15 Beautiful Places in Turkey That Should be on Your Bucket List
When it comes to exploring beautiful places in Turkey, you will not be short of ideas. The vast country that is the world’s 37th largest is home to stunning landscapes, everyone should see at least once. From rolling Kackar mountains plateaus to the long sandy, Mediterranean beaches and everything in between, these places are the ultimate addition to anyone seeking to find more beauty in this world.
While some are off the beaten track and involve a large amount of independent travel, others are top visited attractions, with their beauty bringing in tourists from near and far. While hundreds of places in Turkey, deserve a mention, we have picked the top favourites that have left us with beautiful memories, and we would return to in a heartbeat. If applicable, we also mention the best time to visit because spring and autumn colours make all the difference.
About Beautiful Places in Turkey
1: Pamukkale Calcium Pools
Pamukkale is not only beautiful but also a natural wonder. Calcium solidified water tumbling down the hillside forms small pools that every year, make up one of Turkey’s top visited attractions. Every month, thousands of people visit Pamukkale and activities to see the landscape from a different angle are hot-air balloon trips and para-gliding. After paddling in large and small pools, which also give off a fantastic landscape view of the surrounding countryside, head to Cleopatra's pool to swim in the natural spa water covering ancient sunken columns from Hierapolis ruined city.
2: Pretty Cappadocia in the Anatolian Region
Cappadocia is more than a place and most people take 3 to 4 days to explore the large region. What makes it unique is a lunar-like landscape and fairy chimneys, formed by thousands of years of wind erosions. The tufa rock making up strange, natural sculptures formed by Mother Nature also had another use throughout history. Locals carved homes and churches into it, and they went underground to form hundreds of small cities for protection when invaders came their way. The best time to see the landscape is an early sunrise hot-air balloon trip. Also visit Goreme Open-Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3: Oludeniz in the Fethiye Region
Oludeniz, a popular package holiday coastal resort for Brits is beautiful; hence most of its is under government protection status against building and construction. So you won’t see jetties or a harbour around the main beach section. The beauty is visible as soon as you descend the hill from Hisaronu and Ovacik. The road leads the way to the Mediterranean Sea, and once pedestrians turn right, and walk further, they arrive at the Blue Lagoon, one of Turkey’s top photographed sites. Bird's-eye views of beautiful places must be a trend because once again, para-gliding trips in Oludeniz are popular ways to take in stunning scenery.
4: Beautiful Butterfly Valley
This is where you can kill two birds with one stone. From Oludeniz beach, catch the water taxi to Butterfly valley. The boat ride itself is a marvellous way to view the rugged coastline of beaches, hills, and villages. Coming around the corner to arrive at the Valley, a tall canyon presents itself for the perfect Instagram picture. Disembark, and follow the path to to discover small, hidden waterfalls. Butterfly Valley is not so much about activities but more admiring the scenery, although snorkelers say conditions are perfect.
5: Patara: Rustic Charm
There is nothing upmarket or posh about Patara, but its rustic charm keeps us coming back. First, the sandy beach is Turkey’s longest, and is rarely crowded hence for peace and tranquillity, is an ideal place. Heading inland, ancient ruins scattered among the landscape make for a surreal setting before heading into the rustic village. Popular ways to explore Patara is on horseback, although, we often book into a hotel for a night or two to soak up the beauty at our own pace.
6: Waterfalls in Antalya
Continue travelling the Turquoise coast, go chasing waterfalls in Antalya for awesome photoshoots to show friends back home. Start with the lower Duden waterfalls near Lara beach. Tumbling 40 metres over a hillside into the Mediterranean Sea, the best way to see them is from a boat. A short 20-minute drive inland takes you to the 20-metre upper Duden waterfalls, which locals and tourists love during the height of summer because it elevates the heat. Kursunlu is another landmark waterfall but we like Manavgat. More wide than tall, we sit in the surrounding tea garden to watch the world and sounds from the rushing water.
7: Lake Van
In Turkey’s furthest eastern point, Lake Van remains off the beaten track for foreign tourism despite massive publicity in recent years. However, many more Turks visit the area and always delight at what they see. Lake Van is Turkey’s largest lake but the bonus while visiting is tasting their breakfasts which Turkish people say is the best. While there, also explore 10th century Armenian churches scattered around the shoreline.
8: Mardin Old Town
Forget about new Mardin because it when it comes to cities, it is an average-looking landscape. The jewel of southeast Turkey is old Mardin. The beauty aspect here comes not from colours and Mother Nature, but ancient architecture and a nostalgic vibe hanging in the air. Sitting on a large hill, enjoy a spectacular view over the Mesopotamian plains said to be the birthplace of civilisation. Locals are keen to keep their cultural heritage which shines through on every street corner.
9: Mount Nemrut
With an air of mystery around them, the statue heads of mount Nemrut are as intriguing as they are beautiful. Dating from the 1st century BC, Antiochus kingdom, the statue heads sit at the top of a 2,135-metre mountain meaning visitors enjoy a marvellous landscape view. Tour guides say the best time to go up the mountain is at sunrise when a stunning orange glow covers the beautiful scenery.
10: Dalyan Delta and Iztuzu Beach
Get on board a small, slow boat, and sail down a reed-lined river past the stunning Dalyan Delta Lycian rock tombs carved into a hillside. Built-in a high place, so Lycian royalty had easier access to the afterlife, they are the trademark mascot of Dalyan, but we recommend extending your stay to visit the village, ancient ruins of Kaunos and the beautiful Iztuzu Beach, saved by Captain June and David Bellamy from construction in the late 1980s. The reason is for Mother Nature because Caretta turtles lay their eggs in the sand.
11: Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque
Not a place but more of landmark buildings, Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are beautiful examples of what humankind can build with their heart and soul. The Hagia Sophia, once the world’s largest buildings show large Islamic calligraphy and Christian frescoes twinned together. While the Blue Mosque and its interior décor and design lend weight to a quiet, peaceful atmosphere of being at one with God.
Stunning Places in the North East
So far, all our destinations sit in the south, west, and east, but by far, the most beautiful place we explored in Turkey is the North East Kackar mountain range. Starting off our tour from the Trabzon and Rize region, such is the rural ambience and ad hoc transport system; we joined a guided tour for nine days, and this paid off. As well as organising hotels, and transport, they took us to places rarely mentioned in travel books and the guide who grew up here, had untold knowledge we would never have known about otherwise.
Anyone searching out beautiful places will not be disappointed with this region of Turkey and here are our favourite landmarks. On a side note, we visited at the end of June and into July. This was perfect for exploring because the Kackar mountain range’s temperature is lower than the Mediterranean and Aegean, where people were sunbathing!
12: Sumela Monastery
Sitting on the edge of a cliff face overlooking the Macka national park, the Sumela Monastery defies belief. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, this Greek orthodox monastery carved out of the rock, was used right until the early 20th century before monks abandoned it for safer grounds. As of publishing, renovations are still ongoing but visit on a clear day to see the monastery from afar and enjoy Macka Park’s abundant green beauty.
13: Waterfalls and Green Hills in Ayder Plateau
The further up the Kackar mountain range, locals use natural resources where possible. They built many houses and hotels in Ayder plateau using wood from surrounding forests, and visitors wake up to sights of rolling green hills, and gushing waterfalls. A one-night stay in Ayder is enough to see the highlights including the natural spa waters and should it pique your interest, travel further up the mountains to discover small villages cut off from the outside world.
14: Uzungol: The Long Lake
Nestled in a broad valley, surrounding hillsides provide the best view of Uzungol, although stroll around it to absorb the laid back atmosphere of Mother Nature’s power. Some places also rent out bicycles on an hourly basis. Likewise, for an authentic experience, book into a hand-constructed wooden hotel, and enjoy a local, organic breakfast that sets you up for a happy day.
15: Camlihemsin in Rize
Last, a Northeast highlight is exploring unknown, off the beaten track destinations. This throws out pretty places like Camlihemsin, known for its ancient stone, Ottoman bridges. Also expect large waterfalls, a different cultural scene, wooden bridges, and mosques and small, remote mountain villages stuck in time. Visit in autumn or spring, for vibrant colours in every direction. Firtina Valley, the highlight of this region, is a great place to book an overnight hotel for an authentic Black Sea experience. An optional extra is also to go white water rafting!
Other Places to Visit in Turkey
As well as exploring beautiful places in Turkey, the country is awash with historical sites. This isn’t a surprise given many empires rose and fell in this part of the world including the Romans, Ottomans, Lycians, Persians, Seljuk Turks and even Alexander the Great conquered many places. Our list of top ten historical attractions includes UNESCO sites and other ancient cities, landmarks and places.