Planning a trip to Turkey can be tricky if you have limited time. Turkey is such a culturally and geographically diverse country, it is difficult to prioritise where to visit. Below is our list of the top 5 places that in our opinion, any first time visitor to Turkey must see:
Istanbul, magical Istanbul. The subject of songs, the setting for thousands of books, and recently voted the number 1 Traveller’s Choice Top Destination in the World by Trip Advisor members, Istanbul will steal your heart. Here you can wander through palaces, enjoy beautiful gardens, cruise up the Bosphorous, marvel at the architectures, haggle for a bargain in one of the bazaars, wander charming cobblestoned backstreets, enjoy a Turkish bath and more.
2. Ephesus and surrounds
What’s not to love about Ephesus? It is the most visited ruins site in Turkey and for good reason. It is the best preserved classical city, and as you wander its streets you can really imagine what life was like back in the day. And there is so much more to do while you are in the area – visit the House of Virgin Mary, believed to be the place where she spent her last days, St John’s Basilica, the charming former Greek village of Sirince and the beautiful Isa Bey Mosque. When you are done you can head to nearby Pamucak Beach, or the coastal town of Kusadasi and relax.
Cappadocia delights every visitor with its lunar-like landscape and fairy chimneys dotting the horizon. Arriving in Cappadocia, you will really feel like you have come to another world. While you are here you can take a hot air balloon flight over the fairy chimneys, hike through one of the many valleys, visit the small churches carved into the rocks and marvel at their fresco paintings, explore one of the underground cities, or simply find a terrace and sip some local wine and watch the world go by.
Likened to a frozen waterfall, the thermal pools (travertines) of Pamukkale are co-located with the ruins of the ancient Roman spa town of Hierapolis. A a visit to Pamukkale will delight lovers of natural beauty and history alike. Over one million guests visit this UNESCO World Heritage- listed site every year, many of whom come to experience the healing effect of the thermal waters which are said to assist in the treatment of many ailments. After taking a stroll through the ruins, visitors can wade in the thermal pools or go for a swim in the Cleopatra Antique pool where you will have a chance to swim over fallen Roman columns. With a water temperature of 35.6 degrees celsius, visitors can swim here all year round.
The Gallipoli Peninsula, located around 5 hours drive from Istanbul, was the site of World War I battlefields. Today it is a commemorative site for Allied (British Empire and France) and Turkish forces who fought and died here and experienced huge losses of life. In addition to paying tribute to fallen forbears, a visit to Gallipoli is important for Australians and New Zealanders because the heroism displayed by troops here is seen as having developed a separate national consciousness and identity for the two countries. It is also an important site for visitors from all nations because the battle here is seen as having been a defining moment in Turkish history – a final surge as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart. Australians and New Zealanders make a pilgrimage to Gallipoli every year for the 25 April ANZAC Day memorial dawn service. The site is also visited by tens of thousands of Turkish people each year who commemorate victory over the Allied forces on 18 March every year.
For more information to help you with planning your trip, have a look at these pages:
- Fez Travel’s Istanbul, Ephesus, Cappadocia, Pamukkale day tours
- Gallipoli tours
- Our range of 6-9 day and longer Turkey tours