A richly historical land with some of the best cuisine you will ever taste, scenery from beaches to mountains and the great city of Istanbul. From popular Ephesus, to the recently discovered site of Aphrodisias, to the emotional memorials at Gallipoli, Turkey has a wealth of destinations to be explored. Here are just five must visit places in Turkey.
A lot of people think Istanbul is the capital of Turkey, but it is actually Ankara! Istanbul on the other hand is the cultural capital of Turkey.
Boasting mighty Byzantine walls, mysterious underground cisterns, majestic basilicas, opulent Ottoman palaces, breathtakingly beautiful mosques, buzzing markets and the ever-busy Bosphorus strait, you’ll never want to leave!
Istanbul is a city brimming with culture, history and magic with traditions still alive that are rooted in over 2,500 years of history! Like no other city in the world, the city of Istanbul bridges two continents which has mixed cultures, ethnic groups, religions and history in its own extraordinary way and created a truly unique, majestic city.
The best way to explore Istanbul is on foot, where you’ll come across all the major sites, as well as incredible views of the city and hidden gems of shops and restaurants! Istanbul is a very easy city to see on foot and we felt completely safe all the time.
Our highlights and must visit locations in Istanbul are the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Gulhane Park, Galata Tower and the Grand Bazaar & Spice Market. Due to a delayed flight, we sadly lost a day of exploring but has also planned to visit the Byzantine Cisterns, the Turkish Islamic arts and crafts museum, the Chora Church, the Hippodrome and take a river cruise along the Bosphorus! We can’t wait to return and explore Istanbul further in the future.
Hierapolis & Pamukkale
At the end of the 2nd century BCE, the dynasty of the Attalids who were the kings of Pergamon, established a thermal spa in Pamukkale and built the ancient city of Hierapolis above it. Today, both Pamukkale and Hierapolis are protected World Heritage Sites and people still travel from all around the world to bathe in the healing waters.
The ruins of Hierapolis are an enormous site where you are able to walk among the ruins and visit ancient baths, temples, Greek monuments, an incredible theatre, library, gymnasium and one of the world’s largest necropolis! The height of the ancient city provides majestic views across the unique landscapes and countryside which surround Hierapolis and Pamukkale.
Pamukkale is a destination which has been on my bucket list ever since the first time I saw a photo of the so called ‘Cotton Castle’ in Turkey. It is a world famous site with 17 incredible natural thermal springs with calcite-laden waters that flow from 520 ft high cliffs! Pamukkale is made up of carbonate mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins which create a surreal and unique icy-white landscape that is truly breathtaking!
As an Australian we learn about the Anzac’s and Gallipoli Campaign from a very young age and for as long as I can remember I have felt the need to travel to Turkey to understand exactly what happened here, learn just how this shaped our very young nation and to pay my respects to the thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who gave their lives here. During the eight month campaign around 100,000 allied and Turkish soldiers were killed and now lay beneath the today peaceful lands and beautiful sandy shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Today the Gallipoli Battlefields are silent and preserved as a national park with marble and bronze monuments dotted throughout it and it is one of the most emotional and moving places I’ve ever travelled to.
I felt I learnt more from our guide during our half day tour of the Peninsula then I learnt in all my years at school learning about the war and the Gallipoli campaign. It is hard to describe the exact feeling visiting a place such as this evokes and I am sure that anyone who has been to Gallipoli will agree with me that it is hard to comprehend that such heavy fighting and huge loss of life occurred here in what is today a beautiful location.
Ephesus is a place that has fascinated me since I first saw a picture of its iconic library and read about the people who used to live there.
The metropolis of Ephesus evolved as the center of classical sea trade, the birthplace of the Hellenistic Greek renaissance, the Roman capital of Asia Minor, and the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In its day it rivalled Rome in its magnificence! The site of Ephesus is simply massive, and it was mind blowing to discover that only 10% of the city’s remains have been excavated and the site is already unrivalled as the world’s largest intact ancient Roman city.
Make sure to give yourself a full day at Ephesus to stroll the ancient streets, visit the Agora and the countless fascinating temples that have been uncovered, the Odeon theatre, baths, ancient aquaducts and water pipes as well as the iconic library!
Last but not least is Aphrodisias, which I personally think is one of Turkey’s best kept secrets and definitely one of the must visit places in Turkey! The beautiful city Aphrodisias is one of the finest archaeological sites of Anatolia Turkey and is both partly excavated and partly undiscovered. The name of the city is derived from the goddess of love, Aphrodite who was also called Venus by the Romans and who had her famous sanctuary here. The site is located about an hour and half from popular Ephesus and was one of the best preserved ancient sites we visited in Turkey.
How Aphrodisias was found is quite a funny story! It was discovered by a Turkish photographer in the 1950s who stumbled across a village where he discovered locals living amongst the ruins, using ancient pillars to hold up their houses and ancient tombs for troughs for their cattle! There is a fantastic exhibition in the building opposite the museum at Aphrodisias where you can see just how the site was when it was first discovered and truly understand how remarkable it is!
Without a doubt the most incredible part of Aphrodisias today is the Roman Stadium which is still standing despite earthquake damage in the 7th century! The stadium would have seated 30,000 people and is one of the largest and best preserved ancient stadiums in the world! There are many other fascinating sites of interest in Aphrodisias including temples, baths, churches, public squares, streets and a monumental gateway from 200 CE.
We absolutely love Turkey, and there are so many other must visit places in Turkey as well! We spent almost a month in Turkey a few years ago and can’t wait to return. Turkey had a large expat community too, and who knows, maybe you’ll love it so much that you may find a beautiful little country home somewhere, or you may want to get a beautiful Arte Plus condo one day.
What are your must visit places in Turkey?
This post was written in collaboration with Property Guru.
All opinions, as always, are our own.