28 Best Places to Visit in Turkey

28 Best Places to Visit in Turkey
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Turkey is one of the most popular vacation destinations. With its sunny coasts, impressive mountain regions and historical archaeological sites, it shows many faces. Cities like Istanbul, Izmir and Antalya are characterized by historical buildings. With their office buildings and business centers they present themselves in a mix of tradition and modernity. The Turkish Riviera, with its endless beaches and first-class hotels, is considered a top destination for families, water sports enthusiasts and sun worshippers. Shopping fans will find a rich selection of textiles, leather goods, jewelry and carpets. Here is our list of the 28 Best Places to Visit in Turkey.

28. Ankara

Ankara citadel
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As the second largest city in Turkey, the city of Ankara is an attractive tourist destination. As the capital and political center of Turkey, Ankara shows itself as a modern city in the heart of Turkey. Ankara is also considered one of the safest cities in Turkey. Recreational opportunities are abundant in Ankara. A wide range of cultural activities as well as numerous opportunities for sports activities make Ankara an interesting destination. Modern shopping streets and traditional bazaars characterize the cityscape as well as historical sights and modern buildings.

Probably the most famous sight in Ankara is the Anıtkabir. The burial place of the state founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The complex is impressive and features numerous details. Another highlight of the city is the first republican parliament in the Ulus district, which is the epitome of modern Turkey.

With the Kocatepe Mosque, on the other hand, Ankara also shows its connection with Islam.The impressive mosque is located south of the old city and shows itself in a classical style. The mosque illustrates the balancing act between the Islamic world and modern Ankara, because in the basement there is a modern department store. A special sight is the central prison. Here you can still find the gallows and a memorial plaque commemorating 18 of the hanged people, including Deniz Gezmis, who went down in history as a co-founder of the People’s Liberation Army.

27. Mardin

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Mardin is one of the most beautiful cities in eastern Turkey and is located on a mountain ridge at an altitude of almost 1,000 meters. The special thing is that there is still a cultural connection between Christians and Muslims here. As a visitor, you should not be surprised when the evening prayer of the muezzin is suddenly accompanied by the ringing of bells. In the most positive sense, it is very surprising that in the middle of the historic alleys, which in some places seem ancient, such a peaceful coexistence of the two religions is possible.

The origin of the Christian faith is Syrian Orthodox Christianity, whose followers settled in Mardin in the 6th century. The formerly very large number of believers has decreased considerably, also due to pressure from Islam, but nevertheless today about 5,000 people continue the centuries-old tradition.

After the Christian settlement, Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols and Ottomans followed as rulers of Mardin. They all left a significant mark on the cityscape. However, Mardin never took a major role in the history of the Anatolian region, but rather stayed on the sidelines of events.

26. Konya

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In the center of the Anatolian steppe highlands, Konya is the capital of the province of the same name and one of Turkey’s largest metropolises. The metropolis of millions looks back on a long history and was a religious center in the Ottoman Empire. Today, Konya is considered an Islamic cultural metropolis, which is culturally very different from other major Turkish cities and is mainly visited by Turks with Sufi backgrounds. Many visitors come to Konya because of the mausoleum of the Persian poet Mevlevi Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rum, who is revered as the founder of a well-known Sufi order.

The Anatolian city is considered the home of the Sufi order and attracts devout followers of Sufism, which was a fringe ascetic group of Muslims until the 9th century. In addition to the mausoleum and museum honoring the founder of the order, a former dervish monastery, there are several mosques worth seeing in the metropolis. Southeast of the city, the excavation site of a Neolithic settlement is worth seeing – Çatalhöyük. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited attractions in the region and is often referred to as the oldest settlement of mankind.

The historic old town forms the center of the Islamic stronghold. Besides the Mevlâna Monastery, several mosques are worth seeing, such as the Iplikci Mosque or the Şerafettin Mosque. Many mosques were built in the Ottoman-Seljuk style and feature Turkish tiles in the interiors.

There are a number of interesting museums in the city. North of Alaaddin Hill, the Tile Museum is worth seeing, as is the Konya Archaeological Museum. The Karatay Museum and the Atatürk Museum comprehensively cover Turkish historical eras. The city’s landmark in the east is Mevlana Tekkesi with its conical roof over the tomb of the saint and philosopher Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi. The famous Mevlevi dance of the dervishes is performed again today in the city’s sports hall.

25. Antalya

Konyaalti beach and mountains in Antalya Turkey

The Turkish city of Antalya can offer both a city break and a beach vacation. Located on the beautiful Mediterranean coast, visitors can expect gorgeous sandy beaches and wonderful weather. The southernmost part of the country is not called the Turkish Riviera for nothing. Antalya reveals a fantastic seaport, which is also often used as a starting point for boat trips. The surrounding mountain landscapes, on the other hand, entice visitors with varied hiking trails. Lovers of historical architecture will also be in their element in Antalya, with the city center revealing some very impressive buildings.

In Antalya many impressions come together. Bazaars lure with particularly varied offers, everywhere it smells of herbs and spices. The most beautiful sights are within easy reach. The 38-meter-high minaret of the Yvli Minare Mosque rises above the roofs of the city in impressive beauty. The sacred building dates back to 1207 and is counted among Antalya’s landmarks.

No less breathtaking are the massive domes, which make the mosque appear extremely majestic. The former city wall has been largely destroyed, but the beautiful Hadrian’s Gate is in amazingly good condition. The columns and arches, decorated with numerous ornaments, are considered the entrance to the port, so to speak. Visitors enjoy the maritime atmosphere and stroll along the promenade of the anchorage, where cafes, bars and stores are lined up. Nearby, one encounters dreamlike waterfalls that rush into the depths from a height of 30 meters.

24. Marmaris

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In the Turkish Aegean Sea lies the popular resort of Marmaris. The beautiful coastline with sandy beaches and the protected natural harbor made the place famous in ancient times. Today’s port city has a variety of recreational facilities and is fully geared to tourism. There are about 600 berths in the marina. It is the largest marina in the Turkish Aegean. Many skippers spend the winter in Marmaris, one of the most popular Turkish resorts with ancient sights in the vicinity. The bay with the natural harbor is well protected from wind and weather and is a great traffic port of cruise ships.

Among the most interesting buildings of Marmaris from the eventful history of the city is the Marmaris Kalesi fort, which was only slightly destroyed in the earthquake of 1958. The old town with its narrow streets stretches around the fort along the coastal strip. All the preserved half-timbered houses are protected monuments. From the castle, which was built in the 16th.

Century, one has a beautiful view over the port of Marmaris. The castle is now home to a museum. The former caravanserai houses some souvenir stores. Many modern sights have been built in Marmaris after the earthquake. The Netsel marina and the long beach promenade characterize the tourist townscape today. For shopping, the covered bazaar in the old town is suitable. The bazaar was built in a modern form after the earthquake.

23. Side

Old ruins in Side, Turkey at sunset
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Side is one of the favorite destinations of the so-called “Turkish Riviera”. The city has a pleasant climate, beautiful beaches and numerous sights from the Greek and Roman antiquity. Also the surroundings of Side offer many possibilities for excursions.

The resort of Side is located in the Manavgat district, between the cities of Alanya and Antalya. The town has a history of 3,500 years. In ancient times the region was called Pamphyllia, Side was one of the most important port cities in that time. The port facilities are located on a flat peninsula. There is the ancient Side. The most important remains date back to the Roman era. When Side became a bishop’s seat in the 6th century, other buildings were erected, some of which are still preserved today.

Well preserved is the theater, which in ancient times could seat about 20,000 spectators. Other ruins include the Nymphaeum, a fountain house, and the Agora, which was the city’s meeting and market place in ancient Greece. There are also remains of the aqueducts that once supplied Side with water from the Manavgat River. Various fragments exist of the Great Thermae, the Harbour Thermae, the city wall and a colonnaded street. A Byzantine church was later built in the ancient temple of Apollo. You can also visit the remains of the basilica and the bishop’s palace. Worth a visit is the Side Museum in the Agora Thermae.

22. Bodrum

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Among the many popular coastal towns in Turkey, Bodrum is the one with the most Mediterranean charm. It is considered one of the most beautiful resorts in the country and is not infrequently compared to Saint-Tropez in France. Situated above a beautiful bay, the town with its picturesque alleys offers a wonderful view over the marina and the sea. The coast offers beautiful sandy beaches and the mild climate allows an extended bathing season from the beginning of April until the end of October. The inhabitants of Bodrum are considered to be particularly hospitable and enterprising. No wonder that Bodrum’s nightlife has a good reputation.

Bodrum’s landmark, visible from afar, is the Bodrum Kalesi or St. Peter’s Fort, a 15th century Crusader fort that towers imposingly over the harbor. The fort houses a museum of underwater archaeology, some of which contains finds dating back to the 14th century BC. Among them are parts of ships, statues, amphorae, bronzes, copper ingots and glasswork. High above the city are the ruins of a Roman theater. Other ancient remains are scattered throughout the city, such as the Myndos Gate and parts of the city wall.

21. Ephesus

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Many centuries ago, the ancient city of Ephesus was one of the largest cities in modern Turkey. Today, this place is probably the most important archaeological site in the country.  You can expect a lot of sights, which will show you the traces of the turbulent history.

The importance of Ephesus is proven by the fact that it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. If you are interested in history, you will definitely enjoy your trip to Ephesus.

The ancient port city of Ephesus was considered the most important trading center of the Mediterranean in its heyday. Over the period of several centuries, Ephesus was under the influence of various rulers. It used to be one of the most important sites of Christianity and some of the archaeological sites are still a popular pilgrimage destination for devout Christians.

For a long time Ephesus was in the hands of the Hellenistic Empire. However, in 129 BC it was bequeathed to the Roman Empire by will. Especially under Emperor Augustus, it attained incredible wealth during this period. Many of the structures, such as the two agors, the aqueduct and the amphitheater, were built during his reign.

From the 1st century AD, Ephesus played an influential role regarding the spread of Christianity. Among others, Saint Paul and Saint John visited Ephesus. Many of the inhabitants converted to Christianity afterwards.

In the 3rd century AD, Ephesus was destroyed by the Goths, but was partially rebuilt afterwards. However, the ancient city never regained the influential status it had before. During the Byzantine Empire, the present archaeological site was completely neglected and left to decay.

20. Cappadocia

Hot air balloon flying over Cappadocia Turkey
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Cappadocia is a true fairy tale land, which impresses with its unique beauty and history. Millions of years ago, tuff ash deposited here, which was thrust into the air by volcanic eruptions. Several new layers were then formed in different colors and degrees of hardness. Wind and weather washed out the soft material and the harder remained. This natural process once created breathtaking valleys with so-called fairy chimneys. The very ones that make you feel like you’ve been transported to a fairyland. “I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else in the world,” is just one of the many statements made by Cappadocia travelers. And indeed, the kind of rock formations we find again in Cappadocia is unique and simply fascinating.

One of the most famous places in Cappadocia and also a national park is Göreme – a place characterized by unique cave architecture like no other. In Göreme there is the Open Air Museum, which you can visit. In it there are about 150 cave churches with frescoes, as well as the living quarters embedded in the rocks. The latter you should definitely have seen, because something like this can be found nowhere else in the world and it is really incredible that until quite some time ago people should have lived in these caves.

19. Istanbul

Blue Mosque at Istanbul
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Istanbul is by far the most economically, culturally and historically important city in Turkey. With over 2,500 years to date, the metropolis is one of the oldest cities in the world.

The various rulers of Istanbul, the different eras of art and architecture and the different cultures that settled in the metropolis have all left their mark. This diversity is symbolized and reinforced by the fact that Istanbul is the only city on two continents. Thus, Istanbul is not only an open-air museum of different architectural styles and cultural influences, but still lives out its diversity every second in each of the infinite number of small alleys. The city seems to be constantly rediscovering itself, which makes a visit very exciting.

Due to its long and eventful history, Istanbul has so many high-ranking sights that any attempt to list them must be seriously deficient. Nevertheless, there are some highlights that no visitor should miss. The Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, built in its image, are certainly among them. The Hippodrome, a sports palace from the time of Byzantine Constantinople, is said to have once held 100,000 spectators. The Bosphorus Bridge has connected Europe with Asia for over 40 years and is a symbolic emblem of the city made up of both continents. Other must-see highlights include the Grand Bazaar, the Leander Tower rising out of the water, and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.

18. Harran

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Harran is located in southeastern Turkey not far from Şanlıurfa and near the border with Syria and was an important trading center under the Babylonians in ancient Mesopotamia.

Harran is believed to be the ancient city of Haran, where Abraham (the Prophet Ibrahim to Muslims) lived for a time. Under the Arab Umayads and Abbasids, Harran became a center for scientific translation in the fields of astronomy, philosophy, medicine, and the natural sciences beginning in the late 8th century with the founding of the first Islamic university.

The people who live in the old and new parts of Harran today are ethnically Arab, closely tied to their clans. Many make their living working on the cotton plantations in the region. The cone-shaped historic houses in Harran are built of brick and mud. This construction method is ideal for the hot climate in the region.

17. Pamukkale

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Situated in the west, along the Aegean coast, where there are beautiful beaches, hidden bays and towns worth visiting, Pamukkale is by far the most significant treasure far and wide. Translated, Pamukkale means “cotton castle”. When you see this place, you will quickly realize that Pamukkale has earned this name.

Pamukkale is located in the southwest of Turkey, near the city of Denizli. Especially two things are absolutely worth seeing here: On the one hand there are the famous limestone terraces and on the other hand the ancient and historical city of Hierapolis.

They are gleaming white – the limestone terraces in Pamukkale. Verified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site long ago, these snow-white terraces impress with a breathtaking sight. The terraces were formed by the evaporation of the hot, calcareous thermal water from the springs, from which, by the way, 250 liters of carbonated and calcium-rich thermal water still flow every day. The deposits look like absorbent cotton, which is why Pamukkale was given the name “Cotton Castle.”

The water is even said to have a healing effect, which the ancient Romans recognized almost 2000 years ago. In the second and third century the health resort had its heyday, because then it could be bathed still carefree in the warm thermal water. Thus, circulatory, rheumatic and cardiac patients came here to bathe in the healing pool and recover from their ailments and infirmities.

16. Izmir

Izmir Clock Tower
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Izmir, the “Pearl of the Aegean”, is a city with history: The former Smyrna has existed for about 5000 years, Greeks and Romans, Muslims, Jews and Christians have left their traces during the eventful history of the city. Today Izmir is a modern Turkish city and a popular vacation resort. Guests stroll along the waterfront and visit the bazaar or spend a relaxing beach vacation here.

Corinthian columns from ancient times and the remains of a three-aisled basilica can still be found on the agora in Izmir, where trade was conducted as early as Roman times. The ruins of the Velvet Castle, Kadifekale in Turkish, built in the fourth century B.C. under Lysimachus, are located on a hill overlooking the city. From here, a fantastic view of Izmir opens up. Also worth seeing is the Hisar Mosque, built in 1598, in the bazaar district. The oldest Christian church is St. Polikarp from 1620, one of the seven churches of the Revelation. Even German traces can be found in Izmir: The Moorish-style clock tower Saat Kulesi was built in 1901 by Kaiser Wilhelm II and given as a gift to the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II.

15. Mount Nemrut

Mount Nemrut
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The beach vacationer hardly gets lost in this national park located in southeastern Turkey. At first glance, this lonely region seems rather dusty, barren and unimpressive.

Certainly, this mountain, which belongs to the Taurus Mountains, is quite imposing with a height of 2200 m – but why Nemrut Dagi (Mount Nemrut) was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987 is only revealed when you take a closer look, climb the mountain and take a look at the larger-than-life statues of gods.

Nemrut Dagi makes history come alive, because there is hardly any other place where you are closer to the gods. Whether Zeus, Apollo or Hercules – all are gathered here. Or rather: chiseled out of stone.

The sight of the statues of the gods is overwhelming. And even the fact that the stone giants are now quite battered and stand around headless, while the heads have been placed next to the gigantic torso, does not diminish the fascination.

This tomb was created by King Antiochus who ruled the region from 69 to 34 BC. Nemrut Dagi was meant to symbolize the contract he had made with the gods. And so there are not only the stone statues of the gods, but also a statue of the king himself.

14. Oludeniz

Oludeniz Beach
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It is considered the most beautiful beach in Turkey: The Blue Lagoon Ölüdeniz is picturesquely beautiful like in a picture book.

Surrounded by pine forests and mountain landscapes, you will find it: a picture-book setting, located on the beautiful southern coast of Turkey. A view of the sea, which glitters in a wide variety of colors from turquoise to aquamarine and fades into dark blues and greens, leaves you almost speechless. Welcome to one of the most beautiful places in Turkey, Ölüdeniz beach.

That a paradisiacal place like Ölüdeniz beach will not remain undiscovered for long was certainly to be expected. Although the Turkish region of Lycia, especially the village of Belceğiz, has not always been of great renown, it has been a household name to just about everyone at least since the discovery of the Blue Lagoon.

Countless tourists travel to Ölüdeniz in Turkey every year to swim in the crystal clear water and relax on the pebble and sandy beach of the Turkish Aegean Sea on the border with the Riviera. Because that’s what you can do best here – relax and enjoy life to the fullest. Due to the pine forest, both the beach and the sea are well protected from wind and weather.

13. Aspendos

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About 46 kilometers east of Antalya are the ruins of Aspendos. In ancient times, Aspendos was an important city of Asia Minor and a major trading center. Today its remains bear witness to its former prosperity under Roman rule in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. Since the city has not yet been excavated, little is known about its history. It was probably founded in the 3rd century BC. As a seaport (connected to the sea by the river Köprü Çayý) Aspendos became a commercial metropolis.

Currently you can find here the best preserved ancient theater in the world, which can seat 17,000 visitors. Built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, it served as a caravanserai in Seljuk times and was constantly renovated, which explains its good condition. Even now you can get a good impression of the rich decorations inside the building with column decorations, rosettes and ornaments. Meanwhile, the ancient theater is again used for performances and concerts. Galleries, the stage decorations and the acoustics testify to the high level of ancient architecture.

In the lower part of the city one comes across other ruins, including the remains of the baths and the gymnasium. At the Acropolis there are the remains of a basilica and the longest aqueduct in Anatolia.

12. Patara

Patara Beach
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Patara is not only an interesting ancient city, but also famous for its magnificent Patara Beach. Patara Beach is the place where many people flock in the summer.

The entrance to the present ruins of the city is through the magnificent and well-preserved Roman triumphal arch. The inscription indicates that it was built in the name of the governor in 100 AD.

Kurşunlu Tepe, where the theater rests, is the most beautiful corner with panoramic views of the city. From here other ruins of the city can be seen, the Baths of Vespasian, the Corinthian Temple, the main street, the port and the granary are all clearly visible.

The granary behind the marsh to the northwest of the hill is one of Patara’s monumental buildings, built in the 2nd century AD by Emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina. North of the theater is the parliament building.

The lighthouse of Patara is considered the oldest lighthouse in the world, built in 60 AD.

It is believed that Saint Nicholas was born in Patara around 280 AD. Saint Nicholas spent most of his life in the nearby town of Myra (Demre).

11. Pergamon

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Bergama is a small relaxed city with about 70,000 inhabitants in contrast to the once powerful ancient Pergamon, which was discovered only in the mid-19th century by a German explorer, and once had 160,000 – 200,000 inhabitants. It is a must for tourists interested in history and a quiet alternative in contrast to the crowded Ephesus.

Many people associate Pergamon with one thing in particular: the supposedly most beautiful ruins in Turkey. In addition, the second largest library in the world, which is said to have contained over 200,000 parchment scrolls, once belonged to the city.

By the way, parchment paper was invented here. You can also visit the foundation of the famous altar of Zeus from the second century BC. You can see the altar itself in Berlin in the Pergamon Museum.

If you want to get a picture of the wonderful ruins from Roman times, climb the 330 m high hill up to the Acropolis.

If you are at the bottom station early in the morning you can walk the way up (duration about 1 hour), later especially the sun bangs directly down on the mountain. There is also a cable car to the top.

10. Troy

Ancient ruins in Troy Turkey
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Hardly any other archaeological site in Turkey is associated with as many myths and stories as Troy. In the “Iliad”, the ancient writer Homer brought heroes such as Achilles, Agamemnon, Paris and Helen to life and created a world in his verses that probably did not exist in this form. In historiography and archaeology it is even disputed whether the legendary Trojan War took place at all.

It is possible that the tales of Odysseus, his dangerous and adventurous journeys and the capture of the city of Troy with the help of a ruse are all just fiction. But this does not detract from the story of the oversized wooden horse that the deceitful Greeks gave to the Trojans as a supposed gift. The Greeks hid in the belly of the horse and, while the Trojans slept, crawled out of hiding – Thus, after years of war, they finally took the city that night.

9. Ani

Ani, Turkey
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The ancient city of Ani was once an Armenian capital, now abandoned for many centuries. Its ruins are located on a plateau in the Armenian-Turkish border area, about 42 kilometers southeast from the Turkish city of Kars. Ani is surrounded by the Akhurian River and a deep gorge.

The town of Ani is known as an Armenian fortress since the 5th century. In 763 it came under the rule of the Bagratids, an Armenian ruling dynasty that was one of the longest reigning royal families in the Caucasus. In the 10th century, under King Ashot III, Ani grew into an important city as the capital of the Armenian Empire. It was handed over to the Byzantines in 1045 and at that time was known as the ‘City of Over 1,000 Churches’. Over 100,000 inhabitants lived in Ani at that time.

In 1239 Mongols raided the city and conquered it. A century later, Ani was severely damaged in an earthquake, which was the beginning of the city’s downfall. Today Ani is only a ghost town, occasionally visited by Turkish border guards, tourists or residents from the neighboring village of Ocakli.

Ani is known for its ruins from early Armenian times. These include the city walls, a cathedral, churches, chapels, a palace and a citadel. The city is threatened by cultural vandalism, earthquakes and ground shaking caused by blasting. Therefore, the future of this monument of Armenian culture and outstanding architecture is uncertain.

8. Safranbolu

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If you travel a good 200 km from Ankara to central Anatolia, you will come across Safranbolu. A medieval city that supposedly owes its name to the saffron whose fields surrounded the city and which today is one of the most precious spices of all.

Whoever wanders through the sleepy alleys today may hardly imagine that Safranbolu was the hub of the legendary Silk Road until the 19th century. Where today farmers drive their cattle to market, there was once a throng of merchants and heavily laden camel caravans bringing the treasures of the Silk Road to Istanbul to the palace of the Sultan. And where today the farmers offer their cattle for sale and keep their heads above water, precious spices and noble fabrics once changed hands.

Safranbolu was not only the trading city shaped by the Silk Road, but also the city of craftsmen, whose skills were known far beyond the city limits. Many of the bakers, tanners or artisans entered the service of the Sultan in Istanbul. This earned the city the nickname “the back garden of Topkapi Palace.” The sultan rewarded his servant spirits so lavishly that the wages were not only enough to live on, but also enabled the construction of the magnificent homes that make the city so charming today.

In fact, in the old town of Safranbolu there are so many excellently preserved houses in traditional architectural style that the city is a true medieval pearl. However, this was not deliberately planned, because in fact the medieval town was simply forgotten in various development plans and thus remained spared from the excesses of modern architecture. Today, not much can be felt of the former prosperity of the medieval trading town.

7. Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum

Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum
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In the course of the planning of the Southeast Anatolia Project, which began in 1980 and is intended to supply southeastern Turkey with water and energy, it was also decided to build the Birecik Dam, which began in 1996. After protracted, often futile efforts by various parties to initiate measures to save the valuable antiquities of Zeugma, rescue excavations finally began in 1995 with the cooperation of the Gaziantep Archaeological Museum and various international organizations. Numerous artifacts were excavated, including a large number of remarkable, well-preserved mosaics and wall paintings. They were initially collected in the Gaziantep Museum, which, however, soon proved to be too small. In 2005, an extension building was opened next to the old museum, but soon it was also no longer able to cope with the abundance of material found. Subsequently, the construction of a separate museum for the relics of Zeugma was started in 2008, which was opened to visitors in 2011.

6. Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe
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Located in the southeast of Anatolia, the site of “Göbekli Tepe” with its rectangular and circular megalithic structures located in the mountain range of Germus, was built as early as 12,000 years ago. This makes the sanctuary of the Stone Age people in Turkey twice as old as Stonehenge in Great Britain, for example. They provide clues to the rituals of these people and made Göbekli Tepe a “masterpiece of of human creative genius.” Göbekli Tepe has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2018.

5. Cumalikizik

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Cumalikizik is a small village just outside Bursa. It is one of the reasons why Bursa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Around Bursa, there are actually many villages where old Ottoman houses still stand. However, Cumalikizik is the only village where the old Ottoman architecture is still completely preserved. Some of the houses are 700 years old.

In Bursa, the village is extremely famous for its good Turkish breakfast. Cumalikizik is definitely one of the destinations that is much more interesting for locals at first sight than for travelers.

Cumalikzik is a perfect opportunity to explore a small village in Turkey away from the typical tourist crowds. However, you must be aware that Cumalikizik is still very well visited by the many day trippers from Bursa.

4. Bursa

Panoramic view of Bursa City, Turkey
Panoramic view of Bursa City, Turkey

In the west of Turkey on the Marmara Sea coast lies Bursa, a metropolis steeped in history, which went down in history as the first Ottoman capital before Istanbul. The healing thermal and sulfur springs in Bursa attracted many guests even in ancient times. Today, Bursa is the fourth largest metropolis in Turkey and an important business location. The international metropolis offers many sights and green areas. Traditionally, fruit is grown in the fertile plain near Bursa. The city is also known for its good Turkish cuisine. In the 19th century, the world-famous kebap was invented here. To this day, food culture plays an important role in the everyday life of the inhabitants.

Bursa is a location of many international companies and is known for its old town with three remarkable mosques. The Great Mosque and the Green Mosque were built in the 15th century and are among the architectural masterpieces in the city, which is also known for its Turkish craftsmanship. Visits to the bazaars of Bursa is among the tourist attractions.

The western Turkish metropolis is mainly known for its mosques and famous tombs. The largest mosque in Bursa, Ulu Cami, dates back to the 15th century and is architecturally characterized by its 20 domes. Considered a masterpiece of architecture from the early Ottoman period, the Green Mosque was built in the 15th century of marble and stone. The Muslim house of worship was commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Celebi Mehmed.

The green tomb of Sultan Mehmed I is one of the sights of Bursa. An attraction in Bursa is the silk bazaar Koza Han. Trade in silk and other textiles plays an important role in the commercial history of the city. The silk trade building from the late 15th century is located in the park of the same name. Bursa’s attractions also include the traditional Shadow Play Theater in the Cekirge district. This district is known for its thermal springs.

3. Myra

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Myra is an ancient city in Antalya province, located in southwestern Turkey and in the western part of the Taurus Mountains. The small town in mountainous Lycia, now known as Demre, is not only a famous pilgrimage site as it is considered the birthplace of Nicholas of Myra, but it also attracts many Turkey vacationers because of the famous rock tombs of Myra. Ancient tombs merge into a unique rock formation, a stunning mountainous landscape surrounds this fascinating structure.

Formerly a sought-after hub for maritime trade, today there is not much left to see of the former glory of the ancient city. In modern times, visitors come here primarily to take a close look at the rock tombs of Myra, which date back to around 400 BC. As soon as you arrive at this place steeped in history, you too will realize how unique the rock tombs really are. The Lycians did not bury the deceased as we know it, under the ground, but rather they wanted to be high up.

The tombs were therefore built as high as possible by carving them into the rocks. Ancient researchers assume that the Lycians followed a so-called rapture belief and believed that the soul of a deceased person was transported to heaven with the help of bird demons. The tombs are special not only because of their location and construction, but also because they were built in the style of Lycian dwellings. In addition, there are numerous sculptures and reliefs that decorate the rock tombs rising into the sky in a very special way.

2. Sumela Monastery

Sumela monastery at Trabzon, in Turkey
© Mehmet Baysan | Dreamstime.com

One of the most impressive monasteries in Turkey is located near Trabzon: the Sumela Monastery is one of the most important architectural monuments on the Black Sea coast. It was hewn out of the rock, perched on a bare 340-meter-high rocky outcrop, and can certainly compete with the Meteora monasteries in Greece. According to tradition, the founders were even monks from Athens, who established the convent in the 4th century. It was dedicated to Panhaghia tou Melas, the very holy Mary of the Black Mountain. As a monastery of the Mother of Jesus, it was an important place of pilgrimage for both Christians and Muslims. As relics, Sumela possessed an icon said to have been painted by the evangelist Luke and a splinter of Jesus’ cross. With it, every month the water of the holy well was consecrated, which is said to have cured numerous ailments. The monastery was involved in numerous political and religious conflicts in Byzantine times. The Comnenes emperors (about 1200 – 1400) waived Sumela’s taxes. As a result, it became the richest landowner in the region and remained so until 1923, when the last monks were deported. The monastery has seven floors. Most of the buildings, such as the rock church, the guest house, the holy well and the library, date back to the 12th century and the magnificent wall paintings to the early 18th century. The complex also had an aqueduct built into the rock face that supplied Sumela with water.

1. Artvin

Karagol, Black lake, in Artvin, Turkey
© Samet Guler | Dreamstime.com

In the immediate vicinity of the Georgian border in the very northeast of Turkey, the province of Artvin captivates with incomparable mountain landscapes, crystal-clear lakes and almost impenetrable forests. The town of the same name is reached by a spectacular serpentine road, which gives you a first impression of the nature in the region: rugged mountains alternate with lush green meadows, crystal-clear lakes stretch out amidst hilly landscapes. The province proves its special charm in autumn, when the leaves turn bright red and brilliant orange. That is Indian summer in Turkish.

The capital is located above the Black Sea and is worth a visit for its location alone: hills, mountains, slopes, serpentines – there is hardly a flat area in the urban area of Artvin. Above all, the town is a starting point to the region, where nature lovers and adventurers will find a true paradise: Rafting on the Çoruh River in Hatilla National Park, trekking in the Kaçkar Mountains, the Tortum waterfalls that flow into the crystal-clear Lake Tortum, and the mix of Turkish and Georgian culture: all this makes the province of Artvin arguably one of the most exciting in Turkey.

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