Turkey's Top 12 Must-Do Experiences

12 Unmissable Things to Do in Turkey

12 Unmissable Things to Do in Turkey

Whether you seek sunny Mediterranean beaches, rugged mountain adventures, or a journey through the rich tapestry of history and culture, Turkey offers something for every traveler. With its wealth of ancient sites, diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, delectable cuisine, and thrilling adventures, you'll find yourself captivated by this remarkable destination. While you may not be able to cover everything in just one vacation, here's our handpicked selection of the best things to do in Turkey to get you started.

Tour the Ancient City of Ephesus

Step back in time and explore the remarkably preserved streets of Ephesus, offering a glimpse into the daily life of ancient Greeks and Romans. Wander through the remnants of shops, schools, temples, and public toilets that once thrived in this historical city. Don't miss the breathtaking facade of the Library of Celsus, a vast open-air theater, a Roman bath, and numerous monumental fountains and gates. For a separate admission fee, the Terraced Houses reveal the luxurious residences of the Roman elite, adorned with mosaics, frescoes, and elegant marble designs.

Luxuriate in a Turkish Bath

Experience the ultimate indulgence of a traditional Turkish bath, also known as a hamam. These historic bathhouses, once vital for both cleansing and socializing, now offer a luxurious escape for tourists. Treat yourself to a scrub and massage by a same-gender attendant in the opulent surroundings of hamams like Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı, Cağaloğlu Hamamı, and Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı in Istanbul. For a unique experience, visit hamams in Bursa, where natural thermal springs fill the serene pools.

See Cappadocia from Above and Below

Wake up early to witness the magical spectacle of hot-air balloons floating above the enchanting landscape of Cappadocia. Alternatively, explore the underground cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı, where ancient communities sought refuge from invaders. Delve into labyrinthine tunnels that stretch several stories deep, revealing living quarters, places of worship, stables, kitchens, and even wine-making facilities.

Feast on Meze and Fish

Embrace the Turkish tradition of "rakı-balık" night, where you savor the nation's favorite drink, rakı, alongside delectable fish dishes. Begin your meal with a variety of meze, small dishes designed for sharing, featuring creative combinations of vegetables, herbs, and seafood. Delight in main courses like grilled levrek (sea bass), çipura (sea bream), istavrit (mackerel), barbun (red mullet), and hamsi (anchovies), all depending on the season.

Shop in Colorful Bazaars

Immerse yourself in Turkey's vibrant bazaar culture, with traditional shopping arcades known as çarşı, and lively open-air markets called pazars. Experience the iconic Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, as well as authentic and atmospheric bazaars in cities like Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa. Indulge in a shopping spree for cheap souvenirs or exquisite handmade crafts, and explore open-air markets offering fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables, clothing, and household goods.

Admire Architectural Splendor in Istanbul

Marvel at Istanbul's architectural wonders, a testament to the city's rich history as Byzantium and Constantinople. Stand in awe of the majestic Hagia Sophia, with its soaring dome dating back over a millennium. Visit the impressive Aqueduct of Valens and the underground Basilica Cistern, engineering marvels that once supplied water to the city. Wander through the grandeur of Topkapi Palace, showcasing lavishly decorated chambers and a treasure trove of jewels. Explore the minaret-studded skyline of Istanbul, featuring the iconic Blue Mosque, Rüstem Paşa Mosque, and Süleymaniye Mosque.

Cruise Turquoise Waters on a Gület

Embark on a relaxing multi-day cruise aboard a gület, a traditional wooden yacht, along Turkey's enchanting southwestern coastline. Spend leisurely days swimming in secluded coves, savoring fresh-caught fish, and enjoying stunning sunsets with a glass of rakı. Explore ancient ruins like Knidos, climb to the Crusader Castle in Kaleköy, or dine at cozy cafe-restaurants in Kaş.

Hike the Lycian Way

For adventure enthusiasts, trek along the Lycian Way, a 540 km (335 mi) long-distance trail from Fethiye to Antalya. This challenging route traverses spectacular coastal cliffs, scenic villages, ancient ruins, and mountainous landscapes. Embrace the beauty of Kabak Valley, Patara Beach, Myra's rock tombs, Olympos, and the intriguing "burning rock" at Çıralı.

See Incredible Roman Mosaics

Discover the intricate artistry of Roman mosaics, depicting mythological tales, lavish banquets, heroic battles, and more. Admire the well-preserved mosaics at the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum, Hatay Archaeology Museum, and Haleplibahçe Mosaic Museum in Şanlıurfa, showcasing the creative genius of the ancient world.

Linger Over a Leisurely Turkish Breakfast

Indulge in a scrumptious Turkish breakfast spread, known as serpme kahvaltı, the perfect start to a day of exploration. Delight in savory treats like olives, cheeses, tomatoes, and cucumbers, alongside sweet delights of homemade jams and kaymak (honey and thick cream). Experience regional variations, such as fresh herbs along the Aegean coast and cornmeal dishes in the Black Sea region.

Watch the Sunrise from Atop Mt. Nemrut

Witness the surreal sight at the summit of Nemrut Dağı, where colossal statues of deities and mythical creatures stand amid the rugged landscape. Built by a Hellenistic king in the 1st century BCE, these statues have withstood the test of time, offering a glimpse into the past. Tour groups often visit at sunrise or sunset, but staying overnight allows for a more intimate and memorable experience.

Imagine the Beginnings of Human Civilization

Explore Turkey's Neolithic sites, offering a fascinating window into early human life over 10,000 years ago. At Çatalhöyük, gain insights into early urban living and the transition from nomadic to agrarian societies. Discover Göbeklitepe, the world's first place of worship, reshaping our understanding of ancient religious beliefs and practices.

With its rich history, diverse landscapes, and warm hospitality, Turkey promises a truly unforgettable journey. Whether you seek adventure, culture, or relaxation, this enchanting country welcomes you with open arms. Embark on your Turkish odyssey and discover the magic of this extraordinary land.

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