Looking for the kind of holiday destination that will satisfy all your desires? Turkey is a brilliant option. From stunning beaches to soaring mountains, the country has such a diverse landscape that it truly offers something for everyone. Here are five top places you simply can’t miss out on.
The region of Cappadocia is a rocky landscape in central Turkey, famed for its fascinating ‘fairy chimneys’. These spectacular cone-shaped rock formations span over 100 km² and were created over time in their hundreds by the erosion of volcanic ash. Cappadocia is also home to the Göreme Open Air Museum, which showcases over 30 churches and chapels all intricately carved from rock, some containing beautiful frescoes dating as far back as the ninth century. What’s more, visitors can experience what it was like to live underground centuries ago in the region’s vast underground cities.
With its mystical charm, Cappadocia is certainly an amazing sight – and what brings tourists there these days is the chance to see it all from a bird’s-eye view. Hot air ballooning companies offer tours taking you over the whole of the region, and the romantic image of these colourful balloons floating above the rock formations is probably the most famous one of the area. The region’s breathtaking valleys also offer fantastic hiking opportunities, as well as the chance to ski on the snowy volcano of Mount Erciyes – Turkey’s biggest ski resort.
If you want to experience Turkey’s ancient past, but you’re also longing for the beach, look no further than the Aegean Coast. Stretching down the west coast of the country, this region is full of small resorts, each with its own unique charm.
A must-see for its natural wonders is the picturesque village of Ölüdeniz. Its crystal-clear Blue Lagoon with an impressive mountain range as its backdrop is the perfect place for enjoying lazy beach days and taking Instagram-worthy snaps. And on a boat trip to Butterfly Valley you’ll get to see its lush forest, which is home to over 100 species of butterflies, as well as spectacular waterfalls and beaches. But perhaps you’d like to experience something more adventurous? Ölüdeniz is renowned for being one of the best spots in Turkey for paragliding, with trips taking off from nearby Babadag Mountain, offering breathtaking views.
Another part of the Aegean Coast very much worth visiting is Izmir. Curving along the west coast, the beaches alone are incredible. These range from stretches of sand surrounded by greenery, to windsurfing hubs packed with quirky cafés. Izmir is actually one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean world and is home to the ancient city of Ephesus – one of the best preserved Roman settlements in the world. Here you can see still-intact libraries, gymnasiums, and even an amphitheatre.
If you go into Izmir Town, you’ll find an enchanting waterfront lined with palm trees, offering plenty of stylish eateries for you to sample the local delicacies. The popular resort town of Kusadasi boasts a wealth of international restaurants to choose from too. But if you’re keen to see this town’s more traditional side, take a stroll down the backstreets and you’ll come across the Grand Bazaar – an ancient marketplace bursting with exotic spices and handmade items. It’s an explosion for the senses and the perfect spot to pick up a souvenir or two.
Moving further down the coast, you’ll find the stunning region of Antalya. Known as the Turquoise Coast for its beautiful blue waters, it’s Turkey’s gateway to the Mediterranean region, and the beaches here are some of the best in the country. Popular areas include Lara Beach, known for its stylish restaurants, pools and spas, and Side, where you can dip your toes in the sea surrounded by mountain and river views. And if you’re partial to a spot of golf, this region is also home to some of the best courses in the country.
The Antalya region is a top location for watersports, offering opportunities for water rafting, scuba diving, kite-surfing and more. And for culture-vultures, the impressive historic Hadrian’s Gate is worth a visit, as well as the incredibly well-preserved ancient Roman Aspendos Theatre. This part of the country is also well-known for its vibrant bazaars, where you’ll find all kinds of interesting items, such as leather goods, handmade jewellery, sweet treats, and exotic spices.
Any list of the best holiday destinations in Turkey wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the historic, cultural and economic hub of Istanbul. Straddling both Europe and Asia over a body of water called the Bosphorus, Istanbul is Turkey’s biggest city and the country’s old capital. Due to its prime geographical position, it has been occupied by various empires in its time – it’s no wonder that there’s a mixture of different cultures even today. Spending time on both the European and Asian sides of the city is easy – take a short train journey across or opt for the scenic route by ferry for breathtaking views of the city’s skyline.
Istanbul is a mix of both cosmopolitan chic and old-world charm, and it’s ideal for sampling the Turkish food and nightlife. It’s also full of historical and architectural marvels, making it the perfect place for sightseeing. Don’t miss the iconic Blue Mosque, known for its beautiful stained glass windows and majestic domes and spires, as well as the impressive Hagia Sophia, which over time has gone from Christian place of worship to mosque to museum. And the Grand Bazaar is a must-see if you’d like some retail therapy. This major landmark is one of the oldest covered markets in the world, not to mention the largest, spanning an area of around 30,700m². With its bustling atmosphere and colourful wares, it’s really a feast for the senses.
Being at the point where Europe and Asia meet, Turkey offers a fascinating mix of diverse cultures, religions and history like no other. Whether you’re interested in sightseeing and shopping, or simply keen to relax on the beach surrounded by beautiful scenery, it’s certainly worth a spot on anyone’s bucket list.