Turkey is an incredible country – it’s teeming with history and culture, and there is so much to see and do wherever you go. Whether you want to see the beautiful mosques and historical sites or enjoy the exquisite natural landscapes – or both – you’re bound to have an awesome time.
However, much like most other places around the world, there are some things to do and places to see that you just can’t miss out on. In fact, there’s such a long list of tourist attractions that it’s difficult to be able to see everything. That’s why we think it’s more important than ever to ensure you don’t waste any time seeing things that just aren’t worth it. Luckily, I’ve been there and done it, so I have firsthand experience of being a tourist in Turkey.
So, we’ve put together a list of 10 things that are worth it and one that simply isn’t, so that you can make sure you spend your time wisely and have the best possible holiday in Turkey!
1. Istanbul’s Famous Mosques
Istanbul has a lot of mosques, there’s no doubt about it – there are plenty of big, well-known mosques, and there are also plenty of small mosques. Some of them are absolutely beautiful and others are a little more plain, but they all have something to offer, depending on what you’re interested in.
The two most popular mosques in the city are Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, both of which are pretty big and have some serious historical significance. There are normally queues to get inside, but they tend to move quite quickly and it’s totally worth the wait. The interiors of both mosques are exquisite.
2. Pamukkale’s Thermal Pools
Pamukkale’s thermal pools are one of the most incredible natural attractions in the whole of Turkey. These natural rock pools were formed by calcium deposits and today, they’re incredibly popular among tourists – and for good reason. The color of the water is gorgeous and you absolutely need to take the plunge and have a dip. If you really want to miss the crowds, visit Pamukkale pools during the wintertime or shoulder seasons.
3. Basilica Cistern
Built in the year 532, Basilica Cistern is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in the whole of Turkey. It’s located in Istanbul, within walking distance of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
Admittedly, there’s always a pretty long queue to get inside, and this put me off a bit initially, but it turned out to be totally worth the cost and the wait. The interior is absolutely beautiful and mindblowing, and it’s very much worth doing a guided tour so you can learn about the history of the ancient water system.
4. Explore Cappadocia’s Fairy Chimneys
If you’re one for gorgeous scenic landscapes, Cappadocia, generally speaking, is a must-visit. It’s a pretty large region, and I believe that Goreme is the best place to stay. There, you’ll be able to visit the region’s fairy chimneys, which are naturally occurring rock formations that look like little homes for fairies. The rocks are quite incredible, and the landscapes are just generally worth seeing.
5. Enjoy the Anatalyian Beaches
Turkey is home to, arguably, some of the best beaches in the world – I stand by that statement! On the Mediterranean coastline, you can sit back and relax on these beautiful sandy beaches with warm water – perfect for swimming. Take your pick among the busy touristy beaches or the smaller, quieter ones.
6. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is the ultimate Turkish cultural experience, and the actual marketplace is pretty astounding in itself – it’s one of the largest covered bazaars in the whole world. Inside, you can buy a variety of different things, ranging from scarves and T-shirts to spices and sweets.
7. Topaki Palace
Located in the Fatih district of Istanbul, Topaki Palace was the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire back in the day and served as the home of plenty of sultans over the years.
Today, tourists can visit the palace – the grounds of which are massive – and walk all around the different buildings. It’s been converted into a museum, and although tickets are quite expensive, I thought it was worth absolutely a penny.
8. The Underground Cities of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is known for its hot-air balloons and incredible natural landscapes, but something that is (in my opinion) even cooler than those things is the ancient underground cities in the region.
There are more than 100 different underground cities in and around Cappadocia and they were lived in for months at a time while local people were under siege by enemies. Today, you can tour them, wandering incredibly deep underground, which is an amazing experience.
9. The Ancient City of Ephesus
Located near Izmir, a modern Turkish city, make sure you visit the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. It was, at one point, considered the most important city in ancient Greece, and today, you can wander around the ruins.
10. Bosphorus Ferry Ride
The Bosphorus Strait is one of the most strategic waterways in Europe, connecting the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Today, you can jump on a ferry ride – it’s pretty cheap too – and travel along the strait from one part of Istanbul to another. You can even go from Europe to Asia within 20 minutes if you please!
One Attraction in Turkey That Isn’t Worth It: Cappadocia Hot-Air Balloons
It’s totally up to the individual, and everyone has their personal preferences, but in my opinion, it’s just not worth spending a fortune going up in a hot-air balloon in Cappadocia.
Why? Well, firstly, it’s incredibly expensive – the amount that you spend on the hot-air balloon could be spent on plenty of other cool activities. Second, you’ll be surrounded by strangers and the actual basket is likely to be super crowded and pretty unpleasant, by my standards.
And third, you can enjoy views that are just as beautiful, if not more beautiful, from the ground. In fact, I thought that the view of all of the balloons was more incredible than the view from the balloon itself! So, save your money and rather have a coffee on the rooftop of your hotel.
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