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Turkey is filled with fascinating places abundant in historical significance, dramatic landscapes, and dynamic cultures that draw upon its storied past as the crossroads between Europe and Asia.
No matter if you are visiting Turkey for the first time or returning to explore new places, let this guide help you discover some of the best things to do and hidden gems during your stay.
- Best Things to Do in Turkey
- 1. Hagia Sophia
- 2. Topkapi Palace Museum
- 3. Basilica Cistern
- 4. Goreme Historical National Park
- 5. Galata Tower
- 6. Uchisar Castle
- 7. Love Valley
- 8. The Blue Mosque
- 9. Olympos-Bey Mountains Shore National Park
- 10. Ankara Castle
- Where to Stay in Turkey
- How to Get Around in Turkey
- Travel Tips for Visiting Turkey
- Respecting Local Customs
- Street Food for the Soul
- Haggling Like a Pro
- Timing is Everything
- Embrace the Art of Relaxation
Best Things to Do in Turkey
1. Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is a building of immense architectural importance and significant historical and religious significance. It was once a Greek Orthodox cathedral and later an Ottoman mosque. Nowadays, it is a museum showcasing its Byzantine mosaics and Islamic calligraphy, making it a prime example of a few centuries of history converging into a single structure.
2. Topkapi Palace Museum
Situated at the core of Istanbul, Topkapi Palace is an expansive museum that once served as the main residence of the Ottoman Sultans. The palace has multiple courtyards and chambers, richly adorned with intricate tiles and frescoes. The museum houses countless artifacts and relics, such as the famous Topkapi Dagger and the Spoonmaker’s Diamond.
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3. Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is an ancient subterranean water reservoir in Istanbul. Often referred to as the ‘Sunken Palace,’ it is adorned with 336 marble columns that support the ceiling. Visitors can admire the mysterious Medusa heads and soft, orange-tinted light reflecting in the water. It’s an atmospheric space that transports visitors back to the time of the Roman Empire.
4. Goreme Historical National Park
Located in the heart of Cappadocia, this stunning park is home to unique rock formations, cave dwellings, and ancient churches adorned with frescoes. Don’t miss the chance to take a hot air balloon ride at dawn, a signature Cappadocia experience that lets you soak in the whimsical landscape from above.
5. Galata Tower
This medieval stone tower in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district offers panoramic views of the city’s skyline. Climb the spiral staircase to the observation deck for a remarkable 360-degree view of the city, including landmarks like the Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn.
6. Uchisar Castle
Positioned among the rocky peaks of Cappadocia, Uchisar Castle is a unique geological formation used for centuries as a fortress and now a popular viewpoint. The tallest fairy chimney of its kind, it offers spectacular panoramic views from its summit.
See Related: Real, Magical Castles in Fairytales to Visit
7. Love Valley
This unique landscape in Cappadocia is known for its phallic-shaped rock formations, alternatively called fairy chimneys. It’s a naturally sculpted wonder, perfect for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers.
8. The Blue Mosque
Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, this impressive Istanbul landmark features six slender minarets, cascading domes, and intricate blue Iznik tiles. When visiting the mosque, ensure you’re dressed modestly, as it remains an active place of worship.
9. Olympos-Bey Mountains Shore National Park
Stretching along the Mediterranean coast, this national park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. It offers a combination of pristine beaches, fragrant pine forests, and ancient ruins surrounded by diverse flora and fauna.
10. Ankara Castle
This ancient fortress towers over Turkey’s capital city, symbolizing the region’s tumultuous past. Take a leisurely walk through the castle’s various sections, taking in stunning panoramic views, ruined temples, and restored Roman towers.
Where to Stay in Turkey
As a seasoned traveler, I know the place you choose to lay your head on can be just as important as the itinerary. That’s why I’ve compiled this list featuring ten top-notch accommodations in Turkey that cater to different tastes and budgets. Staying true to the local spirit, each location offers a unique experience that will make you consider revisiting Turkey.
- Raffles Istanbul
- Argos in Cappadocia
- Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet
- Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum
- D-Hotel Maris
- The Muse Balat
- Pera Palace Hotel
- Kayakapi Premium Caves Cappadocia
- Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul
- Lazzoni Hotel
How to Get Around in Turkey
Navigating Turkey is an adventure, with options ranging from public transportation to rental cars. My preferred method, especially for longer trips, is to rent a vehicle, which allows me flexibility and freedom to explore the country at my own pace genuinely. Visit RentalCars.com for the best car deals to suit your needs and budget.
Travel Tips for Visiting Turkey
Knowing a few insider tips is vital to fully immersing yourself in Turkey’s rich cultural tapestry. From navigating the bustling cities to exploring hidden ruins, I’ve picked up some secrets that’ll have you feeling like a local in no time.
Respecting Local Customs
Turkey’s diverse population prides itself on its dynamic culture and hospitality. To have a pleasant trip, understand local customs and traditions.
For instance, when visiting mosques, dress conservatively, removing shoes before entering. Striking up conversations with locals can also help you gain valuable insights into Turkish culture.
Street Food for the Soul
Don’t be fooled by fancy restaurants; some of the best food I’ve tasted in Turkey comes from street vendors. Savor the rich flavors of kebabs, pide, and simit while enjoying the hustle and bustle of the streets around you. It’s a delicious adventure your taste buds won’t soon forget.
Haggling Like a Pro
Bargaining is an unspoken rule in Turkey’s bazaars and markets. Embrace your inner negotiator and haggle with the best of them.
Approach each interaction with a friendly smile and a fair price in mind. With patience and persistence, you’ll come away with great deals on souvenirs and memories to last a lifetime.
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Timing is Everything
Plan your itinerary around the country’s natural rhythms to make the most of your visit to Turkey. Avoid visiting popular sites during peak tourist hours or when locals break the fast during Ramadan. By choosing off-peak times, you’ll beat the crowds and experience an authentic slice of life-secrets many tourists never discover.
Embrace the Art of Relaxation
Take time from your busy exploration schedule and indulge in a traditional Turkish bath or hammam. These centuries-old steam baths are an actual Turkish experience, allowing you to unwind physically and mentally while connecting with a vital aspect of the nation’s cultural heritage. Even the most intrepid traveler needs some downtime.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.