Travel to Turkey: Where Magical Discoveries Lay in Wait
From Ancient Dwellings to Stunning Landscapes
From minarets to mountains, Turkey is a visual feast. With some of the world’s best cuisine it’s a literal one, too. Bridging Europe and Asia, Turkey has a massive depth of history and diversity of landscapes. Roman ruins lie among olive groves, remnants of the Lycian empire overlook Mediterranean beaches, and the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia hide dwellings carved into the stone.
The legacy of the many historical figures and empires in Turkey is a country packed with magical discoveries and activities to suit every kind of traveler. To kick off an unforgettable trip, check out this guide to Turkey tourism.
Top Things to Do
Make sure you take your camera, because everywhere you look in Turkey there is something beautiful to see. Here are just a few of the highlights of the many Turkey destinations you should check out.
There are countless museums, markets and mosques to visit in Istanbul. You could spend days exploring the cobblestone streets, pausing from sightseeing only long enough to snack on baklava and sip Turkish coffee. Istanbul is one of the top cultural cities in the world, so be prepared to be confronted with an array of distinct experiences. Some of the highlights to make sure you see while in the city include the colorful chaos of the Grand Bazaar, the many layers of history in the Hagia Sophia, the iconic Blue Mosque, and the subterranean intrigue of the Basilica Cistern.
The delicate pink and white terraces flowing down the hillside at Pammukale are filled with thermal water, making this one of the most beautiful natural spas you’ll ever see. As if that’s not enough, at the top of the hill you’ll find Roman ruins, complete with a massive amphitheater, and breathtaking views.
Fethiye is a stunning destination in itself, but what makes it truly great are all the attractions in the surrounding area. Just a short drive from Fethiye is Oludeniz, famed for its spectacular blue lagoon. The best way to appreciate this little slice of paradise is to take to the skies and try out paragliding. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, the Lycian Way starts in Oludeniz, so you can hike sections of the trail along the coastline, enjoying astounding views of the Mediterranean.
The town of Goreme is the main base for exploring Cappadocia. Sleep in one of the many hotels carved from stone, then wake up at dawn to hitch a ride up to the atmosphere in a hot air balloon. Watching the balloons rise over the otherworldly landscape as the sun breaks over the horizon is guaranteed to be one of the most marvelous sights you see in all your travels. Later in the day, you can explore the valleys populated with fairy chimneys and rose-colored rocks.
Set on a peninsula that stretches into the Aegean Sea, Bodrum’s twin bays offer striking views of the medieval fortress that dominates the town. Bodrum castle was built from stones from the Mausoleum of Mausolos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, so it is well worth checking out.
What to Know Before You Go
Before launching into your trip, it’s helpful to have some of the basic information under your belt. These points give you just a brief overview of what to expect in Turkey.
- Passports and Visas: Your passport needs to be valid for six months after your planned date of departure from Turkey. Most nationalities need a visa to enter the country so double check this before you set off.
- Dress Code: Turkey has the unique position of straddling both the east and the west, so it is a fusion of cultures Even so, many communities, particularly in smaller towns, are quite conservative. For women, it’s best to respect the local dress code and cover up your shoulders and knees. A scarf can be handy to drape around your shoulders and head when you want to enter mosques.
- Local People: Women, especially women traveling solo, may get a lot of unwanted attention from local men. This usually comes in the form of stares, whistles and passing comments. It’s typically harmless, so you can brush it off — just be prepared that it may happen. Other than that, local people are usually incredibly warm and welcoming, and don’t be surprised if many people invite you to join them for tea!
- Shopping: When out and about in the markets, remember that it is common practice to haggle! If you’re good at negotiating, you might be able to knock as much as 50% off the named price.
- Toilets: Don’t be alarmed if you come across ‘Turkish’ toilets. The traditional squat toilets may seem awkward at first, but you’ll quickly get the hang of them.
Costs and Budget
On the whole, Turkey is a budget-friendly place to travel. Istanbul is generally the most expensive part of the country with prices that can be comparable to other places in Europe, but you’ll still be able to find very reasonably priced food and drinks.
Eat local, use buses to get from one city to the next, and sleep in dorm rooms and you could get by on $40 a day. If you’d rather sleep in a modest hotel, dine in mid-range restaurants, and splash out on domestic flights or day trips, you could still keep your budget to less than $100 a day.
Is It Safe to Travel to Turkey?
After several attacks on Istanbul’s airport and a failed military coup, many travelers have questioned the safety of traveling to Turkey. You shouldn’t let these events put you off traveling to this country, but you should remain informed about the security situation before and during your travels.
Check with the foreign affairs department of your home country for potential warnings before you travel to stay alert to possible attacks.
There are warnings in place for travelers advising against travel to certain regions. It is not recommended to travel along the southern or southeastern borders of Turkey, near Syria or Iraq. Conflict is ongoing in these regions and there is a high risk of terrorism.
However, most visits to Turkey are trouble-free. With a few precautions, such as keeping a close eye on your belongings in crowded areas and steering clear of any demonstrations or protests, you’ll be able to stay safe.
When to Travel to Turkey
Turkey can be a land of extremes – the summers are very hot, and the winters are freezing cold. To avoid either sweltering sun or icy snow, visit in the months of April and May, or from September to November. During spring and fall you can look forward to blue skies and pleasant temperatures – and even in November it’s still warm enough to enjoy the beach!
The only downside to traveling in these periods is that it is high season and many smaller hotels may be fully booked. If you don’t mind planning ahead and paying slightly higher prices, this won’t be an issue. Summer months are busy for seaside resorts but quieter for Istanbul, if you don’t mind walking around in the heat.
To stick to a lower budget and avoid crowds, try visiting during winter. The dreamy landscapes of Cappadocia are even more surreal under a light dusting of snow, and there are more than enough bars and restaurants in Istanbul to keep you toasty and warm.