What to do in Turkey
What to do in Turkey
Our guide on what to do in Turkey
The peninsula is well-known for its ancient history. Istanbul has been the seat of power for three separate civilizations – Ottoman, Byzantine, and Roman – and the wider peninsula is littered with historical treasures. The ruins of Ephesus, just inland from Izmir, are unmissable, but if you can’t make it here you’re likely to still stumble across atmospheric acropolises or majestic ruins all across the country, from the ruins of Troy in Canakkale or ancient Olympos, Myra, or Termessos between Kas and Antalya.
Cappadocia is a must-visit for any tour of Turkey and is a center for all kinds of engrossing activities. As well as tours of the magical ‘fairy caves’ themselves – rich with photography opportunities – visitors can also take to the air in memorable hot air balloon flights, or head out on extended hikes through the scenic ‘Valley of Love’. The staggering ‘cotton castle’ of Pamukkale, another of Turkey’s natural wonders, is also a must-see, where visitors can take a dip in the natural thermal pools.
It’s not all antiquity though: Modern Turkey is packed with wonders too. Enjoy fine dining in Istanbul’s restaurants, uncover cheap eats during a memorable food tour or cooking class, haggle in bazaars, kayak across a sunken city in Kekova, or charter a gulet cruise for a memorable cruise along the Turquoise Coast: Turkey offers adventures and intrigue to suit all comers!
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Best activities to do in Turkey
Peru has a huge range of outdoor pursuits, history, culture and food to enjoy. To help you narrow it down we have put together a list of some of our favorites.
Take a Dip at Pamukkale
One of the most unique experiences you can have in Turkey is to soak in the milky, mineral-rich waters at Pamukkale. In this other-worldly like place, the water that drips from the springs has created stunning terraced pools that are contrasted against chalky, snow-white travertine formations. In the same way that stalactites form in caves, the deposits grow along the steep slopes and gradually fan out to form the natural terraces. The name Pamukkale translates to “cotton castle” and as it comes into view, it truly looks as if it’s a bizarrely beautiful fortress. After an unforgettable soak, you can climb to the top to explore the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, a city established in the late 2nd-century BC, which includes temples, baths, monuments, and the remains of a collonaded street running parallel to the travertines below. Thanks to the natural thermal springs, it became an important spa center for the Romans.
Take Off in a Hot-Air Balloon Over Cappadocia
Known as the “land of beautiful horses,” Cappadocia is renowned for its wild mountain ponies and alien-like landscapes with unique rock formations that look unlike anything you’ve probably ever seen. While the views at ground level are truly breathtaking, the magnificent natural grandeur of the area is best taken in from above, which is why this has become one of the world’s most popular places for a hot-air balloon. You’ll be able to gaze down at the ethereal “fairy chimneys,” with remarkable pillars and limestone spires as well as dwellings and other structures carved into the rock. This may be the only place on the planet where hundreds of balloons soar up into the sky some 250 days of the year. While April through November are the best time to enjoy this experience of a lifetime, provided the winds aren’t too strong, winter can be especially magical too.
Hike Through the Valley of Love
While a bird’s-eye view of Cappadocia’s landscape is really a must, seeing the towering phallic-like rock formations up close is something you’ll definitely want to do. Asiklar Vadisi, which translates to the “Valley of Love” is arguably the best hike you can embark on to marvel at them from the ground and it’s within walking distance from Goreme. One can easily explore them within a couple of hours at most as they’re clustered together about 10 minutes on foot from the edge of the valley. When in need of a little shade and a refreshing drink there’s a small café in the middle, the perfect spot to escape the searing sun and sip an icy cold Efes (Turkish beer). For a longer trek, extend it by continuing through to Uchisar Castle, a centuries-old citadel set on a volcanic rock outcrop at the highest point in Cappadocia, delivering awe-inspiring views from the top.
Spend the Night in a Goreme Cave
Thanks to Goreme’s many subterranean structures, including cave dwellings and cave hotels, spending the night in one provides the total experience in this unique region. These aren’t simply dark holes in the rock with hard ground to lay your head down and bats flying around, there are many that are rather luxurious along with more budget-friendly options too. You’ll find hotels as well as Airbnb rentals with something for just about every taste. And, just because they’re carved from caves that doesn’t mean you won’t have a view. Many include roof terraces, perfect for watching the sun come up and the countless colorful hot-air balloons rise into the sky. The nature cave home rentals on Airbnb often include high-end amenities like home theater systems with Smart TVs, Blu-ray players, Wi-Fi, and kitchens for cooking your own meals too. The Mysterious Cave Suites hotel even offers romantic rooms with Jacuzzis and fireplaces.
Visit Ancient Ephesus
Ephesus was a major trade center in the ancient world, with its history dating all the way back to the 10th-century BC. In 2015, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “exceptional testimony to Hellenistic, Roman Imperial, and early Christian periods.” The cultural traditions from those eras can be seen among the impressive ruins of Hadrian’s Gate, the Temple of Hadrian, and Celsus Library, built in 117 AD to store some 12,000 scrolls as one of the largest at the time. There are statues, aqueducts, and remarkable terrace homes. The homes contain gorgeous frescoes and mosaics, where you’ll be able to see the painstaking work it took for archaeologists to put the broken tiles back together. One could easily wander for hours, walking around the excavated and reconstructed structures that make it easy to imagine how people lived their lives during these ancient times.
Paraglide Over Ölüdeniz
Ölüdeniz is a resort town on Turkey’s southwest coast, famous for its dazzling blue lagoon with brilliant turquoise waters and the white sands of Belcekiz Beach. It’s the most famous beach in the country and one of the most beautiful scenes, enjoying a backdrop of pine forest and Babadağ Mountain. The drive to the top of the mountain is spectacular in itself, with twists and turns revealing one majestic view after another. And once you reach the summit, this is where paragliders take off, enjoying the view from above while floating through the sky, arguably the closest way you’ll get to actually flying without having wings. Of course, you won’t be left on your own, it’s a tandem ride with an expert so all you have to do is enjoy the rush that comes with those jaw-dropping aerial Mediterranean views, from the forested slopes to the sea, before landing on the beach below.
Visit the Spice Bazaar and Suleymaniye Mosque
Istanbul offers many attractions, but two of the most iconic are the Spice Bazaar and Suleymaniye Mosque, the city’s most important mosque, considered one of the greatest masterpieces created by imperial architect Mimar Sinan. The Grand Bazaar is no tourist trap, it’s a place where many locals come to shop on a daily basis. Turkish residents tend to be much better at bargaining, so you’ll want to get your game on before exploring the world’s largest covered bazaar with some 60 streets that are lined with dozens of restaurants, thousands of shops, and 12 mosques. Taking it all in, the sights, sounds, the tastes of the local cuisine, haggling for those famous intricately patterned carpets, leather, hand-painted ceramics, Byzantine jewellery, and more, is all part of the experience. The mosque, constructed in the 16th-century, crowns one of the city’s seven hills, dominating the Golden Horn, stunningly beautiful inside and out.
Set Sail on the Turkish Coast
The long meandering coastline offers some of the Mediterranean’s most scenic sailing. Whether you head out for the day, for several days or more, it’s sure to be an experience you’ll never forget. Sailing is one of the best ways to see more of the country in one trip and excursions often stop at some of Europe’s best beaches like Oludeniz and the stunning blue lagoon, with opportunities to bathe under the golden sunlight and enjoy dips in the crystal-clear turquoise water. You might even swim with dolphins off the shores of Patara or visit the famous Blue Caves. The Turquoise Coast, which stretches from bustling Fethiye to the resort town of Antalya, is renowned for its warm, sparkling sea backed by mountains for nearly the entire length. Slopes drop precipitously to charming fishing villages, with the sheer cliffs, sandy beaches, and lush pine forests all adding to the dramatic beauty.
Discover the Keslik Monastery and Derinkuyu Underground City
Built in the 7th Century AD, Keslik Monastery is located in the southern part of Cappadocia, and like many of the buildings here, it was carved right out of the rock. It’s an extensive complex with churches, living and sleeping quarters, kitchens, and magnificent frescoes that depict bible scenes. One of the highlights is the Archangel Michael Church with its ceiling that includes the Ascension scene, with angels lifting Jesus to heaven. The entrance arch features Jesus healing the Paralytic, emphasizing the lame man on a mat. All the images in the nave are beautifully painted and remarkably well-preserved. Cappadocia is also known for its underground cities, with Derinkuyu the deepest of them all in Turkey, extending nearly 300 feet underground. Just a short distance from the monastery, it’s large enough to have provided shelter to as many as 20,000, offering the chance to stroll through structures with a network of rooms spread over multiple levels.
Take a Private Yacht Cruise on the Bosporus
If you only get out on the water once, make it a private yacht cruise on the Bosporus to get a perspective of some of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul. An exclusive sightseeing excursion, viewing Istanbul from the river may be its finest panorama. You’ll enjoy the enchanting atmosphere as you cruise the European and Asian shores, admiring the scenery with 360-degree views while sipping a refreshing beverage. Most include complimentary coffee, tea, and water, and have a bar with a selection of alcoholic drinks as well. Just some of the highlights include Anadolu Fortress, Rumeli Fortress, Ciragan Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, and the two bridges that cross the Bosporus. The photo-ops are outstanding, and you might just spot some bottlenose dolphins or harbour porpoise along the way. Tours are typically two hours in length and may include options for a dinner or sunset cruise too.
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