Sokak No:4 Istanbul City Centre Beyoglu, Sisli, Istanbul, Sisli, 34373 Istanbul
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Hotels and Airbnbs in İstanbul
The beauty of the city of Istanbul in ‘flow motion’…
Bodrum – a vibrant port city and a glistening holiday resort
On approach to Bodrum, on one of the many 50 minute ferries leading into the port city, you will first see a pristine coastline with the Castle of St. Peter standing high above the coastline. This city has more charm that you will likely find anywhere else in the world.
Bodrum is a melting pot of cultures with several cultural events throughout the year to celebrate each one. Its 37,000 population welcomes visitors with open arms as they love educating guests on their history including Greek mythology in this quaint fishing village.
- Asagi Mah. Kizilburun Cad. No:72 Bodrum, Mugla, 48965 Gundogan, Turkey
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Hotels and Airbnbs in Bodrum
A video of a luxury resort in Bodrum…
Kas – a beautiful little coastal town which has a lot to offer visitors
The sea surrounding Kas, Turkey looks almost like glass bringing the opportunity to capture a glimpse of the crystal clear waters in every picture taken. The coast is lined with residences and small shops to browse in, but shopping is not the only thing you will have on your mind while visiting.
To get a bird’s eye view of this spectacular city, paragliding or watching the sunset up the mountain will be welcomed activities. The ruins of Patara Beach and Xanthos are in Kas as well as unique diving opportunities for tourists and residents alike.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Kaş
The beauty of Kas captured on video…
Patara – one of the best under-the-radar resorts in Turkey known for its long beach and ancient ruins
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.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Patara Beach
A video showing the highlights of Patara…
Fethiye – a port city known for its natural harbor, blue waters and numerous rock tombs
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.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Fethiye
Dilek Peninsula-Buyuk Menderes Delta National Park – a protected area known for its walking trails, stunning vistas, azure coves and deep-green forests
Among the older Turkish National Parks, Dilek Penninsular-Buryuk Menderes Delta National Park was established in 1966. Since that time, it has become known as one of the most strikingly beautiful areas of Turkey.
It is also known as one of the most diverse wildlife parks in the country with literally hundreds of various species found in its borders. If you want to truly see it all in one park, this one is the one to visit. It has everything from mountains to pristine waters, so bring your gear and enjoy your time at Dilek Penninsular-Buyuk Menderes Delta National Park.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Dilek Yarımadası Büyük Menderes Deltası Milli Parkı
Iztuzu Beach, Dalyan – an excellent swimming beach and a nesting site of the loggerhead turtle
One of Turkey’s most beautiful places for humans is also a nesting ground for one of the rarer creatures. The loggerhead turtle nests annually on the beach and if you are lucky enough to visit between May and September, you might catch a glimpse of these impressive creatures making their way to the ocean.
Beach officials work diligently to stake off nesting sites and protect the delicate turtles from overzealous tourists and other predators.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Iztuzu Beach 2
Ayvalik – historic stone houses and churches, beaches, excellent olive oil, and amazing food
Located on the Northern Aegean Coast of Turkey, Ayvalik is considered one of the most beautiful coastal towns in the country. It faces the Greek Island of Lesbos and therefore, the two cultures seem to come together in this amazing space.
Ancient buildings depicting Greek architecture still remain a huge staple in the city of Ayvalik and this classic notion mixes perfectly with modern life in the area. Those looking for a unique place to explore find Ayvalik ideal and be sure to remember your camera as you will want to take a lot of pictures.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Ayvalık
Side – an ancient port city known for long beaches and Greco-Roman ruins
Relaxation is everywhere you look in Side, Turkey. The city is actually a large scale resort, but if you think you will be brought into an area with noisy tourists and a lot of confusion, you would be wrong. Side has made it their mission to ensure every guest enjoys their stay in this remarkably laid back beach town.
Roman sculptures and the illustrious Taurus Mountains offer a backdrop to the city that makes visitors come back again and again. Beaches are offered on either side of this Peninsula, so you can visit both and choose your favorite.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Side
Icmeler – a relaxed resort with a quieter beach and friendly local life
Located on the Datcha Peninsula, Idmeler is another resort city, but rest assured, it is a city all the same. They have their own government and run as any city would in Turkey. Again, this is an area of Turkey that you can go from sea to mountains in just a matter of kilometers.
Hiking and all forms of water activities are available here and as in classic Turkish style, crystal clear waters abound. Apart from being beautiful, tourists note that the area is very clean with an abundance of toilets and showers for public use.
Friendly residence adds to the overall charm of Icmeler making it among the best places in Turkey to visit any time of the year.
Hotels and Airbnbs in İçmeler
Koprulu Canyon – a dramatic wooded canyon and park popular with whitewater rafting
Ultimate beauty and fun can be found in Koprulu Canyon. Located in a national park, Korulu Canyon offers the opportunity to hike, bike, kayak, and white water raft all in one location.
Whether you are looking to relax under the stars or enjoy a bit of white knuckle adventure, Korulu Canyon is the place to go. The canyon, itself is over 14 km long, so a lot of time can be taken enjoying the water or simply hiking the cliffs surrounding Koprulu Canyon.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Köprülü Canyon
Antalya – the largest city on the Turkish Mediterranean coast and one of the hubs of the Turkish Riviera
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.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Antalya
Ankara – Turkey’s cosmopolitan capital home to performing arts, home to the State Opera and Ballet
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.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Ankara
Temple of Hadrian – one of the most beautiful structures of the ancient city
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.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Il Tempio di Adriano
Alanya – a seaside town on the southern coast of Turkey, offering relaxation, history, and adventure
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.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Alanya
Kure Mountains National Park – a beautiful national park is still largely undiscovered by tourism
Natural beauty will envelope you in Kure Mountains National Park. Although the area has only been an official national park since 2000, it has become one of the hottest attractions in Turkey.
With over 129 bird species, 9 amphibian species, and 48 mammals so far documented, there is no limit to what you might see in this beautifully complex national park.
The park’s beauty is not simply a statement made by a few, but something stated by many as Kure Mountains National Park is on the global list of must-see places before you die. Hiking through this area is an exciting and breathtaking experience.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Horma Canyon (Kure Mountains National Park)
Ephesus – an ancient port city with well-preserved ruins
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.