If Turkey (oficially Türkiye) is next on your travel list, you won't regret it! The country uniquely occupies the Anatolia region (Asia Minor) and the East Thrace (the European portion), sharing borders with Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. It is full of archeological findings, diverse cultures, authentic villages, and mosques. While the capital, Ankara, features ancient Ottoman culture in its central squares and bright markets, Antalya’s well-known beaches and Mediterranean seaside resorts attract many tourists from all over the world.
Despite not being the capital, Istanbul is Turkey's most well-known city and a major tourist destination with attractions like Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque; the beautiful Bosphorus Strait offers gorgeous views of the European and Asian coastlines. The fascinating history will transport you through the centuries since many ancient civilizations, such as the Romans, Greeks, Ottomans, and the Byzantine Empire, left their mark on this country. In a nutshell, there are myriad things to see and do in Turkey.
Keep reading our Turkey travel guide below to learn why it's worth exploring the country’s amazing sights and what you need to know before packing your suitcase.
Your Guide to Turkey by a Local Travel Expert
Is Turkey Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Let's look at its culture in the first place. The country has everything: ancient traditions, dance, music, art, and food. You probably know the taste of Kebab if you are German, but there's much more to delve into. On one hand, Turkish cuisine stands out by its distinct ingredients and flavors; on the other, legendary hospitality breaks the boundaries. You will be greeted with delicious tea when visiting locals; you will also love the sound of local melodies played by musicians on traditional folk instruments. In addition, you will discover natural wonders, including UNESCO Ephesus, Hierapolis-Pamukkale, Archeological Site of Troy, etc.
Do you want to combine culture and beach relaxation? No problem. Turkey boasts one of the most stunning beaches in the world. Some of the top ones to enjoy sun soaking are Kabak Beach, Mermerli Beach, Patara Bodrum Peninsula (filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, and various stores), and Kaputas Beach. Finally, Turkey has much to offer for those who love trekking soaring mountains. Beginners can try hiking the trail in the Yedigoller National Park, which is especially beautiful in winter. Intermediate mountain enthusiasts may consider the popular Cappadocia during the spring and summer seasons. There are also plenty of options for expert or advanced hikers, such as Lycian Way in Antalya or Taurus Mountains, also known as St. Paul’s Trail.
This is just a glimpse of things and activities to experience in this truly charming country.
Your Dream Vacation
What would be your dream vacation if you decided to take a Turkey tour? Perhaps you would like to learn the country's history and visit places of great historical value. Or maybe your dream would be to relax on the white sandy beach, staying at a five-star hotel that offers full service, including a spa. Or what if all you want is simply to get a grip on the culture by exploring natural wonders and cities?
Regardless of what you want, Turkey has attractions and activities to satisfy any taste. Advantour caters to a wide selection of Turkey travel packages all over the country. Our tours are created by expert tour operators who know the destination very well; they can make your dream vacation come true.
Do You Need a Visa to Visit Turkey?
The nationals of 78 countries do not require a visa to visit Turkey (Türkiye) for tourism purposes. But this is different for US nationals. With the Turkey travel visa, you can stay in the country for up to 90 days within 180 days. Some citizens may need a conditional e-visa. Transit visas can be obtained online. Please note that you don’t need a Turkey transit visa if you are not leaving Turkish airports or using them for a layover.
Make sure your passport is valid for at least 150 days from your arrival day in the country. Turkey also requires a full blank page for the stamps .
We encourage you to always double-check with the relevant website or consulate before booking a ticket.
Is It Safe to Travel to Turkey?
In general, Turkey is considered quite a safe country. Robberies and pickpocketing may occur in tourist areas, so you need to always stay vigilant.
Although there is no reason why you shouldn’t travel to Istanbul or Ankara, it’s important to pay attention to local government announcements. The FCDO warns from visiting places in Southern Turkey and areas bordering Syria, and the US State Turkey Travel Advisory recommends avoiding Hakkari province and its surrounding regions.
It's also highly recommended to dodge demonstrations and crowds and choose hotels providing security measures . In general, simply keep an eye on the media for updates to take necessary precautions.
The Best Way to Get Around Turkey
Once you arrive at Istanbul Airport (IST), you can get around Turkey by plane, public transportation, train, or ferry/boat.
Some popular attractions have international airports, such as Sabiha Goçken Airport (SAW) and Antalya Airport (AYT), so you can directly fly there and then use other transportation means to reach desired Turkey travel places.
The most popular way of reaching Turkey is certainly the plane. Istanbul Airport (IST) is congested with flights from overseas. From there, tourists typically go by bus, car, or taxi. While IST is in the European part, SAW is in the Asian portion of the city. Antalya Airport is another busy airport, which is ideal if you plan to go to the gorgeous Turkish Riviera.
Getting Around by BiTaksi or Uber
Taxis are easy to find in Ankara, Istanbul, and most areas of Turkey tourists visit. You can choose from BiTaksi or Uber yellow and turquoise cabs outside airports, ports, and train stations. In Turkey, you should flag a taxi down. BiTaksi is a very convenient way to travel within cities. All it takes is downloading the app, registering, and looking for rides to your destination.
Public Transportation: Buses And Metro
Almost always on time, the big cities and small towns in Turkey have a frequent network of buses. Istanbul has buses in three colors - yellow, purple, and blue. Most of the time you just need to show up at the stop and wait.
Varan, Pamukkale, and Kamil Koç are companies that run long-distance or charter buses. They have comfortable seating, Wi-Fi, outlets, reclining seats with extra legroom, and even snack service.
The local way to travel between small towns and villages is minivans, also called dolmuş. These usually require longer wait times and feature a sign in the window indicating destination. Traveling by dolmuş is a real adventure because you need to tell a driver where to stop and ensure he understands you; otherwise, he may miss your stop.
Major Turkish cities like Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Bursa offer a metro or light rail service. This is also true for Antalya, Konya, Gaziantep, and many others.
Regional trains in Turkey are limited, and, in most cases, it is faster to go by bus. The sole alternative to this is the high-speed line operating between Istanbul, Eskisehir, and Ankara. We recommend buying tickets in advance, particularly if you seek to take the overnight trip on the Eastern Express, a spectacular scenery journey between Ankara and Kars. Turkish State Railway operates all rail lines, including rail services within the Izmir region and trains to Adana and Konya.
Surprisingly, Turkey lacks boats. Only a handful of companies serve ferries from Istanbul that crisscross the Marmara Sea to Yalova and Mudanya adjacent to Bursa. There are regular ferries to popular tourist destinations, Bodrum and Datça.
Cars and car rentals are the most convenient and secure way to get around in Turkey. Rental agencies are found in all major towns and at the airports in Istanbul and Antalya. Local rates start at about $30 per and the cheapest options are at just $18. The minimum age for rental is 21.
Enterprise, Budget, First, Hertz, and Goldcar are among the best companies to hire a car. They promise a reliable ride for your business or personal vacation.
Cycling And Electric Scooters
Cycling infrastructure in Turkey is not any better than in other countries. Bike lanes are scarce, and you need to be wary of speeding cars driven by locals.
E-scooters are common in most tourist cities, including Antalya and Kemer, and they are available for anyone at least 16 years old. Hiring a scooter is straightforward. You'll need a smartphone with internet access to download an app from providers Beam and BinBin on iOS and Android mobile devices.
Driving habits in Turkey may differ from what foreign nationals are used to. Some drivers may not always strictly follow the rules, so it’s important to exercise caution when cycling or using e-scooters.
Best Time to Travel to Turkey
Travelers flock to Turkey year-round, yet some months are better than others if you want to avoid crowds. There are three main tourist seasons:
- High season: June to August
- Shoulder Season: April to May, September to October
- Low Season: November to March
Visit Cappadocia in Spring or Autumn
The ideal months to experience the stunning beauty of Cappadocia landscapes, especially sunset, are April, May, and September. Hot air ballooning is one of the popular activities, offering ascent at varying heights for different perspectives of the landscape.
Visit Istanbul’s Aya Sofya in Autumn or Winter
The best season to travel through Istanbul is in the fall or winter months. The weather in winter is mild, making it easy for tourists to roam the city streets and explore the beautiful Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace with fewer tourists around.
Take a Bosphorus Cruise in Spring or Fall
Spring and fall months are perfect for taking a Bosphorus Cruise in Istanbul. The same is true for shopping in the Spice Bazaar or Grand Bazaar of this cultural capital of Turkey. The end of April and the beginning of May are perfect for Turkey tours. The moderate weather during that period allows for going to the Pamukkale travertines, Gallipoli, and Troy.
- Important: Avoid visiting mosques on Fridays and during prayer times.
How Many Days Do You Need for Turkey?
Two to three weeks in Turkey should be enough to visit major attractions without a hassle. We recommend spending 15 days in Turkey, although it's possible to spend a whole month exploring this huge country.
Best of Turkey for First-Time Visitors
Best ancient sites: Ephesus, Troy, Behram, Patara, Perge Ancient City
Best biblical sites: Laodicea on the Lycus, Basilica of Saint John, Antioch of Pisidia, House of Virgin Mary, Hagia Sophia, Alexandria Troas Ruins
Best beaches: Antalya, Alanya, Bodrum, Marmaris, Oludeniz, Side, Kusadasi, Fethiye, Kemer
Best for honeymoon: Bodrum Peninsula, Cappadocia, Turquoise Coast Yachting, Antalya, Bozcaada Island, Istanbul, Kabak
Best foodie destinations: Istanbul, Kalkan, Gaziantep, Alacati, Bodrum, Akyaka, Bozborun Peninsula
Best for shopping: Grand Bazaar, Egyptian Bazaar, Hepsiburada, Arasta Bazaar, Misir Karsisi, Ulu Karsi, Kemeralti Bazaar (Izmir), Gaziantep Bakircilar Carsisi
Best for nightlife: Istanbul, Bodrum, Marmaris, Alanya, Kusadasi
7 Days in Turkey
- Flight to Cappadocia – go to North Cappadocia for the following places: Goreme Open Air Museum, Devrent Valley, Monks Valley, Three Beauties, and Avanos Pottery workshop.
- Go to South Cappadocia – the tour to this part usually involves visiting several valleys, Cavusin village, Underground City, and Uchisar Castle Panorama.
- Transfer to Pamukkale via Konya.
- Pamukkale tour - 2 days
- Ephesus tour/flight to Istanbul – 2 days
- Spend three days in Cappadocia, exploring underground cave cities, visiting the Goreme Open-Air Museum, and riding on the Hot air balloons.
- Fly to Izmir and spend two days there, experiencing authentic Turkish culture and seeing incredible history. Then go to Ephesus - 50 minutes by bus.
- Tour Ephesus, the most ancient and famous ruin in Turkey.
- Go to Istanbul and spend 4 days there before your departure flight.
- Arrive in Istanbul.
- Istanbul city tour
- Take a tour of Istanbul's old city.
- Istanbul-Troy-Canakkale tour
- Canakkale-Pergamon-Kusadasi tour.
- Take an Ephesus tour.
- Go to Kusadasi and Bodrum.
- Take a Bodrum city tour.
- Visit Pamukkale.
- From Antalya go to Konya.
- Konya – Cappadocia – Ihlara.
- Spend two days in Cappadocia.
- Transfer to Istanbul Airport (IST) for your return flight.
5 days in Turkey is ample to get a feel of Istanbul and still have time to jaunt to an adjacent town, such as Troy or Çanakkale situated on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Istanbul is a great place to start your Turkey journey and transfer to Cappadocia in Central Turkey afterward, Pamukkale in the west, and Bodrum in the South. It's possible to customize your Turkey travel itinerary depending on your preferences. For example, many tourists want to explore only one area or drive through cities and towns to sketch the whole country quickly.
Holidays and Festivals in Turkey
One of the best things about traveling is an opportunity to learn about other cultures, see how people live, and learn about their customs, what food they eat, and how they celebrate life.
If you are visiting Turkey, you should immerse yourself in several Turkish events that are huge tourist attractions. Below, we list the top festivals to attend.
Istanbul Tulip Festival
Turkish migrators from Central Asia first brought tulips to Anatolia in the 12th century. However, the cultivation of this flower began in the 16th century mainly in Constantinople, now Istanbul, reaching its zenith in the 18th century. The Ottoman sultans and elites fell in love with tulips and even made them a symbol of their power. The Orientation to Europe marked the next 12 years in the empire.
You need to visit Turkey from April to May to enjoy the beautiful festival with flowers across every corner of Istanbul during this tulip blossom time. Moreover, you will enjoy performances, exhibitions, and concerts in the city parks.
The natural landscape of Cappadocia allowed for the beginning of the Cappadox festival. It took place in 2015, and today, the holiday features loads of music events with delicious local food and contemporary art displays that continue for several days annually.
Oil Wrestling or Kirkpinar Festival
Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the Oil Wrestling Festival, occurring each year in the western city of Turkey, Edirne , between late June and early July. The winner, “Champion of Turkey, the strongest and bravest man, will be awarded the Kirkpinar Golden Belt and a $100,000 bonus.
This folk wrestling is one of the oldest continuously running sports events in the world, dating back to the 14th century.
Air Balloon Festival
Another festival linked to Cappadocia is the Air Balloon Festival, taking place in the first week of July. During that time, a few dozen hot air balloons from different countries soar high into the sky, creating stunning and colorful scenery. In addition, visitors can enjoy traditional or exotic dances and a glow show throughout the night.
Rock’n Coke Festival
If you love rock music, you should attend the Rock’n Coke festival on September 2 and 3. It's an exciting feast that hosts many musicians and brands every year.
We have just listed the most popular festivals for tourists, but there are many other local celebrations and main holidays in almost every major city and its surrounding regions.
What You Need to Know About Religious Holidays
Some activities are less vibrant during religious holidays in Turkey. For example, on Ramadan, the most important festival in the country, restaurants, although mostly open, are less busy at lunchtime. Traveling during the Seker & Kurban (Sugar Holiday) festival could be challenging. Besides, various shops and public places like museums and banks will be closed during the holiday.
What to Eat in Turkey
Foreign visitors with hungry stomachs have many dishes to choose from. Gaziantep is often touted as the culinary capital of the country and offers everything from the famous Kebab to less-known delicacies like Kisir and Lamb Guvec; the town of Siirt is where Perdi Pilav originated, while pretty much every Turkish city will claim to offer the best dish. Yet what should you stick your fork into when you visit the best of Turkey cities?
Doner Kebab is a meat dish that consists of bread stuffed with meat shavings, sliced tomatoes, and onions, including a mayo-yogurt sauce and sauce blanche. This is an increasingly common street food in Istanbul.
Alanya Bohçasi is a featured dish in the Alanya region. Therefore, when you visit Antalya, taste this most loved meal made with lamb's inner fillings, cheese, and potatoes wrapped in a dough that looks like a bundle.
Cappadocia is considered a home to Manti, resembling a Turkish ravioli. The dish features small dumplings filled with meat, ground lamb, or beef.
Iskender Kebab is popular in Bursa, where it originated. The main ingredients are thinly sliced grilled lamb, tomato sauce, pita bread, melted sheep butter, and yogurt.
Borek is very popular at parties because they are convenient for dipping in the sauce. The most common fillings of this Turkish pastry are meat, cheese, and spinach.
Kusadasi highlights include lots of seafood. Hence, when you visit the town, don’t miss out on the local restaurants to taste their grilled fish.
Turkish Tea and Coffee Culture
Today, tea and coffee are an indispensable part of Turkish culture. Whether riding across the Bosphorus or shopping in the Grand Bazaar and the shopping malls, you will see tea servers shouting “cay” (chai).
Coffee is another very famous beverage in Turkey. According to 2021 statistical records, one out of 10 people said that they drank more than five cups of coffee daily.
Dos and Don’ts in Turkey
If your travel plans hold Turkey on the horizon, buying tickets and making reservations aside, learning about local culture and etiquette comes first! Giving credit to these rules requires humbleness, but since they come from Turkey's cultural norms, it's of great importance to your host country. Here are the tips all tourists in Turkey are supposed to follow.
- Wear modest clothes in conservative areas.
- Cover your head and remove shoes in mosques.
- Try local delicacies like Baklava and Kofta.
- Bargain at local markets like Fethiye Market.
- Use buses or domestic airlines for travel.
- Accept food and drink if invited by locals.
- Be cautious about your personal information.
- Avoid talking negatively about sensitive topics.
- Avoid haggling in stores with fixed prices.
- Be wary of overly friendly taxi drivers.
- Don't display affection in public gatherings.
- Don't chew gum while talking to someone.
- Don't blow your nose or pick your teeth during meals.
- Don't take pictures without asking permission.
- Don't smoke in public places.
- Don't point your finger at someone.
- Don't make offensive gestures with your thumb.
- Don't be loud at restaurants.
- Don't expect punctuality in every situation.
- Don't be visibly drunk in public.
Speak the Language: Turkish Phrases for Travelers
|What is your name?
|My name is…
|How are you?
|I’m fine, thank you.
|İyiyim, teşekkür ederim.
|ee-YEE-yihm, tesh-ek-KEWR eh-dehr-eem
|Sağ or Mersi
|You are welcome
|Bir şey değil
|Beer SHEHY deh-YEEL
Did You Know That…You are almost to start your trip to Turkey, so here are some of the most interesting facts about Turkey.
- Turkey is now Türkiye
The country is now called by its Turkish name Türkiye and not the Republic of Turkey.
- Part of Turkey is in Europe
Turkey is a transcontinental country. One side of Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait is in Europe (3%) and the other, in Asia (97%).
- Turkey allowed women to vote and participate in elections before many countries.
The country granted women the right to vote and be elected in 1934 much earlier than other countries. For example, France recognized women’s rights in 1945. Only eleven years after Turkey!
- Turks believe in Evil Eye
Turks predominantly are superstitious towards an Evil Eye. They even hang up or wear the symbol that can ward off evil energies. Hence, don’t be surprised to see evil eyes hung up almost everywhere.
- Bring a gift
Don't forget to bring a present with you when invited to a Turkish home. It can be a souvenir from your country. Turkish desserts like Baklava and Lokum are also widespread gifts in Turkey.
- Istanbul - Center of Several Empires
Today’s Istanbul, once known as Constantinople, was the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, spanning over 1500 years.
- Noah’s Ark might be in Turkey
Although not universally accepted, archeologists believe they may have discovered the final location of Noah's Ark on Turkey's Mount Ararat.
- Sabina Gokçen – The famous Turk female
Sabina Gokçen was the first woman pilot in the world. The Istanbul Ataturk Airport (currently operating only private flights) bears her name.
- The land of beautiful horses
“The land of beautiful horses” – katpatukya - that is how Cappadocia is translated from the Old Persian language. Once large herds of horses used to graze in this ancient region.