15 of the best things to do in Turkey
Love to plan you vacations around fascinating cultural experiences and exploring the great outdoors? Turkey should be top of your list! From checking out ancient ruins to taking amazing hot air balloon rides, there are so many things to do in Turkey to make your vacation one to remember forever. So if you’re thinking about taking a trip to this beautiful country, here are 15 fo the best things to do and help you plan the perfect vacation in Turkey…
What is Turkey famous for?
There are plenty of things to do in Turkey to ensure you have a trip of a lifetime. The country is most famous for their Turkish baths and history. You’ll find so many unexpected Greek and Roman ruins scattered throughout the country. You’ll also find some of the best sailing spots in Europe. Because Turkey is a little off the beaten path, the beautiful beaches tend to not have as many crowds (as say, Greece). Plus, Turkey has becomingly famous for its use of colour in patterns and prints and this has become intertwined with their culture. You can discover the colours of Turkey in throughout the local markets like the Grand Bazaar – think beautiful lanterns, ceramics and textiles.
If food is more your thing, Turkey has some delicious dishes that you have to try. Think Turkish coffee and endless sweets. Some of the most popular Turkish sweets include Turkish Delight, a candy called ‘akide’ and ‘baklava’ — made of pistachios and almond marzipan. Other local favourites include fish sandwiches and pickle juice, which definitely taste much better than they sound! Immersing yourself in the local food is just one of the key ways to have an amazing Turkey vacation.
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How many days do you need in Turkey?
As a country, Turkey is so large and diverse. There are tons of things to do in Turkey that you won’t want to miss on your trip, so we’d recommend 10-14 days. With big cities like Istanbul and major sites like Cappadocia, this is a trip you won’t want to rush. Add on a few extra days if you want to spend some time sailing in the Aegean Sea, as this will give you enough time to relax and soak up the Mediterranean sun.
The best things to do in Turkey…
1. Visit the capital of Turkey, Ankara
As the major bustling city in Turkey, Ankara boasts some of the most beautiful architecture in the country. It blends the modern and historical elements of different neighbourhoods together. There are also tons of things to do in Ankara, including Ankara Castle (Kalesi), which is a must-visit for some ancient history and authentic Turkish culture. After that, head over to Gençlik Park to wander around the 69-acre gardens. There’s beautiful greenery, a swimming pool, amusement park, open-air theatre and miniature trains, making it the perfect spot for you to enjoy some down time on your trip.
2. Enjoy a Turkish bath in Istanbul
This is a must-do on any traveller’s list in Turkey. Turkish baths, or hammams, are popular among both tourists and locals. In Istanbul, there are tons of baths to choose from and it’s easy to find men or women-only baths. These wellness treatments are a special experience for anyone visiting Turkey. Traditional hammans contain three rooms: 1) hot – to steam and open pores, 2) warm – to scrub and 3) cool – to relax. Hammams are both a treat for your mind and body – it’s essentially a spa-like experience surrounded by authentic Turkish interiors and architecture. Dreamy.
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3. Visit the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
If you’re looking for things to do in Istanbul, add the Grand Bazaar to your list. It’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It has quickly become one of the main places to visit in Istanbul. With over 60 covered streets, you’ll find thousands of shops to buy some amazing souvenirs. Discover beautiful stained-glass lanterns and lamps, hand woven rugs, spices and leather goods. It’s truly a unique Turkish experience.
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4. Lycian Rock Tombs
One of the best things about Turkey is the sheer number of ancient ruins. They’re less touristy than Italy and Greece, but are full of rich history. The Lycian Tombs are carved into the walls of a mountain in Turkey. Ancient Lycians believed that the dead were carried by winged creatures and wanted to honour them in high places, hence the mountainside. These tombs are quite a sight to see as there are over one thousand tombs in the area that blend Greek, Persian and Lycian architecture styles together.
5. Explore the Ruins of Ephesus
If you’re into history, you should add this spot to your list, too. Spend some time exploring the ruins of Ephesus. Dating back to the 10th century BC, Ephesus used to be a bustling city, which experienced the rise and fall of the Greek empire. Today these ruins are home to popular Turkey landmarks like the Library of Celsus and the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.
6. Hike Mount Nemrut
One of the most popular Turkey tourism attractions in the southeast is Mount Nemrut. Its summit is surrounded by large statues to honour a royal tomb. Mount Nemrut can be quite a hike, but it has great views, especially at sunrise and sunset.
7. Sail on the Aegean Sea
If you’re looking for some down time on your trip, spend a few days relaxing on the beach. Head over to the harbours in Bodrum and set sail on the turquoise blue waters of the Aegean Sea. One of the most popular things to do in Bodrum is join a group and spend a few days at sea. On Contiki’s Turkish Sailing trip, you can spend your days in the sun and your nights sleeping under the stars on the deck. Plus, you’ll meet a bunch of like-minded travellers who want to travel and have fun, just like you.
8. Explore the underground city of Derinkuyu
If you’re looking to fully immerse yourself in history, explore the multi-level underground city of Derinkuyu. Found below Cappadocia, this city is one of the earliest Christian settlements. Over 20,000 lived underground with their livestock and food to escape the Roman empire. The narrow underground rooms and cellars are an interactive experience and immersive way for you to learn the history of Turkey.
9. Soak in the thermal waters in Pamukkale
Discover just how beautiful Turkey is by visiting Pamukkale. These turquoise pools are filled with thermal waters that spill from terrace to terrace. It’s become a popular Turkey tourism spot because of its beautiful views and spa-like experiences. But it’s the colours of this area that will quickly make it one of the highlights from your trip.
10. Take a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia
This beloved Turkey landscape has captured our hearts and put this country on all of our travel lists. Not only is Cappadocia a photographer’s dream, it’s one of the best places to experience a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. The rock-shaped landscape in Cappadocia has quickly become a MAJOR tourist attraction and one of Turkey landmarks you won’t want to miss!
11. Explore the limestone formations in Goreme National Park
After taking the hot air balloon ride, spend some time exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site of Goreme National Park. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Turkey to get your sweat on. Hike through Pigeon Valley and explore the fairy chimneys in the area. These beautiful rock formations are uniquely formed from volcanic deposits, making it one of the top reasons you should visit Turkey.
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12. Day trip to Cleopatra Island
Off the southeastern coast of Turkey, there’s a secluded island that’s 100% worth a day trip. Legend says that this beach was the secret paradise for Mark Anthony and Queen Cleopatra, coining the nickname Cleopatra Island. Surrounded by the bluest waters, Sedir Island is famous for having a beach made completely of seashells. Having taken years to build up this sand, the beach is super shiny and under protection of the government. Because it’s so secluded, it can be a tough spot to reach. Luckily it’s included during the day on Contiki’s Turkish Adventure trip, so you can soak in the history and the sun — all at once.
13. Grab a cup of Turkish coffee
For coffee lovers, trying Turkish coffee is a MUST. Turkish coffee is brewed using a special method and metal pot, making it stronger than espresso. One of the best places to find Turkish coffee is in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. If you can’t grab one in Istanbul, there are plenty of other places throughout Turkey. The flavour is different than regular coffee or espresso, so you’ll definitely want to grab a cup before your trip ends.
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14. Kayak over the ruins of Kekova
Looking to squeeze in some fitness while on your Turkey vacation? This Turkey experience blends adventure and history together. Head over to Kekova to discover a sunken city. On your journey, there’s lots to see as the ruins line the cliffs along the water. But its under the water that is the main attraction. The crystal blue turquoise waters make it easy for you to see all of the ruins down below.
15. Explore the Ruins of Troy
Troy is much more than a Hollywood blockbuster movie. Discover the history of the 10-year war by visiting the ruins of Troy. The site even includes a replica of the famous wooden Horse of Troy, an essential photo op for any traveller.
And there you have it! If the colours of Turkey aren’t inspiring enough, spend time exploring the ancient ruins and beautiful beaches that this country has to offer. Check out Contiki’s trips to Turkey as they cover most of the things you just can’t miss!