We need to say that when reading this list of famous landmarks in Turkey, get ready to be amazed. The variety and exciting stories of famous Turkish landmarks easily impress everyone. Turkey has been home to many cultures and civilisations, from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the Ottoman Empire. Hence why Turkey's diverse cultural heritage boasts many famous Turkish landmarks.
From the majestic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to the awe-inspiring rock formations of Cappadocia, these Turkish landmarks showcase Turkey's unique blend of ancient civilisations, architectural marvels, and natural landmarks. Whether exploring the ancient ruins of Ephesus, marvelling at the surreal landscapes of Pamukkale, or delving into the underground city of Derinkuyu, each Turkish landmark portrays Turkey's vibrant past. So, let's find out which landmark in Turkey to put on your list first and what others to visit.
Famous Landmarks in Turkey to Visit
1: Blue Mosque in Istanbul
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage list. This example of traditional Islamic architecture and a famous Turkish landmark was built in 1609 by Sultan Ahmed I. It is renowned for its beautiful blue tiles, which give it its name. It is also called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
The Blue Mosque owes its name to its mesmerising interior decoration featuring serene blue colours. The interior walls are covered with 20,000 hand-painted ceramic tiles meticulously arranged in exquisite floral motifs, geometric shapes, and calligraphy patterns. The central prayer hall of Sultan Ahmed Mosque, crowned by a grand dome, exudes magnificence and spirituality. Today, the Blue Mosque remains an active place of worship.
2: The Hagia Sophia of Istanbul
Also belonging to the UNESCO World Heritage sites, Hagia Sophia is an iconic landmark in Istanbul. Initially built in the 6th century as a Byzantine-era Christian cathedral, Hagia Sophia, known as Ayasofya in Turkish, was considered an engineering marvel of its time. Its imposing facade, with intricate stone and brickwork, showcases perfection within this landmark in Turkey. Stepping through the grand entrance of this Turkish landmark, expect a vast and awe-inspiring interior.
The dome defies gravity as it hovers above the central space. Its immense size and intricate design make it an extraordinary landmark. In 1935, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum, highlighting its status as a universal cultural heritage site. More recently, in 2020, it was reconverted into a mosque and active place of worship.
3: Topkapi Palace - Home of the Ottoman Empire
Istanbul was home to the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, but Topkapi Palace, former home to the Ottoman sultans, is a famous landmark in Istanbul. Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years and is now a Turkish landmark housing their most valuable artefacts. Passing through the Bab-i Humayun (Imperial Gate), enter a world of architectural beauty.
The First Courtyard showcases ceremonial spaces and impressive architecture. The Second Courtyard, called the Divan Square, was the administrative centre. One highlight is the Harem, an enchanting labyrinth of lavishly decorated chambers, courtyards, and living quarters. This secluded section was reserved for the sultan's family and concubines.
The Imperial Treasury, another significant part of this Ottoman Empire palace, houses dazzling jewels, precious artefacts, and exquisite gifts from various rulers and dignitaries. The palace also encompasses the Imperial Kitchens, where an army of chefs once prepared sumptuous feasts.
4: Grand Bazaar Nostalgia and Shopping
In bustling Istanbul lies a legendary shopping destination that has captivated travellers for centuries—the Grand Bazaar. Construction began in 1455 and continued over several decades. It was initially composed of two bedestens or covered market halls. It gradually expanded to become one of the world's largest and oldest covered markets.
With over 4,000 shops spread across interconnecting lanes and courtyards, the Grand Bazaar offers an unparalleled variety of products to suit every taste. From gleaming jewellery to intricately woven carpets, the bazaar showcases Turkish craftsmanship and artistry. Delight in Turkish ceramics, mesmerising glassware, finely embroidered textiles, and traditional Turkish lamps.
5: The Basilica Cistern Landmark
Beneath streets of Istanbul, Turkey, lies architectural splendour and mystical allure—the Basilica Cistern. This ancient underground marvel, also called "Sunken Palace", is famed for a forest-like array of columns standing in perfectly symmetrical rows. As you walk along the raised wooden pathways through the cistern, be captivated by the 336 marble columns that support the roof.
Amidst the forest of columns, encounter two enigmatic and mythical figures—the Medusa Heads. Nestled inconspicuously within two columns, these ancient relics add an air of intrigue and mysticism. The ancient Valens Aqueduct feeds the cistern, which carries fresh water from the nearby Belgrade Forest.
6: Explore the Bosphorus Strait
The Bosphorus Strait, often called the "Gateway to the East and West," separates the European and Asian continents, connecting the Marmara and Black Seas. This geographic location has made Istanbul a crossroads of cultures, and the ferry ride allows you to witness many Turkish landmarks. One highlight is the magnificent waterfront palaces. The Dolmabahce Palace, with its opulent facade and grandeur, testifies to the Ottoman Empire's splendour.
The Topkapi Palace, once the home of Ottoman sultans, exudes the majesty of former rulers who once walked its halls. As the ferry continues, pass under the iconic Bosphorus bridges linking Europe and Asia. The Bosphorus shores are adorned with charming waterfront mansions known as yali’s that were summer palaces for the Ottoman elite.
7: Discovering the Ancient Greek City of Ephesus
The Ephesus UNESCO World Heritage site once belonged to the Roman Empire and is western Turkey's most important ancient landmark. The old city features many impressive ruins, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The 3rd century BC Celsius Library at Ephesus was built by the Greek philosopher and scientist Celsius. The library contained thousands of scrolls and books about various topics, including philosophy, science, mathematics, literature, and history.
The library was destroyed by fire in 262 AD, but its legacy remains. Other landmark buildings include the Great Theatre, which accommodated 25,000 spectators. The Terrace Houses also offer fascinating glimpses into Ephesus' wealthy citizens.
8: Visit the Virgin Mary's House Near Ephesus
The Virgin Mary's House near ancient Ephesus holds immense spiritual and historical significance. According to tradition, it was the final dwelling place of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, during her later years. The interior, adorned with religious icons, candles, and prayerful mementoes left by pilgrims, adds to the sacred ambience.
While the garden features fragrant flowers, and shaded seating areas, for visitors to reflect. The Virgin Mary's House holds significance for both Christians and Muslims alike. Pilgrims from various faiths and backgrounds visit the site to seek solace, offer prayers, and pay homage.
9: Fairy Chimneys in Cappadocia
Cappadocia offers otherworldly landscapes and unique geological formations in Turkey's central Anatolia region. The fairy chimneys of Cappadocia owe their existence to volcanic activity millions of years ago. Layers of volcanic ash and lava, combined with wind and water erosion forces, sculpted the soft rock formations. These slender towers topped by large, mushroom-like caps, are iconic symbols.
Throughout history, the people of Cappadocia have harnessed fairy chimneys to create homes, churches, and even entire underground cities. Perhaps the most iconic way to appreciate the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia is from above, during hot air balloon rides.
One famous valley is Devrent, also called "Imagination Valley," where the whimsical rock formations resemble various objects and animals. With its tall and slender chimneys, the Love Valley offers vistas and romantic landscapes.
10: Goreme Open Air Museum in Cappadocia - Turkey
Goreme Open-Air Museum reflects the region's rich cultural and religious heritage. This UNESCO World Heritage site showcases rock-cut churches, monasteries, and dwellings carved into soft volcanic tuff. This Turkish landmark dates from the 10th century when early Christians sought refuge in caves and rock formations of Cappadocia. The Goreme Open-Air Museum encompasses rock-cut churches, like Tokali Church, Karanlik Church, and Apple Church, that showcase intricate frescoes, carved columns, and domed ceilings.
The true marvel of this famous landmark lies in Byzantine frescoes adorning the walls and ceilings of rock-cut churches. These centuries-old paintings depict biblical scenes, saints, and religious narratives, providing glimpses into religious and artistic traditions. Named for lacking natural light, the unusual Dark Church contains the most well-preserved and awe-inspiring frescoes.
11: Derinkuyu Underground City
Hidden beneath the enchanting landscape of Cappadocia in central Turkey lies human ingenuity and resilience, the Derinkuyu Underground City. Carved deep into soft volcanic rock, this underground labyrinth portrays the resourcefulness of ancient civilisations.
Comprising multiple levels as deep as eight stories below the surface, this remarkable feat of engineering spans an estimated 18,000 square metres. Every corner of Derinkuyu's underground city reflects meticulous planning, with interconnected passages, chambers, staircases, ventilation shafts, and wells, creating autonomous and defensible living environments.
If Derinkuyu's underground city impresses you, other underground cities in Cappadocia include Kaymakli, known for its unique architectural features and expansive layout. Mazi Underground City is a lesser-known but intriguing underground complex.
12: Visiting the Ancient city of Troy
For an adventure, the ancient Greek city of Troy, another UNESCO World Heritage site, is the perfect destination in North-West Turkey. Once a vibrant city, from its legendary walls to its ancient ruins, today, the Troy ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and provide invaluable insights. The site reveals several phases of settlement, each representing different eras of human habitation. The most famous story associated with Troy is the legendary Trojan War, immortalised in Homer's epic poem, the Iliad.
As you stand before the reconstructed walls and gates, like the Scaean Gate and the impressive Megaron House, envision the grandeur and drama. One iconic feature of Troy is the famous wooden horse replica. The horse, synonymous with the cunning strategy that led to the fall of Troy, reminds us of mythical tales that captivated generations.
13: Kaputas Beach in South Turkey
Nestled along the Turquoise Coast of Turkey, Kaputas Beach enchants visitors with pure beauty. Describe the winding staircase to Kaputas Beach, lay your towel, and bask in the sun. While Kaputas Beach retains the unspoiled charm, it does offer some essential amenities for visitors' comfort.
Sunbeds and umbrellas are available for rent, providing cosy spots to relax and soak up the sun's rays. Additionally, a small refreshment kiosk near the beach sells refreshments. Remember, the beach gets crowded during peak seasons, so plan your visit accordingly.
14: Mineral-Rich Hot Springs of Pamukkale
Nestled in southwestern Turkey, Pamukkale, nicknamed cotton castle, captivates visitors with therapeutic waters. Translating to "Cotton Castle" in Turkish, Pamukkale's iconic travertine terraces belong to the UNESCO world heritage site list. Pamukkale's most distinctive feature is its terraces formed by accumulated calcium carbonate-rich waters over thousands of years. As water trickles down the slopes, it deposits mineral-rich sediments, creating white cascades of terraces.
Beyond mesmerising beauty, Pamukkale is famous for its thermal waters. Since ancient times, these natural hot springs have been sought for their therapeutic and healing properties. Pamukkale sits near the ancient landmark of Hierapolis, which thrived in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Visit Hierapolis ruins, including the grand theatre, ancient Roman baths, and Necropolis, where marble tombs stand in solemn beauty.
Within the ancient landmark of Hierapolis lies Cleopatra Pool. According to legend, the Egyptian queen indulged in the pool's rejuvenating waters during her visit to the region. The thermal waters, rich in minerals, offer unique swimming experiences amidst ancient Roman columns and submerged city fragments. Measures have been taken to preserve Pamukkale's fragile ecosystem. Visitors are encouraged to walk on designated paths and remove their footwear to protect the natural formations.
15: Sumela Monastery in North East Turkey
This 4th-century AD Greek Orthodox Monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and holds deep significance for the Orthodox Christian community. The architecture also defies belief. The architecture of Sumela Monastery blends Byzantine, Greek, and Georgian influences. The complex features a central church, several chapels, monk cells, a library, a kitchen, and a dining hall. One captivating feature of Sumela is the Rock Chapel, nestled within on the cliff face. To reach Sumela Monastery, walk scenic hiking trails through Altindere National Park.
16: Lake Van in Eastern Turkey
Nestled amidst rugged landscapes of eastern Turkey, Lake Van is Turkey's largest lake and nearby mountains, including Mount Suphan and Mount Erek, add more mystique. The region was once the Urartian Kingdom, dating from the 9th century BCE. Ruins of ancient castles, fortresses, and settlements, like Van Fortress and the Cavustepe Castle, bear witness to history.
Floating serenely within Lake Van, Akdamar Island features the exquisite Holy Cross Armenian Church, also called Akdamar Church. This 10th-century church features intricate stone carvings that depict biblical scenes, religious symbols, and mythical creatures. The diverse flora and fauna, including endemic species, add to the ecological richness.
17: Mount Nemrut and the Landmark Statues
Perched high in rugged landscapes of south-eastern Turkey, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mount Nemrut reflects an ancient civilisation. The most iconic feature of Mount Nemrut is the colossal statues that guard the summit. Commissioned by King Antiochus, these 1st-century BC statues blend Persian, Greek, and Armenian influences.
The stone statues represent the king himself, various deities, and mythical creatures, forming an imposing ensemble. One extraordinary experience on Mount Nemrut is witnessing the sunrises and panoramic views. Reaching the summit involves navigating rocky paths and winding trails, surrounded by pristine beauty.
18: Dalyan Rock Tombs
Dating from the ancient Lycian culture, the Lycian Rock Tombs served as the final resting place for Lycian kings and nobles. These impressive mausoleums were hewn directly into cliff faces, creating man-made structures against the rugged natural surroundings. The Lycian rock tombs reflect the Lycians' reverence for the afterlife and their skilled craftsmanship.
Each tomb exhibits unique features and decorative elements, reflecting the individuality and status of those interred within. Intricate reliefs friezes, and decorative motifs adorn the facades, depicting mythological scenes, symbols, and Lycian inscriptions.
Among the rock-cut tombs, the most prominent are the Kings' Tombs. Rising several metres high, these monumental structures dominate the Dalyan landscape. Exploring the Dalyan Rock Tombs is best done by embarking on leisurely river cruises along the Dalyan River. As you glide along the serene waters, flanked by lush greenery and reed beds, the imposing rock tombs come into view.
19: Natural Wonder of Mount Uludag in Bursa
When it comes to fascinating landmarks, you can't get more awe-inspiring than Mount Uludag in the North-south Bursa region, that Greek mythology says was the home of the ancient gods. Mount Uludag dominates the skyline of Bursa and the surrounding area. The majestic peaks, reaching an elevation of approximately 2,543 metres (8,343 feet), are natural wonders against the blue sky.
As the winter season unfolds, Mount Uludag becomes a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. The mountain boasts a ski resort with slopes for all skill levels, from beginners to advanced skiers and snowboarders. To reach the summit, use the scenic cable car ride. Mount Uludag also attracts many hikers and nature enthusiasts. While winter sports draw crowds to Mount Uludag, the summer months offer a different kind of tranquillity and escape.
20: Uzungol Lake in North East Turkey
Tucked away in picturesque Trabzon of northeastern Turkey, Uzungol Lake is surrounded by lush greenery and towering mountains. Uzungol Lake nestles at 1,100 metres (3,600 feet) above sea level. The area is relatively untouched by mass tourism. The absence of motorised boats on the lake ensures a quiet ambience, making it an ideal spot for relaxation, meditation, or leisurely strolls along the lakeshore.
A well-maintained walking path surrounds Uzungol Lake, allowing visitors to experience beauty up close. Beyond the serenity and natural beauty, Uzungol Lake also provides outdoor activities for the adventurous at heart. Traditional wooden houses, small cafés, and local shops dot the lakeside. Indulge in delicious local dishes, such as hamsi (anchovies) and muhlama (cornmeal and cheese dish), and immerse yourself in the warm hospitality of Turkish people.
21: City of Ani - UNESCO world heritage site
Nestled on the border of Turkey and Armenia and called the "City of 1,001 Churches," Ani was once an important trade centre along the Silk Road. Ani peaked during the 10th and 11th centuries as the Armenian Bagratid dynasty's capital. However, the city's fortunes declined over time due to various factors.
The most prominent structures are churches. Ani Cathedral of Ani, with soaring arches, perfectly reflects Armenian ecclesiastical architecture. The St. Gregory church, the Tigran Honents church, and Holy Redeemer Church are among the other notable religious structures. Ani's formidable city walls, stretching over 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles), and reinforced with numerous towers and gates, not only defended the city but also created an imposing and awe-inspiring sight. The Gate of Kars, the Lion Gate, and the Double Gate are among the surviving entrances.
Overlooking the city, the Citadel of Ani housed the ruling elite. Find the remains of palaces, residences, and administrative buildings within its walls. The Redeemer, Church within the citadel, boasts beautiful frescoes. Efforts have been made to preserve the Ani ruins, which became Turkey's UNESCO World Heritage site in 2016.
22: Gobeklitepe Ancient Archaeological site
Out of all the most historical landmarks, Gobekli Tepe grabs the crown. Dating back over 11,000 years, this ancient site predates Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, challenging our understanding of early human civilisation
Gobekli Tepe was unearthed in the 1990s by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt. The site comprises several circular structures, or "enclosures," and intricately carved stone pillars. These massive T-shaped pillars, some weighing up to 20 tons, are engraved with detailed animal reliefs, including foxes, lions, snakes, and birds.
Gobekli Tepe is the world's oldest temple complex. The site challenges the conventional narrative that agriculture and settled communities led to complex religious structures. Instead, Gobekli Tepe suggests that early humans could organise and construct monumental buildings for spiritual practices long before the advent of settled societies.
23: Mardin Old Town in South Eastern Turkey
Mardin Old Town has been home to various civilisations, including Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, and Ottomans. This diverse heritage is evident in the architecture, traditions, and cuisine. Mardin Old Town, characterised by honey-coloured stone houses, narrow alleys, and intricately carved facades, should be on your list of places to visit.
The city's iconic houses, known as "konaks," feature elaborately adorned balconies and ornate wooden doors, showcasing the craftsmanship of local artisans. The harmonious blend of Arabic, Assyrian, and Seljuk architectural influences creates an atmosphere of timeless beauty.
The 12th-century Great Mosque, Ulu Camii, is at the heart of Mardin Old Town. This magnificent mosque showcases exquisite stonework and intricate tile patterns. Its grand courtyard, impressive minaret, and quiet interior invite visitors to admire architectural splendour.
The city includes the Zinciriye Medrese, a medieval Islamic school that offers unique architecture and views. The ancient city walls encircle the old town and provide panoramic vistas of the Tigris River Valley and the surrounding plains.
24: Kaleici Old Town in Antalya - Turkey
Kaleici Old Town, in the modern landmark city of Antalya in southern Turkey, dates from the Roman period and is one of Turkey's most popular tourist destinations. "Kaleici" translates to "inside the castle" in Turkish. Walking through the narrow, winding streets of Kaleici, encounter delightful Ottoman-era houses, traditional Turkish wooden mansions, and ancient Roman ruins.
One main attraction in Kaleici is Hadrian's Gate and the triumphal arch built in the 2nd century AD to commemorate Roman Emperor Hadrian. Kaleici is also home to many landmarks and sites of interest. The Kesik Minaret Mosque, formerly a Roman temple later converted into a Byzantine church, showcases the architectural transitions.
The Hidirlik Tower, a Roman-era structure near the Old Town's marina, must be visited. At night, Kaleici comes alive with bustling nightlife scenes. The harbour in the Old Town is a departure point for boat tours to explore the coastline and nearby attractions like Duden Waterfalls.
25: Mount Tahtali in Antalya
Rising to an impressive height of 2,365 metres (7,759 feet), this magnificent mountain offers an unforgettable experience. The mountain belongs to Beydaglari Coastal National Park, featuring diverse flora and fauna. The most popular way to ascend is via the Olympos Cable Car. This unique cable car system offers scenic rides above the treetops and offering unparalleled Mediterranean Sea views.
Arriving at the summit, step out onto spacious observation decks with 360-degree views. Apart from the views, Mount Tahtali offers various activities for adventure enthusiasts in Turkey. Also, embark on paragliding or zip-lining experiences to soar above the mountain slopes, adding an extra layer of excitement to your visit. Alternatively, explore hiking trails through the rugged terrain, revealing hidden valleys, cascading waterfalls, and wildlife.
26: From Oludeniz to Babadag Mountain
The main highlight of Oludeniz is undoubtedly the famous Blue Lagoon. Oludeniz translates to "Dead Sea" in Turkish, referring to the water's calmness and tranquillity. Adjacent to Oludeniz is the mighty Babadag Mountain, at 1,969 metres (6,460 feet). This colossal natural formation is a guardian over the village, offering an unparalleled vantage point.
To truly appreciate the magnificence of Babadag and Oludeniz, take the Babadag Cable Car, also called Oludeniz Skywalk. Upon reaching the summit, step onto spacious viewing platforms with a 360-degree panorama of Oludeniz's surroundings. Babadag is also Turkey's best paragliding spot.
27: Butterfly Valley
Butterfly Valley, on Turkey's southwestern coast of Turkey, nestles between towering cliffs and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. This enchanting natural haven earned its name because of colourful butterflies. The cliffs, reaching around 350 metres (1,150 feet), enclose the valley. To reach Butterfly Valley, take a boat ride from nearby Oludeniz. For those seeking respite, the valley's beautiful sandy beach stretches along the shoreline.
28: Anitkabir in Ankara – The Capital of Turkey
Anitkabir pays tribute to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Republic of Turkey's founding father. The imposing structure commands attention, situated overlooking the city, with gleaming white marble and distinctive architecture. Upon entering the complex, head up the ceremonial road, a path lined with statues and symbolic elements representing principles and values Atatürk held dear.
Ascending the highway, reach the monumental Plaza of Lions, guarded by colossal statues depicting lions symbolic of strength, courage, and nobility. The plaza features meticulously manicured gardens and pathways. The Hall of Honour, the centrepiece of Anitkabir, houses Atatürk's mausoleum, where his remains rest in eternal peace. Adjacent is the Peace Park, a serene and contemplative space.
29: The Majestic Saklikent Gorge in Mediterranean Turkey
Last on our list of famous landmarks in Turkey is Saklikent Gorge. Towering cliffs, reaching up to 300 metres (984 feet), flank the narrow canyon, creating awe-inspiring grandeur. The rushing waters of the Esen River have sculpted the rock formations. To explore the gorge, wade through the icy-cold waters surrounded by sheer walls.
As you venture deeper into Saklikent Gorge, rushing water creates refreshing atmospheres. For those seeking adventure from famous Turkish landmarks, Saklikent Gorge offers the opportunity for canyoning. Equipped with appropriate gear and guided by experienced professionals, explore the gorge's hidden corners, descend waterfalls, and swim through narrow passages.
Also About Turkey
We hope you enjoyed our list of famous natural and historical landmarks in Turkey. If we have piqued your interest about this country, see our Turkey blog that also talks about the culture, history, traditions, food, places and buying property. We are Property Turkey, and we enjoy bringing the delights of the country of Turkey to all our readers.
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