Turkey, a country with many rich offerings - from its natural beauty, gastronomy, history and the arts - wants tourists to continue coming to its highly unique and distinctive regions.
As a tourist destination, Turkey is rather unbeatable, filled as it is to the brim with culture, history, magnificent beaches, green forests and delectable food.
Turkey was the world’s sixth most favourite tourist destination in 2019 according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
There are an abundance of beautiful places to take in and that are worth visiting - we have selected ten highlights.
Cappadocia is the land of the extraordinary ‘fairy chimneys’. The awe-inspiring clusters of tall, cone-shaped rocks are the result of decades of geological formation. In ancient times, people from these parts lived in caves, some of which have been converted to modern day hotels. Among the best ways to enjoy Cappadocia is by hot-air balloon, but hiking through its valleys is popular, as is riding on horseback. When you’re not doing any of these things, sampling the wines on offer, and indulging in photography of this picturesque land, will no doubt become a favoured pastime.
The Aegean and Mediterranean Coasts
Turkey is a peninsula surrounded by seas on three sides. The western Aegean and the southern Mediterranean seas are especially popular during the summer, not least for their inviting mix of warm water temperatures, reliable, beautiful weather, a mouth-watering cuisine and many must-visit historic sites nearby. Memorable destinations include: Antalya (including Alanya, Kas, Kalkan and more), Mugla (including Bodrum and Datca), and Aydin (Kusadasi). The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts also host many historic must-visit sites.
The Black Sea region
Turkey’s northern Black Sea region is where the country’s famous tea is produced. It is known for its natural beauty and lush forests which owe its beauty to the rainy winters that ensure the natural world here thrives. In this part of Turkey, you will find mountaintop plateaus, stone bridges, historic churches, lakes and many monasteries such as Sumela, which dates back more than 1,600 years, and is located 300m above sea level.
Pamukkale, or ‘cotton castle’, is a natural formation of white basins filled with calcium-rich water. This ancient Roman spa city, in what is now the city of Denizli in southwestern Turkey, boasts many hotels and continues to be a popular destination for both locals and international visitors.
Located in Turkey’s southeast, Mardin is a city of many cultures. It is resplendent with the architecture of the Artuqid dynasty, with old madrassas (Islamic schools), and mosques (such as Ulu Mosque built in the 12th century). There are churches and monasteries such as the Monastery of Deyrulzafaran- once the ecumenical seat of the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Congregation. The fifth century site is the most important religious centre for Syriac Orthodox Christians.
Van is famed for its beautiful odd-eyed white cats that are distinct with their blue and green eyes. But there’s more to Van than its feline friends: at the centre of Akdamar Island in Van Lake, sits a 10th century church set among beautiful almond lakes. There’s also a castle, other historic sites and waterfalls to explore in this eastern Turkish city.
Konya is known as the city of the mystic Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, and it was also once the capital of the Seljuk Empire. Rumi’s father moved to Konya in 1228, becoming the head of a madrassa. Upon his death, Mavlana Jalaluddin al Rumi, who is known for his Sufi teaching and poetry, took over his duties. Today, his remains are interred in a mausoleum in Konya. The Greek population of the nearby village of Sille were tasked with taking care of the mausoleum, and together, Turks and Greeks coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years until the population exchange of 1922, which saw the Turkish populations of Greece returned to Turkey, and the Greek people in Turkey returned to their homeland, too
When you think about Turkish islands, the first thing that comes to mind is the Princes’ Islands near Istanbul. Easily accessible by ferry from Istanbul, the islands are a green, refreshing respite from the hustle and the bustle of the big city.
Then there are also Bozcaada and Gokceada (both in Çanakkale), and Cunda Island, a few hours away from Istanbul by car. The Aegean resorts are popular with tourists who are looking for a small scale island getaway, but also with those who enjoy tasting fresh fish directly from the sea.
Burdur is home to Salda Lake, an attraction that appeals to either those who cannot resist its white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters - making it one of the five cleanest lakes in the world - but the lake is also home to endemic fish and hence an ideal place for nature-lovers.
While Salda Lake resembles the Maldives, it isn’t the only attraction in the city, for there are endless fields that explode in a purple haze of lavender, too. There is also Kibyra, the ancient city known as the ‘City of Gladiators’.
Once the seat of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul is the most populated city in Turkey - it is unique in that it straddles two continents. The old city has a timeless charm, characterised by its historic mosques, palaces and many cultural sites, including the Maiden’s Tower in the Bosporus Strait. This bustling city, where East meets West, is home to 18 million people and can offer a huge amount to all of them - and its visitors, too.