With a rich history and ruins left as evidence, many delicious dishes, great relief, lakes, and colorful towns, Turkey is a dreamland, a gateway between Asia and Europe, a complex country you must visit.
In this article, I will try to make a list of the 12 most beautiful places to visit in Turkey and explain why they are worth exploring. I will also show you what activities you can do and where I recommend you stay.
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What I use every time I travel:
- To book hotels: Booking.com
- To book tours: GetYourGuide.com
12 Most Beautiful Places to visit in Turkey
12. Izmir – one of the largest cities in Turkey
The third-largest city in Turkey and one of the westernmost is Izmir, an urban settlement on the country’s West Coast. Izmir is a very cool place, which manages to brilliantly combine the remnants of the past with the modernity of the present.
It has an exit to the Aegean Sea, and this gives it a holiday air. It is pretty similar to Istanbul because we find the same primary elements: mosques with tall minarets, old buildings, and a few skyscrapers, water, and long bridges.
Once here, don’t miss Kemaraltı Market, the central bazaar in Izmir – a colorful and tasty experience, considering the goodies displayed on the stalls that you will most likely want to taste.
Also, visit Agora, an open-air museum that reveals the ruins of Smyrna. Be sure to go to the Clock Tower, a symbol of the city, located in Konak Square. It was built in 1901 by the French architect Raymond Charles Péré.
And if you want to enjoy the most beautiful panorama of the city, go to Asansör, the best observation point.
Top Activities in Izmir:
- city tour with a private guide
- half-day tour of the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus
Best hotels in Izmir:
- budget: Renaissance Izmir Hotel – swimming pool, spa, wellness, fabulous breakfast, bar
- mid-range: Büyük Konak İzmir – Wifi & free parking, sea view
- luxury: Wyndham Grand İzmir Özdilek – 4 swimming pools, spa, fitness center, fabulous breakfast, bar, room service, very good location
11. Antalya – the most touristic destination in Turkey
Probably the number one destination in Turkey, if we think of the sea, sun, and fun. Although it offers these things and has become very popular for its tourist attractions, Antalya will surprise you from other points of view, as well.
With its ancient ruins scattered throughout the city and nearby, with dreamy views, complex relief, and world-famous beaches, Antalya is one of the favorite holiday destinations for tourists arriving in Turkey.
As I said, Antalya is not just a seaside resort. Being the basis of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, in Antalya, you will find numerous proofs of the glorious past.
All are UNESCO monuments, and some are thousands of years old. The most popular and photographed monument is the Gate of Hadrian, a kind of triumphal arch built in the name of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who visited Antalya in 130.
Another major attraction in Antalya is the beautiful Duden Waterfall. It has a drop of 40 meters and flows directly into the Mediterranean. It is one of the most beautiful natural places in Turkey.
Don’t miss a walk through the old town, Kaleiçi, which will reveal an authentic side of Antalya, much different from the tourist one.
Antalya is part of the area known as the Turkish Riviera due to the Mediterranean climate with over 300 sunny days a year and mild temperatures. So, you can come here at almost any time of the year. The good part is that the international airport is only 13 km from the city.
Top activities in Antalya:
- tour of the city, with visits to the waterfalls and cable car included
- river rafting in Köprülü Canyon
- day trip to the ruins of Aspendos, Perge, and Side
- traditional Turkish hammam
Best hotels in Antalya:
- budget: ATICI HOTEL – free Wifi, free parking, bar, very good breakfast
- mid-range: Atalante Hotel – 2 swimming pools, access to the beach, free Wifi, free parking, very good breakfast, access to the beach
- luxury: Lara Barut Collection – 3 swimming pools, spa, fitness center, beach access, bar, superb breakfast
10. Kusadasi | 12 Most Beautiful Places to visit in Turkey
One of the most popular resort towns on the Aegean coast is Kusadasi, located about 95 km from Izmir. The name Kusadasi comes from the shape of the island and means Bird Island.
Tourists stop here mainly for the beautiful and famous beaches, one of them being Kadinlar Denizi, in the past intended exclusively for women. No male was allowed here. In the meantime, things have changed and evolved.
The most visited tourist attractions in Kusadasi are Pigeon Island, Dilek Peninsula, Ephesus Ruins, and Kusadasi Bazaar. Although it does not have its airport, you can get here reasonably quickly if you land at one of the two international airports in Izmir or Bodrum.
Top activities in Kusadasi:
- scuba diving
Best hotels in Kusadasi:
- budget: Hotel Stella – pool, room service, bar, good breakfast
- mid-range: Ilayda Avantgarde Hotel – swimming pool, fitness center, bar, fabulous breakfast, access to the beach
9. Istanbul – The largest and most visited city in Turkey
The one that does not need any presentation in this list of places to visit in Turkey is Istanbul.
The Turkish metropolis is a fascinating mix of old and new, a successful combination that attracts millions of tourists annually, making it one of the most visited cities in the world.
People are attracted to traditional Turkish food, bazaars full of goodies, colorful neighborhoods, mosques with their tall minarets and calling to prayers, Bosphorus cruises, hookah cafes, luxury residences built on the edge of the strait, and impressive, hundreds of years old palaces.
You can’t visit Turkey without spending a few days in Istanbul. You can’t come to Istanbul without tasting the specific Turkish sweets: Turkish delight in various colors and flavors and the baklava you can find in all restaurants.
Try Turkish coffee, Turkish tea and visit the Egyptian Bazaar, where you can buy all sorts of spices.
Not to be missed in Istanbul are the Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet mosques and the Galata tower, the Bosphorus bridge, and the view of the Ortakoy Mosque, one of the most Instagrammable places in Istanbul.
Spend at least five days in Istanbul from your time spent in Turkey and enjoy everything the city on the two continents has to offer.
Top activities in Istanbul:
- cruise at sunset on the Bosphorus, aboard a luxury yacht
- visit the aquarium and the Aqua Florya Shopping Mall
- day tour on Prince’s Island, lunch included
- visit Dolmabahce Palace
- one day Best of Istanbul tour
- visit Topkapi Palace
Best Hotels in Istanbul:
- budget: Taksim Terrace Hotel – located in the heart of the city and with a sensational panorama of the Bosphorus, room service, very good breakfast
- mid-range: Saba Sultan Hotel–located in the mosque area, beautiful view, rooms with special design, free parking, delicious breakfast
- luxury: Hotel Arcadia Blue Istanbul–located in the mosque area, splendid view, ultra-modern rooms, bar, wifi, room service, restaurant
8. Saklikent National Park – one of the most beautiful natural places in Turkey
The complexity of the Turkish relief is proved by the 300 meters deep and 18 km long gorge named Saklikent. The Xanthos River passes through here, and the water is cold as ice even in the middle of summer because the gorge walls are very narrow and the sun hardly makes it through.
Saklikent National Park is located about 50 km from Fethiye and is considered the third longest canyon in Europe, after Verdon in France and Vikos in Greece.
The snow in the Taurus Mountains only melts in March, so Saklikent can be crossed every year starting in April. Despite the limited time spent hiking here, it is visited by a quarter of a million tourists annually.
At the entrance to the canyon, you will also find some restaurants that serve traditional Turkish food and hookah; the restaurants are located right on the river and offer a relaxing and breathtaking view.
7. Lake Tuz | 12 Most Beautiful Places to visit in Turkey
I can’t consider it a holiday destination in Turkey, but it can be a beautiful and surprising stop on your way to Cappadocia. Salt Lake Tuz is located halfway between Ankara and Cappadocia and covers an area of 1500 square kilometers.
Unfortunately, when I visited it, it didn’t look much of a lake because the water had evaporated, and I could only see a sea of white salt that beats a little towards pale pink.
The second largest lake in Turkey can get stronger shades of pink when not dry, not in the summer months. With a bit of luck, you can see many flamingo birds here at certain times of the year.
As a fun fact, the salt mines around Lake Tuz produce much of the salt consumed in Turkey. From my point of view, Tuz is one of the most underrated tourist attractions in Turkey.
6. Bodrum | 12 Top tourist attractions in Turkey
As I mentioned in other articles dedicated to Turkey, Bodrum reminds me of the white houses in Santorini, only that here they are not placed on cliffs but hills. Also, the identical white homes decorated with blue doors and shutters remind me of the small town of Cadaques in Spain.
Tourists prefer Bodrum for its luxurious hotels with large pools and all-inclusive packages, perfect for a few days of relaxation. But the Aegean city has more to offer.
Like any other Turkish city, Bodrum has a packed and colorful bazaar, full of products and goodies of all kinds, which you must visit, especially since the sellers here are very kind and eager to socialize with tourists.
If you visit Bodrum, do not miss the opportunity to go on a day trip on the Aegean Sea aboard a yacht. There are many such services, and you can find them either at the hotel or in the port. From Bodrum, you can get quite quickly to the Greek island of Kos.
One of the most visited tourist attractions in Bodrum and a valid symbol of the city, mainly due to its strategic location, on a peninsula from which you can easily see it, is Saint Petrum Castle.
It was built at the beginning of the 15th century and served as a refuge and as a prison. Today, the castle houses the Museum of Underwater Archeology.
Top activities in Bodrum:
- one day cruise on the Aegean Sea
- scuba diving
- jeep safari
Best hotels in Bodrum:
- budget: Bodrum Sade Pension– beach access, fabulous breakfast
- mid-range: The Marmara Bodrum – Adult Only – swimming pool, spa, wellness center, private beach
- luxury: Root Redrock Yalıkavak – 2 swimming pools, spa, fitness, beach access, bar, private beach
5. Pamukkale – one of the best natural places in Turkey
Pamukkale is an area in Turkey that you must see at least once in your life, a unique place to visit. However, I warn you that the photos on Instagram and in the brochures of travel agencies might be a little too edited, resulting in a disappointment. Come without any expectation, and you will enjoy the whole experience more.
You will find the famous white travertine terraces and natural pools with thermal water and gorgeous turquoise color. But you will also find crowds of people.
Therefore, try to get here very early in the morning. The chances of enjoying Pamukkale thus increase. In Pamukkale, there are a total of 17 hot springs, and their temperature varies between 35 and 100 degrees Celsius.
A beautiful pool to swim in and enjoy the thermal water is Cleopatra’s Pool, located just behind the cotton castle, the Turkish translation of the word Pamukkale.
Besides, you should know that in the second century BC, the city of Hierapolis existed here. So, around the white limestone travertines, you can have the opportunity to admire many ruins of the old town. You can visit the ruins of theaters, houses, baths, temples and so on.
Best hotels in Pamukkale:
- budget: Sunrise Aya Hotel– swimming pool, room service, free parking, bar, superb breakfast
- mid-range: Venus Suite Hotel– pool, room service, restaurant, fabulous breakfast
- luxury: Doğa Thermal Health & Spa –2 swimming pools, restaurant, fitness center, spa, delicious breakfast, bar
4. Kaputaș Beach – one of the most beautiful beaches in Turkey
If I were not to consider Cappadocia, I could say that the most beautiful landscape I have seen in Turkey is Kaputaș beach. The gorgeous color of the water, together with the green vegetation, the canyon, and the steps leading to the beach, harmonize in a beautiful view, the ideal place to take Instagrammable photos.
Kaputaș Beach is located about halfway between Antalya and Bodrum, but it is very close to the city of Kas, which I will talk about in the next point on the list of places to visit in Turkey.
It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Turkey, so it gets pretty crowded around noon. If you want to spend a few hours here, I recommend you arrive immediately after sunrise. You will have to go down 187 steps to the beach, but the effort for each step is well worth it.
3. Kas | 12 Most beautiful places to visit in Turkey
Just 7 km from the beautiful beach we talked about above is Kas, a charming town located on the Mediterranean coast.
Bars, vine-covered restaurants, cobbled streets, colorful shutters, cats, souvenirs, and many hanging plants, especially the famous Bougainvillea that you can find especially in the Greek islands, make up the charm of this city.
Kas is one of the top destinations for scuba diving for those who are passionate about this sport. Besides the multitude of fish, you can swim here with giant turtles, and you can discover the wrecks of some sunken planes, but also the ruins of an ancient underwater city. Very cool and unique, right?
Another everyday activity on the Turkish Riviera is paragliding. If you feel confident and don’t have a height phobia, you should know that you can do that in Kas.
Go on a day trip to Greece. The Greek island of Meis is only a 20-minute boat ride away and is a fairly common practice among the islanders and the people of Kas to commute between the two.
Top activities in Kaș:
- day trip by boat to Kekova island
Best hotels in Kaș:
- budget: Erdem City Hotel –Free wifi, free parking, beach access, good breakfast
- mid-range: Sunset Villa Hotel –pool, Wifi, private beach, super good breakfast
- luxury: Lukka Exclusive Hotel –swimming pool, free parking, beach access, bar, delicious breakfast
2. Uzungöl | 12 Best places to visit in Turkey
When you say Turkey, you think primarily of the sea and beach destinations. Few people know that Turkey has a part reminiscent of mountain villages in Austria, such as Hallstatt.
Uzungöl is a village located on the edge of a beautiful lake between the mountains, just an hour and a half from the town of Trabzon. To get here, you have to deviate a little more from the road on the Turkish Riviera, this destination being in the north of the country.
But the lake surrounded by houses, hotels, and restaurants is worth the trip here, mainly because it is considered the most beautiful lake in Turkey.
Its dimensions are not very impressive, being only one kilometer long and 500 meters wide. Still, its beauty is given by its location in an idyllic setting, in the middle of the Haldizen mountains, with a maximum height of 3,376 m.
A symbol of the village and a place worth visiting is the Uzungöl Mosque, with its two tall white minarets reflected in the lake water.
There aren’t many things to do here, but you can dine at a high-rise restaurant, from where you can have a view of the entire valley.
Best hotels in Uzungöl:
- budget: Nova Uzungöl – free parking, free wifi
- mid-range: Solakli Suit Apart – Free wifi, free parking, breakfast
- luxury: Bimola Rezidans – free parking, free wifi, very good location
1. Cappadocia – one of the top tourist attractions in Turkey
On the first place in my top of the most beautiful holiday destinations in Turkey is the magical land of this country, Cappadocia. Caves, tunnels, underground cities, and the seemingly detached relief from the moon, beautiful sunsets, multicolored carpets, pottery shops, and fairytale hotels are the reasons why I love this place.
But the primary purpose for which you must add Cappadocia in your itinerary for Turkey is the hot air balloon flight. There are many places in the world where you can do this activity, but nothing compares to flying a balloon over the relief of Cappadocia. The experience is lovely and will enter the top of your most beautiful memories.
Give Cappadocia at least a few days to make sure you catch good weather for the balloon flight. And don’t forget to add to your itinerary a visit to Avanos, Pigeon Valley, Love Valey, Uchisar Castle, and many others that we talked about in the article dedicated to Cappadocia.
Top activities in Cappadocia:
- hot air balloon flight
- ATV safari through the Sword, Love & Rose valleys
- one-day tour of Cappadocia
- dinner and folk show at a grotto restaurant
Best hotels in Cappadocia:
- budget: Adelya Cave Hotel– free parking, free wifi, very good breakfast
- mid-range: Design Cappadocia Hotel– Free wifi, free parking, very good breakfast, good location
- luxury: Museum Hotel– pool, spa, bar, fabulous breakfast
READ MORE about TURKEY:
→ Top 15 places to visit in Cappadocia, Turkey
→ A Perfect Two Week Road Trip In Turkey
→ 21 Best things to do in Istanbul
→ 14 Best photo spots in Istanbul – Instagrammable places in Istanbul