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21 most beautiful sights in Turkey (my top list)

The top sights in Turkey!

I didn't want to give more than 21 places.

From Istanbul to Cappadocia to Eastern Anatolia there are so many unique buildings and natural wonders to see.

That's why it wasn't easy for me to choose

The most beautiful sights in Turkey

At the end of my list there are a few more sights that didn't make it into the top 21. But somehow they are part of it.

1. Blue Mosque in Istanbul (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)

The Blue Mosque is one of the highlights in Istanbul. With her unique appearance and rich ornamentation, she is one of the masterpieces of Ottoman architecture. Once you've been there, you'll understand why. It's the harmony of the architecture and the effect of the colors.

It is actually named after its client Sultan Ahmed. It was built between 1603 and 1617. The sultan died a year after the mosque was completed. Since then, he has been laid out in a mausoleum inside the mosque together with his family members who later died.

It is called the Blue Mosque because of the Iznik tiles inside. These are blue tiles that are attached to walls and ceilings. They make the entire interior appear particularly splendid.

You can visit the mosque for free outside of prayer times. Women should wear a headscarf. They can be borrowed at the entrance. The shoes must be removed inside.

The Blue Mosque is one of the must-see attractions in Istanbul and Turkey. You should definitely visit them once.

2. The burial shrine at Nemrut Dagi (Eastern Anatolia)

The Nemrut Dagi is the burial shrine of King Antiochus I. I haven't seen it myself yet. The structure in northern Mesopotamia is high on my to-do list. I like such old ruins and temples very much.

The sanctuary was included in the UNECO World Heritage List in 1987. This is due to the imposing dimensions of the entire facility and its unique design. It is located on the top of a 2,150 meter high mountain in the Taurus Mountains. Directly above the valley through which the Euphrates flows. A gravel hill about 45 meters high and 150 meters wide has been heaped up on the mountain top. The tomb of Antiochus is said to be located underneath. From a distance the whole thing looks like a pyramid made of stones and rubble.

Around the grave sanctuary there are 8 to 10 meter high statues of gods. They represent the Greek gods Zeus, Apollo, Heracles and King Antiochus himself.

The easiest way to get to the Gabanlage is to fly to Adiyaman. This is the provincial capital where the tomb is located today. It is about 90 kilometers away from there.

3. Topkapi Palace (Istanbul)

The palace has been that for many centuries Has been home to the Ottoman sultans. That is why it is of course one of the most important sights in Turkey and Istanbul.

There are many reasons to visit him. There is a lot to see, from the magnificent view of the Bosphorus to the sultan's harem and the museum that is now in the palace.

The complex is divided into many small buildings. You can see from them that the sultans have had expansion and renovation work done over and over again over the centuries. There are ten mosques, libraries, schools, hospitals, bathhouses and seven treasuries on the 700,000 square meter property.

The queues at the ticket office are quite long. You can bypass them with the online tickets. Admission costs 30 Turkish Lira (around 10 euros). Otherwise you can try to be there as early as possible in the morning. At 9:00 there is not much going on.

And be sure to sit down in the garden of the palace complex and drink a good Turkish tea or Turkish mocha.

4. Troy (Dardanelles)

The Story of the Trojan Horse, Achilles, Paris, Odysseus and the beautiful Hellena every child knows. The ruins of the city lie on the coast of the Dardanelles Strait. Since 1998 they have been part of the UNSECO world cultural heritage.

There is a replica of the fateful wooden horse at the entrance to the excavation site. You can go inside and take photos of yourself. Many columns, walls and remains of buildings have been uncovered in the remaining ruins.

Troy has been rediscovered by the German archaeologist Schliemann. 100 years ago he dug a 17 meter deep trench in the hill to look for Troy. The weathered remnants of his excavations can still be seen. Right next to it you can see the five-meter-thick city walls that protected Troy from intruders.

Entry to Troy currently costs 20 Turkish Lira. There is also a car park. There you have to pay another 5 lira. The nearest town is Canakkale. This is one of the most beautiful coastal towns on the Aegean coast. The drive to Troy takes 30 minutes from there.

5. Dolmabahce Palace (Istanbul)

The Ottoman sultans copied something from Austria and France. To be more precise: Versailles and Schönbrunn. They wanted a more modern palace than the old Topkapi Palace. It should be more like that of the European rulers. With the Dolmabahce Palace they definitely did it. The interior is evidence of the incredible wealth of the sultans.

The building was built at a time when the people of the empire were not doing well. 14 tons of gold were used to decorate the walls in the 285 rooms, 66 halls, 68 toilets and 6 baths.

Queen Victoria of England donated the largest chandelier in the world as a present for the inauguration of the palace. It weighs 14 tons and consists of 750 light sources. There are bearskin rugs everywhere in the palace. They are a gift from the Russian tsar. The other rulers of the world at that time, of course, also made their contribution to the establishment of the new home of the Ottoman sultans.

The dolmabahce is divided into several parts. There is the harem for the women and the selamlik for the men and state receptions. That is why it has been decorated most splendidly. Ataturk's deathbed is in a room in the palace. It's not one of the biggest. But rather a small one.

You are not allowed to walk through the palace alone. So a guided tour is a must. It is best to book it online in advance. Otherwise you stand in line at the entrance for half an eternity. The selamlik and the harem will be shown to you in two separate tours. That increases the waiting time again. Each tour costs 20 lira.

The palace is definitely one of the most magnificent Turkish structures. That's why you should definitely visit him.

6. Pergamon (Turkish Aegean)

You can book a guided tour to Pergamon from almost any tourist spot in the area. Of course, the ruins can also be easily reached by dolmus or a rental car. The city of Bergama is today below the hill on which Pergamon stood. It is easy to reach from the bus station in Izmir. The drive for the 100-kilometer route takes around two hours.

Once you have arrived, you can either walk up to the ruins or take a small cable car for 13 Lira. The entrance to the ruins costs another 25 lira.

The Amphitheater is one of the highlights in Pergamon. The pictures are actually a sufficient argument to visit the theater. The sights above the hill are a little shorter. At the top there was once a temple dedicated to Athena. Unfortunately not a single column has survived. In the center of its former foundation walls is an oil tree. This is the sacred tree of Athena. He's a memory of her.

Two kilometers from Pergamon are the ruins of Asklepion. It was the most important healing center in the entire Roman Empire. Citizens who could afford it made the pilgrimage there to have their illnesses treated. You have to pay 20 Turkish Lira to enter.

7. Antalya's old town Kaleici (Turkish Riviera)

The Turkish state founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is one of the most important people in Turkish history. That is why his quote: â € œI regret not having made Antalya the capital of Turkey because of its beautyâ €, is particularly significant for the locals in Antalya.

To the guide: 70 sights & activities in Antalya.

I can only agree with him. The Old town Kaleici together with the marina is a wonderful place to relax. It is located above cliffs about 30 meters high. You can see them on the right edge of the photo.

There are a few good cafes with guest gardens with a wonderful view far out over the sea. They are most beautiful in the evening. Just sit down and watch the sun go down. The open-air discos start a little later.

The most famous sights in the city are the Hadrian's Gate (built in honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian) the grooved minaret, the Sat Kulesi (clock tower), the Hidirlik (Roman defense tower at the harbor) and of course the Konyaalti beach at the western end of the Old town. On the beach there is a Beach Park with water shows, theaters and a miniature park with replicas of all known sights in Turkey. So you can work through my whole list in an hour.

8. Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)

The Hagia Sophia, together with the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is that Istanbul landmark. It was originally commissioned as a cathedral by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 532. Mehmet the Conqueror had it converted into a mosque after taking Istanbul / Constantinople.

The mixture of the two cultures is still clearly visible inside. There are clearly visible wall paintings with Christian symbols. Many have been covered over with Islamic symbols for centuries as a result of the transformation. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk had Hagia Sophia converted into a museum in 1934. As a result, many historical details have been uncovered again.

The most clearly recognizable Islamic symbols are of course the four minarets that have been added.

You cannot pay for entry to Hagia Sophia in euros. It currently costs 30 Turkish Lira per person. A while ago I wrote my own post with tips on changing from euros to Turkish lira.

After 4.30 p.m. no new visitors will be allowed into the museum. The queue is usually very long. That's why you should be there by noon at the latest to be able to see everything.

Another solution to the â € œEuro and queues problemâ € is an online ticket or the Istanbul Museum Pass. So you can go in straight away and don't have to pay in lira.

9. Uchisar Fortress, the Göreme National Park and the Cave Churches (Cappadocia)

There are two particularly well-known places in the area: Uchisar and Göreme. Göreme is one of the Backpacker hotspots in Turkey. There is only the town of Olympos on the south coast, which attracts more backpackers.

The landscape looks like it is from another planet. The buildings werenâ € ™ t made of bricks or stones. Instead, houses, apartments, forts and entire cities have been carved into the soft sandstone.

There are even hotels where you can stay in a cozy cave room with a window. That makes the unique experience of a trip to Cappadocia even more exciting.

10. Alanya's Castle Hill (Turkish Riviera)

Alanya, Almanya. The city with the comparatively high number of European emigrants in Turkey is, of course, on my list. She is called Almanya by the local Turks because of the many Germans. The name â € œBallermann on the Turkish Rivieraâ € probably has something to do with it.

To the guide: 61 sights & activities in Alanya.

Apart from that, there is the wonderful castle hill of the city to explore. It was called Korakesion 2,500 years ago by the ancient Greeks. That means Rabenhorst. The name is just right for the unique view from the fortress Ic Kale, which stands at the top of the castle hill.

she is the one Winter residence of the Sultan of the Rum Seljuks been. Unfortunately, there isn't much left of his palace. But there are other great things to see on the mountain. There is the Damlatas stalactite cave, Cleopatra Beach, a Seljuk shipyard and of course the Red Tower. It is the landmark of Alanya.

I spend most of the time in Turkey in Alanya. A little outside the center, in a cozy apartment.

11. Cape Anamur (Turkish Riviera)

Anamur hardly appears in the German travel catalogs. The same goes for tour operators in Turkey. The nearest tourist place is Alanya. You can't even book day trips from there.

That’s a good thing. That leaves the Area untouched by mass tourism. But that's not because there aren't any interesting sights in the area. You can see the old crusader castle Mamura Kalesi or the ruins of Anemurion. The ruins of the city show you life in an ancient Roman city. It's not as big as the trading towns of Side, Aspendos, or Pergamon. There are more little things to see for that.

The best way to get to Anamur is to rent a car. There are also a few buses that go to the area from Gazipasa or Adana Airport. With a car, however, you are far more flexible on the road.

Be sure to go up one of the hills behind the fortress. From there you can see all the way to the mountains in the northern part of Cyprus.

There are, of course, a few beautiful beaches in the region. In the summer they are pretty empty. Usually only a few Turks from Ankara or Istanbul get lost for their summer vacation in Anamur. Of course, local families are still out and about on the beach with their children.

If the name Cape Anamur sounds familiar, it is probably due to the German aid organization Cap Anamur. It is named after a ship that was named after Cape Anamur.

12. Ephesus and the Library of Celsus (Turkish Aegean)

One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the temple of Artemis, has stood in Ephesus. Unfortunately, not much of him has survived. The foundation walls and a column still stand in Ephesus. Everything movable ended up either in the British Museum or in the Kunsthistorisches Museum / Ephesus Museum in Vienna.

The excavation managers have set about rebuilding the facade of the Celsus Library for this purpose. She is one of the most popular photo subjects in town. Along with the huge Roman amphitheater. It's bigger than most modern football stadiums. Up to 24,000 people have found a place in it. The place was necessary in Ephesus. With 250,000 inhabitants, the port city was one of the largest metropolises in the Roman Empire.

You can book an excursion with one of the local tour operators or take the bus to Ephesus. The easiest way to do this is from Izmir. In the city center, buses go directly to the ruins in what is now Efes / Selcuk. (Yes, Efes is the Turkish beer brand. No, the brewery is not in Efes).

An entrance ticket costs 20 Turkish Lira. There is an extra charge for a couple of separate areas. For this you have to pay another 15 Turkish lira.

13. Blue cruise with a gulet (south coast)

What could be nicer than with a Turkish sailing ship (Gulet) to drive comfortably from bay to bay? The beaches are deserted and you can comfortably do a few laps in the turquoise blue water. On board there is delicious food that is prepared by a cook. The rest of the on-board catering is based on the typical all-inclusive standard of Turkey. You just have to hold back a little with the alcohol. Don't worry, it's not forbidden.But it shouldn't be too much on a medium-sized sailing ship.

In the evening the ship either calls into a new port or anchors in a bay. This gives you the opportunity to get to know a few different Turkish coastal towns.

The typical routes lead along the Aegean, Marmaris and Lycian coasts to Antalya. The possible destinations of the small sailing ship cruise are, for example, Bodrum, Marmaris, Kas, Fethiye, Antalya, Andriake and Kusadasi.

Just see what is possible. Pretty much anything can be combined.

14. Hot air balloons in Cappadocia

Every day rise before sunrise dozens of hot air balloons in the sky over Cappadocia on. The journey with them takes around two hours. With a good wind you fly your balloon over the most famous sights of the region.

The landscape, shaped by the Erciyes Dagi volcano, with its bizarre rock formations appears to be from another world. For me, the hot-air balloon rides in Cappadocia are one of the most beautiful excursions in Turkey. You will certainly never forget them.

15. Myra and the Lycian Rock Tombs (Lycian Coast)

Nikolaus von Myra lived in Myra and was buried there. The historical figure serves as a template for "Saint Nicholas"who brings presents to children at the beginning of Advent. In other countries he is known as Santa Claus or Father Frost.

In Myra you can visit his Church of the Holy Sepulcher. That's not the only highlight at the excavation site. There are still Roman-Lycian rock tombs, an amphitheater and the port of Andriake.

Myra is open all year round. Entry to the ruins costs 20 Turkish Lira. For the Nikolaus Basilica you have to pay an extra 10 lira. The local tour operators offer day trips to Myra from all tourist locations.

16. Istanbul, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus

Istanbul is one of the most historic cities in the world. It was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine as the new capital of the Roman Empire. Later it became the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The current one is 600 years long 15 million inhabitants metropolis been the center of the Ottoman Empire

All these peoples and centuries have left their mark on Istanbul. The magnificent Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque are just two of the most impressive structures.

Istanbul has always connected the Orient and the Occident, the East and the West in the past centuries. Today she is also a symbol of modern and ancient Turkey. The shops of large fashion chains line up around Taksim Square and bars drive the young Turks into the pulsating nightlife of Istanbul in the evening. A few blocks away you'll find old, traditional Turkey again. Behind every street corner there is a new impression.

Find traces of ancient Rome, see Istanbul's Ottoman heritage, and sip Turkish tea in a seaside tea garden.

17. Atatürk Mausoleum in Ankara (Anitkabir)

Every Turk is familiar with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He is the founding father of the Republic of Turkey. His self-chosen name is an indication of that. Mustafa (the chosen one) Kemal (the perfect) Atatürk (father of all Turks).

His grave and a museum are housed in the Anitkabir (grave monument). The entire complex is surrounded by a large park. The mausoleum is one of the top excursion destinations in Turkey. That's why you should be there on time so as not to be in the queue for too long.

You want to understand Turkey and the Turks? Then you have to read about Ataturk. There are museums about the life of the state founder in every major city. There is a memorial or a street named after him in every small village.

18. Bathing in the limestone terraces of Pamukkale (Turkish Aegean) filled with thermal water

The ancient Greeks and Romans have been to the Bathed in the limestone terraces of Pamukkale filled with thermal water. 2,000 years later, they are still a tourist magnet. From a distance the basin looks like a snow-covered slope. In the middle of summer, of course, it's an even stranger sight. The Turks on the south coast hardly know snow. The weather is usually too mild for that in winter. You have therefore found another comparison. Pamukkale means something like cotton or cotton wool. The name fits too.

You can of course take a bath in the water. But it barely goes any higher than the chest. You are only allowed to go barefoot in the complex. You should of course consider that beforehand.

19. Cappadocia underground cave cities

I am fascinated by the ancient cave towns in Cappadocia. Some of them have been dug up to 14 floors (50 to 60 meters!) Into the earth. And that from people who lived centuries or even millennia ago. It is still not certain whether they were built by the ancient Hittites over 3,000 years ago or the early Christians in the 1st millennium. What is certain is that the latter have expanded them.

The most famous city is Derinkuyu. It wasn't discovered until 1963 by accident. So far, eight floors have been exposed. On the upper floors there are living rooms and bedrooms for a few thousand people! The estimates range between 3,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. Below are storage rooms, meeting rooms, and dungeons. This is an unbelievable masterpiece of the people who lived in Turkey centuries ago. In my opinion, the cave cities of Cappadocia should be included in the list of the seven wonders of the ancient world. You can make eight out of this.

Entry costs 30 Turkish Lira. Unfortunately, you cannot pay in euros. There are guided tours by tour operators and local tour guides. Of course, you can also drive to one of the cave towns independently by car.

20. Aspendos amphitheater (Turkish Riviera)

Aspendos is that best preserved Roman amphitheater in the world. It belongs to the ancient city of Aspendos. It stands on the Eurymedon (Köprü Cayi) river in the Serik district, not far from Antalya.

You can book organized day trips to Aspendos in all tourist places on the Turkish Riviera. They are mostly combined with a visit to the old town of Side and the Manavgat waterfalls.

You should bring Turkish lira with you to visit the theater. The last time Euros were not accepted at the entrance. That may have changed again in the meantime. Better safe than sorry. The tour operator's ticket price does not include admission. It costs around 30 lira.

Most guides will only show you inside the theater. There is a lot more to see on the hill above. There are the remaining ruins of the old trading town. To the right of the entrance you can take a narrow stone path to the remains of the Acropolis and the necropolis. There is also time for this during the guided tours.

There are a few dodgy salespeople along the way who want to sell you alleged old coins. Firstly, they are counterfeit, and secondly, exporting such antiques carries a heavy fine and imprisonment in Turkey. Go past them. I have no idea why they're still there.

21. Coastal cities on the Turkish Riviera and Aegean

The coastal towns in the south of Turkey are that biggest tourist magnet in the country. The province of Antalya, with the Turkish Riviera and the Lycian Coast, is the most popular travel destination for German summer vacationers.

This is due to beach resorts such as Alanya, Side, Belek, Kemer, Konakli, Avsallar and many other tourist places. You probably already know most of them. After all, they appear in every travel catalog.

The Turkish south coast has become so popular because of the short flight distance and the low prices of the 4 to 5 star all-inclusive hotels. Nowhere in the Mediterranean are there cheaper package tours than on the eastern Turkish Riviera.

The bathing weather is perfect in summer. Between June and September, precipitation falls on average once a month. The sun shines 300 days a year. The turquoise blue sea reaches its maximum temperature of 28Â ° in August.

The bathing season starts in April and lasts into October. In winter, the south coast is a popular travel destination for long-term vacationers. Thousands of German emigrants now live in cities like Alanya.

The same applies to the tourist resorts on the Lycian coast and the Aegean coast. The names Bodrum, Fehtiye, Marmaris, Kas and Cirali are well known to all tourists in Turkey.

To make your decision a little easier: My three favorites among the seaside resorts in Turkey are Alanya, Kas and Cirali.

So that was my list!

There are of course a lot of places that didn't make it onto my list. I would like to mention a few of them:

  • The ruins of Perge near Antalya
  • The ruins of Xanthos with the sanctuary of Letoon on the Lycian coast.
  • The Rose Valley in Cappadocia
  • The Göreme National Park in Cappadocia
  • Termessos in Antalya
  • The most beautiful beaches in Turkey
  • Basilica Cistern in Istanbul
  • The ruins of the Hetither capital Hatussa and Yazilikaya in Central Anatolia
  • The old town of Safranbolu in Central Anatolia
  • The mausoleum of Helicarnassus in Bodrum (one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world)
  • Theodosian Wall (city walls of Constantinople in Istanbul)
  • The old town of Side
  • The ruins of Olympos and the Olympos Beach
  • Ishak Pasha Palace in Eastern Anatolia
  • The extinct volcano "Mount Ararat" (Agri Dagi)
  • The Mevlana Monastery of the "Whirling Dervishes" in Konya
  • The crusader castle in Bodrum

A few final words ...

The list is by no means complete. This is my personal choice of sights in Turkey.

There are many more interesting places.

Be sure to check out my list of 50 cities in Turkey and their 100+ most impressive sights. There you will find a lot more inspiration for a trip.

In your opinion, are there any places of interest that really belong on my list?

Feel free to write to me in the comments below.

I am always happy about new interesting places.

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Hi, my name is Thomas. It’s good that you’re here! I spend many months in Turkey every year. You can find my collected tips and experiences in the Turkey travel blog. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

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