At the crossroads between Europe, Asia, and The Middle East, it’s no wonder Turkey is a cultural epicenter of the ancient and modern world. In a beautiful clash of east-meets-west, the result is no more than an epic melting pot of history, culture, and religion.

But Turkey is so much more than its capital city, where most foreign tourists draw the line of exploration. I’d even go so far as to say there is TOO much to see in this massive country.

From the incense-scented bazaars to the expansive canyons, prepare yourself for a sensorial overload! You’ll experience both culture-shock and feel right at home in the busy mess of activity.

Traveling from the otherworldly pinnacles of Cappadocia to the serene beaches of the Turquoise Coast, I’ve rounded up a list of our top picks of beautiful places in Turkey.

1. Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat Turkey
Life will get more interesting on top!

For anyone backpacking in Turkey, a visit to Mount Ararat should surely be on the bucket list.

If you’re familiar with the mountain for any one reason, it would be that it is Biblically believed to be the location where Noah and his ark of animals landed ashore after the great flood.

The mountain is in the east of the country, at the border of Armenia and Iran. The perpetually snow-capped peaks starkly contrast the warm beaches and busy cities most imagine when thinking about Turkey.

It consists of two peaks, each a dormant volcano. Hiking to the summit of one of the peaks is a bucket list adventure for fans of the sport.

But it must be known that you’ll need both a climbing permit and a licensed guide to help you summit the mountains.

For a less adventurous (and much more affordable activity), viewing Mount Ararat from the nearby town of Yerevan is a safe bet for an outstanding view.

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    2. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

    Hagia sofia Istanbul Turkey
    Hagia Sophia… a breathtaking masterpiece!

    Nestled in the historic heart of the capital, within the Sultanahmet District, Hagia Sophia is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul.

    Beauty aside, it has a relatively complex history. Built as a Byzantine cathedral in the fourth century, the building was taken over by the Ottomans and converted into a mosque before it was turned into a museum in the 1930s and became a mosque again as recently as 2020.

    Today, it is open for tourists and religious visitors, who are welcome to admire its expansive golden dome, stained-glass windows, and hand-mosaiced interiors. Also, make sure to check out the Norse inscriptions and the Sultan’s tombs in the mosque.

    There is no denying it: this church is the centerpiece of the city and an awesome base for your Istanbul itinerary.

    3. Cappadocia

    Attracting millions of tourists with its abstract landscape, phallic-shaped rocky valleys, and colorful display of hot air balloons, Cappadocia is a must-visit destination on your trip to Istanbul.

    Set high in the Anatolian Plateau; this sand-hued landscape consists of towering rock chimneys and curious cave dwellings, where buildings as large as churches and monasteries have been meticulously carved into the soft volcanic rock.

    Held annually since 2005, the Cappadocia Balloon Festival takes place over three days in July and is one of the most popular festivals in Turkey.

    Cappadocia Turkey
    Nice views but DON’T LOOK DOWN!

    Viewing the fairy-tale landscape from above is one of the best ways to experience the region in all its glory.

    You’ll be well and truly mindblown by the views at sunrise. So don’t hesitate and take that Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon!

    If this isn’t on a budget, watching the bright balloons overhead from a cave-dwelling or hotel is (almost) equally impressive.

    4. The Lycian Way Trail

    A couple standing on top of a cliff at the Lycian Way, Turkey
    Worth taking the time for.

    As one of the most incredible hiking trails, the Lycian Way follows in the footsteps of an old path used by the ancient Lycian civilization.

    This ancient community lived in the fifth century, where they flourished across around 35 cities in the province of Lycia (now, modern-day Turkey).

    How long is the most popular hiking trail in the world, you ask? Well, the trail extends for 335 miles along the southern coastline. That’s a whopping 142 hours of hiking in total!

    The most impressive highlight was passing by the Butterfly Valley, which is a cove of massive cliffs rising from the deep blue ocean below – HIGHLY recommend.

    Of course, you’re best off choosing a manageable section to conquer, and come prepared with plenty of water and broken-in, trusty hiking boots.

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    5. Ishak Pasha Palace

    Ishak pasha palace Turkey

    One of Turkey’s lesser-known attractions, I can’t recommend a visit to Ishak Pasha Palace more.

    This beautiful site in eastern Turkey, near the Iranian and Armenian borders, stands as a remarkably preserved Ottoman Empire palace.

    These ancient bricklayers and architects knew what they were doing because this palace has truly stood the test of time – represent!

    Set on the mountain overlooking the city of Dogubeyazit, the palatial complex showcases architectural influences from the Ottoman, Seljuk, Persian, and Armenian empires, beautifully reflecting the complicated history of this region.

    The palace is massive, with over one hundred rooms and chambers, including a bakery, kitchen, mosque, and dungeons. Do yourself a favor and join a guided tour from Dogubeyazit.

    6. The Pamukkale Travertines

    Pamukkale travertines Turkey

    The Pools of Pamukkale, locally known as the ‘Cotton Castle’ in the Büyük Menderes Valley, are a series of natural springs and pools.

    Over thousands of years, the spring’s flowing water has formed terraced pools that are one of the area’s most loved natural thermal spas, mostly appreciated for their supposed healing powers.

    While the travertines draw crowds, Hierapolis, one of the world’s earliest thermal spas, often goes overlooked. It’s famous for its Antique Pool, which is legend to have been the bath of Cleopatra.

    This pool was once hidden in the Temple of Apollo, the ruins of which now lay peacefully beneath the water. It’s not hard to see why this natural phenomenon is one of the top ten places to visit in Turkey. 

    7. Akdamar Island, Lake Van

    Akdamar Island in Lake Van
    What a view.

    Enjoy a piece of Turkey’s beautiful east without the crowds, with a visit to Akdamar Island.

    Set in the middle of Turkey’s largest lake, Lake Van, Akdamar Island is surrounded by deep blue hues and set against the backdrop of Mount Ararat. 

    Only accessible via ferry, the Island is home to an abandoned 10th-century Armenian Church of the Holy Cross. While strolling around, you’ll come across ruins of a monastery that used to serve the church in its heyday.

    Up for a history lesson? We got you! Now a well-organized museum, the church houses carvings that depict biblical scenes of Adam and Eve, and David and Goliath.

    Take my advice and go in spring, a great time to experience Europe when the weather isn’t too frigid, and the almond trees are blossoming.

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    8. Blue Lagoon, Olüdeniz

    Blue lagoon in Oludeniz
    Sun, water, and Turkey.

    Ölüdeniz Blue Lagoon is one of the top ten places to visit in Turkey, mainly for adventurous travelers.

    It falls along the ancient Lycian Way Trail on Turkey’s Southern Coast and is renowned for its clear blue waters and shallow sandbar.

    You can take a short hike to Kayaköy, the ruins of an old village dotted with derelict stone homes and the remains of a once-thriving Ottoman community.

    The beach is part of the Ölüdeniz National Park, which charges a nominal fee to visit. Serene vibes and warm water beaches? Well worth the small expense, if you ask us!

    If you aren’t here to bathe in the shallow bay or hike the famous trail that passes through it, take to the sky on a paragliding adventure of a lifetime.

    9. The Ancient City of Ephesus, Selcuk

    Celsus library Ephesus
    Turkey has a lot to offer when it comes to history

    The Ancient City of Ephesus is one of those places blessed with as much natural beauty as historical wonder.

    Ephesus was once considered the most important Ancient Greek city in the world and a significant trading port of the Mediterranean. The city has gone through a whirlwind of attacks and takeovers since its founding nine thousand years ago.

    Legend says that the city was founded by a female tribe of worriers known as the Amazons. Wonder Woman fans, you heard right!

    Today, one of the main attractions is the Great Library of Celsus, famous for being one of the largest libraries from the Roman Civilization. The remains of the Temple of Artemis are also found in this city complex.

    Best of all, you can explore this beautiful place in Turkey without the bothersome crowds you would otherwise have to navigate in Greece or Italy.

    10. Koprulu Canyon National Park

    Koprulu national Park in Turkey
    How’s this for a view?

    If outdoor adventures spark your interest, reserve a special spot for the Koprulu Canyon at the top of your Turkish itinerary!

    The Koprulu Canyon National Park is located along the Kopru River in the Antalya province. As far as canyons go, this one is pretty spectacular.

    Jagged cliffs rise at a near-90-degree angle from the turquoise water below, giving space to only the most determined cypress, cedar, and pine trees to flourish between the cracks.

    Lather on your sunscreen and spend the day kayaking or white water rafting through the narrow gorge.

    If water sports aren’t your thing, the national park is the ideal setting for avid hikers, who can trek through marked trails, passing the exquisite Mediterranean scenery and ancient ruins along the way.

    11. The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

    Grand bazaar Istanbul Turkey
    Up for some shopping? Grand Bazaar.

    Strolling through Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is a cultural experience in itself.

    One of the world’s largest covered markets, this bustling marketplace crisscrosses over sixty streets and alleyways, selling just about everything you could imagine. That makes up for a great weekend in Istanbul.

    12. Alacati, Izmir

    Alacati street view in Alacati Town
    Visit the gorgeous western half of Izmir

    One of the most beautiful places in Turkey, the small village of Alacati remains a lesser-known area.

    Famous for its mills, cobblestone streets, and roadside cafes and boutiques, the trendy town is a hallmark for lovers of wine and good food.

    13. Kars

    Sarikamis Ski Center in Kars Turkey
    A ski resort in Turkey? That’s right!

    Kars is known as Turkey’s winter wonderland for its high altitude and chilly winter weather.

    Sarikamis is the main resort in the area, set within the Allahuekber Mountains. Other than winter sports, the city is also home to the ruins of an ancient Armenian City.

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    14. The Duden Waterfalls, Antalya

    Duden waterfalls in Antalya

    Right by the International Airport of Antalya, I’ve never understood why the coastal Duden Waterfalls are so uncrowded. Water cascades from Mount Taurus into the sea below, surrounded by lush Mediterranean greenery.

    Pack a picnic and set up camp in the protected park to experience the rush of the waterfall at sunset. This one is a real winner!

    15. The Ancient God Statues, Mount Nemrut

    The Ancient god statues in Mount Nemrut
    Must be scary at night!

    In southeastern Turkey, Mount Nemrut is most famous for its massive carved stone heads that sit haphazardly atop its peaks.

    We can’t be too sure how they got there without the help of modern machinery. Don’t be a hero – visit this mountain with a guided tour.

    16. Patara Beach

    Patara beach in Antalya
    How’s this for a beach?

    As Turkey’s longest beach, Patara is by no means a hidden gem. It is hardly considered busy, with plenty of room for everyone. 

    If you time your visit right, you could watch the sunset and the moon rise, at the same time, from the top of a particular dune. 

    17. Gümüslük, Bodrum

    Gumusluk in Bodrum city of Turkey
    Perfect spot to grab a drink.

    Gümüslük is a low-key beach destination where you can sip on local wine and eat the day’s freshest catch along the water’s edge.

    Rustic restaurants run by local families line the harbor, serving simple delicacies in one of the most beautiful settings in the country.

    18. Dalyan Lycian Rock Tombs, Dalaman

    Dalyan lycian rock tombs

    Hidden along the Dalyan River, you’ll stumble across what might be one of the most exquisite clashes of natural and historic beauty.

    Carefully carved into the rocky cliff face are ancient tombs dating back to the fourth century. I paid these tombs a visit on a riverboat tour and had no regrets.

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    19. Mardin, Anatolia

    Mardin Anatolia

    Fought over by the Seljuk Dynasties, Kurdish, Persians, Mongols, Ottomans, and Assyrians, the city of Mardin had a wild history.

    Today, you can explore a labyrinth of alleys through stone houses and places of worship, all while overlooking the gorgeous countryside.

    20. Balat, Istanbul

    Balat Istanbul
    Perfect spot for pic!

    Balat is the artsy old Jewish quarter of Istanbul, which is a pocket of color and street art in the busy city.

    Visit to stroll the interesting boutiques, exhibits, and art shops before stopping for a drink under the shade of an umbrella along the cobblestone streets. There are some pretty cool Istanbul Airbnbs around this area if you choose to stay here!

    21. Aladaglar National Park

    Aladaglar national park

    For alpine hiking and mountaineering, make a bee-line for the Aladaglar National Park. The massive mountain range stretches across four provinces and is packed with glacier ponds, riveting waterfalls, world-class hiking trails, and even ski resort facilities.

    22. Sumela Monastery, Trabzon

    View of Sumela Monastery in Turkey

    Next up, elevate your spiritual experience with a visit to the Sumela Monastery, one of the unique places to visit in Turkey.

    Built 3900 feet high into the cliffs of the Pontic Mountain, this impressive structure is one of the world’s oldest and best-preserved Greek Orthodox monasteries. 

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    How to See Beautiful Places in Turkey

    During your Europe backpacking adventure, It’s important to understand that Turkey is massive, and distances between major attractions and cities can be far.

    But fear not; modern airplanes make long-distance travel quick and painless. Not to mention, the country also has an efficient railway network that connects Istanbul to Ankara and Kars. 

    Flying domestically within Turkey is affordable, considering the time it will save you. A one-way ticket between Ankara and Istanbul could cost $40 on a good day and $100 on a bad day… 

    Your best bet as a budget traveler is to rent a car and navigate the country by road. If you’re an online deal-hustler of note, you could rent a car for under $15 per day.

    Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

    I would recommend ALWAYS getting good quality insurance when traveling, especially adventure style.

    ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

    They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

    SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

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    FAQs About Beautiful Places in Turkey

    Here are some answers to a selection of the most frequently asked questions about Turkey’s beautiful places.

    Final Thoughts on Beautiful Places in Turkey

    Sail on a voyage across the crystal clear Aegean Sea, hike the world-famous Lycian Way, and pay homage to the inspiring architecture and artwork at Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia.

    My favorite place on this list has to be the Pools of Pamukkale. There is something so alluring about these white travertine terraces that will make you feel like you’ve entered another dimension.

    The cultural melting pot of the East and the West in Turkey has something to offer every traveler at every stage of their lives. 

    What are you waiting for? Put pen to paper and start planning out your Turkish itinerary!

    aphrodisias columns turkey
    Another pro tip: jump like an idiot in the ruins.
    Looking for more info on travelling to Turkey?

    And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!