Things to do in Turkey

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The warm Mediterranean breeze wraps around ancient city ruins and the wild olive trees gently rustle as they have for millennia. With tranquil waters to the west and picturesque deserts to the east, Turkey is a land of diversity, tradition, and unmatched beauty.

Getting lost between jagged sandstone cliffs or finding shelter from the beating sun in an underground ancient metropolis is only the top of the to-do list while visiting Turkey. Here are the 10 best things to do in Turkey for hungry travelers.

1. Deep Dive Into Turkish Culture

Visiting Hagia Sophia is a popular thing to do in Turkey.
Head to Istanbul and dive into Turkish culture.

For thousands of years, the Turkish empire expanded and reshaped, absorbing cultures and traditions from all across Europe and Asia. Food, music, dancing, art, and handcrafts all form part of the colorful Turkish culture.

Recommended places:

  • Istanbul: As the former capital of the country and a gateway between the East and the West, Istanbul is a treasure trove of cultural heritage. Watch the iconic Whirling Dervish dances or pay a visit to the Islamic Art Gallery to learn about the city’s long-spanning history. Check out our tours to Istanbul.
  • Goreme:  Exploring Goreme offers a wealth of insight into the ancient cultures of Turkey. Goreme features cave dwellings, rock formations, and ancient religious sites, giving you a glimpse into the country’s past.

Best season: Spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October) are the best times to visit when the weather is mild and there are not many tourist crowds around.

2. Take a Hot-air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia

If you are looking for things to do in Turkey, try a hot air balloon ride.
Get amazing views of the Turkish landscape on a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia.

Imagine iconic scenes of colorful balloons rising high in the air over an otherworldly landscape, experiencing a hot-air balloon ride is one of the most famous things about Turkey. Cappadocia is hands down the most picturesque hot-air ballooning destination in the world. Hundreds of balloons take to the sky every morning, soaring over sharp sandy peaks and rock formations.

Best season: Try to avoid the peak seasons of June, July and August. Spring is a great time to see Cappadocia. Winter is another good time to visit when visitors can see the snow covering this magnificent landscape.

Insider's Tip: Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is truly magical, but if your budget doesn't stretch that far you can still enjoy stunning views of the sunrise balloons floating across the surreal landscape by heading up to Sunrise Point on Aydin Kiragi Sk, just up the hill from Artemis Cave Suites. There is a small entrance fee but it is absolutely worth it, the view is beyond insane! – by Alexx Hayward from Finding Alexx.

3. Soak In Thermal Baths

Visit the thermal pools in Pamukkale.
Relax in a thermal pool in Pamukkale that is known to have healing properties.

For optimal relaxation, indulge in a Turkish thermal bath. The healing properties of these mineral-rich waters are well known and it is said that even Cleopatra once bathed.

Recommended places:

  • Pamukkale: The stunning travertines of Pamukkale in their cloudlike formations are some of the most unforgettable things to see in Turkey. Spend the afternoon wading among ancient ruins in Cleopatra’s pool and enjoy the tranquil waters.
  • Ilgin: The southern town of Ilgin in the Konya region has water rich in Hydrocarbonate, Calcium, and Sodium. Its healing properties are endless and you will leave feeling rejuvenated.
  • Cesme: The thermal water from Cesme comes from the sea, making it one of the most unique thermal experiences in the world.

Best season: Spring and autumn are the best times to visit thermal springs that are outdoor. But if you are visiting in the winter, you can always try indoor hot springs.

4. Step Back Into History

Visit archaeological sites in Ephesus.
Discover Turkish history by visiting ancient archaeological sites in Ephesus.
Visit Antikabir in Ankara.
A holiday in Turkey is incomplete without a visit to the capital, Ankara.

Embark on archeological and historical tours to get a glimpse into the tumultuous past of Turkey and the Ottoman empire. Ancient civilizations have left a wealth of archeological sites and treasures scattered all across Turkey.'

Recommended places:

  • Ephesus: The biblical city of Ephesus is one of the best-preserved sites of the ancient world. Marvel at the sheer size of the Greek amphitheater or ponder over secrets kept in the Ephesus library.
  • Ankara: The current capital of Turkey houses the Museum of Anatolian history which takes you on a journey through Turkish history while Anitkabir connects you with more recent Turkish times.

Best season: April, May, and October are the best months to enjoy the historical sites of Turkey when the crowds are still few and the weather is still agreeable.

5. Take To The Water On A Cruise

Get on a cruise tour in Turkey.
Experience the tranquil sea water by hopping on a cruise tour in Turkey.

Taking a cruise is one of the most underrated things to do in Turkey. Liners are taking luxury to a new level and introducing visitors to the show-stopping beauty of the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

Recommended routes:

  • Turkey to the Greek Islands: The romantic Greek islands are just a stone’s throw from the idyllic Turkish Mediterranean coast. Ships from Izmir go to Santorini and Mykonos while the Bodrum cruises also include Naxos, Paros, and a few more.
  • North Sea to Black Sea cruise: This is an epic 30-day cruise journey from Istanbul to Amsterdam. The North Sea to Black Sea Cruise covers a huge number of European historic hotspots.

Best season: July and August are the busiest months. April and May also offer great weather, with some cooler nights and less crowded ports.

6. Shop ‘Til You Drop

Visit the Grand Bazaar for some shopping in Turkey.
Shop for souvenirs in the markets in Istanbul.

Whether you like to wander through local bazaars in search for traditional wares or splurge on boutique finds, make sure to leave extra room in your suitcase when visiting Turkey.

Recommended markets:

  • Grand Bazaar: With its massive selection of items available at an affordable price range, you will want to wear comfortable shoes to undertake this shopping extravaganza. Here you will enjoy the collection of traditional hand-crafted goods like lamps and jewelry.
  • Egyptian Spice Bazaar: This is another of Istanbul’s most iconic markets with rows of colorful handmade sweets, fragrant spices, and buckets full of tea on sale. Sweet tooths will especially love the decadent baklava sitting in gleaming golden display cases, waiting to be gobbled up.

Best season: During the winter, markets are emptier but July and August offer great discounts as summer sales are popular in Istanbul.

7. Venture Off Road in Marmaris

Explore the outdoors in Marmaris.
Go on off-road adventures in the coastal city of Marmaris.

Turkey’s rugged landscape provides an excellent space for off-road adventures of all kinds. The mountains around the coastal city of Marmaris provide the best place for thrill seekers to explore nature in an alternative way. Take a jeep safari or an ATV tour through the surrounding mountains for an exhilarating experience. Here are our tours to Marmaris.

Best season: July and August are the most popular times for these action-packed trips but September and October can offer better rates.

8. Beach Fun

Visit Kabak beach is Turkey which is surrounded by lush greenery.
Relax in Kabak beach which is surrounded by greenery.
Visit the blue lagoon on Oludeniz beach.
Watch the blue lagoon on Oludeniz beach in Turkey.

The Mediterranean coast of Turkey is quickly matching the popularity of other idyllic heavyweights like Greece and Malta. Soak up the sun and enjoy the inviting waters on the country’s most beautiful beaches.

Recommended beaches:

  • Kabak beach: Kabak Beach sits hidden in a lush valley with mountains plunging into the sea on either side.
  • Oludeniz beach: A visit to the Blue Lagoon is one of the best things to do in Turkey if you love all things beach-related. This natural marvel is a haven of tranquility and beauty on the southwest coast.

Best season: June and July are the busiest times on Turkish beaches but you can enjoy amazing weather starting as early as April and well into late September.

9. Eat to Your Heart’s Content

Watch Turkish chefs prepare Doner Kebab.
Try the world-famous Doner Kebab in Turkey.

Turkish food is characterized by heaps of flavor, a sharing mentality, and an abundance of options. Eat your body weight in baklava, Turkish delights, and an extensive Turkish breakfast to enjoy the best of the country’s legendary cuisine.

Recommended dishes:

  • Doner Kebab: On every street corner you will see giant rotating meat mounds. These juicy stacks of chicken or pork are thinly sliced once cooked to perfection and served on pita bread or with an assortment of pickles. 
  • Turkish Delight: Seek out real hand-made Turkish delight that is made with starch to give it an extra gummy texture. For an extra special treat, get your hands on the colorful rolls of Turkish delight and nougat served together with pistachio, peanuts, rose petals, or chocolate.

Best season: There is no bad time to tuck into any Turkish delicacies. Enjoy markets and local merchants all year round.

10. Discover Underground Turkey

Visit Derinkuyu which is an old underground city.
Explore the underground city of Derinkuyu in Turkey.

Ancient civilizations built expansive cities underground that are still intact today. Explore this long-lost way of living and marvel at the ingenuity it took to develop such advanced structures.

Recommended spots:

  • Kaymakli: Crawl through the narrow tunnels and hear the history of ancient humans that once occupied these caverns. This is not for the faint of heart as narrow tunnels wind deep into the ground to lead you into an ancient underground city nearly 40 meters deep.
  • Derinkuyu: This place is near twice as deep as Kaymakli at 85 meters below ground. It could have once housed up to 20,000 people and their livestock, a true feat of human engineering.

Best season: June and August are the busiest months but the cool atmosphere of the caves is a welcome relief from the blistering heat outside.

The list of activities in Turkey is seemingly endless and whether you enjoy a slow pace of traveling or an adventure-filled break, there is something for everyone. Speak to our travel experts to get a tailor-made experience in Turkey.

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  • Kadir Ismail Kuscu
    Kadir Ismail Kuscu
    Travel Expert in Turkey
  • Alican Kapti
    Alican Kapti
    Travel Expert in Turkey
  • Furkan Gokcel
    Furkan Gokcel
    Travel Expert in Turkey
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