Best Places to Visit in Turkey (Except for Istanbul)

Magical Cappadocia, a fantastic destination for a Turkey vacation

The country of Turkey is undoubtedly one of the most captivating travel destinations you can choose. It’s the stronghold of an ancient civilization, home to the world’s oldest temple, and one of the most beautiful places on the planet. But what do you know about this one-of-a-kind country? The things associated with Turkey the most are exquisite carpets, loud bazaars, renowned hammams, tasty delicacies such as Turkish delights and baklava, and, of course, the majestic city of Istanbul. But it’s hardly the only travel option on the table. Turkey boasts dozens of incredible cities, and today we will tell you about some of the best places to visit in Turkey, not counting in-the-public-eye Istanbul.

Beyond Istanbul: Best Cities To Visit in Turkey

Charming Cappadocia

Colorful Hot-air Balloons in the Cappadocia valley
Cappadocia, Turkey

Delightfully alien, Cappadocia is one of the most remarkable places on the planet. It’s even hard to imagine that this incredible place is actually on Earth and not some mythical world belonging to a fantasy book. What makes it so special are the amazing region-specific rock formations called Fairy Chimneys. They look like giant rock mushrooms and are scattered all around the city. Thanks to them, there is a magical atmosphere and a truly unique backdrop for the holiday photos. And, as you can imagine, one of the best ways to enjoy the surreal picture is a bird’s eye view from a hot-air balloon.

But natural wonders are not the only reason to add Cappadocia to your travel bucket list. Once, the city was one of the most important in the Ottoman Empire! The traces of the former life are still visible for those who know where to look. One of the most famous Cappadocia sights is its villages, carved out from solid rock formations. But if this is not enough to catch your attention, the astonishing Cappadocia’s underground cities will surely impress even a seasoned traveler. 

Awe-Inspiring Antalya

One of the best places to visit in Turkey is Antalya.
Antalya, Turkey

A gateway to the Turkish Riviera, sunny Antalya, is a dream-come-true for beach vacation enthusiasts. The picturesque sandy beaches and cerulean waters of the Mediterranean Sea can outshine even the famous Italian Riviera! But there is much more to Antalya than a simple sun-and-sea holiday destination. 

If you want to learn more about the city’s historical heritage, the 2nd-century Roman Fortress, overlooking the scenic Old Harbor, is a great place to start your city tour. Aspendos, an ancient Roman theatre, is another great option to consider for history lovers. It was founded about 1000 BC and somehow survived till this day in remarkable condition. But if you are traveling with children who don’t find the traces of ancient civilizations fascinating, make sure to add Antalya Aquarium to your travel agenda. A tour will delight children and grown-ups of any age, as it includes a walk through the world’s largest underwater tunnel! 

As you can see, the sightseeing opportunities are really great, and everyone can find something to fall in love with.

Beautiful Bodrum

Bodrum city with a stunning landscape view. Best Places to Visit in Turkey.
Bodrum, Turkey

From the first glance, you can mistake the Turkish city of Bodrum for one of the most famous Greek cities, scenic Santorini. It boasts a similar awe-inspiring coastline, and the sun shines just as bright. Here charming white houses are scattered all around the city, making a “destination illusion” in your mind. But the Greek influence doesn’t end on architectural choices alone. The town is set within a 30-minute ferry ride from Kos, a scenic Greek Island, and such proximity had left a mark. Bodrum took the best from what Turkey and Greece had to offer, claimed dual citizenship (metaphorically speaking). Now it feels like something bordering both cultures but siding with neither. And this atmosphere is fabulous!

If you overdose on vitamin D or just feel like taking a break from exploring the spectacular beaches, the city has a few interesting sightseeing options. The Castle of St. Peter, for example, is among the top things to see in the city. It dates back to the beginning of the 15th century and is something more than a relic from the past. Today, the building houses Bodrum’s Museum of Underwater Archaeology, and its most treasured artifact is the wreck of a 14th-century ship. Another must-visit place is the one-and-only Mausoleum of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Well, at least what remained from the once-grand structure, but even the ruins are a chance to touch the legend.   

Amazing Ankara

A stunning landscape in Ankara
Ankara, Turkey

Despite being the country’s capital, Ankara is often forsaken in favor of Istanbul. And this choice can be justified – the city is a gem, there is no arguing that. But most travelers don’t realize that Ankara has more to offer than it might seem at first glance. After all, the city isn’t promoted to capital if it has nothing to boast. 

Ankara is a place where the future meets the past. It feels like a modern megapolis, and some districts surely look like one. But you can rest assured that the city is not short of ancient monuments and UNESCO world heritage sites, not to mention sacred religious sights. If you need some ideas on where to go in Ankara, we advise starting with the Ankara Citadel, Atakule Tower, and Museum of Anatolian Civilization. Or simply take a stroll across the city’s old district, enjoying the atmosphere and getting to know the glorious capital of Turkey. And don’t be afraid to get a bit lost, as this is the best way to discover the city’s secret gems. 

Knockout Konya

Mosque in Konya - one of the best destinations to visit in Turkey except Istanbul
Konya, Turkey

Konya is all about historical sights, majestic mosques, busy bazaars, and great museums. Even if you can’t stay for long, the city is a great day trip destination to consider. You won’t be able to see everything it has to offer, but even one day is enough to cover Konya’s main attractions.

The city’s calling card is undoubtedly the Mevlana Museum, a resting place to Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, the founder of the sect of Sufism. His tomb is an important pilgrimage site and one of the most significant sights in Turkey, attracting hundreds of visitors from every corner of the world.  

Another Konya must-see is a whirling dervish ceremony known as sema. Don’t mistake it for simple although beautiful dancing. The practice is sacred and very old. Sema is the main holy ritual of Sufis of the Mevlevi Order, a form of prayer and meditation, bringing the dervishes closer to God. To watch it is a privilege, not a form of entertainment (bringing popcorn is inappropriate). 

Of course, these are just a few options brought into the spotlight. Turkey is an amazingly diverse country and has plenty more to offer. Bursa, Sanliurfa, Izmir, and so many other stunning destinations are ready to welcome you with open arms. Each city is wonderfully unique, full of life, and boasts plenty of fascinating things to explore if you are hungry for the world and not afraid to step off the beaten path. And we will be happy to show you Turkey in all its glory, so if you need help in organizing your next vacation or would simply like to know more, don’t hesitate to reach out.

by Ksenia Zaiceva