Turkey is an epic country with countless bucket list destinations and activities. Turkey is where east meets west and is rich in the worlds oldest ancient history and vibrant culture. It is also home to some of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful natural landscapes in the world, from dramatic coastal mountains, endless deserts, turquoise water beaches and unforgettable mineral pools (all complete with onsite ancient ruins of course!).
Turkish people are warm, friendly and go above and beyond to help you and make you feel welcome in their country. The food in Turkey is next level and perhaps the best part is that a visit to Turkey won’t break the bank!
There is so much to do in every corner of the country, in this post we are sharing the best things to do in Turkey! From bathing in ancient pools, taking a sailing trip, ballooning over the desert to sipping on a coffee in Istanbul and so much more!
Here is our ultimate Turkey bucket list!
Swim in the mineral pools of Pamukkale
Pamukkale is one of the most beautiful and unique places to visit in the world! Located in the south-west of Turkey, Pamukkale is home to the beautiful white terrace pools, otherwise known as Cotton Castle.
The snow-white limestone formations are on top of a big hill and cascade in terraces down the hill forming dramatic natural pools with calcium-rich bright blue water. It feels like you are on another icy planet (but it is definitely warm in summer)!
There are beautiful views everywhere you look. Take your time to explore all around the terraces and take a dip to cool off! To avoid crowds, go early in the morning (entrance is free!), although you can experience an epic sunset from Cotton Castle.
Visit the ancient ruins of Hierapolis
While you are visiting the white terraces of Pamukkale you can also visit the impressive ancient ruins of Hierapolis at the same time!
Hierapolis in as an ancient Roman City and its ruins sit perched on top of the limestone formations on a natural spring. These ruins are beautifully preserved and have a breathtaking backdrop that is worth exploring.
There is a dramatic amphitheatre that will take your breath away. Plus you can take a dip in Cleopatra’s pool, complete with submerged ruins. Cleopatra herself used to frequent Hierapolis and bathe in these pools.
Explore the seaside city of Antalya
Antalya is a beautiful beachside city in the Southern Mediterranean region of Turkey, also known as the Turquoise Coast. Antalya is a relatively big city but has a real laid back holiday vibe with stunning scenery. Picture rocky beaches with crystal clear blue water and dramatic mountains the seem to fall into the sea!
Spend your time in Antalya strolling through the Old Town Kaleici, browsing in shops and drinking fresh juices. The old town is on the top of a cliff and features a maze of beautiful cobbled streets with restored Ottoman houses, bazaars and mosques.
You can also visit a number of stunning beaches. There is the main beach closest to Antalya Konyaalti, which stretches for miles between mountains. There is also the private beach of Mermali sitting at the bottom of the cliff under the old town. This is the perfect place to hire a lounger and sip on cocktails all day. There are also a number of other truly special beaches on the Turquoise coast within driving distance such as Lara, Cirali and Adrasan Bay. There are plenty of regular public buses going to the beaches.
Antalya is a nature lovers dream as it is also home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Turkey. Make sure you visit the Kursunla and Duden waterfalls when visiting.
Another must-do in Antalya is visiting the ancient Roman ruins of Perge and Aspendos. Turkey is an ancient history lover’s dream destination!
Watch the sunset on Gemiler Island
Did you know there is an island on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey where Santa Claus is allegedly from? Well, there is! And it’s called Gemiler or St Nicholas Island. This beautiful island is in a stunning and tranquil bay surrounded by other islands and the mainland.
The best time to visit this island is at sunset. Once you arrive make the climb to the top of the mountain, passing ancient ruins all the way up. You will be treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets in Turkey.
Go paragliding in Oludeniz
Oludeniz is another small town sitting on the Turquoise Coast. Oludeniz is a favourite holiday destination and is surrounded by white pebble beaches, sparkling blue lagoons, rocks and majestic mountains. It is also one of the best places in the world to try paragliding!
You are spoiled with breathtaking views of the beautiful Turkish coastline.
If extreme sports aren’t your thing, it is still well worth going to Oludeniz to enjoy swimming in and around the blue lagoon.
Witness the underwater ruins of Kekova
Another must see stop on the Turquoise coast is the underwater ruins of Kekova. The Lycian Trail on the south coast of Turkey has the highest concentration of ruins in the country. This ancient city was flooded and submerged after an earthquake. This now sunken city is visible from a kayak or boat due to the crystal clear waters of the Turquoise Coast.
Just note you can only view the ruins from a boat, you aren’t allowed to swim underwater to see them. This is an effort to preserve the ruins.
Explore Butterfly Valley
Butterfly Valley is somewhat of a hidden hippie paradise on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. Butterfly Valley is a small beach and a valley wedged between two huge mountains.
It is only accessible via boat or by a treacherous hike from the town of Faralya above.
Most people only visit for a few hours, but there is a community of people who are staying there in tents and huts.
As you arrive by boat spend some time to admire the views and enjoy a swim in the clear water. You can then go for an adventure into the valley, there is plenty of beautiful plants, insects and even a waterfall.
If you have an adventurous spirit you can make the hike from Faralya to a spectacular viewpoint over Butterfly Valley.
Relax in the seaside village of Kas
Kas is the most picturesque seaside town on the Turquoise Coast. It feels more like a Greek Island than Turkey!
Kas has a beautiful harbour, cobbled streets, flowers and amazing shops to pick up unique Turkish souvenirs. There are also seaside bars, where you can lie on a lounger on their deck and take a dip off the side in the ocean to cool off! One of the best ways to relax and unwind on holiday.
You can also go on scuba diving trips from Kas.
Take a Turquoise Coast Sailing trip
As you can see there are so many amazing things you can do on the Turquoise Coast in Turkey! The best way to do all of the above from Gemiler Island to Kas is to take a 4-day sailing trip along this coastline from Fethiye to Olympos.
The sailing trips in Turkey are spectacular. Expect fresh Turkish food, spectacular sunsets in private bays, beautiful swimming spots, amazing people, sleeping under the stars and all of the activities mentioned above.
You can truly disconnect from civilisation and enjoy the incredible landscapes. We really can’t recommend doing one of these sailing trips enough! Plus they are all-inclusive and of incredible value.
We highly recommend Alaturka Turkey Blue Cruises for a sailing trip in Turkey.
Stay in a treehouse in Olympos
Olympos is another amazing spot to visit on the Turquoise Coast. Like Butterfly Valley, it is a bit of a hippie’s paradise. This area is full of treehouse-style accommodation in the bush.
Olympos is a small rugged village underneath Mont Olympos and only steps away from a sprawling complex of ancient Lycian Ruins. If you keep walking through the ruins you will reach the picturesque beach of Cirali. One of the most popular things to do is to go for a hike along the Lycian Way which is an ancient trade route.
This is a protected area and the only structures that are permitted to be built are made of wood, which is why there are so many cabins and treehouses to stay in! Making this a really unique destination to visit.
Olympos is easy to reach by public bus from Antalya.
See the best of Istanbul
Istanbul is obviously a Turkey bucket list destination! Istanbul is rich in ancient culture, blended with Turkey’s bustling modern culture and it is officially where Europe turns into Asia. We recommend giving yourself at least 3 days to really get to know this vibrant city.
Here are some of the top things to do when you visit Istanbul:
- Visit the Blue Mosque & and Hagia Sofia Mosque (there are GIANT mosques dotted all over the city)
- Drink Turkish coffee and smoke some sheesha in a Turkish cafe
- Watch the sunset from a rooftop cafe (Nobel Hostel has a great rooftop)
- Gorge on Turkish delight samples at the food bazaar
- Visit the Grand Bazaar for rugs, lanterns and other Turkish souvenirs
- Visit the beautiful Topkapi Palace
- Explore the hip suburbs of Galata & Karakoy
Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia
Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is the top Turkey bucket list item on this list. Going for a sunrise hot air balloon ride is one of the most sought after thing to do, not only in Turkey but in the world.
For around $100USD you can take a balloon yourself! Your day will start at 3 am where you will be taken to a big field with hundreds of other people all doing the same thing. Each balloon is massive! Each basket can take 20 people.
This hot air ballooning experience is indescribable and unforgettable and definitely worth the hype. From watching hundreds of giant balloons inflate all around each other on a giant field, to floating off the ground with 20 other souls to dodging the sharp rock formations as you float through the desert valleys. Looking into the horizon and seeing balloons scattered across the golden sky and colourful valleys is a special experience you will never forget.
When you land you get to celebrate with champagne and are even given a certificate! This is a once in a lifetime experience and definitely worth the effort.
Tour through ancient cities in Cappadocia
Another bucket list activity in Turkey is to explore the ancient cities in Cappadocia. Humans were been living in caves and underground in the area of Cappadocia hundreds of years ago and the ruins still remain for us to explore today.
These cave dwellings are known as fairy chimney and people used to inhabit these caves as well as settlements underground. Cappadocia was one of the earliest Christian settlements in Turkey. To avoid persecution thousands of people would live underground to keep safe.
This underground city, called Derinkuru, was discovered in 1963. Tourists can now wander through the narrow tunnels to see the mazy of cave systems where people used to have everything they needed underground.
Hike through the desert landscape in Cappadocia
The landscape of Cappadocia is spectacular from the air but is just as impressive from the ground! Take the time to go for a hike through the valleys of Cappadocia, particularly the Valley of Love to get a look at some impressive rock formations.
There is also an amazing small hike you can take from the main town of Goreme up to a beautiful sunset point. Wander around the grassy mountain top to find your perfect perch to watch the sun paint the valley in an array of colours.
Stay in a cave hotel
You can’t go to Cappadocia without staying in a Cave, which is another must do Turkey bucket list item!
There is no shortage of caves to stay in, with basically every accommodation provider in Goreme having cave rooms.
Goreme has a range of accommodation which goes from incredibly luxury to basic dorm rooms. There is something for everyone! Look for a hotel which has a beautiful pool and rooftop terrace where you can enjoy watching the hot air balloons floating in the sky.
Indulge in epic Turkish food
Lat on our Turkey bucket list but certainly not least is all about Turkish food! Don’t go to Turkey without eating a ridiculous amount of food, otherwise, you will miss out on some of the best food in the world. Turkish food is based on fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and bread and is rich in flavours from nuts, spices and herbs. Turkish food is nourishing yet irresistible and will make you feel amazing!
Turkey knows how to do many things well and food is no exception. There is no shortage of food! You can expect everywhere you stay (even cheap hostels) and many restaurants to have buffet breakfasts, lunches and dinners where you can sample all the Turkish delights!
When you visit the market you can also expect to try an array of incredible sweets including giant nut stuffed dates, baklava, an array of delectable Turkish delights, sweet fruits, fresh juices and so much more! It is truly a foodie paradise.
Have a traditional Turkish bath experience
You simply can’t go to Turkey without having a Turkish Bath or Hammam.
A Turkish bath involves a sauna, a steam room and getting scrubbed down on a marble bench by a man wearing little more than a Turkish towel! It might make you feel uncomfortable at first but trust me your skin will thank you for it. Plus you will never forget it!
You can unwind and relax afterwards with an oil massage.
There are Hammam’s all over the country, so no matter where you go you will be able to have this experience!
There you have our ultimate Turkey bucket list!
Turkey is brimming full of incredible places to go and things to do, this list actually barely even scratches the surface, so start planning your trip to Turkey.
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