The Most Beautiful Towns in Turkey

Sightsee in hot-air balloons high over Göreme, get lost in history in Istanbul, or enjoy the traditional fishing village of Kaş – in Turkey, you're spoilt for choice
Sightsee in hot-air balloons high over Göreme, get lost in history in Istanbul, or enjoy the traditional fishing village of Kaş – in Turkey, you're spoilt for choice | © Robertharding / Alamy
Photo of Anahit Behrooz
2 September 2021

Filled with stunning natural beauty and an array of well-preserved architecture, Turkey is an extraordinary country to visit. There’s plenty to satisfy adventure-seekers too, with hot air balloon rides in Göreme and scuba diving trips in Kaş on offer. Here are 10 unmissable cities and towns in the country.

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Amasya

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Traditional ottoman houses reflecting in the river, Amasya, Turkey
© Boris Stroujko / Alamy Stock Photo

Located in northern Turkey, the small city of Amasya is dramatically situated in a narrow valley on the banks of the Yeşilırmak river, against a backdrop of rocky mountains. Amasya is said to be the place where one of the most famous tales of Turkish folklore, Ferhat and Şirin, takes place. According to legend, Ferhat was in love with Şirin, a beautiful princess, and dug tunnels beneath the mountains to bring water to her father’s palace so he could win his favour. Even today, the stunning landscape of the town is perfectly suited to the romantic tale. Above the town lie several tombs cut into the face of the rock, while the town itself is filled with beautiful Ottoman-style houses and antique bridges.

Bozcaada

Natural Feature
Map View
fiashing boat harbour and town, Bozcaada, Turkey.
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

A small jewel of an island in the Aegean sea, Bozcaada has managed to escape modernisation; it still retains the original architecture and buildings. The town features a beautifully preserved castle dating back to the 15th century. Built on the ruins of several former palaces, the castle dominates the skyline and lends a grand feel to the small, seaside town. The island also has a great deal of natural beauty, from the soft, sandy beaches to the gently rolling hills rising above the clear blue sea. With charming winding streets and traditional seaside cafes, Bozcaada is the perfect small Mediterranean island.

Göreme

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Beautiful view of Goreme, Turkey, Cappadocia. The famous center of flight balloons.
© Elizaveta Larionova / Alamy Stock Photo

The town of Göreme lies in the region of Cappadocia, an area that wows with fantastical rock formations. Hundreds of astonishing rock fairy chimneys rising from the ground are interspersed with the villages and houses. What makes the formations special are the wonderful uses they have been put to by the locals over centuries. Beautifully decorated churches, homes and underground cities fill the region, which also houses a complex of churches and monasteries called the Göreme Open Air Museum. Göreme is also known for incredible hot air balloon rides; dozens of hot air balloons often fill the skies to give you a spectacular view of the landscape.

Istanbul

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Beautiful Ortakoy Mosque in Istanbul, close view.
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

The largest and most famous city in Turkey, Istanbul is home to beautiful buildings and landscapes. The city is situated on the strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, creating a beautiful contrast between the calm blue waters and the bustling city. It’s the point where east meets west, both geographically and culturally. It boasts an abundance of beautiful churches, mosques and palaces which pay homage to the diverse and fascinating local history. The art and architecture have been faithfully preserved, making it among the best places to witness the remnants of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires together.

Kaş

Historical Landmark, Natural Feature
Map View
Beautiful street in the Kas old town with boutique shops at sunset, Turkey
© Aliaksandr Mazurkevich / Alamy Stock Photo

A charming, unspoiled fishing village nestled at the foot of lush hills right on the Mediterranean coast, Kaş has become a wildly popular tourist destination. This is mainly due to the natural beauty, well-preserved historic remains and streets, and ample diving opportunities. The ancient ruins of Antiphellos are interspersed with small alleys, traditional houses and cafes of more recent times, while the calm, pebbly beaches remain clear and unspoiled despite their popularity. Much of the local beauty lies beneath the surface, however, with an astonishing array of fish, turtles and other sea creatures to be discovered on scuba diving trips, as well as intriguing wreck sites on the seafloor.

Mardin

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
Map View
Scenic view of Mardin, Turkey
© Images & Stories / Alamy Stock Photo

Located in southeastern Anatolia, Mardin is picturesque. The whole city has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site and is remarkable for having numerous historic buildings cascading down the hillside. At the top of the hill lies the citadel: an old fortress turned military zone which, despite being inaccessible to tourists, still gives the city an impressive, distinctive air. The city is also home to stunning mosques and churches. Among them is the Great Mosque constructed in the 12th century, whose towering minaret soars above winding streets.

Safranbolu

Historical Landmark
Map View
Safranbolu, Turkey - a Unesco World Heritage site, Safranbolu is known the typical Ottoman buildings. Here in particular a glimpse at the Old Town
© Sirio Carnevalino / Alamy Stock Photo

Safranbolu was originally one of the trading centres for saffron. Today, the town is best known for extraordinary historical sites and well-preserved houses. It has more than 1,000 registered historical artefacts, including tombs, Turkish baths and 17th-century mosques. Safranbolu is also notable for traditional Ottoman-style houses, immediately recognisable thanks to their façades, charming shuttered windows and tiled roofs.

Sanliurfa

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Pool of Abraham or Balikli Gol and Halil ur Rahman Mosque in Sanliurfa or Urfa, Turkey
© Ayhan Altun / Alamy Stock Photo

Known in Mesopotamian times as the city of Edessa, Sanliurfa is located along the main trade routes between Europe, Asia and Africa. It has been witness to most of the key historical movements in Turkey, as well as occupations by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Alexander the Great. Sanliurfa is also said to be the birthplace of the prophet Abraham, who, according to Jewish and Islamic tradition, was almost burnt alive by King Nimrod, only for God to turn the fire into water. This legendary site is now said to be located in the courtyard of the Halil-ur-Rahman mosque. Look out for the tranquil pool surrounded by beautifully carved walls and the minaret.

Side

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Apollon Temple at sunset, Side, Antalya, Turkey
© Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo

With Roman and Hellenistic ruins aplenty, Side is not a town to be missed by history buffs. An original Roman amphitheatre is still located right in the centre of the town, standing in contrast to the modern houses, bars and bustle of daily life. Near the shores of the sea, meanwhile, lie the dramatic ruins of the Temple of Apollo, made even more majestic in the fire-red glow of the sunset. Side is also renowned for natural beauty; located on a small peninsula barely 1km (0.6mi) wide, the town is bordered on both sides by stretches of golden sand and the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean.

Uzungöl

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Mountain village of Uzungol in Trabzon, Turkey.
KBNPYY Mountain village of Uzungol in Trabzon, Turkey. | © MehmetO / Alamy Stock Photo

The small village of Uzungöl is situated on the edge of a picturesque lake bearing the same name, at the bottom of a lush, green valley near Trabzon. The landscape is astonishing and fairytale-like, far removed from the typical image of Turkey as a solely Mediterranean, coastal country. The extraordinary, almost Swiss vista contrasts with the traditional Turkish houses and towering minarets of the mosque, making Uzungöl a beautiful place to visit. The village and valley are particularly worth seeing early in the morning when a soft mist descends on the surroundings, creating an unforgettable, ethereal sight.

These recommendations were updated on September 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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