Top 10 Things to do in Turkey

Virginia Tse November 12, 2012 13

Hot air ballooning over Cappadocia.

From UNESCO sites, small towns, big cities, mountains, underground city, beaches, to the hot springs, Turkey is a country bursting with history and activities.

1. Istanbul

This is a great first stop for an introduction to the Turkish culture. This metropolitan city is jam packed with history, museums, mosques, and ruins. Be sure to visit Aya Sofia (closed on Mondays), Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Market for your shopping souvenir needs. If you are a social butterfly and curious about the nightlife, you can head to Taksim Square where there are plenty of clubs, bars, and lounges for you to choose. There is no shortage of things to do while in Istanbul.

2. Antalya

This is a desirable beach town for locals and foreigners alike like me. There are plenty of splendid restaurants with ocean views, teashops, large shopping malls, and pebbled beaches. The Antalya Museum is a place to see if you are seeking local culture. The tram conveniently takes you from point A to point B for only 1,50 Turkish Lira one way and on some days it is free. If you enjoy the nightlife, this town has plenty of bars and lounges to discover.

3. Underground City of Derinkuyu

An eight-level city, you will be fascinated on how people lived in order to escape from the prosecution of the Roman Empire. Learn about the history and see the cellars, kitchens, churches, rooms for food storage, and etc. Make sure you are not claustrophobic and you don’t have a bad back as you will be bending down to get around the low and narrow rooms and cellars.

4. Cappadocia/Goreme

You will be in awe with this natural beauty, with view of the mountains from every corner of your eyes. Visit the Goerme Open Air Museum to see Orthodox monks medieval painted cave churches. Take a two-hour trek through Pigeon Valley. Highlight activity you must do is the magical experience of hot air ballooning. It is worth waking up early to catch the sunrise while flying over the Fairy Chimneys and the surrounding areas!

5. Kas

This is a coastal town with small town delights and a big art culture. At the steep cobbled streets are plenty of artisan and antique shops for unique souvenirs. At the harbor side is a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea. If you are in Kas during the Turkish National holiday, Republic Day, a street parade and celebrations are along the harbor. It is a great experience to partake where friendly and patriotic Turkish citizens welcome you.

6. Choose to stay at a homestay for a rich and rewarding experience

At a homestay you eat and sleep the way the locals do. The homeowners and their family are often there to communicate with, where you are able to learn more about them and the culture while exchanging information. I always find homestays to be more personable.

Homestay in a village near Konya.

7. Ayvalik

This is a seaside town of old Ottoman architecture and cobbled streets. The harbor features great views of the Aegean Sea and the longest sandy beach in Turkey. Stay at a restored family-run Ottoman House called Taksiyarhis Pension, located in Ayvalik. This is a great place to spend a night or two. A 140-year-old home with rooms in every corner of your eyes, it is conveniently located to the main road, Farmer’s Market, and the harbor.

8. Ephesus Museum near Selcuk

The ancient Roman town, this is a place for the history buffs. Be captured with the amount of history here with the two-story library and 2,000-year-old public toilets. Spend a few hours to walk and take pictures of the entire area of Ephesus consisting of a theatre, a museum, and plenty of ancient ruins.

9. Galliopli

Pay a visit to this old war site in remembrance of those who lost their lives in WWI. Learn about the history, visit ANZAC, and war cemeteries. For the sensitive travellers like me, make sure to bring a box of Kleenex.

10. Pamukkale:

Translated as “cotton castle” in Turkish, I was amused at this natural wonder. You climb and step into 17 hot springs of both deep and shallow waters. You’ll be amazed with the warmth of the water. The travertines capture the overall scenery in a surreal way. To preserve its natural wonder I wouldn’t recommend swimming in it, however many tourists still do.

You can read more about Turkey at V Traveling Project.


  1. Rachael November 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Nice overview! Looks like I might have to add this to my bucketlist. I always thought I might do Israel with Turkey at some point. It seems like you’d need quite a bit of time to do all of this properly, though. So many places, so little time…

  2. Chris November 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    Wow, great summary. It makes me want to go back to Turkey!

    As Rachael pointed out, it can take a while to get to all of these destinations. Absolute Turkey (ETAT) covers all of this and more over 15 days.

  3. Virginia Tse December 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachael, Yes you definitely should add this to your travel bucket list. Israel is close to Turkey and yes it is a very big country and there is so much to see there.

    Hi Chris, thanks and yes it makes me want to go back to Turkey also…which I’m hoping and planning on…just a stop.

  4. Nancy Young December 25, 2012 at 8:36 am - Reply

    The preview image for the article is wonderful, so I decided to open it ;) to be honest, I have been always prejudiced against Turkey. But after reading this post, I want to visit this country! Thank you

  5. Virginia Tse February 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Hi Nancy, Thanks for reading! Turkey is absolutely amazing and I would not pay much attention to what the media tells us but to use your gut instincts & street smarts. Definitely put this on your top list.

  6. Grandie2katie March 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Lovely comments, going to Turkey on Friday, so I hope to visit some of these sites; Sadly, only going to be there during Spring break, but better than nothing

  7. Juan April 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Great Summary!, Im going to be in Turkey for seven days, I dont think I can go to all of them in such short time, how many and which of these places would you go?
    I’ve been to Ephesus so I can scratch that one

  8. Kris May 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Great timing. Off in 3 days for 5 weeks in Greece and Turkey and trying to finalize the last 2 weeks along the Turkish Aegean Coast. Still debating tieing in a couple days in Rhodes.

  9. ASIM September 5, 2013 at 1:41 am - Reply

    It seems Turkey has only HISTORY AND RUINS, WAR IMPACTS to show

  10. Ahsan November 25, 2013 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Lovely comments by all..

    Due to some business reasons postponed 2 times. . This time hopefully will be visiting by the grace of allah. .

    Turkey, happy to visit

  11. Anne February 5, 2014 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Hi Virginia, thanks for all the info on Turkey. I am very much interested in staying in a homestay. Where can I find out more info about the homestays available in Turkey? The link you have in blue under #6 does not give more info. thanks.

  12. Alessandra R. March 22, 2014 at 1:33 am - Reply

    I loved the overview! In 2010 I did a Egypt/Israel tour, my flight back home had an overnight stop in Istanbul. I got at the hotel around 10 pm, and would have to leave around 6 am to go to airport, we stayed in a hotel close to Hagia Sophia and that main square. As luck would have it, that was the very night that the Ramadan had started, so the streets were teeming with people!! We went to the streets and went “a touring” from 10 until 4 in the morning! It was one of the most memorable nights in my life and one of the highlights of the trip. It was just so fun to walk around the different streets and little stands that sold stuff, and even try out some local food. I’m not sure if it’s like that the whole Ramadan or it was like that because it was the first night. Anyway, I’m planning a proper trip to Turkey in 2015, this time I want to see the Hagia Sophia in day light and actually go inside! Lol. Nice little guide :)

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