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Things to Do in Turkey

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Ephesus (Efes)
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1,187 Tours and Activities

The ancient Greek city of Ephesus, also know as Efeze. Famed for its Temple of Artemis, it is also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Ephesus’s most spectacular site has to be the façade of the Library of Celsus. Constructed between 110 and 135AD, the library originally had three floors, but an earthquake destroyed the building in the 10th century.

Other sites include the Theater, Basilica of St. John, the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, Church of Mary, House of the Virgin, the Isabey Mosque, the Prytaneion, the synagogue and the Temple of Hadrian. All the sites are in varying states of disrepair. Unfortunately, all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, rumoured to have been four times as large as the Parthenon, is one column standing in a marshy basin.

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Bosphorus
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Bosphorus, or the Istanbul Strait, functions not just as a border between Europe and Asia, but as one of the most beautiful sites in all of Turkey. Lined with scenic greenery, palaces, parks, and not to mention an absolutely gorgeous waterfront, Bosphorus has much more to offer than one may initially suspect.

One of its more popular landmarks, Dolmabahce Palace is one of the Ottoman Empire’s most significant and grandiose structures. With more than 240 rooms, and 43 hallways, Dolmabahce was a political hub in Turkey for the better part of one and a half centuries before the collapse of the empire.

If you’re looking to embrace the wonderful outdoors of the area, two of Bosphorus’ more beautiful parks are the Emirgan and Macka Parks. Where Emirgan contains a plethora of water-related scenery including ponds, waterfalls and the Bosphorus itself, Macka too shares views of the Bosphorus’ beauty, but is composed of charming valley terrain.

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Dalyan River
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The Dalyan River runs through the town of Dalyan, Turkey, which is located in the southwest region of Turkey along the Aegean Sea. Life in Dalyan revolves around the river. It's an important source of fish for the residents. The river also flows through a special environmental protection area. There are also several boat tours that go up and down the river, taking visitors to see the ancient sites of the area. One of the main attractions for tourists are the facades of Lycian tombs. They are located above the river's sheer cliffs and were cut from the rocks around 400 BC. Just a short boat trip away, you can also visit the ruins of the ancient trading city of Kaunos.

Nearby you can experience the Sultaniye hot springs. Here you can enjoy the warm water and the therapeutic mud baths. You can also go for a swim in Köyceğiz Lake, which is connected to the sea by the Dalyan River.

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Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)
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Hagia Sophia (or Aya Sofya) is one of the world’s most beautiful buildings, built to be the world’s largest place of worship by Emperor Justinian in 532 AD. The church became a Mosque under the Ottomans, and its mosaics and decoration were plastered over. They have been successively revealed since the 1930s, when the building was declared a museum by Turkey’s legendary ruler, Atatürk. The Hagia Sophia’s golden mosaics are rivaled only by Ravenna’s, and its design was the inspiration for the basilica of San Marco in Venice. The huge complex is a riot of domes and minarets, focusing on the huge central dome which for centuries was unrivaled as an architectural masterpiece. Inside, the lofty interior is a soaring sequence of domed and arched spaces, centering on the shell-like apse and the massive dome, which seems to float unsupported and gives the church its amazing sense of space.
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Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)
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Synonymous with Ottoman style architecture, the Topkapi Palace is one of Istanbul’s most historical landmarks. Resident to Sultans for over 400 years, the palace is a measure of its empiric significance. Visitor interested in understanding the culture and pride of Turkey’s people would benefit from a visit to the complex.
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Duden Waterfalls (Duden Selalesi)
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The Duden Waterfalls sit at the end of the river of the same name, which winds its way through the Taurus Mountains before tumbling from a cliff into a valley next to the Mediterranean. The falls consist of two cascades, and the upper part is nearly 50 feet (15 meters) tall and 65 feet (20 meters) wide.
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Butterfly Valley (Kelebekler Vadisi)
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The beautiful spot known as Kelebekler Vadisi, or “Butterfly Valley,” holds an almost mythical attraction for many travelers to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, perhaps because of its relative isolation: the narrow, steeply walled cove can only be accessed by boat or on foot. To add to the mystique, the valley takes its name from the many species of butterflies and moths that breed here during the winter, including the brightly colored and rarely seen Jersey tiger.

From the secluded beach at the entrance to the verdant gorge that leads to a 60-foot waterfall at the back, the setting is simply delightful. Although there is a well-trodden path to the waterfall it’s a good idea to bring waterproof shoes, as some wading through the streambed is necessary.

Butterfly Valley makes an easy day trip by boat from Ölüdeniz, but in order to fully soak up the atmosphere you might want to stay a few days.

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Pigeon Valley (Güvercinlik Vadisi)
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Pigeon Valley, just outside Göreme in Cappadocia, is one of Turkey’s most beautiful landscapes.

The unique rock formations known as fairy chimneys, or peri bacalar, which are made from wind and water erosion on soft volcanic rock, rise high from the valley floor like chimneys and are dotted in their tops with birdhouses. Some reach at tall as 130 ft (40m). Pigeons live in these dovecoats carved into the rocks and cliffs. Years ago the pigeons were used to carry messages from this remote region, and their droppings have long been used by local farmers for fertilizer. Today, however, there are fewer pigeons in the valley.

Pigeon Valley is a great place for hiking. The whole area around Göreme is made up of valleys with almost no fencing and there are well-marked trails. The mildly hilly trail through Pigeon Valley is free of charge and about 2.8 miles (4 km) long running between Göreme and Uçhisar.

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Perge (Perga)
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The remains of the ancient city of Perge, lie just 17km (11mi) northeast of Antalya and is the region’s most significant Roman ruin. Dating as far back as the Bronze Age, Perge was originally settled by the Hittites around 1500 BC and under Roman occupation grew to become one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world. An important city for Christians during the Byzantine period, Saint Paul is said to have preached his first sermon here in 46 AD.

Excavations began on the site in 1946 and have since uncovered a large Greco-Roman theater with fine marble reliefs, a stadium that could seat over 12,000 people, a Hellenistic-Roman city gate flanked by ruined towers, a long colonnaded street, a large agora (central market), public baths and a gymnasium. Of these ancient remains, the theater and the stadium are Perge’s best-preserved sites.

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More Things to Do in Turkey

Hippodrome (Sultanahmet Meydani)

Hippodrome (Sultanahmet Meydani)

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Originally built in the third century, the Hippodrome of Constantinople was the sporting and cultural center of the former Byzantine capital for over 1,000 years. With a U-shaped race track and two levels of spectator galleries, the Hippodrome likely held more than 100,000 people. While the Byzantine emperors (and later the Ottoman sultans) took great pride in the Hippodrome and devoted significant efforts to embellishing it, little remains of the original structure today.

Sultan Ahmet Square now covers the former site of the Hippodrome and largely follows its ground plan and dimensions. Pavement marks the course of the old race track and several interesting monuments remain as well. You can’t miss the towering Obelisk of Theodosius, the oldest monument in all of Istanbul. Made of pink granite, it was originally erected at the Amun Re temple at Karnak in Egypt, but was brought to Istanbul by the Emperor Theodosius in the fourth century.

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Kusadasi Castle

Kusadasi Castle

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Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

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A distinct Istanbul landmark, the world-famous Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii in Turkish) opened in 1616 and is renowned for its slender minarets and collection of domes. The Sultan Ahmet I conceived the structure to rival the nearby Byzantine Hagia Sofia which stands opposite the mosque in the city's busiest square. It was constructed over the site of an ancient hippodrome and Byzantine palace, and is one of the most beautiful mosques in Turkey.

Guarded by its six minarets and built around an enormous internal courtyard, the mosque's vast and curvaceous interior is ablaze with 20,000 delicate blue Iznik tiles—after which it gets its moniker of the Blue Mosque—featuring flowers, garlands, and intricate patterns.

The Blue Mosque can be visited on a small-group or private tour of the Sultanahmet neighborhood and is often paired with tours of Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia and the Hippodrome.

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Cleopatra Island (Sedir Island)

Cleopatra Island (Sedir Island)

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Sedir Island is best known as Cleopatra Island, named after the pharaoh who allegedly met her lover Marc Antony on its shores. Forever romanticized by its connection with the iconic lovers, this small island in the Gulf of Gökova is now a popular stop on boat cruises and jeep safaris from Marmaris.

Cleopatra Island’s second claim to fame is its unusually textured sands, made up of smooth white, ground seashells. To preserve this one-of-a-kind sand, visitors are required to leave their belongings and shoes at the entrance to the beach. Removing the sand is strictly prohibited. Typically, such sand can only be found on Egyptian shores, fueling the legend that Marc Antony had it shipped in to Sedir Island from North Africa in an attempt to woo his mistress.

The island also has an additional sandy beach, popular among swimmers and sunbathers, that is home to a number of Roman ruins, including an agora and an amphitheater that dates back to the fourth century B.C.

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Ataturk Mausoleum (Anitkabir)

Ataturk Mausoleum (Anitkabir)

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The Ataturk Maouselum, part of the Anıt Kabir (literally ""memorial tomb""), is the mausoleum of Mustaga Kemal Ataturk, the leader of the Turkish War of Independence and the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey. The Anit Kabir encapsulates both architectural impressiveness and historical significance, making it one of Anakara's must sees.

Anit Kabir's construction spanned 9 years and commenced in 1944. It consists of four main parts - the Road of Lions, the Ceremonial Plaza, the Hall of Honor (the location of Atatürk's tomb) and the Peace Park that surrounds the monument.

Inside of the ceremonial plaza you can find several museum rooms displaying memorabilia and personal artifacts of Ataturk, giving visitors a sense of the famous leader's life. The Hall of Honor is an impressively lofty structure, lined in marble and decorated with mosaics. An immense marble cenotaph stands at the northern end of the hall above the actual tomb.

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Alanya Castle (Alanya Kalesi)

Alanya Castle (Alanya Kalesi)

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Alanya Castle is a medieval castle located in the coastal town of Alanya, Turkey. It was built in the 13th century on top of earlier Byzantine Era and Roman Era fortifications. During the Ottoman Empire, the castle was no longer needed for defensive reasons, and today it is a museum. The castle sits 820 feet high on a rocky peninsula that sticks out into the Mediterranean Sea. The sea protects the castle from three sides, and this high vantage point gives visitors an impressive view of Alanya, the sea, and the surrounding countryside, including the Pamphylian plain and Cilician mountains.

The walls that surround the castle stretch for four miles. Inside the castle walls, visitors can explore the ruins which include the remains of 400 cisterns that once provided water to the castle, an 11th-century Byzantine church, several mosques, monuments, and the battlements. There are also several impressive towers along the walls including the 95-foot Red Tower.

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Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi)

Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi)

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When the Ottoman sultans wanted to update their living space, they moved from the Topkapi complex on Seraglio Point to the Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi).

The sultans lived here from 1856 to 1922. With its columns and pediments, the opulent palace has a very European appearance, and the interior is a mid-Victorian statement in over-the-top luxury.

Gilt, marble and crystal abound, and also the home ot the world’s largest crystal chandelier, which was a gift from Queen Victoria.

Guided tours lead from waiting rooms to the offices of the Grand Vizier and other ornate apartments looking over the sea.

The palace has a special place in the hearts of modern-day Turks, as its where the leader Atatürk lived and passed away in in 1938.

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Mevlana Museum (Mevlana Muzesi)

Mevlana Museum (Mevlana Muzesi)

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Konya’s Mevlana Museum is in a former monastery constructed around the mausoleum of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, the peace-loving Persian Sufi poet and mystic who founded the bizarre sect known as the ‘whirling dervishes’ and lived between 1207 and 1273. It is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in Turkey, with more than 1.5 million people visiting each year. The highly ornate monastery was built in the 16th century around the 13th-century tomb of Rumi and has slender minarets, several domes and a bright-turquoise tiled tower, which is one of the landmarks of the city. The complex includes prayer rooms, a library stocked with thousands of rare ecclesiastical books and Koran manuscripts, the monks’ cells and kitchens, all situated in manicured gardens full of shrubs, roses and a blue-and-white marble fountain. At the heart of the monastery lies the sarcophagus of Rumi, accompanied by the tombs of his wife, children and several of his followers.

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Hierapolis

Hierapolis

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Perhaps better known by tourists as Pamukkale, Hierapolis is an ancient city of the Lycus River valley famed for its sacred hot springs.

There’s a lot to see at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, whose most popular attraction includes the thermally heated Sacred Pool where you can swim among the remains of ancient Roman columns, toppled into the water by various earthquakes.

Among the ruins are the remains of the Temple of Apollo (Apollo was believed by ancients to have been the divine founder of the city), the Gate of Domitian, the tomb of Flavius Zeuxis, necropolis (graveyard), the Plutonium (a cave believed to have been the entrance to the underworld), and the theater.

Among these, the theater is perhaps the most well-preserved. Constructed around 200BC, it could hold 20,000 spectators in its day. These days, just 30 rows remain.

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