Follow the ancient Silk Road to Turkey, a magical land of cotton castles, fairy chimneys, and Whirling Dervishes. Explore the ancient cities of Ephesus and Troy, pay tribute at the battlefields of Gallipoli, and get lost in Istanbul’s bustling bazaars. If you’re dreaming of a Turkish adventure, read our Turkey travel guide to find out where to go and what to do on your Turkey trip.
Top places to visit in Turkey
Stand at the crossroads of Europe and Asia in Istanbul and discover the ancient empires who fought to rule it. Get to know the Ottoman Empire and see the 4th-century Egyptian obelisk on a guided tour of the Topkapi Palace. See the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the Hagia Sophia Museum, and the awe-inspiring Blue Mosque.
Discover the history and culture of Istanbul, from haggling with the market vendors of the Grand Bazaar to spending the night with Turkish musicians, belly and folk dancers, and superb food. Explore the depths of the Basilica Cistern, savour the enticing smells of the Spice Market, or head to the top of Galata Tower for spectacular views over the city.
GET INSPIRED: Trafalgar trips to Turkey
Pay tribute to those who lost their lives at Gallipoli, the site of the bloody WW1 battlefields that are commemorated to this day. You’ll see Anzac Cove and the Dardanelles, where the Gallipoli Campaign was fought between 1915 and 1916.
Over 110,000 brave souls lost their lives during the campaign. You can visit the final resting place of many Allied soldiers at the cemeteries of Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair.
Discover the legends of Troy in the city made famous in Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad. The poem named Troy as the site where the famous Trojan War took place and you can see a symbolic replica of the legendary Wooden Horse that the Greeks used to break their siege of the city. Today, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its archaeological treasures and historic ruins.
If you’re looking for some relief and relaxation, look no further than Pamukkale. The town is famed for its mineral-rich thermal waters that flow down the brilliant white travertine terraces on a hillside.
See the bubbling pools and gleaming cascades of the Cotton Castle Springs, then visit the ancient spa at Hierapolis. Your Turkey travel guide will show you the Antique Pool with its submerged Roman columns. You’ll also see the well-preserved ruins of a theatre and a necropolis with sarcophagi that spans two kilometres.
Stop in Antalya, a Mediterranean retreat with golden beaches, turquoise waters, and a yacht-filled Old Harbour. The city was once a major Roman port, and you can see remnants of this period including the 2nd-century Hidirlik Tower with striking harbour views.
There’s also Hadrian’s Gate, built in 130 A.D. to honour the Roman Emperor’s visit. You could spend a few days here, lounging on the beach, strolling through charming laneways, and admiring the wonderfully preserved Ottoman architecture.
Journey to the enchanting land of Cappadocia, with honey-coloured rock spires and underground cities from the ancient Silk Road. Admire the beautiful fairy chimneys, the ancient Ortahisar rock castle, and the surreal volcanic landscape dotted with caves and dwellings in Göreme. You can also visit the Göreme Open-Air Museum to see the rock-hewn churches and learn the art of pottery making in Avanos.
Make a stop in Ankara, Turkey’s lively capital city. The city is known for its performing arts including several national theatres, the State Opera and Ballet, and the Presidential Symphony Orchestra. It’s also home to the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and the massive hilltop mausoleum of Kemal Atatürk, modern Turkey’s first president and beloved leader.
Top things to do in Turkey
Explore Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary
Wander through the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, one of the most incredible sights in Turkey. The ancient Greeks built the city in the 10th century B.C., and it’s famed for the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
You’ll also see a theatre built to hold 25,000 spectators and the well-preserved facade of the Library of Celsus. It was the third-largest library in the Roman world and was thought to have held some 12,000 scrolls.
Your Turkey travel guide will also take you to the top of nearby Mt Koressos, where you’ll discover the House of the Virgin Mary, a Catholic shrine. Catholic pilgrims come to worship at the house and believe it was the final home of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Meet the liberated women of Demircidere
Visit the rural village of Demircidere to meet Turkey’s most empowered and liberated women. The village elected their first female muhtar in 1993, and the women work alongside the men to create an equal and balanced community. You can meet the women through our Be My Guest experience. The women will welcome you into their homes where you’ll learn what makes their community so special.
RELATED CONTENT: Meet the liberated local women of Demircidere
Whirling Dervishes ceremony
Witness the ritual of the Whirling Dervishes, known as the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony, in the city of Konya. This sacred Sufi ceremony began as a form of meditation by Jalaluddin Rumi, a famous 13th century Sufi Muslim mystic and poet. Rumi would fast, meditate and dance to reach a state of enlightenment, and the dance spread throughout the Ottoman Empire.
Today, dancers perform the spiritual ceremony wearing long white robes with full skirts. As the dancers perform their mesmerising turns, the skirts of their robes rise, forming an incredible cone shape. The Whirling Dervishes ceremony is a wonderful chance to learn about the history and beliefs of Turkish culture and is the highlight of any Turkey travel guide.
Take an unforgettable cruise along the Bosphorus, a shimmering strait that separates the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. You’ll get a new perspective of the city from the water, with a mixture of marble palaces, wooden villas, ancient fortresses, beautiful mosques and small fishing villages lining the shores. You’ll also see dozens of ferries and ships passing beneath the three giant suspension bridges each day.
What to eat in Turkey
Seafood in Izmir
Head to the seafront kordon (promenade) in Izmir to experience some of the best seafood on the Turkish coastline. You’ll tuck into a variety of seafood and meze delights, all while enjoying the stunning views… then raise a glass to the good times with some local raki.
‘Meyhane’ means ‘house of wine’ and is a traditional restaurant or bar in Turkey. People come to meyhanes to sit around tables and share good conversation while the raki flows.
Indulge in the delicious flavours of kebab and baklava and a glass of wine and enjoy some local chit chat. Your Turkey travel guide will let you in on the best meyhanes to visit, from Istanbul to Antalya.
Traditional pottery kebabs
A ‘testi’ kebab, or pottery kebab, is a must-try dish in the town of Avanos in Cappadocia. Avanos is known for its pottery, so it’s fitting that they cook their famous dish in one of these clay pots.
They typically make the dish with beef, lamb or chicken and vegetables like potatoes, carrots, celery, onions and garlic. They then seal the pot with bread dough and leave it to simmer for hours in a clay oven. When ready, they crack the hot jug in front of you, releasing the aromatic contents in a mouthwatering spectacle.
What’s at the top of your Turkey bucket list? Let us know where you’d like to go in the comments below….