Top 10 things to experience in Turkey

With its blend of old world and new world cities, lovely countryside and postcard-perfect Mediterranean coastline, Turkey is a strikingly exotic destination for travellers.

Diverse offerings such as the ancient ruins of Ephesus to the luxury beach resorts along the Aegean Sea will enthral and captivate even those who feel they’ve seen it all. Istanbul, once the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, is the first point of call for most tourists, but there are many more great experiences. 

Istanbul - the largest city in Turkey, full of historic sites, dining, shopping, nightlife — as well as the exotic Old City section.

Bodrum - located on the blue waters of the Aegean Sea, Bodrum’s cliff top resorts are intermingled with intriguing ruins and stunning beaches.

Side - this beachside town packs a lot into a small peninsula, and the main entry road is dominated by the excavated ruins of a massive Roman amphitheatre.

Antalya - spectacular mountains rise out of the earth next to white sandy beaches, and it’s no surprise that this city is a hit with beachgoers, sailors, hikers and climbers.

Sultanahmet is easily the most famous tourist area of Istanbul, offering an authentic and convenient immersion into Turkish culture. Its major attraction is the Basilica Cistern, also known as the ‘Underground Palace’. Built in the 6th century, this cathedral-sized palace was converted into a subterranean cistern and is now partially flooded with water. Other attractions include the Spice Market, the Blue Mosque and one of Istanbul’s oldest and largest covered markets, the Grand Bazaar.
Today, the Gallipoli battlefields are preserved as a national historic park, commemorating the fallen with marble and bronze monuments. Guided tours are available, lasting around 4 hours and covering interesting sites such as the soldiers’ hidden tunnels and trenches. Visiting on Anzac Day requires planning far ahead of time, but the experience of Gallipoli can be even more touching when visiting during the quieter times throughout the year.
Patara beach, on Turkey’s southern coast, is spectacularly unique. Running 14 kilometres, it’s one of the longest stretches of untouched sand found anywhere in the Mediterranean. There are no visible buildings apart from a cafe and — you definitely won’t find this at home — there’s ancient Roman ruins at the edges of the dunes.
Located outside the Turkish city of Trabzon, the Sumela monastery is attached 1,200m above the ground to the side (literally) of the Zigana Mountains. It is one of the oldest Christian monasteries still standing today, and although records are scarce it’s estimated to be 1,000 years old. Unsurprisingly, access to the monastery takes a bit of time, effort and fitness. Visitors who make the climb up the steep steps to the entrance are rewarded with access to the Rock Church and its frescoes, as well as tucked-away chapels, old libraries and a spring-fed fountain.
The ancient, eight-level underground city of Derinkkuyu is like nothing you’ve seen before. Sitting 60m below ground, it was designed to shelter citizens hiding from persecution from the Roman rulers. It could host 20,000 people together with food stores and livestock. See the extraordinary way these people lived in their underground world, complete with chapels, cellars, kitchens and ventilation.

Kokorec -if you can look past the fact that it’s barbecued sheep intestines stuffed with offal, you’ll discover a very tasty local dish.

Borek - something in between a pie and a sausage roll, and usually filled with goat, lamb, cheese, potato or spinach.

Pide - a pizza-like flatbread topped with various combinations of lamb, chicken, vegetables and cheese and baked in a smoking hot wood oven.

Iskender kebab - there’s several different types of Turkish kebab, but try the Iskender — beef doner kebab meat on top of fresh pide bread and covered with tomato sauce, butter and yoghurt.

Pamukkale, meaning ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, is an otherworldly landscape located in western Turkey renowned for its white rock terraces. The high mineral content in its hot springs have formed this sedimentary white rock over thousands of years, which makes for a beautiful sight. With pools that have been bathed in for thousands of years, and ruins of Greek Temples and monuments in the city of Hierapolis above it, the entire area of Pamukkale is a recognized World Heritage site worth the visit.
As Europe’s most complete classic metropolis, the ancient city of Ephesus is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist attractions. Located in Aegean, the city was by the 1st century BC one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. It has an extensive history, much of which can still be seen and appreciated through its well-preserved ruins. Ephesus hosts one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — the Temple of Artemis — as well as the temple of Hadrian, and the magnificent ancient two-story Celsus Library.
The landscape of Cappadocia is not to be missed, and its stunningly surreal colours and shapes can be captured perfectly via a hot air balloon ride. From above, tourists have a sweeping view of the honeycombed hills and tall rock formations known as ‘fairy chimneys’. Don’t miss visiting the Open Air Museum in Goerme to see the monastic Byzantine artistry and rock-cut churches.
DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all information as of the date of publishing, Allianz Global Assistance does not accept liability for any errors or omissions. Allianz Global Assistance strongly recommends seeking the guidance of a professional travel agent/agency for further information on a specific destination. On your next trip, whether to another province or country, ensure you have travel insurance as it may assist you in cases of unforeseen medical emergencies and other types of mishaps that can happen while you travel. Travel insurance does not cover everything, please always refer to the policy document for full terms and conditions, including limitations and exclusions. Travel insurance is underwritten by CUMIS General Insurance Company, a member of The Co-operators Group of Companies, administered by Allianz Global Assistance, which is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc.
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