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Things to Do in Turkey - page 4

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Maiden’s Tower (Kiz Kulesi)
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Located on an islet in the Bosphorus Strait, just offshore from Istanbul’s Uskudar neighborhood, Maiden’s Tower (Kiz Kulesi) is a historical site that has inspired myths and legends. The Ottomans expanded and rebuilt the structure, and today it contains a restaurant and bar with views of the city.

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Demre (Myra)
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Demre, formerly known as Kale, is a small agricultural town on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. It was also the ancient Lycian town of Myra. A community of Christian Greeks lived here until the 1920s when they were forced to relocate to Greece during the population exchange between Turkey and Greece. Abandoned Greek houses serve as a reminder of this time.

Though not as big as the areas closer to the Antalya airport, Demre's history, warm weather, and proximity to the sea make this town a pleasant and popular vacation spot. Many tourists, especially Christians, come here on a pilgrimage to visit the tomb of Saint Nicholas and his church. Saint Nicholas was the historical figure who eventually became Santa Claus. He lived in and was the bishop of Myra during the 4th century.

Other attractions in Demre include the ruins of Myra, such as a Roman theater and tombs cut into the rock walls. There are also boat trips to see the sunken ruins of the nearby island of Kekova. The well-known long distance hiking trail, the Lycian Way, also passes through Demre and the ancient town of Myra.

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Beylerbeyi Palace (Beylerbeyi Sarayi)
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Located in the shadow of Istanbul’s first bridge, Beylerbeyi Palace (Beylerbeyi Sarayi) was historically a summer residence for Ottoman sultans. The 24 rooms of the palace contain a mix of Ottoman and Western decoration, with 19th-century furniture from Europe and garden pavilions, and its ornate exterior is visible from the Bosphorus Strait.

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Zelve Open-Air Museum
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The Zelve Open-­Air Museum sits on site of the remains of a Byzantine monastery that was carved into the rock face in ancient times. Zelve was a monastic retreat from the 9th to the 13th century, and in fact the area was inhabited right up until 1952. 15 years after locals abandoned the site, Zelve was turned into the open-­air museum that can be seen and explored today.

The site features various remnants of local life, including houses, a tunnel joining two of the valleys, a mill, and a small mosque. Beyond the mill, the Balıklı Kilise (Fish Church) can be found, while the impressive Üzümlü Kilise (Grape Church) adjoins it.

The three valleys of Zelve are a great spot for trekking around and exploring in peace, as it isn’t as popular with tourists as the Göreme Open­-Air Museum nearby. The site also has a good walking trail looping around the valleys, giving access to various caves and chambers and featuring dramatic crags and pinnacles along the way.

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Monks Valley (Pasabag Vadisi)
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Monks Valley (Paşabağ Vadisi) in Cappadocia is famous for its perfect fairy chimneys, sculpted from ancient lava, ash, and basalt. Often known as Pasabag, Monks Valley is famous for its opportunities to hike among the boulders and into the hills that ring the area. If you just want to relax, in the small village by the road there are stalls serving hot spiced wine in winter, and freshly-squeezed juices in summer. There are also a few cafes where you can grab a bite to eat, and stores selling Cappadocia textiles and artwork.

Monks Valley was once home to hermetic monks who sheltered in the smaller cones atop the upper sections of the fairy chimneys. There was once a Simeon monks’ hermitage here too, and today you can still see the chapel dedicated to Saint Simeon who, fed up with all the attention he was getting in 5th century Aleppo when word got around that he could perform miracles, hightailed it to the top of the highest fairy chimney he could find, and only descended in order to receive food and drink from his disciples.

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Temple of Apollo
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The most strikingly situated of Side’s ancient ruins, the grand Temple of Apollo stands perched on the edge of the historic town, overlooking the Mediterranean. Dating back to the second century AD, the temple was believed to have been a gift from Anthony to Cleopatra and still has five of its original Corinthian columns, towering over the seafront.

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Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology (Bodrum Sualti Arkeoloji Muzesi)
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Housed in the 15th-century Castle of St. Peter, the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology (Bodrum Sualtı Arkeoloji Müzesi) is one of Bodrum’s top attractions, amassing an impressive collection of shipwreck remains and artifacts sourced from under-the-sea excavations along the Aegean Coast.

Dive into the depths of the ocean without leaving dry land, as the exhibitions take you on a journey through the Bronze, Archaic, Classic and Hellenistic Ages, revealing the mysteries of Turkey’s rich nautical history. Among the most impressive finds are a restored Roman shipwreck dating back to the 7th century A.D., one of the world’s largest collections of ancient glassware and what is believed to be the tomb of Queen Ada of Halicarnassus.

Even with all of this, the undisputed star attraction is the Uluburun shipwreck. Discovered on Turkey’s southwestern coast in 1982, the sunken ship dates back to the 14th century B.C. and is largely regarded as one of the world’s greatest Bronze Era finds, filled with everything from elephant tusks to a gold scarab that once belonged to Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.

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Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge
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Surprisingly for a city split between two continents, Istanbul existed without connecting bridges for most of its existence. After the construction of the Bosphorus Bridge in the 1970s, the second unifying bridge, Fatih Sultan Mehmet, came in 1988. It is part of Istanbul’s O-2 highway and connects the European and Asian sides of the city.

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Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Tomb of Mausolus)
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Built in 351 B.C. to house the tomb of King Mausolus, the Persian King of Caria, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Tomb of Mausolus) was not only the grandest tomb of its time but it also gave its name to all the mausoleums that followed. The masterpiece of Greek architects Satyros and Pytheos, the elaborate monument was once a temple of sculpted columns and white marble, standing over 50 meters tall and topped with a sculpture of a horse-drawn carriage.

Because the mausoleum is known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, its ruins are immensely popular in modern-day Bodrum, despite being almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1304. Today, the final remaining pieces of the walls can be found around the landmark Myndos Gate, while the best-preserved remains are now housed in London’s British Museum. Some of the rocks rescued from the wreckage of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus were also used to build the seafront Castle of St Peter.

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Ortaköy
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Istanbul’s bustling waterside neighborhood of Ortaköy buzzes with the energy of bars, restaurants, cafés, and nightclubs. The main sight here is the Ortaköy Mosque (Ortaköy Cami), a 19th-century structure featuring a blend of baroque and neoclassical influences. Behind it, the Bosphorus Bridge looms, connecting the old Istanbul with the new.

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More Things to Do in Turkey

Antalya Aquarium

Antalya Aquarium

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Best known for housing the world’s largest underwater tunnel exhibit, Antalya Aquarium is a family destination on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. In addition to its 430-foot (131-meter) by 10-foot (3-meter) tunnel and 40 themed tanks, the attraction center houses a tropical reptile house, 3D cinema, and a snow-themed museum.

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Sultanahmet District

Sultanahmet District

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Home to some of Istanbul’s most recognizable attractions, the Sultanahmet District is an ideal place to explore the city’s complex history. With the rose-colored Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) sitting across from the six minarets of the Blue Mosque and down the street from the energetic Grand Bazaar, this neighborhood packs in a wealth of culture.

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Rose Valley (Güllüdere Vadisi)

Rose Valley (Güllüdere Vadisi)

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The Rose Valley (Güllüdere Vadisi) in Cappadocia is filled with enormous, cone-shaped rocks and offers some of the region’s best hiking. Home to the Cross Church (Haçli Kilise), the Columned Church (Kolonlu Kilise), and other sighes, the valley is particularly striking late in the day when the sinking sun brings out the stones’ rosy glow.

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Avanos

Avanos

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Situated along the K?z?l?rmak (Red River)—the longest river in Turkey—Avanos is a small town in Cappadocia known for red earthenware pottery that was originally created by the Hittites during the Bronze Age. Explore the lovely stretch of old town that overlooks the river and stop into the pottery shops selling their rouge-colored wares.

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Golden Horn (Haliç)

Golden Horn (Haliç)

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Thank the natural harbor of the Golden Horn (Haliç) for the rise of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. The inlet separates Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district from Beyoglu, and is spanned by the Ataturk, Halic, and Galata bridges. An ages-old thoroughfare, ferries ply the Golden Horn to historical neighborhoods including Fener, Balat, and Eyup.

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Küçüksu Palace (Küçüksu Kasri)

Küçüksu Palace (Küçüksu Kasri)

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Commissioned in the mid-19th century by Sultan Abdulmecit, Küçüksu Palace (Küçüksu Kasri) Palace, aka Küçüksu Pavilion (Küçüksu Sarayı), was designed to be a summer palace for Ottoman sultans. The Istanbul palace’s design blends European and Ottoman styles, with an intricate carved exterior, sweeping staircases, and an interior with gilded accents and chandeliers.

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Damlatas Cave (Damlatas Magarasi)

Damlatas Cave (Damlatas Magarasi)

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Adorned with 15,000 years worth of stalactites, the small-yet-perfectly-formed Damlatas Cave is one of Alanya’s signature sights. Discovered in 1948 while the new harbor was being built, the humidity and constant temperature of the cave are said to have therapeutic properties.

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Galata Bridge (Galata Köprüsü)

Galata Bridge (Galata Köprüsü)

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Stretched across the Golden Horn, the Galata Bridge (Galata Köprüsü) connects the shores of Istanbul’s historical peninsula with the Karakoy and Galata neighborhoods. Though the presence of the bridge started in 1845, the current structure dates only to 1994. Fishermen line the atmospheric bridge day and night, trying to haul in their daily catch.

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Selime Monastery

Selime Monastery

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Carved directly into the rocks of Cappadocia, Selime Monastery is one of the region’s most fascinating cultural attractions. Experts believe it took more than 200 years to shape the monastery, beginning in the eighth or ninth century. The structure, which could house some 5,000 people, included a cathedral-sized church with stone columns, camel stables, living quarters, a missionary school, water well and a huge kitchen with a chimney.

There’s a bit of a climb to get up to the monastery structure, and visitors are free to climb inside many of the structures as well. The view from the top looks out over the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia.

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Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi)

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi)

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Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi) is the ultimate covered market. Its 5,000+ vendors hawk carpets, beaded bracelets, gold and silver jewelry, multicolored lanterns, leather goods, ceramics, belly-dancing outfits, and more. With goods available at all price points, you’re sure to find the perfect souvenir in the bazaar’s labyrinthine alleys.

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Ephesus Terrace Houses

Ephesus Terrace Houses

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The ruins of the ancient city of Ephasus are located in Selcuk, Turkey. The city was a major port city in its time, but the port has since silted over and the shoreline is quite a distance away. One of the important sections of the ruins are the Ephesus Terrace Houses, which are on a hill across from the Hadrian Temple. There are six units on three terraces, the oldest dating back to the 1st century BC. It was used as a residence until the 7th century AD.

Two of the houses are now open as a museum, and they give visitors a glimpse at what family life might have been like during the Roman Period. The houses contained mosaics on the floors and frescoes on the walls, which are now protected. They had central interior courtyards, and although most of the houses were two stories tall, the second levels have collapsed over time.

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Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi)

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi)

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Beautiful yet eerie, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi) isn’t your average underground well. Dating back to the Byzantine era, the huge cistern was built in the mid-500s on the former site of a basilica. More than 300 marble columns provide a grand, serene atmosphere to what was essentially subterranean water storage.

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Fethiye Lycian Rock Tombs (Tomb of Amyntas)

Fethiye Lycian Rock Tombs (Tomb of Amyntas)

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Carved into the cliffside above town is a group of ancient Lycian tombs that have become some of Fethiye’s most famous landmarks: the Fethiye Lycian Rock Tombs (Tomb of Amyntas). Set higher than the rest, the most important of the tombs was built in 350 B.C. for “Amyntas, son of Hermagios” (according to a Greek inscription on the wall of the tomb). He is thought to have been a local Lycian ruler or nobleman.

The entrance to the Amyntas Tomb was carved out of the rock so as to look like a temple portico, with two Ionic-style columns topped by a triangular pediment. Grave robbers appear to have broken into the tomb a long time ago, as is clear from the missing panel in the bottom-right-hand side of the doorway.

About 500 meters down and to the right (east) is a cluster of several smaller Lycian rock tombs carved into the cliff face; very little is known about the identities of those buried here.

In addition to seeing the Fethiye rock tombs themselves, visitors who make the hike up will be rewarded with fabulous views of the town and the surrounding coastline. The best time to visit (and consequently the busiest) is at sunset.

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Hattusa (Hattusha)

Hattusa (Hattusha)

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Located deep in Turkey’s Anatolia region, Hattusa (also written Hattusha, Hattuşaş, or Hattusas) is one of the country’s biggest archaeological sites and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During its pomp in the second millennium BC, Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite Empire, wielding power across Anatolia and beyond. Its ruins coat a large hillside and include temples, fortifications, gates, and statues.

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