ourwanderlustory

The must-see places in Turkey

There are countless reasons why you should visit this extraordinary country; swimming in the black sea, diving on the Mediterranean coast, trekking in Göreme national park or to admire the coloured lavender fields and natural wonders like Pamukkale, just to name a few. You’ll find in this post the best places to visit in Turkey.

It’s a great country for history lovers as many empires ruled there for centuries, including the Lycians, Romans, Greeks, Seljuk Dynasty (Turk-Persian empire) and Ottomans.

The Turkish Republic (it wasn’t renamed Turkey until 1923) is located where three continents of the old world, Asia, Africa and Europe, are closest to each other and straddle the point where Europe and Asia meet.

Planning a road trip in a such big country can be challenging, so you will find our favourite place we have discovered. This guide will save you precious time so you can enjoy as much as your Turkey road trip as possible!


Edirne

This was our very first stop in Turkey, and it was a really positive starting point; Edirne isn’t a touristic city and hosts one of the most well preserved mosques of Turkey, Selimiye.

The city is close to Turkey’s borders with Greece and Bulgaria and is historically known as Adrianople.

Canakkale

Canakkale is a relaxing city full of restaurants, and is the nearest major town to the legendary ruins of Troy.

To get there we took a ferry from Kilitbahir. There are different companies running every half an hour and takes 15 minutes for 35TL (€5).
The “wooden horse” from the 2004 movie Troy is exhibited on the seafront too!

Pergamon

Pergamon was a rich and powerful ancient Greek city. The acropolis was the capital of the Hellenistic Attalid dynasty, a major centre of learning in the ancient world. It shelters a well preserved amphitheatre, the Temple of Trajan, the Temple of Athena, and more…

Entrance fee: 25TL (€4,20),
Gates open at 8AM.
Parking fee: 5TL (0,80c) but you can leave the car 1 kilometre before and have a short walk up.
A cable-car is also available – round-trip costs 20TL and one way is 15TL.

Izmir

Izmir is the 3rd largest city in the country, and it’s the second fastest growing metropolis in the world according to Brooking institute!

Izmir is known to be the closest city near the most beautiful beaches in Turkey, so this is one of the reasons why Izmir is very courted and appreciated by tourists.

The best time to visit the city is in March/April.

We stopped there to rest and restock the car for the following weeks. It’s such a beautiful city to walk around, and don’t forget to check out Kemaraltı Market and the clock tower!

Ephes

About one hour driving from the centre of Izmir, Ephes is one of the most photographed touristic destinations in the country. The highlight of this city is the Celsus Library which used to be one the most significant libraries of antiquity – it’s definitely one of the must-visit places in Turkey.

We suggest you to enter the site as soon as the gates open as it gets very busy very quickly.

From April to October Ephesus ancient city is opened at 8.30am and closes at 6.30pm.
After October until March the sites open at 8am and closes at 4.30pm.
Ticket costs 60TL (€9).

Furthermore, if you have extra time, visit the Temple of Artemis, less than 5 kilometres away and is free of Charge.

Pamukkale

Pamukkale, meaning “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, is a natural site in Denizli in southwestern Turkey. The area is famous for its carbonate mineral left by the flowing water. It’s one of the most authentic places to visit whilst in Turkey.

There are 3 different accesses to the natural pools, and once again, if you want to appreciate the site when it’s not overcrowded, you need to get in early in the morning.

Opening time is at 8AM in summer but the travertine seems to be open 24hr/day.

We personally got inside at 7:30AM, entered from the northern parking (the closest to the pools) and paid the entrance fee of 35TL (€5,80) – we enjoyed the experience with few persons only, most of the buses will arrive after 9AM. Additional parking fee of 5TL (0,80c).

Fethiye

If you visit Fethiye, you can’t miss Amyntas tombs – we were simply amazed by the Lycian architecture!

From Fethiye, there are many tours leading to the Butterfly Valley, a natural untouched landscape home to many species of butterflies.
You can reach this beach with a taxi boat from Olu Deniz beach, or by walk – drive until George house (about 20 kilometres from Fethiye old town), it’s the closest point where you can leave your car and trek down to the beach.

But honestly, the beach is crowed with dozens of party boats which ruin the relaxing atmosphere of the beach…

TIP: If you plan to reach the valley by walk, bring hiking shoes! We firstly tried in flip flop but some parts of the trail are challenging – about 45-60 minutes walking. Avoid pick hours or consider to sleep on the beach in one bungalow for less than €10!

Tlos

The ancient site of Tlos is situated at the modern village of Yaka, 42km east of Fethiye. It’s a great place to visit if you are around here and it was one of the most powerful Lycian cities.

It includes an Acropolis hill, a stadium, an amphitheatre, a market hall, baths and the tomb of Bellerophon, at the cost of only 5TL, less than €1!

Gizlikent Seles

Definitely a place “off the beaten path” for travellers, but a popular destination for locals; there is a photographer shooting everyone at the falls, then he prints all the photos and display them on a board to sell them! We really appreciate to see these old methods which are lost today in our home countries and modern societies.

On the way, you can find many bars and restaurants where you can stop to relax next to the river – they are really affordable, cute and colourful!

Kas

Kas is a very cute little town that shouldn’t be skipped on your road trip along Turkey’s coastline. It offers beautiful beaches, great food, lots of shopping and a much more.

A visit to Kaputas beach, just a 30 minutes drive from Kas, is definitely a must.

You can also go for a day-trip to Meis Island (which is actually part of the Greeks island) to visit the famous blue cave and its unbelievably white sand and turquoise water. It only take 20 minutes by boat, at the cost of €10 per person.

Don’t forget your passport as you are entering another country!

Myra Ruins

Apart from the well known areas such as Cappadocia and Pamukkale, Turkey has a lot more to offer and the ancient city of Myra is one of these beautiful sights.

It was an ancient Greek town in Lycia, which became the small Turkish town of Kale, renamed Demre in 2005.
At Myra there is a large amphitheatre which used to sit 13,000 people, and the necropolis Lycian rock tombs.

Entry fee is 15TL (€2).

Also, a 20 minute walk from Myra ruins you can visit the home of Santa Claus, known as St Nicholas Church, for the small price of 15TL‌ (€2).

Gates opens at 9AM.

Antalya

From huge shopping malls to kilometres of white beaches, Antalya is the perfect city to rest on your road trip. It’s the largest Turkish city on the Mediterranean coast with 2.2M inhabitants, and over 10 times that number of tourists each year.

We decided to stay in Antalya for 3 days for the pure fact that we needed to fix our camera, which fell down in the wind. In our time there, we found the old town to be a really cute quarter of the city, and we even spent a night at a fun fair!

If you drive about 30 minutes North, you will find the stunning Kurşunlu şelalesi waterfall. It opens at 8AM and costs 10TL only!

Kuyucak Koyu

If you are in Turkey between June and August then head to Kuyucak. This is a tourist attraction, but perfect for photography and landscape lovers. It’s famous for its large fields of lavender which are absolutely stunning.

Where else will you have the opportunity again to swing in front of a lavender field?!

Tuz Lake

The majority of salt consumption in the country is extracted right here. It’s an amazing landscape destination, especially for sunset lovers – wait for the sun to go down and you’ll see the perfect reflection in the shallow water.

This place is also the main breeding place in Turkey for a colony of greater flamingo!

Cappadocia

Cappadocia spans across 3 Central Anatolia regions which include NevşehirKayseri and Niğde. It covers an area of around 5,000 km and the landscape was formed by volcanic erosion.

It’s a vast area to explore, so we suggest to spend no less than three days here – you can trek through many valleys, ride horses at sunset and even sleep in cave hotels!

It doesn’t matter if you’re not an early bird, trust us, you will easily wake up early in a place like this. Experiencing sunrise in front of hundreds of hot air balloons in the sky is truly magical.
Please note that if the wind is too strong, the balloons will not fly.

So far, it was the highlight of our road trip in Turkey!

Ankara

Ankara is the Turkish capital but isn’t a touristic city, despite there being lots of places to visit and things to see.

You can walk in the old centre, visit the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, Kocatepe Mosque, the Roman Baths, the Temple of Augustus and the Rome and Ankara Castle.

We were not sure to stop in Ankara as we are not big-city lovers, but decided to give it a try and it turned to be a great idea and is definitely worth a stop.

Amasra

From Ankara we decided to head to the black sea, and after some research we choose Amasra as our first destination. A cute, small, Black Sea port town in the Bartın Province, famous for its beaches and natural setting.

From here, we followed the coast until we reached Istanbul, stopping along the way to enjoy our last swim towards the end of September. The water temperature was still enjoyable though!

Istanbul

The biggest city in Turkey! Istanbul is mostly extended in Europe, and you can really feel the mixture of different cultures here, due to high tourism levels.

The city is rich in art and places to visit, which is why the tourist activity is so high. We loved the popular old Balat district and the Blue mosque, but some places like the Gran Bazar, are more inauthentic in our opinion, especially when arriving from other Turkish regions. They all sell the same things (mostly products from China) and even charge you to take photos!

Driving in Istanbul has been a suffering experience, and we don’t suggest to do it if you don’t have to! The traffic is horrific, and they don’t drive safely AT ALL. Just to give you an idea, we think it’s safer to drive in places like Bali and Hanoi, and that’s saying something.

Tips

  • Renting a car in Turkey is extremely cheap, just be careful of the roads
  • Make sure to have proper insurance and respect the speed limit – on the highway there are many cardboard police cars to keep speeding drivers in check.
  • Consider the long distances, and take appropriate rest stops.
  • It is a safe country for tourists, but be aware about thieves – they tried to open our car twice!
  • Enjoy the tasty local food and drink litres of tea! (çay)

Conclusion

We drove about 4,000 km spread over one month and didn’t explore the eastern region, but sites such as Nemrut and Mount Ararat are definitely worth seeing in Turkey – perfect excuse to come back!
The petrol, the food and the accommodation are really affordable which makes it a great country for budget travellers.
We hope you will have as good a time as we did!
Lots of love,

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