Turkey is a country rich in culture and history. The country has everything from abandoned monasteries and ancient cities to diverse landscapes. Its vast array of historical wonders, palaces, natural sites, and delicious food provide lots of places you must visit in Turkey.
Turkey has been the site of a succession of historical empires – including the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. And all of them have left their unique mark on the country. You can experience this diversity across the lush landscapes and the many exciting activities and culinary specialities available. Here are 25 places you must visit in Turkey:
1. Hagia Sophia
No visit to Istanbul is complete without a visit to the stunning Byzantine church (turned into an Ottoman mosque). Built by Emperor Justinian, it is now a museum.
The ancient Greek city of Ephesus on the Ionian coast is one of the most visited historical sights in the world. It is full of magnificent structures, including a temple of Artemis.
3. Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Also known as the Blue Mosque, the historic Sultan Ahmed Mosque is still a place of religious worship. It was built in the early 17th century and has a madrassa and a hospice.
Cappadocia is one of the top places you must visit in Turkey. Its fairy chimneys and the network of underground cities can be seen from a hot air balloon tour of the area.
5. Topkapı Palace
The Topkapı Palace, or the Seraglio, is a large museum in Istanbul, Turkey. In the 15th century, it served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans.
Ani was once a magnificent medieval Armenian city. While it may be in ruins today, its location in the idyllic Kars province still makes it a major tourist draw.
A traditional Turkish hammam is a unique and relaxing experience. The luxurious scrub and massage can be had at various historical locations, such as the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı.
8. Lycian Way
The 500km Lycian Way is a hiking trail that follows a mountainous route shaded with pine forests across the Teke Peninsula to Antalya. It offers stunning coastal views and the chance to explore numerous ruins of the Lycian Empire.
9. Süleymaniye Mosque
The Süleymaniye Mosque sits atop the third of Istanbul’s seven hills. It was commissioned by Süleyman I in the 14th century and is one of the countries grandest Ottoman mosques.
Pergamon was once a rich and powerful ancient Greek city. Located near the Aegean Sea on the river Caicus near the modern city of Bergama, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The remains of the city’s gate now lie in Berlin.
11. Sumela Monastery
Built into a steep cliff, the Greek Orthodox Sumela Monastery is located in the Trabzon province. It is famous for its stunning views, fascinating architecture, and its frescoes.
This once bustling town of Kayaköy was built in the 1700s and was home to a Greek-speaking population. Abandoned after World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, it is still full of beautiful buildings and churches.
Located close to the Black Sea, the city of Safranbolu is filled with well-preserved red-roofed Ottoman houses. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Literally meaning “memorial tomb,” Anıtkabir is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He was the leader of the Turkish War of Independence and the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey.
Mardin is one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey. Its narrow streets, historic stone houses, and hidden churches make it an absolute delight to explore.
16. Gallipoli Peninsula
The Gallipoli (or Gelibolu) Peninsula is filled with lush forests and idyllic coves, however, during World War I, it was the sight of many bloody battles between the Turkish and the Australian and New Zealand forces of the British Army.
This stunning city is filled with historic structures dating as far back as 304 BC. They stand alongside modern buildings. Şanlıurfa is also known for its excellent cuisine.
Located in the Antalya province, the ancient Greco-Roman city of Aspendos is famous for its amazing and incredibly well-preserved theatre.
This beach resort in the Muğla Province on the southwest coast is famous for its blue lagoon (Ölüdeniz Tabiat Parkı), and the white sand of Belcekız Beach. The Lycian Way also starts here.
20. Mevlana Museum
Located in Konya, this is the mausoleum of the famous Persian Sufi mystic and poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. Also known as Mevlana, his followers founded the dervish lodge of the Mevlevi order, better known as the whirling dervishes.
21. Nemrut Dağı
The mountain of Nemrut Dağı sits at 2,134 metres tall. At its summit lie a collection of ancient sculptures that flank the burial mound of Antiochus I.
22. Alahan Monastery
Dating back to the 5th century, the Alahan Monastery consists of a complex of buildings located at an altitude of over 1,200 meters. It sits over the Calycadnus valley in the Mersin province.
The famous thermal hot springs at Pamukkale are known for its white travertine deposits. It is located near the ruins of the ancient Greco-Roman spa city of Hierapolis.
24. Kariye Museum
Istanbul is full of Byzantine monuments, and few can compare with the Chora Church (now the Kariye Museum). It is full of gorgeous mosaics and frescos, some of the oldest and finest in the world.
25. Basilica Cistern
This subterranean cistern was commissioned by Emperor Justinian and built in 532.The cavernous structure, with its 336 columns was meant to serve the Grand Palace. It could hold up to 80 million litres of water transported from a reservoir near the Black Sea.
There are still many other places you must visit in Turkey, and if we’ve missed any, be sure to share them in the comments below.