Are you planning a trip to Turkey, but you aren’t sure what you will do with your time? Fortunately, this country is ripe with history, making it a unique and exciting region to visit. Find out what to do in Turkey and begin planning your adventure today.
1. Pamukkale Thermal Pools
The Pamukkale Thermal Pools are a natural wonder and a must-see when visiting Turkey. This site is located near the major city of Denizli, and it features a bizarre set of calcium cliff pools that overlook the town of Pamukkale.
The hot springs running through the pools make this a great location for taking a warm mineral bath and enjoying the view. The water temperature in the springs ranges from 35 to 100 degrees. Pamukkale water is believed to help heal the eyes and skin and relieve asthma, rheumatism, and dermatitis.
This is perhaps the only place on Earth where you can suddenly find yourself in the middle of a hot summer on an endless snow-white plain formed by salt deposits of thermal springs. Outstanding and unique beauty in the world fascinates and does not let go.
2. Hagia Sophia Museum
One of the most significant things to do in Turkey is visiting The Hagia Sophia, an architectural wonder that has served as a Greek Orthodox Church, an imperial mosque, and is currently a museum. It amazes with its architecture, magnificent mosaics, and easily perceptible aura of a place of power.
Hagia Sophia is famous for its architecture and interior. Initially, it was built as the main temple of Russia in 537, so it is very difficult to find similar buildings, for example, in Byzantium. Then, however, the builders were discharged directly from Constantinople.
A long queue lined up at one of the columns. It is said that accidentally touching it cured Emperor Justinian of a continuous headache. It is believed that if you lean your forehead against a stone, think of a wish, insert your finger into the hole and turn it clockwise, then the wish will certainly come true.
3. Blue Cruise
A Blue Cruise is a term that is used for recreational voyages on the southwestern coast of the country along the Turkish Riviera. Unique historical sites in the Aegean Sea and many other sights will amaze you.
This journey undoubtedly is one of the top things to do in Turkey. It runs along the road, followed by fishermen, sea cargo ships, and merchants in the past and covers approximately 350 nautical miles between Kusadasi in the Aegean and Antalya in the Mediterranean. Cruises usually depart from Kusadasi or Didim and terminate in Antalya.
More: 9 Cruise Trips You Are Sure to Love
4. Nargile Bars
Turkey is full of Nargile bars, better known as hookah bars in Western culture, so visiting one should definitely be a must-do thing to experience the Turkish way of life properly.
In the evening, at dusk or under the stars in Turkey, you can see crowded coffee houses with fragrant smoke, as rest there is one of the most popular activities in Turkey. Most bars provide hookahs with multiple pipes so that smoking becomes a social experience. Hookah bars in Turkey mostly do not serve alcohol – in this country, hookah is smoked with apple tea or traditional Turkish coffee.
The Turks are convinced that the process of smoking a hookah teaches patience, and smoking itself in pleasant company or alone allows you to think about life and talk on philosophical topics. Here you will not hear noisy voices – only the barely audible sound of a domino falling edgewise on the table, someone’s conversations in a half-whisper, diluted with the pleasant gurgling of hookahs.
Gülistanbul Nargile Cafe & Aile çay Bahçesi, Galata Sarnıç Cafe, and Hadiqa İstanbul are considered the best Nargile Bars in Turkey.
5. Ruins of Ephesus
The ancient city of Ephesus was thought to have been founded in the 10th century BC, and it was famed as the location of the Temple of Artemis. Ephesus is the largest archaeological site in Asia Minor. It is one of Turkey’s most famous landmarks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a striking cultural landscape that includes the legacy of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Byzantines, and the Seljuks. All this makes visiting Ephesus one of the most awesome things to do in Turkey.
The ruins still stand, and visitors often tour them to understand Turkish history better. The town is famous primarily for the Temple of Artemis, which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Other main monuments, such as the Library of Celsus, Ephesus Ancient Greek Theater, and the Temple of Hadrian, recall the greatness of the city at the peak of its power.
Furthermore, you can see what life was like in that city then. For example, numerous temples indicate the importance of religion. In the Ephesus townhouse complex, you will see frescoes and mosaic floors adorned the villas that not every resident could afford. In addition, various bath complexes demonstrate the social nature of Roman ablutions.
6. Grand Bazaar
The Istanbul Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets on Earth. It dates back to the 1461 year of creation. 61 streets, 4400 shops, 2195 ateliers, 18 fountains, 12 mosques, 12 warehouses, one school, one bathhouse, several cafes, and currency exchange offices are also part of the Grand Bazaar.
You can buy everything there: from cheap souvenirs to precious jewelry and furs. Clothes, scarves, hats, gold, silver, hookahs, carpets, unique lamps, bags, shoes, antiques, and musical instruments can all be found within the bazaar. And here is the most diverse food, spices in huge packs, oriental sweets, and any drinks.
Here it is not only possible but also necessary to bargain since the price can be inflated several times. Each day, up to 400,000 visitors travel through the bazaar, and the beauty of the market makes it one of the most popular attractions in Turkey.
7. Mamure Kalesi
Known in English as the Mamure Castle, Mamure Kalesi is a medieval castle situated within Mersin Province. Located on the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern coast, this fascinating landmark impresses with its beauty and grandeur. Therefore, visiting Mamure Kalesi is one of the best things to do in Turkey.
This stunning structure was originally designed to protect the region from pirates. With a total area of over 253,000 square feet, the castle is surrounded by a moat and features 39 towers, three courtyards, and a minaret mosque.
At its foot, there is an excellent beach strewn with shells, where there are few tourists even in the high season.
8. Topkapi Palace
Located in Istanbul, this enormous palace was the residence of the Ottoman sultans from 1465-1856. Topkapi is a whole palace complex with an area of 700 thousand square meters, consisting of four separate courtyards stretching for five kilometers.
There was an orphanage, a treasury, the Turkish government), an armory, bakeries, the Sultan’s stables, a luxurious garden, and flower terraces with fountains.
Previously a royal residence, the palace is now a major tourist attraction, as it contains some important relics of the Muslim culture, such as Muhammed’s sword and cloak. The structure also includes examples of Ottoman architecture as well as extensive collections of weapons, porcelain, robes, murals, and Islamic calligraphic manuscripts.
In addition, there are also the relics of John the Baptist, the staff of Moses, before which, according to legend, the depths of the sea parted, the sword of David, and the brazier of Abraham. All this makes admiring this Turkish tourist attraction one of the most significant things to do in Turkey.
9. Sumela Monastery
Sumela is an ancient Orthodox monastery located in Trabzon City within the Macka Region, and it is situated 1200 meters high on a steep cliff. This beautiful, historic building is made of rock, and the frescoes date from the 18th century. The Monastery was abandoned in 1923 and has become a popular tourist destination and museum, which is one of the top Turkey activities.
It features breathtaking views and beautiful walls consisting of biblical scenes. Sumela is the main Christian attraction in Turkey and a place of pilgrimage for both Orthodox and Catholics, as this is the oldest temple building of the Orthodox faith. In addition, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Panagia Sumela was kept here, painted by the apostle Luke himself, a disciple of Christ and the author of the Gospel of Luke.
More: 11 Amazing Places to Visit Before They Disappear
10. The Bosphorus Ferry
Many locals believe that the best way to see Istanbul is by sitting on the upper deck of one of the city’s public ferries.
Travelers will enjoy some of the best views of the historical Istanbul monuments, experiencing this one of the best Turkey activities. It is also possible to glimpse beautiful seaside mansions, known as “Yali,” found along the shoreline.
Tourist trips along the strait are carried out daily. A vast abundance of sightseeing ferries departs from Eminonu Pier. Many shipping companies, whose ticket offices are located here, on the coast, offer their services for the transport of passengers, but the most popular of them is Şehir Hatları.
More: 9 Most Beautiful Beaches in Turkey
11. Scrub Up in a Hammam
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Turkish hammam is rather one of the fun things to do in Turkey. Visiting it is exotic and fraught with some intrigue. Therefore, many tourists go to the hammam during their holidays, buying tours from hotel guides or local travel agencies.
Hamam differs from a steam room in a special temperature regime: the temperature in the room does not rise above 50-60 degrees, and the humidity approaches 100%. And they are also good for health: soft, warm steam opens pores, saturates the skin with moisture, and cleanses the lungs.
Many of the most famous hammams now look like historic spas and offer extras like oil and aromatherapy massages, facials, and manicures that you can add to your traditional baths and scrubs. Therefore, the essence of the hammam is not just to wash. Thanks to this one of the top things to do in Turkey, people can relax, socialize, and become healthier and more beautiful.
12. Hot-Air Ballooning over Cappadocia
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Balloons are the main feature of Cappadocia, and most tourists come here for this one of the most fantastic activities in Turkey. Hundreds of bright balloons hovering under the clouds in the rays of the dawn sun are just fantastic pictures! There is only the boundless blue sky above and the picturesque landscapes of Cappadocia under your feet.
The best time for balloon flights in Cappadocia is April-May and the beginning of autumn. The low season is winter and summer, but even at this time, it is breathtakingly beautiful. It is ideal for flying at the end of April – in addition to excellent weather, all of Cappadocia is in bloom, and it looks very cool from a height. Flights occur daily at 5–6 am and may be canceled only due to unfavorable climatic conditions.
A hot air balloon tour in Cappadocia is a fantastic experience not to be underestimated. During the trip, you will feel in good shape. The scenery and colors are spectacular. The view is just fantastic!
13. Paragliding in Ölüdeniz
Paragliding is considered one of the fun things to do in Turkey and the safest air sport. Resorts usually offer tourists to fly with an experienced instructor. In this case, tourists do not need to worry about anything. The instructor does everything for them.
Paragliding is done in several places in Turkey, but for tourists, Oludeniz and Pamukkale are the two best places to experience this one of the most popular activities in Turkey.
Oludeniz is heaven on earth, and this is no accident. This charming seaside resort showcases a combination of stunning turquoise waters, a long white sand coastline, and emerald green forests.
All this makes Paragliding in Oludeniz one of the best Turkey activities to get positive emotions and lasting memories and increase your adrenaline levels.
14. Experience a Food Tour in Istanbul
Experiencing a food tour in Istanbul is another one of the fun things to do in Turkey, as turks love to eat, and local chefs cook excellently!
The focus is on beef and lamb dishes, a variety of legumes and vegetables, local peppers that are very original in taste, and a lot of spices, many of which are unusual for our taste, all kinds of flatbreads, and, of course, famous sweets. It is worth trying Turkish sweets – endless varieties of baklava and Turkish delight. Of the drinks, as elsewhere in the East, coffee and tea are the most popular.
Several local Istanbul travel companies organize walking tours of Istanbul’s culinary heritage. This is a great way to complete your sightseeing tour and get to know the city better.
On a gastronomic tour to Turkey, get ready to taste excellent kebabs, get acquainted with unusual combinations of oriental spices, discover the famous Istanbul street food – and many more dishes and drinks that will leave a mark on the heart of any gourmet!
15. Kayaking at Kekova
One of the best water sport activities in Turkey is Kayaking. The main center for organized sea kayaking along Turkey’s rugged coastline is Kaş. The nearby area of Kekova Island, with its underwater ruins of the sunken city, is best seen from a kayak.
The tourists can enjoy sea kayaking in the crystal clear turquoise blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea of the Kekova region, the land of the ancient Lycians. In addition, this trip can introduce you to sea kayaking at famous and unique archaeological sites in a protected area. Finally, you are welcome to see the underwater city, the Magical World of mysterious rooms, stairs, and walls carved on the rocks! After that, a picturesque panorama and romantic local landscapes await you.
Tour operators in the city offer popular daily excursions from April to September. The eagers need no experience for the kayaking tour, as everyone can do it! However, more experienced kayakers can be offered longer, multi-day sea kayaking trips that explore the rocky, forested coastline with its sea caves.
16. Horse Riding in Cappadocia
With its uniquely beautiful valleys, Cappadocia is one of the most exceptional riding destinations in the world for experienced and beginner riders!
In the valleys of Cappadocia, there are very suitable trails for horseback riding. The route is designed in such a way as to include the most exciting places in one excursion and spend time as productively as possible. Tour across Red Valley is the most popular tour and a good choice for beginner riders looking for a short-ride option.
Kiliclar Valley, Love Valley, Meskendir Valley, Pigeon Valley, Pashabagi, and Cavusin Village are some of the hottest horseback riding routes in Cappadocia, where you can enjoy the natural beauty and magical chimneys! Moreover, sunset tours to see some of the valley’s most famous panoramas are the top things to do in Turkey.
This one of the best activities in Turkey is ideal for lovers of leisurely walks in the fresh air and contemplation of the beauties of nature, as it is a kind of therapy, an opportunity to relieve stress, relax and escape from the endless routine.
17. Take the Eastern Express to Kars
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Another one of the best things to do in Turkey is to travel by Eastern Express train, which connects Ankara with Kars in Turkey’s far northeast, Turkey’s most scenic train journey. Its route is one of the most picturesque in the world. The train passes through four provincial centers: Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan, and Erzurum.
The journey takes you through the fascinating scenery of Anatolia’s rocky mountains and high plateaus in 24 hours from start to finish. The Eastern Express from Ankara allows you to visit the eastern regions as well as see Turkey’s unique geography throughout the journey. Along the way, it makes stops in major cities of Anatolia, where tours and walks are organized for tourists.
The train was previously on the verge of closing due to lack of interest, but the popularity of the express has increased after travelers began posting photos of it on social networks. Due to its popularity, travelers should plan this trip in advance, as tickets can be sold out months beforehand.
18. Trek in the Kaçkar Mountains
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One of the most exciting regions of Turkey is its northeastern part – the Lazistan Range. This is a very picturesque area, in which there is predominantly mountainous terrain. The pearl of this area is the Kachkar mountain range. This massif faces the Black Sea, not far from the Georgian border. The scenery here is truly stunning.
Kachkar is a fantastic land of harsh rocky peaks and the breathtakingly awesome beauty of the purest mountain lakes lying among the stunning alpine meadows. Travelers will be able to enjoy the unity with nature, fully inhaling the pure mountain air while experiencing this exciting activity.
This area is one of the best places in Turkey for climbers and trekkers. Hiking in Kachkar is moderately difficult and accessible to people who regularly exercise or have already been on simple hikes in the small mountains. Going on this hike, tourists can make their own route through the untouched mountains. Climbing Mount Kachkar, the highest point of the Lazistan Range, will culminate this route.
The best time for this one of the greatest Turkey activities is Midsummer, from July to August, as the highest passes are available during this season. However, late spring and early autumn are also great times for this, one of the top things to do in Turkey if the tourists plan only to trek in the lower reaches of the mountains.
19. Watching a Whirling Dervish Ceremony (Sema)
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Watching a whirling dervish ceremony, Sema is one of the most fantastic things to do in Turkey. Sema is a real journey to the origins of spiritual perfection. Once at the ceremony, you will have a chance to experience those incredible feelings that visit the dervishes and absorb that mysterious atmosphere. The whirling dervish is an unspoken symbol of Turkey.
While at the Sema ceremony, it is essential to maintain silence and calmness. After all, a real miracle will be happening before your eyes. Even an excessive display of emotions can bring down the dervish, and the ceremony can be disrupted.
There are several places in Turkey where tourists can see a whirling dervish ceremony, although be aware that most performances in tourist resort towns feature professional dancers, not Mevlevi devotees. Konya, Istanbul, and Bursa are the best places to see the real seme.
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There are many wonderful reasons to visit Turkey. It’s an amazing country that has something to offer for everyone. Have you ever been to Turkey?