10 Top Destinations in Turkey That Will Take Your Breath Away

Turkey offers everything from best beaches, water sports, ancient history, culinary experiences and more

Turkey might be in a complex place politically, but it remains a beautiful, culturally rich, and quite undiscovered country. It is worth visiting for its diverse landscapes, breathtaking cities and unique historic remains connecting Asian and European influences.

We have selected top 10 destinations for you to explore in Turkey. The list will inspire you to get the most of your trip either you are considering visiting Turkey for the first time, or planning to return to the country.

1. Istanbul

Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city with ages worth of illustrious history and architecture inherited from the times of Constantinople and Byzantium. Istanbul’s historic center, partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracts people from all over the world to taste, smell and explore. Grand Bazaar is one of the most famous, largest and oldest covered markets in the world where people stop by to taste traditional Turkish delights and wander through the labyrinths of the stands. Architecture lovers shouldn’t miss such iconic sites like Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, examples of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture.

2. Bodrum

Bodrum connects the best of Turkey – sun, sea and history. It is a centre of trade, art and entertainment that stretches from Turkey's southwest coast into the Aegean Sea. The city is built on the historic site of Halicarnassus, the location of the famous Mausoleum of Halikarnassus – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

3. Alaçati

Stone houses on narrow streets, boutique hotels, stores, restaurants and fancy beach clubs attract those who want to have a cozy beach getaway. Alaçati is one of the best-kept secrets in Turkey that attracts well-heeled Turkish crowd, local celebrities and would amaze any visitor looking for the beach with a dash of glamour and water sports. Only 45 minutes away from Izmir, Alaçati is considered to be one of the best destinations in the world for beginners to learn windsurfing - with kitesurfing also becoming quite popular. It’s a brilliant destination for those who also want to explore more than Turkish culture, as the Greek island of Chios is just a short ferry ride away from the city. The beach is about 15 min drive from Alaçati center.

4. Çeşme

Çeşme is a beach town west of Izmir, on the Aegean Sea, about 15 min from Alaçati. Its sandy beaches are dotted with hotels and beach clubs, and the town center offers authentic Turkish experience, dining and music. Çeşme Castle, a restored military fortress, houses the Çeşme Archaeology Museum. Northeast of Çeşme, the village of Ildır is Erythrai archaeological site, with an ancient amphitheater and gorgeous hilltop views.

5. Ephesus

A sightseeing trip to Ephesus will take you at least half a day, yet the destination is worth every minute spent there! It is a city of colossal monuments and marble-columned roads that will make you feel like traveling back in time to Ancient Greece and the golden age of Roman Empire. Ephesus is built near the sight of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – Temple of Artemis.

6. Manavgat

Manavgat is a destination for those who want to discover the beauty of nature and escape the colorful and crowded Turkish cities. Turquoise Manavgat waterfalls that are only 6 km away from the city centre. After a short ride, you can take a river cruise or go for a stroll in the riverside park to admire the authentic landscape.

7. Goreme, Cappadocia

Rock valleys of Cappadocia region is the dream destination for hikers, explorers and photographers. It is one of the world's top destinations to take a hot air balloon ride. Formed by water and wind, Cappadocia is also an important early Christian site, where you will find human touch captured in frescoed rock-cut churches. Visit the remains of a traditional human habitat dating back to the 4th century. Dwellings, troglodyte villages and underground towns as well as rock-hewn sanctuaries can be found in this unique spot located in Cappadocia valley. Due to the unique inheritance of post-iconoclastic Byzantine art, Goreme town in Cappadocia is included in UNESCO World Heritage List.

8. Urgup, Cappadocia

Urgup is another town located in a valley in Central Anatolia's Cappadocia region. The city is renowned for unique houses cut into soft volcanic rock. Tourists visiting Urgup are invited to stay at inns with cave rooms for the most authentic experience. Outside your hotel, you will be able to enjoy historic Turkish baths, sunsets and even stunning hot air balloon flights in the city.

9. Ölüdeniz

Ölüdeniz, located nearby Fethiye, is Turkey's most famous beach known for turquoise-blue water and lush green forest tumbling down a cliff to a white sand beach. If you want to make you heart beat faster, take tandem paragliding dive off the summit of mighty Babadaǧ Mountain. The stunning aerial views and the perfect landscape makes Ölüdeniz one of the world's top paragliding destinations.

10. Pamukkale

The reason why Pamukkale means “Cotton Castle” in English, is its white travertine terraces that cascade down the slope. People who want to get the best views of Pamukkale come there at dusk when the travertines start glowing. However, it is worth staying in Pamukkale for longer than a sunset to visit an ancient spa town, Roman Hierapolis that lies on top of Pamukkales calcite hill.