Trip and Wellness

16 Top Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Turkey

Colorful hot air balloons before launch in Goreme national park, Cappadocia

Turkey is among the top tourist attractions due to its fascinating history, diverse culture, and stunning scenery. Many tourists flock to its top attractions every year.

Turkey’s diverse cultural heritage has been shaped by various civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, and Armenians, throughout its rich history. Explore a country that was once under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, a powerful empire that spanned Asia, Europe, and Africa for 600 years.

Turkey boasts a diverse range of travel experiences, from taking in stunning views on a hot air balloon ride to trekking through the misty mountains of the Eastern Black Sea. But that’s not all to explore while traveling in this unique country!

Turkey’s rich archaeological sites, such as the Lycian tombs, attract history enthusiasts and curious travelers fascinated by ancient history. Turkey offers a variety of travel destinations, such as the bustling skyline of Istanbul adorned with domes and minarets, and the serene beaches lining the Mediterranean coast. There are many unexplored destinations in this country waiting to be discovered!

1. Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia was a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica
Source: gettyimages

One of the must-visit destinations in Turkey is the Hagia Sophia Mosque ( Ayasofya), which is renowned for its stunning Byzantine architecture. It is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and is a top attraction in Istanbul.

Constructed in 537 CE by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, this is considered the most remarkable architectural feat of the Byzantine Empire and has held the title of the world’s biggest church for a millennium.

The grandeur of the exterior is accentuated by the delicate minarets that were built during Ottoman rule. Inside, the lavish frescoes and spacious interiors serve as a magnificent testament to the former glory and dominance of old Constantinople.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Istanbul: Best Areas & Hotels

2. Cappadocia

View of the city of Goreme with caves and air baloons in Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is a great travel destination for those seeking a scenic hot-air balloon ride. The area is renowned for its stunning 360-degree views of vast valleys and unique rock formations.

Located southeast of Ankara, Cappadocia is a popular travel destination with major tourist towns like Goreme and Urgup. The destination offers hot air balloon rides throughout the year. At sunrise, you can witness the spectacle of 100 hot air balloons taking off. Additional 50 balloons are allowed to take off every half hour after sunrise. It’s important to arrive on time for your hot air balloon reservation to not miss the opportunity.

This is one of the top tourist attractions in Turkey. Ensure that you reserve your hot air balloon excursion in advance to avoid missing out on this unique travel experience!

Read More: 9 Best Things to Do and See in Cappadocia, Turkey

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cappadocia: Best Areas & Hotels

3. Ephesus

Celsus Library in Ephesus, Turkey
Source: istockphoto

Ephesus, located near Selcuk, is an ancient city that was once a prosperous metropolis and served as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The destination is located near one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis.

The city was founded in 4 BCE by Lysimachos, one of Alexander the Great’s military generals. In addition to its many ancient sites, there are also several notable landmarks to visit in the area, including the Basilica of St. John, the Mosque of Isa Bey, and the House of the Virgin Mary. Other must-visit travel destinations include the Great Theatre and the Library of Celsus, both of which hold significant historical value.

Travel back in time to the Hellenistic era and witness the Great Theatre, which was later restructured by the Romans to become a three-story amphitheater, social hub, and site for gladiator fights in Ephesus. Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, a distinguished member of the Roman Senate, constructed the Library of Celsus. One can travel to visit one of the largest Roman libraries of its time, which features a grand arched entrance and Corinthian columns.

4. Mount Nemrut

Sun rise view from Nemrut Mountain, Turkey
Source: istockphoto

Mount Nemrut is a top tourist attraction known for its impressive height in the Eastern Taurus Mountains. Visitors can explore the funerary mound of King Antiochus I of the Kingdom of Commagene, which is located at the mountain’s peak.

Visit Commagene, an ancient Armenian kingdom that was later integrated into the Roman empire in 72 AD. The kingdom ruled by King Antiochus I is a popular travel destination known for its rich history and culture. The travel destination showcases sculptures of the king, other gods, lions, and eagles on a funerary mound. The ruler ordered the construction of a burial mound, with the intention of being revered and worshipped like the other deities depicted on the stones.

Since its construction, the site has become scattered with toppled heads separated from their bodies. Traveling to the summit of Mount Nemrut offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the nearby mountains. The top highlight of this destination is witnessing the sunrise from the eastern terrace, where the headless statues are bathed in a stunning orange glow, creating an even more enigmatic atmosphere.

5. Topkapi Palace

Looking over Tokapi palace in Istanbul
Source: istockphoto

Established in the 15th century under the order of Sultan Mehmed II, Topkapi Palace stands as a testament to the glory of the Ottoman Empire. However, with the empire’s decline in 1923, the palace underwent a transformation, becoming a captivating museum that enthralls millions of visitors each year.

As a museum, Topkapi Palace offers a captivating glimpse into the lives of the sultans who once inhabited its opulent halls. Tourists can explore the remarkable exhibitions showcasing an array of treasures, including exquisite kaftans, majestic portraits, revered sacred relics, and even the legendary Spoonmaker’s Diamond, which happens to be the world’s fifth-largest diamond.

One of the highlights of the palace is the Harem section, which served as the private residence for the sultans and their concubines. Inside, visitors can marvel at the stunning handmade Iznik tiles, renowned for their exceptional craftsmanship and beauty.

However, the allure of Topkapi Palace extends far beyond its impressive artifacts. Its grand courtyards, flourishing gardens, and intricate architecture contribute to the overall charm and magnificence of this historical site. Each step through the palace’s corridors offers an opportunity to transport oneself back in time and envision the lavish lives of the sultans who once ruled from within its walls.

6. Troy

Ancient ruins in Troy, Turkey
Source: istockphoto

Explore the fascinating ruins of Troy, an ancient city steeped in legendary tales of the Trojan War and the infamous Trojan Horse. While the city itself may no longer stand, its remnants offer a captivating journey back in time.

The story of Troy was immortalized by Homer in his epic poem, The Iliad, recounting the heroic deeds of Achilles and the dramatic siege that ultimately led to the Trojans’ defeat at the hands of the Greeks. For centuries, this narrative was considered a myth until the city was unearthed by an archaeologist in 1870.

Situated along the Turkish Aegean coast, close to the village of Tevfikiye, the Ruins of Troy have become a renowned tourist destination. Visitors can embark on a mesmerizing walk through the ancient ruins, marveling at the remnants of what was once a bustling city. 

One of the highlights of the Troy experience is the striking Trojan Horse model. This iconic wooden structure serves as a symbol of deceit and strategy, evoking the legendary ruse that the Greeks employed to infiltrate the city. 

7. Ani Ruins

Church of the Holy Redeemer, Ani
Source: istockphoto

Explore the deserted ruins of Ani, a once-thriving city on the Silk Road, located on the plains near the modern border between Turkey and Armenia.

Ani, the former capital of the Armenian Kingdom, was once a thriving city during its golden age. However, it faced a decline in the 14th century due to various factors such as Mongol raids, earthquake destruction, and trade route conflicts.

The stunning red-brick structures slowly deteriorating amidst the vast grasslands have a captivating allure for travelers.

Make sure to visit the Church of the Redeemer and the Church of Saint Gregory, both featuring intricate stonework and remnants of frescoes. Also, don’t forget to see the impressive Ani Cathedral and the Manuçehr Mosque, believed to be the first mosque constructed in what is now Turkey, built by the Seljuk Turks after capturing the city in the 11th century.

8. Gobekli Tepe

The oldest temple of the world, Gobekli Tepe
Source: istockphoto

Göbekli Tepe is a renowned travel destination that boasts an archaeological site dating back to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic era. It is home to the world’s oldest known megaliths and is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. These ancient megaliths predate Stonehenge by approximately 6,000 years.

Located in the Germus Mountains, in the northeast region of Sanliurfa, lies an intriguing archaeological site. The site features ancient structures constructed by hunter-gatherers around 9,600 to 8,000 BCE, believed to be associated with various rituals.

Explore the fascinating collection of artifacts unearthed from Göbekli Tepe at the Sanliurfa Museum. Travelers can effortlessly discover the Göbekli Tepe site, which is recognized as the oldest temple in the world. Witness the excavation process of archaeologists as they uncover the vast site that continues to reveal significant archaeological and historical discoveries. At Göbekli Tepe, travelers can explore a small museum showcasing fascinating 3D animations of the site and learn about its significant historical importance.

9. Cruising the Mediterranean

View of Bodrum castle and Marina Harbor in Aegean sea in Turkey
Source: istockphoto

The Mediterranean coast of Turkey offers a plethora of ruins and activities, but for most travelers, the main attraction is basking in the sun while taking in the stunning coastal scenery.

Exploring Bodrum and Fethiye on a yacht is a popular activity among tourists due to its undeniable charm. Explore the sea and discover the steep forest-clad slopes, hidden coves with tiny white-sand beaches, and hundreds of scattered islands. Even those who are not fond of traveling by sea will be amazed.

One of the most popular travel experiences is the Blue Cruise, which takes you from Fethiye down the southern coast until you reach Olympos. This is where you can witness the incredible natural wonder of the Chimaera.

10. Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque of Istanbul, famous place of visit
Source: istockphoto

The Blue Mosque of Istanbul, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a top tourist attracts many visitors all year round.

The Blue Mosque, located near the renowned Hagia Sophia, is a stunning example of architectural grandeur and a must-see attraction for travelers. When you travel to Istanbul, make sure to visit the Blue Mosque. It is a remarkable example of the Ottoman Empire’s prosperity and accomplishments, and it’s the only mosque in the city with six minarets.

The Blue Mosque, constructed in the early 16th century, is a popular travel destination due to its stunning interior featuring 20,000 blue tiles adorning the walls. This is a popular tourist destination that welcomes visitors, but it is closed for 90 minutes during prayer times.

11. Olüdeniz

View of the Blue Lagoon, Oludeniz, Mugla
Source: istockphoto

Olüdeniz, located on the southwest coast of Turkey, is a popular travel destination known for its picturesque blue lagoon and charming village atmosphere.

Spend a few days exploring the numerous travel activities waiting to be experienced at this breathtaking destination. Experiencing the breathtaking views of the mountains and blue sea while paragliding above Olüdeniz is a must-do activity for many travelers.

Be sure to visit Olüdeniz’s most renowned and captured destination, the Blue Lagoon, during your travels. The tranquil waters of the lagoon at the national conservation site make it a perfect destination for swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, and snorkeling.

Experience a unique adventure in Olüdeniz’s archaeological diving sites by going for a dive or learning how to at the numerous educational diving schools. Embark on a boat excursion to the renowned Blue Cave located nearby, featuring striking blue hues and a foundation formed by limestone rock.

12. Safranbolu

Historical ottoman houses, Safranbolu
Source: istockphoto

Explore the charming Ottoman town of Turkey, filled with narrow alleys and beautifully restored wooden mansions that were once owned by affluent merchants. These mansions have now been converted into boutique hotels and restaurants, making it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.

There are few activities to engage in while traveling. This is a destination where you can leisurely wander the streets and appreciate the charming old-world ambiance.

The place is also famous for its local delicacies and handicrafts, and there are numerous charming stores where you can purchase a distinctive memento.

If you’re road-tripping inland from Istanbul, this is a great destination to take a break for the night and immerse yourself in the rich historical atmosphere.

13. Aspendos Theater

Aspendos Theatre, Antalya
Source: istockphoto

​​The Aspendos Theater, a renowned tourist destination, and historical landmark, is located near Antalya in the ancient city of Aspendos.

Aspendos Theater is a great travel destination for those interested in ancient history. It is one of the most well-preserved theaters from antiquity and was built during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The city’s ancient wealth and prosperity are evident in its impressive size.

The venue has the capacity to accommodate a crowd of 15,000 to 20,000 people. The caravanserai in Seljuk times was a popular stop for travelers, and the stage area was regularly repaired and maintained to accommodate them.

The Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival is held annually at the Aspendos Theater, showcasing its exceptional acoustics and intricate architectural design, and reviving its original purpose.

14. Pergamon Acropolis

Aerial drone shooting of ancient city of Pergamon acropolis.
Source: istockphoto

Explore the ancient and wealthy Greek city of Pergamon on your travels. The hilltop Acropolis of Pergamum overlooks the town center of Bergama, making it a must-see destination for travelers.

Turkey’s renowned archaeological site, the Acropolis, is a must-visit destination for travelers. The ancient ruins are dotted with impressive temples and a picturesque theater. The marble-columned Temple of Trajan is a popular attraction at the Pergamon Acropolis, being the sole Roman monument present there.

The site was constructed during the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan and was finished by his successor, Hadrian. The Temple of Trajan was built to serve as a destination for travelers to worship the rulers and Zeus, while also fostering a stronger bond between Rome and the people of Pergamon. Pergamon Acropolis boasts several intriguing historical sites for travelers to explore, such as the Hellenistic theatre, the Temple of Dionysus, and the Altar of Zeus.

15. Patara Beach

Aereal view of an untouched Patara Beach in Antalya
Source: istockphoto

Patara Beach, the widest and longest beach in Turkey, adorned with golden sand dunes and breathtaking views, is located close to the historic Lycian town of Patara. The birthplace of St. Nicholas, the 4th-century Byzantine bishop who is now known as Santa Claus, is a popular travel destination.

Patara Beach is a popular travel destination known for its stunning honey-yellow sand that resembles a desert more than a typical beach. The location provides a peaceful atmosphere due to the undeveloped surrounding area. if you time it right, travelers can witness the enchanting views of the sunset disappearing below the waterline.

Inland from the beach lies a fascinating historical site of ancient Lycian and Roman ruins waiting to be explored. Spend a day traveling and experiencing the highlights of Patara. Experience the serene atmosphere of Patara Beach and explore the historic Patara ruins, such as the necropolis and basilica, for a well-rounded travel experience.

16. Sumela Monastery

Aerial cliffside shot of Sumela Monastery in Trabzon, Turkey
Source: istockphoto

Located in the Pontic Mountains, the Sumela Monastery is an Orthodox monastery that dates back to the 4th century. It is situated on the cliffside of Mela Mountain and offers stunning views. The museum, which was once a monastery, has been a popular tourist destination since its abandonment in 1923.

The Sumela Monastery and Museum boast stunning frescoes from the 18th century that are sure to take your breath away. One can explore ancient depictions that showcase biblical scenes such as Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary during their travels.

The Sumela Monastery offers breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery, and the hike to reach the location is an unforgettable experience. The Sumela Monastery is in a serene natural setting, surrounded by mountains and waterfalls. It offers a perfect opportunity to explore the beauty of nature and learn about the history of the area.