Things to do in Turkey

Turkey is a varied destination with plenty to see and do for adventurous travellers. The largest city of Istanbul features some unique and world-class sights such as the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, not to mention the shopping paradise of the Grand Bazaar, the largest and oldest covered market in the world.

Further afield you can find the ancient attractions of Ephesus, Troy, and Augustus' Temple. Turkey is a year-round destination although it's at its hottest during the peak summer months of July and August. Getting around the country is a simple matter of hopping on a short-haul flight or scheduled bus service, while in Istanbul you can negotiate the services of a taxi driver.

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) photo

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)

Commonly known as the Blue Mosque, the Sultan Ahmet Camii is one of the most striking structures on the Istanbul skyline. Constructed as an Islamic rival to the Hagia Sophia in 160…

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)

Commonly known as the Blue Mosque, the Sultan Ahmet Camii is one of the most striking structures on the Istanbul skyline. Constructed as an Islamic rival to the Hagia Sophia in 1609, its tiers of magnificent domes and six graceful minarets are immediately distinguishable. It is one of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture and is still used by hundreds of worshippers. The interior is splendidly decorated with thousands of blue and white Iznik tiles embellished with traditional Ottoman flower patterns, and it is this special feature that gives the mosque its name. Its design of successively descending smaller domes, soaring columns, and 260 stained glass windows leaves a lasting impression of graceful accord and open space. At the back of the mosque is a Carpet and Kilim Museum exhibiting antiques from all over Turkey.

Address Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey.

Website www.sultanahmetcamii.org

Transport

Disembark at the Sultanahmet tram stop.

Opens Open daily, access restricted during prayer times, especially at midday on Fridays. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday between 9am and 4pm.

Admission

There is no charge for visiting the mosque, but the museum has a small entrance fee.

Topkapi Palace Museum photo

Topkapi Palace Museum

Built by Mehmet the Conqueror as a sultan's palace, the Topkapi Sarayi consists of a collection of buildings arranged around several interconnecting courtyards. Situated on one of …

Topkapi Palace Museum

Built by Mehmet the Conqueror as a sultan's palace, the Topkapi Sarayi consists of a collection of buildings arranged around several interconnecting courtyards. Situated on one of the seven hills of Istanbul with uninterrupted views over the Bosphorus River and the Golden Horn, it was the seat of the Ottoman Empire for almost four centuries. Home to nearly 3000 people, it served as a royal residence, harem, administration building, and military barracks. One of the most popular sections is the harem, once the quarters of about 300 women who were the sultans' wives and concubines, and their children. Visitors can view the apartments, halls, and terraces of the harem, and see the lavish royal bedchamber and imperial hall. No expense was spared in decorating the palace and its exquisitely designed rooms, intricately detailed fountains, and splendid treasury housing one of the greatest collections of treasure in the world. It affords insight into the opulent lifestyle of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.

Website www.muze.gen.tr/muze-detay/topkapi

Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi) photo

Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi)

The oldest and biggest enclosed bazaar in the world, Kapalicarsi is one of the most enticing and mesmerizing attractions in Istanbul. Also known as the Grand Bazaar, it consists of…

Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi)

The oldest and biggest enclosed bazaar in the world, Kapalicarsi is one of the most enticing and mesmerizing attractions in Istanbul. Also known as the Grand Bazaar, it consists of a vast labyrinth of twisting streets crammed with more than 4,000 shops, teahouses, Turkish baths, mosques, storehouses, and fountains. It's a fascinating experience to wander around the alleyways, looking at and bargaining for an array of goods and services. Here you can find almost anything, from meerschaum pipes, carpets, jewellery, and Turkish delight, to textiles, spices, clothing, and hand-painted ceramics. Protracted bargaining over a cup of tea is an important institution. Built during the rule of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461, the bazaar grew by covering an increasingly large area of shops and streets with roofs, arches, and domes. Eventually it became the centre of trading during the Ottoman Empire. Caravans of silk traders traditionally stayed here and rested their camels while selling their merchandise, and many of these caravanserais still exist as storehouses today.

Address Kapali Çarsi, Beyazit to Eminönü Harbour.

Website kapalicarsi.com.tr

Transport

Tram to Beyazit, Üniversite or Sirkeci.

Opens Open daily except Sundays from 8.30am to 7pm.

Admission

Free

Ephesus photo

Ephesus

Ephesus is the biggest and best-preserved ancient city in Turkey and is one of the world's most spectacular historical sites. The city and its harbour were established on the mouth…

Ephesus

Ephesus is the biggest and best-preserved ancient city in Turkey and is one of the world's most spectacular historical sites. The city and its harbour were established on the mouth of the Cayster River and, in the 2nd century BC, became the most important port and commercial trading centre in Anatolia. Alexander the Great ruled over it during the Hellenistic period and it was once capital of Roman Asia under Augustus in 133 BC. Ephesus declined during the Byzantine Era and by 527 AD it was deserted. Ephesus is also important as the early seat of Christianity, visited by Saint Paul, whose letters to the Ephesians are recorded in the New Testament. Guides are available and can offer a rich insight into the history and architecture of the ruins. Chariot-worn streets contain amphitheatres, murals, and mosaics, as well as baths, fountains, and columns. Highlights include the enormous Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian, and the Grand Theatre where Paul preached to the Ephesians. The city was originally dedicated to the goddess Artemis and her once-magnificent temple is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Address Efes Örenyeri, Selçuk/İzmir.

Transport

Ephesus is a nine hour bus ride from Istanbul. Travellers should fly to Izmir Airport and take a shuttle from the airport to Selcuk - from there Ephesus is easily accessible.

Opens Daily: 8am-6.30pm (in winter the site closes at 5pm)

Admission

TRY 60

Olympos and the Fires of the Chimaera photo

Olympos and the Fires of the Chimaera

The ancient site of Olympos dates back to Hellenistic times when it was an important Lycian city, becoming famous as a place for worship honouring Hephaestos, the God of Fire. Loca…

Olympos and the Fires of the Chimaera

The ancient site of Olympos dates back to Hellenistic times when it was an important Lycian city, becoming famous as a place for worship honouring Hephaestos, the God of Fire. Located on a beautiful sandy bay, the ruins are spread out on either side of the Ulupinar River and include a Byzantine bathhouse with mosaic floors, a marble temple entrance, a theatre, and some excavated tombs. The shoreline is also a major protected nesting site for sea turtles. On the rocky slopes above the ancient city are a series of eternal flames issuing from cracks in the rock, caused by the combustion of natural gas seeping out of the mountain. It is possible to extinguish them briefly, but they will always reignite and are most impressive in the dark when at their most visible. The fire that comes out of the ground is said to be coming from the mouth of the Chimera, a mythical fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and a snake's tail, who was slain by the Lydian hero, Bellerophon, on his winged horse Pegasus.

Address Çirali.

Transport

The bus from Antalya to Olympos takes 1.5 hours. In season minibuses travel to Çirali: from here the eternal flames are less than a mile's (1.5km) walk away.

Ancient Troy photo

Ancient Troy

For about 3,000 years the legendary battle of Troy pervaded Western culture. The story, told by Homer in the Iliad, was regarded as just a myth, until the ruins of the city were fo…

Ancient Troy

For about 3,000 years the legendary battle of Troy pervaded Western culture. The story, told by Homer in the Iliad, was regarded as just a myth, until the ruins of the city were found at Hisarlik, in western Turkey, in the mid-19th century. Today the romantic story draws tourists and archaeologists alike to the site, where not a great deal remains to be seen beyond the ancient walls and a replica of the famed Trojan horse which enabled the final conquering of the city by the ancient Greeks. The setting is also spectacular, offering views of the Dardanelles and the hills of Gallipoli.

Address 340 km (211 miles) west of Istanbul on the highway to Izmir.

Transport

Troy is best accessed from the town of Çanakkale on the western bank of the Dardanelles. Çanakkale can be reached by bus from Istanbul, and taxis are available for transport to the remains of Troy.

Goreme photo

Goreme

The small town of Goreme is situated in the middle of the Valley of Fairy Chimneys, surrounded by the eerie shapes and fantastic rock formations that have made the region famous. I…

Goreme

The small town of Goreme is situated in the middle of the Valley of Fairy Chimneys, surrounded by the eerie shapes and fantastic rock formations that have made the region famous. It is one of the few remaining villages where fairy chimneys and rock-hewn houses are still inhabited, and several restaurants and cafes are carved into the rock. Its biggest attraction is the Goreme Open-Air Museum with over 30 beautifully frescoed Byzantine rock churches. The town makes an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding rock formations, villages, and vineyards. For shoppers, carpets and kilims are plentiful.

Temple of Augustus photo

Temple of Augustus

The Roman Temple of Augustus was built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, and contains the best-preserved copy of Emperor Augustus' last will and testament, inscribed on the vest…

Temple of Augustus

The Roman Temple of Augustus was built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, and contains the best-preserved copy of Emperor Augustus' last will and testament, inscribed on the vestibule walls. After the death of Augustus in 14 AD, a copy of the text of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti was inscribed in Latin on both walls inside the pronaos, with a Greek translation on an exterior wall of the cella. The inscriptions are the primary surviving source of the text, since the original inscription on bronze pillars in front of the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome has long been lost, and two other surviving inscriptions of the text are incomplete. The temple itself is in ruins and not open to the public, but together with other Roman ruins in the vicinity (including the Roman baths and the column of Julian) it is an exciting port of call for classical history addicts.

Address Hacı Bayram Mahallesi, Altındağ/Ankara, Turkey.

Opens Daily, 6am-11pm.