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Things to do in Turkey

Things to do in  Turkey

Welcome to Turkey

Whirling dervishes, evil eyes, and kebabs are just a few of the threads in Turkey’s vibrant tapestry. Visitors to the country which straddles Europe and Asia will fall in love with history at Ephesus, the Hagia Sophia, and any one of Istanbul’s Ottoman-era mosques. Varied landscapes and climates also offer a countless number of things to do in Turkey, including paragliding in Fethiye, skiing in Bursa, boat tours in Antalya, and scuba diving in Kas. Meanwhile, natural attractions such as the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, the white travertines of Pammukale, and numerous beaches lining four seas are a hit with travelers of every age.

Top 15 attractions in Turkey

Bosphorus

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The Bosphorus Strait defines Istanbul. It is the divide between Europe and Asia, and the main connection between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Dotted with parks and elaborate Ottoman mansions, including Dolmabahce Palace, and spanned by three intercontinental bridges, the Bosphorus is the veritable heart of the city.More

Pigeon Valley (Güvercinlik Vadisi)

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Cappadocia’s wind-sculpted volcanic tufa has created an impressive series of valleys, dotted with towering “fairy chimneys” and dramatic rock formations. Taking its name from the pigeonholes carved into the tops of its fairy chimneys, Pigeon Valley (Güvercinlik Vadisi) is stunning, and visitors to Cappadocia shouldn’t miss it.More

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

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Explore the grandeur of Ottoman architecture at the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii), located on Istanbul’s Old City peninsula. Opened in 1616 to rival the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) across the way, the six minarets punctuating the Istanbul skyline and 20,000 blue Iznik tiles decorating its interior are designed to inspire awe.More

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

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Built in 532 as the world’s largest place of worship, the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) shifts its identity with the times but never loses its grandeur. Converted from a church to a mosque during the Ottoman era and becoming a museum in 1935, the pink-hued Old City building is one of Istanbul’s don’t-miss attractions.More

Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)

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Behold the imperial complex of Ottoman sultans at Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi), the royal residence in Istanbul throughout the first 400 years of the Ottoman Empire. The palace contains myriad buildings and courtyards, including a treasury, harems, an armory, imperial halls, and royal chambers—all with intricate Iznik tilework and opulent architecture.More

Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi)

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Built in an opulent European style, Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi) was the home of the Ottoman sultans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before the fall of the empire. The giant crystal chandeliers, marble staircases, and lush carpets that adorn the interior reflect the shift toward Istanbul’s more European way of thinking.More

Kusadasi Castle

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Built and extended between the 14th and 18th centuries, picturesque Kusadasi Castle sits on Pigeon Island (Guvercin Adasa), an islet connected to Kusadasi via a causeway. Originally constructed as a military base, the fortress is composed of outer walls that enclose its gardens and an inner castle with a tiny museum.More

Hippodrome (Sultanahmet Meydani)

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Built in the third century, the Hippodrome was the home of now-named Istanbul’s sporting entertainment during the Byzantine era, with a wide track for chariot racing. Today, the route of the old track is covered by Sultanahmet Square (Sultanahmet Meydani), a wide open space in the center of the old city, punctuated by ancient obelisks.More

Uchisar Castle (Uchisar Kalesi)

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Honeycombed with tunnels, the twin slabs of volcanic tuff rock known as Uchisar Castle (Uçhisar Kalesi rear up above the little town of Uchisar and Cappadocia’s dramatic landscape in mesmerizing style. Climb the stairs to savor dramatic views across the surrounding valleys, which are spectacular at sunset—as is the castle itself.More

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.More

Bosphorus Bridge (Bogazici Koprusu)

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The Bosphorus Bridge (Bogazici Koprusu) in Istanbul is one of three continent-spanning bridges over the Bosphorus Strait, connecting Europe and Asia. When it opened in 1973, the 5,118-foot (1,560-meter) bridge was the fourth-longest suspension bridge in the world. And though it has since slid down the rankings, it is still an impressive sight to behold.More

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)

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Built in the 17th century, the covered Spice Bazaar is Istanbul’s fragrant hub for all things flavorful. Piles of pepper, saffron, teas, and dried apricots nestle alongside shops selling colorful Turkish delight, silk scarves, and glass mosaic lamps. Take time to chat with vendors, sip tea, and haggle for the perfect price.More

Ephesus (Efes)

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Ephesus (Efes) is one of the greatest ancient sites in the Mediterranean. During its heyday in the first century BC, it was the second-largest city in the world, with only Rome commanding more power. Many reconstructed structures and ruins, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, can be seen here.More

Taksim Square (Taksim Meydani)

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Taksim Square (Taksim Meydani), Istanbul’s main modern hub, is located at the end of the pedestrian thoroughfare Istiklal Avenue (Istiklal Caddesi). A popular meeting place, Taksim Square is anchored by the Monument of the Republic and buzzes with activity day and night. The area historically hosts public celebrations, parades, and demonstrations.More

Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)

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Rising high above its namesake neighborhood, Istanbul’s Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi) dates back to the Genoese presence in Constantinople in the 14th century. An elevator takes you up to a viewing platform located under the roof, which offers panoramic views of the Old City peninsula and Beyoglu neighborhood.More

Top activities in Turkey

Taste of Two Continents Food Tour
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Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

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$125.00
Small Group Tour: Essential Istanbul
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Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride / Comfort Flight
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Whirling Dervishes at Hodjapasha

Whirling Dervishes at Hodjapasha

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$33.00
Cappadocia Green Tour

Cappadocia Green Tour

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$48.40
Small-Group Tour Including Topkapi Palace, Underground Cistern and Hagia Sophia
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All about Turkey

When to visit

May and September are the best months to visit Turkey, as the weather is pleasant throughout the country, and there are fewer tourists. Beachgoers headed to Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean regions are guaranteed weather hot enough to swim from June through August. However, make note of when the major holidays before and after Ramadan fall. During this time, large cities outside of Istanbul become crowded, and travel expenses are significantly higher.

Getting around

A multitude of domestic flights, extensive bus routes, and a high-speed train make traveling within the country affordable and efficient. With major ports in Istanbul, Kusadasi, Bodrum, and other coastal cities, Turkey is also a popular cruise ship destination, and shore excursions are easy to come by. In addition, drivers will find that the main roads are well-maintained, and intercity navigation is straightforward.

Traveler tips

Food is an integral part of Turkish culture, and a full traditional breakfast is essential for any visitor. Opt for the full spread, and you’ll enjoy half a dozen cheeses, homemade jams, olives, and traditional dishes like menemen and kuymak. For the full decadent experience, make sure you try clotted cream with honey. Served with traditional Turkish tea and unlimited bread, it's a meal fit for a sultan. Be warned, after this breakfast, you may need a Turkish coffee to wake you up.

Currency
Turkish Lira (TRY)
Time Zone
TRT (UTC +2)
Country Code
+90
Language(s)
Turkish

People Also Ask

What should I wear in Turkey?

Nicknamed “the land of four seasons,” Turkey’s weather demands a range of clothing, depending on the region and time of year. January in Istanbul requires heavy coats, while you’ll want your shortest shorts when visiting Antalya in July. Women are never expected to wear a head covering in public spaces.

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Do I need a visa for Turkey?

Yes. Foreign visitors to Turkey require a tourist visa to enter. Most countries are allowed a 90-day multiple-entry visa, which should be purchased on the Turkish government’s official site or via a third-party service before arrival. Your passport’s expiration date must be a minimum of 60 days past the duration of your stay in Turkey.

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Is there good nightlife in Turkey?

Depending on the region, Turkey offers an abundance of nightlife with options ranging from clubs to themed pubs to wine bars to live music venues. For an authentic experience, enjoy a bottle of raki, fish, and a dozen or so meze (side dishes) with friends at a meyhane (traditional tavern).

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Is Turkey in Asia or Europe?

Turkey is in both Asia and Europe, with Istanbul straddling both continents. The European side borders Greece and Bulgaria and only accounts for 3 percent of the country’s land mass. The Asian side borders Syria, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, and Azerbaijan. Travelers may notice the cultural influence of the bordering countries in Turkey and vice versa.

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How long should I spend in Turkey?

As long as you possibly can! Because of its diverse culture, history, cuisine, and climate, Turkey truly offers something for everyone. The tourism industry is strong throughout the country, and it’s easy to find high-quality private or group tours in the destinations and activities that interest you.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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