Turkey is often referred to as a ‘bridge between east and west’, but there’s so much more to this country than clashing cultures. Big, beautiful, and extraordinarily diverse, Turkey is a land of stunning beauty. From mystifying rock formations to sparkling azure waters, and crumbling Roman ruins to bohemian beach towns, you could spend years travelling here and still come away wanting more.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Turkey, you might be wondering which region you should visit. Much of that will come down to the type of holiday you’re after – for example, do you fancy a relaxed beach break or an action-packed adventure? If you’re not sure and just want to see the best this country has to offer, we’re here to inspire you.

Here are 10 of the most beautiful places to visit in Turkey. And, if you’re ready to book a holiday, why not browse deals from our travel partners on our website?

1. Cappadocia

cappadocia

If you’re drawn to fairy tale landscapes – places that look like they’ve fallen straight out of a fantasy novel – there’s a good chance Cappadocia will be right up your street. Located in the middle of Anatolia, this 1,000m-high plateau is a genuine geological wonderland. Honey-coloured rocks have eroded into mysterious rocky outcrops resembling minarets, mushrooms, and ‘Fairy Chimneys’.

The cave houses here were first settled by Christians in the sixth century, and today you can still sleep here – albeit in one of the sleek hotels. Cappadocia is gorgeous at any time, but at sunset or sunrise, the valleys are bathed in rosy light, and take on an ethereal glow. To really be blown away, take a hot air balloon ride over this mystical landscape and marvel at the undulating rocks and verdant green valleys.

2. Istanbul

Istanbul

As far as capital cities go, Istanbul doesn’t disappoint. This intoxicating city is a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours, and first-time visitors should try to set aside plenty of time to explore the many different neighbourhoods. Istanbul’s artsy neighbourhood Balat has rainbow-coloured wooden houses and vibrant graffiti, Kadıköy has dozens of cool bars, while Beyoğlu is packed with cool and contemporary art.

The city is packed with architectural marvels, but the jewel in the crown is the grand Byzantine basilica Aya Sofya – or Hagia Sophia. The soaring golden dome will almost take your breath away, and the sunlight falling through the stained-glass windows looks like a work of art. Ortaköy Mosque, with its white marble exterior and pink mosaic interior, is also worth a visit, as is the stunning Ottoman-era Blue Mosque.

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3. Butterfly Valley, Fethiye

Butterfly Valley, Fethiye

If you’re a fan of hiking – or butterflies – then you might want to think about adding Butterfly Valley to your itinerary. Located along the Lycian Way long-distance walking trail, this spectacular area has long enticed travellers, particularly those who want to escape the crowds. Surrounded by sheer cliffs, with a beach that’s only accessible by boat, there’s a unique sense of peace to be found in this remote region.

Home to around 100 species of butterflies and all kinds of unique flora, the valley is a preservation area, which is one of the reasons it’s managed to remain so quiet – unlike its bustling neighbours along the coast. The tiny pebble beach here gives way to shimmering turquoise waters, and the narrow blue bay is a lovely place to swim. If you want to spend more time here, there’s an idyllic campsite with a beach bar.

4. Blue Lagoon, Olüdeniz

Blue Lagoon, Olüdeniz

Dreaming of swimming in cerulean waters and kicking back on soft, snow white sand? The whole of Turkey’s Turquoise Coast (also known as the Turkish Riviera) is breathtaking, but it’s the Blue Lagoon at Olüdeniz that’s arguably most spellbinding. As the name suggests, the crystalline water here is incredibly blue, and the powdery sands look more Caribbean than Mediterranean.

If you want to swim, the waters here are among the safest and most protected in the country. You can float on your back in the azure shallows, and as you gaze up at the sky above you, there’s a good chance you’ll see paragliders swooping through the air. If you fancy being adventurous, why not hit the skies yourself? The forest-swathed promontories of the Blue Lagoon are also excellent for hiking.

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  • 5. Pamukkale

    Pamukkale

    Cappadocia isn’t the only part of Turkey that looks straight out of a fairy tale. Pamukkale – which means ‘cotton castle’ – is just as otherworldly. The sparkling white limestone terraces that cascade down the hillside look like they belong on another planet, and the pale, mineral-rich water looks as though it’s frozen in time, with petrified waterfalls and stalactites that look like icing dripping from a wedding cake.

    This remarkable place has been popular since Roman times – and you can even bathe in Cleopatra’s hot bath, which was apparently a gift from Mark Antony. But, it isn’t just these ethereal terraces that make Pamukkale so beautiful. At the top of the site you’ll find the Greco-Roman spa town of Hierapolis, which was a thriving city until 1334, when it was abandoned after a series of earthquakes.

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    6. Marmaris

    Marmaris

    If you prefer basing yourself in more bustling towns, Marmaris might be the perfect destination for you. This popular resort town is considered to be one of the pearls of the Turkish Riviera, and if you want to enjoy lazy days lounging on the beach, and lively evenings hopping between restaurants and bars, you won’t be disappointed. The surrounding mountains and pine forests are excellent for hiking, too.

    But there’s culture and history to be found here, too. The Old Town is packed with traditional buildings, and the walls and ramparts of Marmaris Castle are perfect for strolling along. It’s also one of the best places in Turkey to take a boat trip. Why not hire a yacht for the day (or book yourself onto a boat trip) and sail down the length of the Loryma peninsula, where the views will take your breath away?

    7. Kars

    Kars

    If you want to get away from it all, and venture far off the beaten track, you might want to visit Kars province. As the last stop on the Eastern Express, your journey will take you through the desolate wilderness of the Turkish interior. While the city of Kars itself isn’t particularly beautiful (its heavy stone architecture looks more Russian than Turkish!), it’s what’s located nearby that’s so special.

    The ancient Armenian city of Ani was built between the 10th and 11th centuries, and it’s an absolute joy to explore. There are more than 50 churches, 30 caves, and 20 chapels to visit, and their location, on a wild, windswept plain is magical. If you enjoy hiking, there are fabulous trails that weave through this bleakly beautiful landscape, and this remote region will give you a brand new perspective on Turkey.

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    8. Ephesus

    Ephesus

    Fans of history and archeology can’t fail to be awed by Ephesus. While Turkey isn’t short of impressive ancient sites, the UNESCO-protected Ephesus is arguably the most impressive of all. Once the most important city in the Mediterranean, today Ephesus is the world’s best surviving example of a Greco-Roman classical city, perhaps eclipsed only by Pompeii. Even the throngs of crowds here can’t put a dampener on things.

    The ruins are more than sun-bleached rocks; they’re compelling incarnations of what life was like up to 9,000 years ago. Wandering through these colonnaded streets, past vast amphitheatres, and beneath soaring archways that frame the blazing blue sky can be an otherworldly experience. With its near-perfect carved facade, the Celcus library is particularly awe-inspiring.

    9. Kaş

    Kaş

    Turkey’s beach resorts get pretty packed, and during peak season the crowds can be overwhelming. If you prefer relaxing in quieter, more traditional towns, you might want to head to the old fishing village of Kaş. Located 120 miles southwest of the big resort city Antalya, it’s remote enough to feel like a hidden gem, and is popular with locals who enjoy the quaint old hotels and relaxed, bohemian vibe.

    It’s also astonishingly photogenic. Narrow streets are lined with white-washed houses overhung with cascading bougainvillaea, the turquoise sea gleams under the cobalt blue sky, and the restaurants are decorated with jewel-coloured cushions and textiles. Head to the nearby island of Kekova to explore an underwater city, stretch your legs in the surrounding mountains, or simply relax in the main town.