Turkey Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know

turkey travel guide

Nestled at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey is a captivating destination that seamlessly blends rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. From the bustling bazaars of Istanbul to the ancient ruins of Ephesus, Turkey offers a diverse and enchanting experience for every traveler. In this comprehensive travel guide, we'll explore the best time to visit, top cities and regions, hidden gems, bucket list experiences, and essential travel tips to ensure your journey through Turkey is nothing short of extraordinary.

In this guide:

Aerial view of IstanbulFreepik

Best Time to Visit Turkey

Choosing the right time to visit Turkey can significantly impact your experience, as the climate varies across the country. The ideal time for most travelers is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when temperatures are mild, and crowds are less overwhelming. Summer (June to August) can be hot, especially in the southern regions, while winter (November to February) is colder, particularly in central and eastern Turkey.

Top Attractions in Turkey

Turkey is a vast country with so many unique places to explore. Here are our top picks to get you started.

Süleymaniye Mosque, IstanbulUnsplash


No Turkey travel guide is complete without mentioning Istanbul, the country's cultural and economic heart. Straddling two continents, this city boasts iconic landmarks such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. Explore the vibrant Grand Bazaar and spice markets, savor delicious Turkish cuisine, and cruise the Bosphorus for panoramic views.

The best things to do in Istanbul:

  • Visit the Hagia Sophia: The Hagia Sophia is an architectural marvel that has stood for over 1,500 years. Originally built as a Christian cathedral, it later became a mosque and is now a museum. Explore its stunning interior, adorned with intricate mosaics, calligraphy, and impressive domes. Don't miss the chance to witness the fusion of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture in this iconic landmark.
  • Explore the Grand Bazaar: Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. With over 4,000 shops selling everything from spices and textiles to jewelry and ceramics, the Grand Bazaar offers a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and smells. Get lost in its labyrinthine streets, haggle with friendly shopkeepers, and experience the vibrant tapestry of Turkish commerce and culture.
  • Wander through the Blue Mosque: Officially known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque is an architectural masterpiece adorned with blue tiles that give it its nickname. Marvel at its intricate domes, minarets, and six towering minarets, then step inside to admire the dazzling interior decorated with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles. Take a moment to soak in the spiritual atmosphere of this sacred place of worship.
  • Cruise the Bosphorus: Experience Istanbul from a different perspective by taking a leisurely cruise along the Bosphorus Strait, which divides the city between Europe and Asia. Admire iconic landmarks such as the Maiden's Tower, Dolmabahçe Palace, and Rumeli Fortress while enjoying panoramic views of the city skyline. Sunset cruises are particularly magical, offering stunning vistas as the sun dips below the horizon.
  • Explore the Topkapi Palace: Delve into the opulent history of the Ottoman Empire at Topkapi Palace, once the lavish residence of sultans and their courts. Wander through its sprawling grounds, lush gardens, and ornate chambers adorned with priceless treasures, including the famous Topkapi Dagger and the Spoonmaker's Diamond. Don't miss the Harem, where you can glimpse the private lives of the sultan's family and concubines.

Hot air balloons over CappadociaUnsplash


Known for its surreal landscapes and fairy-tale-like rock formations, Cappadocia is a must-visit region. Take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise to witness the mesmerizing beauty of the "fairy chimneys," visit underground cities, and stay in a cave hotel for a unique experience.

The best things to do in Cappadocia:

  • Take a hot air balloon ride: Cappadocia is renowned for its surreal landscapes, and there's no better way to appreciate them than from a hot air balloon. Take a sunrise ride to witness the magical spectacle of fairy chimneys, rock formations, and valleys bathed in the soft morning light. It's an unforgettable experience that provides a bird's-eye view of this extraordinary region.
  • Explore Goreme Open-Air Museum: Step into the rich history of Cappadocia by exploring the Goreme Open-Air Museum. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to a vast collection of rock-cut churches and chapels adorned with ancient frescoes. Marvel at the craftsmanship and religious significance of these well-preserved structures, gaining insight into Cappadocia's cultural and religious heritage.
  • Explore underground cities (Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı): Delve into the fascinating underground cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı, carved into the soft volcanic rock. These ancient subterranean complexes served as shelters during times of invasions, offering a labyrinthine network of rooms, tunnels, and storage areas. Explore the depths of these unique cities to experience the ingenuity of Cappadocia's ancient inhabitants.
  • Hike the Rose Valley: Discover the natural beauty of Cappadocia by hiking through the Rose Valley. This scenic trek takes you past stunning rock formations, cave dwellings, and orchards. The valley gets its name from the pinkish hue that the rocks take on during sunset, creating a picturesque setting for an immersive outdoor experience.
  • Stay in a cave hotel: Enhance your Cappadocian experience by staying in a cave hotel. These unique accommodations blend modern comfort with the region's ancient cave dwellings, offering a truly atmospheric stay. Enjoy the cozy ambiance, unique architecture, and often breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes from your cave room.

Marina in Antalya, TurkeyFreepik


For a perfect blend of history and beach relaxation, head to Antalya on the Turkish Riviera. Explore the Old Town, visit the ancient city of Perge, and relax on the stunning Konyaaltı Beach or Lara Beach.

The best things to do in Antalya:

  • Explore the Old Town: Antalya's historic Old Town, known as Kaleiçi, is a charming labyrinth of narrow streets, Ottoman-era houses, and historic sites. Wander through the cobblestone streets, visit the Yivli Minare Mosque, explore Hadrian's Gate, and discover hidden gems like the Kesik Minare (Broken Minaret). Kaleiçi is a delightful blend of history and atmosphere, with boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants adding to its allure.
  • Visit the Antalya Museum: Immerse yourself in the rich history of the region by visiting the Antalya Museum. Home to an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient Pamphylia, including statues, sarcophagi, and pottery, the museum provides a comprehensive overview of the area's archaeological treasures. Don't miss the exhibits on the ancient cities of Perge and Termessos.
  • Relax on Konyaaltı Beach: Enjoy some sun and sea at Konyaaltı Beach, a picturesque pebble beach stretching along the Mediterranean coastline. With the Taurus Mountains as a backdrop, the beach offers clear blue waters and a vibrant atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade, relax on the beach, or indulge in water sports for a refreshing coastal experience.
  • Visit the Ancient City of Perge: Just a short drive from Antalya, the ancient city of Perge boasts well-preserved ruins that provide a glimpse into its Roman and Hellenistic past. Explore the grand theater, the agora, and the impressive colonnaded street. The archaeological site is surrounded by lush greenery, adding to the atmospheric setting.
  • Explore Düden Waterfalls: Witness the breathtaking Düden Waterfalls, a natural wonder located just outside the city center. The Upper Düden Waterfall is set in a tranquil park and flows into the sea, offering a serene escape. For a more dramatic experience, visit the Lower Düden Waterfall, where the water cascades directly into the Mediterranean. Boat tours departing from Antalya provide a unique perspective of these stunning waterfalls.

Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey, at sunsetFreepik


Step back in time by visiting the ancient city of Ephesus on the Aegean coast. Marvel at the well-preserved ruins, including the Library of Celsus and the Temple of Artemis. Ephesus offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of the ancient Romans.

The best things to do in Ephesus:

  • Explore the Ancient City of Ephesus: Ephesus is one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world, and a visit to its archaeological site is a must. Wander through the well-preserved ruins that include the Library of Celsus, the Great Theater, the Temple of Artemis, and the Terrace Houses. The meticulously restored structures provide a vivid glimpse into the daily life and grandeur of the ancient Romans.
  • Witness the Library of Celsus: One of the most iconic structures in Ephesus, the Library of Celsus, is a marvel of ancient architecture. Admire the intricate facade adorned with statues, reliefs, and Corinthian columns. Once a monumental library, this structure served as a tomb for Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, the city's governor.
  • Explore the Terrace Houses: Uncover the luxurious lifestyle of Ephesus' elite by visiting the Terrace Houses, also known as the "houses of the rich." These well-preserved residences feature intricate mosaics, frescoes, and advanced heating systems, providing insight into the opulence of Roman urban living. The Terrace Houses are a fascinating addition to the overall Ephesus experience.
  • Visit the Ephesus Archaeological Museum: After exploring the ancient city, extend your historical journey at the Ephesus Archaeological Museum. The museum houses artifacts excavated from Ephesus and its surrounding areas, including statues, pottery, and everyday objects. The exhibits offer a deeper understanding of the region's rich history and the daily lives of its inhabitants.

Pamukkale TerracesUnsplash


Pamukkale, meaning "Cotton Castle" in Turkish, is famous for its terraces of white mineral-rich thermal waters. Visit the Hierapolis Archaeological Site, bathe in the thermal pools, and enjoy the breathtaking views of this unique natural wonder.

The best things to do in Pamukkale:

  • Explore the Pamukkale Terraces: The terraces of Pamukkale are the main attraction, and a visit is like stepping into a surreal landscape. The terraces, formed by calcium carbonate deposits from the thermal springs, resemble a cascade of cotton or frozen waterfalls. Visitors can walk on the terraces in bare feet, enjoying the warm, mineral-rich waters while taking in panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
  • Explore the Hierapolis Archaeological Site: Adjacent to Pamukkale, the ancient city of Hierapolis offers a fascinating glimpse into Roman and Byzantine history. Explore well-preserved ruins, including the Roman theater, the Temple of Apollo, the Nymphaeum, and the monumental Arch of Domitian. The archaeological site also features a necropolis with well-preserved tombs and the fascinating Plutonium, a cave considered sacred in ancient times.
  • Discover Cleopatra's Pool: Located within the Hierapolis Archaeological Site, Cleopatra's Pool is a thermal spring pool where visitors can swim amidst ancient ruins. The warm waters are said to have been a favorite of Cleopatra, adding a touch of historical charm to the relaxing experience. The submerged Roman columns and fallen stones create a unique and picturesque swimming setting.
  • Visit the Hierapolis Archaeology Museum: Enhance your understanding of the region's history by visiting the Hierapolis Archaeology Museum. The museum houses artifacts from Hierapolis, including statues, mosaics, and everyday objects, providing context to the ancient city's daily life and cultural significance.
  • Enjoy the Sunset Over Pamukkale: Witnessing the sunset over Pamukkale is a breathtaking experience. As the sun dips below the horizon, the terraces take on warm hues, creating a magical and serene atmosphere. Find a vantage point, such as the Hierapolis Theater, and savor the beauty of nature's masterpiece as the day comes to a close.

Aerial view of Bodrum, TurkeyFreepik


Bodrum, situated on the Aegean coast of Turkey, is a popular destination known for its vibrant nightlife, historical sites, and beautiful beaches. Whether you're exploring ancient ruins, enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of the marina, or simply relaxing on the beaches, Bodrum has something to offer every traveler.

The best things to do in Bodrum:

  • Visit Bodrum Castle: Explore the imposing Bodrum Castle, also known as St. Peter's Castle, which dominates the town's harbor. Built by the Knights of St. John in the 15th century, the castle now houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Marvel at artifacts recovered from ancient shipwrecks, explore the dungeons, and enjoy panoramic views of Bodrum and the Aegean Sea from the castle's towers.
  • Explore Bodrum Amphitheatre: Discover the ancient history of Bodrum by visiting the Bodrum Amphitheatre, situated on the hillside overlooking the town. Dating back to the 4th century BC, this well-preserved Roman amphitheater once hosted gladiator contests and theatrical performances. Attend a cultural event or simply enjoy the breathtaking views of Bodrum and the coastline from this historical site.
  • Wander the Bodrum Marina: Stroll along the picturesque Bodrum Marina, lined with luxury yachts, charming cafes, and restaurants. The marina is a hub of activity both day and night, offering a scenic setting for a leisurely walk or a meal with a view. Visit during the evening to experience the vibrant nightlife and enjoy the enchanting lights reflecting on the water.
  • Discover the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus: Pay homage to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by visiting the site of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Although the mausoleum itself no longer stands, the site features remnants and reconstructions of its once-grand structure. Learn about the history of the mausoleum, dedicated to the Carian satrap Mausolus, at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
  • Relax on Bodrum's beaches: Indulge in the sun and sea by spending time on Bodrum's beautiful beaches. Whether you choose the popular Bodrum Beach, the more tranquil Bitez Beach, or the vibrant Gumbet Beach, you'll find a range of water activities, sunbeds, and seaside cafes. Take a dip in the crystal-clear waters or simply unwind on the sandy shores for a relaxing beach experience.

Ruins overlooking the ocean in Assos, TurkeyUnsplash

Hidden Gems in Turkey

Ready to venture off the beaten path? Here are our top underrated spots you'll love.


Tucked away in the Black Sea region, Safranbolu is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its well-preserved Ottoman architecture. Wander through cobblestone streets, visit traditional houses, and indulge in the town's renowned saffron-flavored delights.

Mount Nemrut

Venture off the beaten path to Mount Nemrut, where colossal stone statues and ancient ruins await. The sunrise or sunset views from the summit are simply awe-inspiring, making it a hidden gem for history and nature enthusiasts.


Situated on the Aegean coast, Assos is a charming coastal town with ancient ruins, a picturesque harbor, and a laid-back atmosphere. Explore the Temple of Athena, enjoy fresh seafood, and soak in the tranquility of this hidden treasure.

Butterfly Valley

This secluded paradise near Oludeniz is home to numerous butterfly species. It's accessible only by water taxi, keeping it isolated from large crowds — a beautiful spot for snorkeling and hiking.

Gobekli Tepe

Unearth the mysteries of Gobekli Tepe, one of the world's oldest known temples. Located in southeastern Turkey, this archaeological site predates Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, providing a captivating glimpse into ancient civilizations.


Visit the abandoned medieval city of Ani near the Armenian border. Once a thriving cultural and trade center, Ani now stands as a ghost town with impressive ruins, including churches, mosques, and city walls.

View of Istanbul across the BosphorusUnsplash

Bucket List Experiences

Next, we've curated a list of ten unforgettable experiences you shouldn't miss:

  • Take a culinary journey through Turkey. Try kebabs, mezes, baklava, and the famous Turkish delight.
  • Soar above the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia in a hot air balloon.
  • Discover the ancient city of Troy, immortalized in Homer's "Iliad."
  • Cruise between two continents on a Bosphorus boat tour in Istanbul.
  • Indulge in the Turkish tradition of a hamam (Turkish bath).
  • Hike the Lycian Way, a long-distance trail along the stunning Turquoise Coast.
  • Descend into the underground cities of Cappadocia, such as Derinkuyu or Kaymaklı.
  • Take a walk amidst the white terraces of Pamukkale.
  • Attend a whirling dervishes ceremony — an enchanting spiritual spectacle.
  • Shop for ceramics, carpets, and spices at the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul.

Goreme, Cappadocia, at sunsetFreepik

Travel Tips for Turkey

Here are some useful tips to keep in mind for your Turkish adventure.

  • Entry and exit requirements: Before planning your trip, check the latest entry requirements for Turkey. Most visitors need a visa, which can be obtained online or upon arrival. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date.
  • Language: While Turkish is the native language, English is commonly spoken in tourist areas. It's always fun and respectful to learn a few local phrases, like "Merhaba" (Hello) and "Teşekkür ederim" (Thank you)!
  • Currency: The official currency is the Turkish Lira (TRY). Credit cards are widely accepted in urban areas, but it's advisable to carry cash, especially in more rural or remote locations.
  • Getting around: Turkey has an extensive and affordable transportation network. Domestic flights, buses, and trains connect major cities, while dolmus (shared minibusses) and taxis are common for local travel. Renting a car is also a convenient option for exploring remote areas.
  • Plugs and adapters: Turkey uses European-style plugs (Type F), which are two-pin plugs. Be sure to pack an adapter if needed.

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Turkey eSIM: Stay Connected With Airalo

Stay connected during your trip to Turkey with an eSIM from Airalo. An eSIM is a tiny SIM that's embedded in your device and works 100% digitally. You can download an eSIM plan for your destination and instantly connect to a mobile network. There's no need to find a SIM card vendor, manage multiple SIMs, or worry about roaming fees. 

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You're all set to plan a trip to Turkey! Head to the Airalo store to browse eSIMs for Turkey and 200+ countries and regions worldwide.

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