The Best Things to See and Do in Turkey

Sample the delights of Gaziantep, including the circular bread called simit
Sample the delights of Gaziantep, including the circular bread called simit | © Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

You’ll probably be familiar with the major sights in Turkey, from the Hagia Sophia to Ephesus, the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia to the beaches of Antalya. However, Turkey has a lot more to offer. Here are some top things to see and do.

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1. Take a blue cruise

Bridge

Cleopatras Bath and Gulets, Gulet Boat Cruise, Mediterrean Sea, Turkey
© Andrew Smith / Alamy Stock Photo

In the summer, there’s nothing better than cruising along the Mediterranean or Aegean coast and making frequent stops for swimming or exploring. Turkey offers many blue cruises (also referred to as gullet sailing), which offer a unique way to experience the beautiful coastal towns and beaches of the country.

2. Go swimming in Çıralı

Architectural Landmark

Aerial view of Cirali Beach from ancient Olympos ruins, Antalya Turkey
© Tetyana Kochneva / Alamy Stock Photo

About an hour’s drive outside Antalya, Çıralı is still a bit of a local secret and has one of the most beautiful beaches imaginable. Stay at a down-to-earth pension, take a dip in the dark blue water and explore the nearby ruins of the ancient Lycian city of Olympos.

3. Eat baklava and kebab in Gaziantep

Architectural Landmark

Pistachio is most famous agricultural product of Gaziantep and widely sold all around the city, Turkey.
© Images & Stories / Alamy Stock Photo

Gaziantep is known for its fields of pistachio trees and is therefore one of the best places to taste baklava in Turkey. The city is also known for its excellent kebab varieties – often consumed for breakfast by locals.

4. Visit a thermal spa in Afyonkarahisar

Spa

Grand Ozgul Thermal Holiday Village
Courtesy of Grand Ozgul Thermal Holiday Village / Expedia
The mountainous countryside of Afyonkarahisar is the place to get Turkish delight with clotted cream and excellent sucuk (fermented sausage with spices) – reason enough to visit. However, the city is also known for having many thermal spas, so book a stay in one of the many great spa hotels here.

5. Take a wine tour

Winery

Grapes are brought into the wine producing center after they were picked from vineyard near Tekirdag in western Turkey August 18, 2007. Turkish wine makers are looking to raise the international profile of their little known wines and boost their export v
© REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

Turkish wine is just beginning to make its mark on the world and the boutique vineyards here are in some of the most scenic Turkish landscapes. Tour operators such as Wine Tours Turkey offer an intimate glimpse into the wine-making regions of Tekirdağ, Hasköy, and Sarköy through private dinners with wine pairings.

6. Drink boza at Vefa Bozacısı

Cafe, Turkish

Barman putting Cinnamon on drinks of Boza. The Vefa Bozacisi Shop, Istanbul, Turkey.
© Steve Outram / Alamy Stock Photo

Boza is a fermented millet drink usually enjoyed in the winter months – and Vefa Bozacısı is the best place to try it. Open since 1876, it provides a glimpse into the old Istanbul that is inevitably fading away.

7. Explore Mardin

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Historic centre of Mardin, Southeastern Anatolia Region, Anatolia, Turkey
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the lesser-known destinations in Turkey, treasured for its architecture and history, Mardin is one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Get lost among the narrow historic streets, gaze up at the famous Artuqid stone houses, and indulge in the local cuisine (including amazing spiced wine).

8. Take a long Bosphorus cruise

Natural Feature

Tourism or Ferry boat on the Bosphorus Strait betyween Europe and Asia at Istanbul, Turkey.
© Roy Conchie / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the best ways to see Istanbul is from the Bosphorus. Hop on the long cruise operated by the city ferry to travel from Eminönü to where the strait meets the Black Sea. Get off at Anadolu Kavağı and eat fresh fish by the water before the ferry takes you back into the city.

9. Spend a weekend in Şirince

Architectural Landmark

View of Sirince, Turkey
© Evan Spiler / Alamy Stock Photo

A true marvel that’s still relatively unknown to visitors, the small village of Şirince outside of Izmir is a spectacular find with historic houses. Stay at Nişanyan Hotel – the owner was the first to undertake restorative projects to save the Şirince houses back in 1991.

10. Visit Safranbolu

Historical Landmark

Traditional Ottoman villas of Safranbolu, Turkey. A UNESCO World Heritage Site
© funkyfood London - Paul Williams / Alamy Stock Photo

The historic Ottoman houses of Safranbolu are some of the most well preserved examples you can find Turkey. It’s no wonder the small town became a Unesco World Heritage Site in the 1990s.

11. Hike up Mount Nemrut

Archaeological site

Head of Zeus, Mount Nemrut Dagi National Park, Turkey
© Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo

Climb to the top of Unesco-listed Mount Nemrut to discover a royal tomb that dates back to the first century BCE. Huge statues depict King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene and various Greek, Armenian, and Medes gods.

12. See Hasankeyf before it disappears

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Ruins of old bridge and fortress at Hasankeyf, Eastern Anatolia, Turkey
© Michele Burgess / Alamy Stock Photo

Inhabited by at least six empires throughout history, Hasankeyf is a significant ancient city that will soon dissolve due to a dam project that will flood the area. Make sure to see the ancient caves, Old Tigris Bridge, the mosque, and the Zeynel Bey Mausoleum before they disappear.

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