15 Places You Need to See Before You Leave Turkey

Lake Van | © Adam Jones/Wikimedia Commons
Lake Van | © Adam Jones/Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Feride Yalav-Heckeroth
27 September 2017

Turkey is known for many of its most popular sights such as the Hagia Sophia or Ephesus. However, there’s also plenty to see that’s not so well-known and lies off the beaten track. From hidden ancient cities to natural wonders, we have chosen some of the alternative sights you should see while in Turkey.


Added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017, Aphrodisias was a small ancient Greek city that is still relatively unknown to visitors. Named after Aphrodite, the goddess of love, the site is located near the village of Geyre.

Aphrodisias | © Carole Raddato/Wikimedia Commons


About an hour from Izmir, the small village of Şirince is an absolutely stunning place with old stone houses that are completely in tune with the natural landscape. Formerly inhabited by Greeks, the village is all cobblestone streets, ornate wooden doors, and glorious nature.

Şirince | © Feride Yalav-Heckeroth


The historic town of Hasankeyf will soon dissolve underwater due to an upcoming dam project and is therefore an essential sight to see before it completely disappears. The ancient caves, as well as the historic bridge and mosques, are all truly exceptional.

Lake Eğirdir

A destination on the famous 500 km St Paul trail, Lake Eğirdir is the perfect summer retreat where your only companions will be the mountains that overlook the water. Make sure to check out the Greek-Roman ruins of Sagalassos and Antioch (Pisidia) while you’re in the area.

Lake Eğirdir | © Klaus-Peter Simon/Wikimedia Commons


Completely abandoned in a stunning valley of deep canyons and looming hills, the remains of the ancient city of Ani are a wonderful discovery. Once the flourishing capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom, the dilapidated cathedrals, churches, and citadels continue to mesmerize wandering visitors.

Ani | © William Neuheisel/Flickr

Lake Van

Another overlooked destination that is a true natural beauty, Lake Van is Turkey’s largest lake and is most famous for Akdamar Island where the 10th century Holy Cross Cathedral still stands overlooking the saline soda lake.

Lake Van | © gozturk/Wikimedia Commons


One of the most well preserved ancient sites in Turkey, Termessos really impresses with its grand theater as well as the view of the mountain range, since the site is at an altitude of more than 1,000 meters.

Termessos | © Ingo Mehling/Wikimedia Commons


There are a lot of great things to say about Olympos, mainly that it’s located at the end of a rather beautiful beach surrounded by pine covered mountains. After a day relaxing on the beach venture into this ancient city to gaze at the historic Lycian ruins.

Olympos | © Haluk Comertel/Wikimedia Commons

Ishak Pasha Palace

Another stunning sight in the middle of nowhere, the Ishak Pasha Palace looks out over a wide mostly uninhabited expanse. Built between 1685 and 1784, the structure is quite the rare example of Turkish palace structures.

Ishak Pasha Palace | © Sara Yeomans/Wikimedia Commons


Located on a small island off the coast of the Mersin province, Kızkalesi is a breathtaking sight that was believed to have been built during the Byzantine Empire. Extensively rebuilt by the Cilician Kingdom of Armenia, the fortress was captured by the Ottomans in 1471.

Kızkalesi | © Zeynel Cebeci/Wikimedia Commons

Balıklıgöl, Urfa

This small lake full of carp fish is quite the sacred spot, as well as being absolutely beautiful due to the impressive structure of the Halil-ur-Rahman Mosque right next to it. Legend has it that it was here that the pyre, where Abraham was supposed to be executed, was turned into a lake full of fish.

Balıklıgöl | © Anadolu/Wikimedia Commons

Kaleüçağız Köyü

The origins of the ancient tombs near the village of Kaleüçağız are still unknown but are believed to be from the 4th century BC. The necropolis, sarcophagi, and rock tombs mostly by the water’s edge are a real sight to behold and discover.

Üçağız | © Nicola Feola/Wikimedia Commons

Özkonak Underground City

Cappadocia is famous for its underground cities of Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu, however the underground city of Özkonak has a feature that sets it completely apart from the other two. The site, which was discovered in 1972 by a farmer, has a communication system that allowed inhabitants to talk to the floors above or below them.

Özkonak | © Helen Cook/Flickr

House of the Virgin Mary

The rebuilt ruins of this historic house, near the Sultaniye village, are believed to be where Virgin Mary spent her latter years. A chapel has also been built on the site for visitors to leave their prayers and every year on August 15th (the Feast of the Assumption of Mary), Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim clergy hold a joint service.

House of Virgin Mary | © Mfryc/Wikimedia Commons

Trotsky House, Büyükada

Istanbul’s Princes Islands offer the perfect getaway from the city, especially Büyükada, which also happens to have a pretty unique sight. In 1929, the Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky lived in a house on Büyükada for four years writing an autobiography and the History of the Russian Revolution. His house is currently on sale for around 4 million dollars.

Trotsky House | © Bertilvidet/Wikimedia Commons

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