Turkiye is a vast country of 85 million people, with Istanbul, a city of 15.5 million, straddling Europe and Asia. Two of its natural boundaries, the west and the south are seas while it has land borders with eight different countries, two to the northwest, Greece and Bulgaria and a further six in the east from Georgia right around to Syria. The modern-day state celebrates its centenary later in 2023. It is perhaps fitting that this is the year when its name change recognises the country in its own language, Turkiye, and so, from this point onwards, that is the name that the United Nations registers.
Ankara is the national capital, a large inland city in Turkiye away from the “organised chaos” of the country’s most famous city, Istanbul. Formerly known primarily as Anatolia, a mountainous and largely rural region, there are still many large cities throughout Turkiye. In recent times, the infrastructure has been further developed with the road system dramatically upgraded. In addition, there is a comprehensive domestic flight schedule run by both the national airline and Pegasus. There are over 50 airports in Turkiye, with the longest domestic flights from Istanbul to the extreme east of the country taking two hours. You can see then the size of this vast country. Here are 20 cities in Turkiye, other than the capital, categorised by a common feature by which they may be known.
- Cities in Turkiye
- 20 Cities In Turkey (now Turkiye) To Visit
- Capital City Of Turkiye
- Ottoman Capitals
- Coastal Resort Cities
- Black Sea
- South-East Turkiye
Cities in Turkiye
20 Cities In Turkey (now Turkiye) To Visit
- Best of Turkey 10-Day Package Tour – explore top cities on a package tour.
- From Istanbul: 8 Days Highlights of Turkey Bus Tour – good value.
- Ankara: Private Tour with a Local – discover the capital’s secrets.
- From Istanbul: Day Trip to Edirne – the second capital of the Ottoman Empire.
- Cappadocia to Konya, Pamukkale and Ephesus Tour – archaeology and geology at its best.
Capital City Of Turkiye
The highlight of any visit to the capital of Turkiye is to see the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the republic’s first President and the man who inspired his troops in World War I.
His tribute to those on both sides who fell at the famous battle in Gallipoli marks him as an important figure in 20th-century world history.
He died fairly young at age 57 in 1938, and his life continues to be celebrated by all Turks over 80 years later.
Ataturk chose Ankara as the national capital in 1923; today, this modern city is home to over 5.5 million.
It not only functions as a capital, but it is also home to culture and art.
Top tour: Ankara: Private Tour with a Local.
Istanbul is one of the world’s truly great cities.
The Ottomans took it in the middle of the 15th century, and it was the centre of a massive empire until the First World War.
Called Constantinople until the arrival of the Ottomans, Istanbul’s main tourist sites are on its European side with the Bosphorus, the link between the Black Sea and the Aegean dividing Europe from Asia.
Its expansion on the Asian side has been remarkable. Visitors will find a hectic city with busy roads and ferries crossing the Bosphorus every minute, day and night.
The waters are very important commercially and for ferry passengers travelling between the continents.
One of the cities that the Ottomans used as a capital before they took Constantinople was the city of Edirne, northwest towards the border with Greece and Bulgaria.
It was founded in Roman times and was the scene of many conflicts over the centuries before being taken by the Ottomans in the late 14th century.
The city’s highlight of under 200,000 (the metropolitan population exceeds 400,000) is undoubtedly the wonderful mosque.
Selimiye, with its huge dome and four minarets, was built in the 16th century and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for over a decade.
Top tour: Istanbul: Day Trip to Edirne.
Another former Ottoman capital, Bursa is the centre of Turkiye’s car manufacturing.
However, its long Muslim history means that you may not be surprised that one of its highlights is a mosque dating back to the 14th century, Ulu Cami (Great Mosque).
Bursa sits below Mount Uludag, offering excellent skiing facilities in wintertime.
This is northwest Turkiye, close to the Sea of Marmara and not too far from Istanbul.
There are numerous historical and religious sites to visit while its nickname, “Yesil Bursa (Green)”, came about because of the number of parks and trees in the immediate region.
The metropolitan population is 3 million and growing.
Top tour: From Istanbul: Green Bursa Full-Day Excursion.
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- 20 Turkiye Cities
Coastal Resort Cities
The Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines have seen huge development in recent decades as charter flights and package holidays have been increasingly popular and available.
This city and port sit on the Aegean, facing west.
The Greeks founded it in ancient times, with the Romans taking over later.
It became an important trading port in those days and retained its commercial role with western traders, typically French, British and Venetian visiting from the 16th century onwards.
Today, it is Turkiye’s main export port.
The population is approaching 4.5 million, making it the third largest city in Turkiye by population.
Izmir has everything you would expect of a modern city, art, culture, history, shopping and entertainment, with its cuisine reflecting the foreign influences it has embraced over the years.
From Izmir, you may want to do a full-day tour to Ephesus.
In the southwest facing the Greek Island of Kos in the Aegean, Bodrum has grown rapidly since Turkiye became a popular resort destination.
It is in a region whose history includes the Greeks, Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Crusaders and the Ottomans.
One of the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World was here, destroyed by earthquakes, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Bodrum Castle now stands on its original site, one of many places to see.
The warm waters and lovely beaches swell the local population of just under 200,000 hugely with easy access via Bodrum-Milas International Airport.
Top tour: Full-Day Orak Island Boat Trip from Bodrum.
Another resort in Mugla, Turkiye’s southwest province, Fethiye is growing as quickly as Bodrum.
Its population of around 160,000 has doubled in a decade.
Nearby Dalaman International Airport receives huge numbers of visitors each year, many of whom head 45 kilometres (25 miles) east to Fethiye with its lovely bays, offshore islands and beaches.
Additional attractions here include sarcophagi dating back to the Carian Empire in the years BC, the abandoned city of Kayakoy, Greek until the founding of the Turkish republic, and natural wonders like Butterfly Valley.
Top tour: Oludeniz: Butterfly Valley Tour & St. Nicholas Island Cruise.
Antalya is Turkiye’s main tourist city on the Mediterranean coast, with its international airport busy all year around.
Visitors may head off to other resorts to its east and west but Antalya itself has much to appeal to tourists.
Its heart is Kaleici (Old Town), with the Hadrian Gate the entrance to narrow cobbled streets, Ottoman-style houses, bars, restaurants and plenty of pensions to stay in.
A small harbour sits at its base where you can sit back with a coffee and enjoy the view.
There are numerous alternatives for tourists wishing to stay in Antalya.
Many top-quality hotels offer all-inclusive deals, with plenty lining the coast east and west of the city centre.
The Black Sea stretching from Istanbul all the way east to Georgia, is Turkiye’s northern border.
Two of the most significant settlements here are described below.
Trabzon is mentioned in Greek literature as far back as 400 BC.
It is in the far northeast of Turkiye, a city and port of 800,000 with links across the Black Sea primarily to Georgia, Russia and Ukraine.
There is a small mosque, Hagia Sophia, within the city and a house gifted to Ataturk by the city in 1924.
Trabzon is also an excellent base for those wanting to explore the attractions in the immediate area inland, with Sumela Monastery, a 4th-century Greek Orthodox Monastery, probably the most famous.
This is close to Turkiye’s tea-growing area with attractive steep river valleys heading up to a beautiful plateau region.
Top tour: Trabzon: Guided City Highlights Tour.
Samsun is the largest city along the Black Sea coastline in this area, stretching between two river deltas.
It is just beyond the halfway point between Istanbul and the border with Georgia.
There are around 1.35 million living in the province as a whole with over half in the city.
It was the base from which Ataturk began the Turkish War of Independence after the end of the Second World War.
It is popular with Turkish tourists with several beaches and water sports available and a significant number of natural attractions inland as well as museums and mosques.
Anatolia, formerly known as Asia Minor, makes up most of today’s Turkiye. In reality, it covers around 97% of the nation, but for this article, some of the cities have been placed under other sub-titles.
Turkiye’s rail network is not comprehensive but one of the main routes from Istanbul via Ankara to the east goes through Eskisehir.
It lies 330 kilometres (200 miles) south of Istanbul and 233 kilometres (145 miles) west of Ankara.
The city population is approaching 900,000 and is home to three important universities and several museums.
Eskisehir (“Old City” in Turkish) is one of the major industrial cities of Turkiye but it also offers plenty in the way of history and culture, its origins predating Christ in the times of the Phyrigians.
Konya is another ancient city in central Anatolia south of Ankara.
It is on the quickest road travelling west to east in Turkiye and is on the route to Cappadocia for anyone travelling from the west.
The city population has exceeded 1 million, with more than that again in the province of which it is the capital.
Its oldest mosque was built in the 13th century and has been a significant settlement since the earliest days.
These days, it has become one of the country’s most prosperous cultural and religious cities.
Significant numbers of tourists visit each year, while trade within the country and exporting means Konya plays an essential role in the national economy.
Top tour: Cappadocia to Konya, Pamukkale and Ephesus Tour.
That train at Istanbul and goes via Eskisehir and Antalya eastwards to Kars, which is high up on a plateau in the northeast (commercial trains head on through to Georgia and finally Baku on the Caspian Sea).
Many tourists head to Kars mainly to visit the 11th-century ruins of Ani, an abandoned Armenian city.
In the city itself, the castle looks down over the Kars River and the city has more statues than any other place in Turkiye.
Agriculture is very important locally, but the winter climate can be very severe, making it a single-crop region.
Cheese and honey are the most profitable products in this sector.
Van sits on the eastern shore of the largest lake in Turkiye in the extreme east, close to the borders with Iran and Armenia.
The saline soda lake covers a vast area, 3755 sq. km.(1,450 square miles) and is fed from the rivers and streams coming from the surrounding mountains.
It was formerly a largely Armenian population that lived there; boundaries have changed significantly, of course, with Turkiye only taking control a century ago.
Today, many of the 400,000 population are Kurdish.
The Van cat is something that has brought the city’s name to the fore.
Van cats are white and have different coloured eyes.
Much of what is now a region in Turkiye was once Mesopotamia, fed by the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, which rise in Turkiye and then flow into Syria and Iraq to the Persian Gulf.
It is an area that has recently suffered colossal damage and casualties from strong earthquakes and aftershocks.
Each of the cities in Turkiye below has a significant population and a rich history and culture.
A popular tour takes a circular route to visit all the ones mentioned below, starting in Adana, heading out to the furthest one east before turning south to Mardin before returning.
Adana is a huge city close to the eastern end of the Mediterranean, a city of 2.25 million that some claim is the oldest permanently settled place in the world.
It is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and was important to everyone from the Greeks and Romans to the Hittites. St. Paul was born as Saul in nearby Tarsus incidentally.
Adana has quite a mixed population and was under French control until the modern republic’s foundation.
The impressive Sabanci Mosque is modern, virtually a copy of the one in Edirne and just over two decades since opening.
The Roman Stone Bridge is another of the city’s highlights, while the spicy kebab, given the city’s name, features on all menus throughout the republic.
If you travel east then north 200 kilometres (125 miles), you will come to the home of Turkish ice cream, Kahramanmaras.
Turkish ice cream (“dondurma” in Turkish) has a gluey yet sweet consistency created using powder from the roots of orchids added to the mixture.
Famous ice cream companies have set up here, and one of the main reasons tourists visit is to taste the original ice cream where it is made.
The city has a population of over 1 million and became part of the new republic after a brief period under British then French control.
Diyarbakir’s famous city walls look down on the Tigris River flowing south.
The city is a further 370 kilometres (230 miles) east, with the impressive fortress dominating the region.
Just over 1 million live in the city itself, with the majority being Kurdish.
If there was ever to be a Kurdish state, this would be its capital.
Its past includes the Assyrians, with the region converting to Islam in the religion’s very early days.
The Turk-Kurdish conflict here has marred the region, but tourists have returned to enjoy this lovely city in recent years.
It even has an agricultural area recognised by UNESCO as it maintains its original ancient layout.
A tip: try the sugar-coated almonds!
Largely just south, 96 kilometres (60 miles), you will reach Mardin, a wonderful ancient city with cobbled streets and an impressive ancient monastery.
South is heading down the Tigris to the Syrian border, but in recent times, visitors are returning even though the refugee crisis is not yet solved.
Building in the old town is strictly limited in size and style, with UNESCO ensuring that regulations are observed.
Mardin is relatively small, with a population of around 130,000.
It is a city with a sizeable Arab population, Kurds, and some Assyrian Christians, although the Great Mosque spells the Islamic religion.
If you head west now for 200 kilometres (125 miles), you will reach Sanliurfa, where you are certain to hear about Abraham.
The local king was said to have tried to burn Abraham, but the fire turned to water which remains as a lake full of fish that flourish because it is forbidden to try to catch them.
Within the city, you will see old cave houses by the road, while the neolithic site of Gobleki Tepe is just a very short distance away.
The ancient site of Harran is of equal interest, where the conical dome houses made of clay are well worth a visit.
On the road west to Gaziantep from Sanliurfa, you will cross back over the Euphrates River, a total 150-kilometre (94 miles) trip.
This city of 2 million is back towards Adana, which is a further 185 kilometres (115 miles) west.
It is famous for its cuisine with the dessert, baklava, especially distinctive.
Unfortunately, Gaziantep is now best known as the epicentre of a destructive earthquake that has even damaged the old castle walls.
In happier times, tourists flocked there for the cuisine, the castle, the historic heart of the city, and the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, which has few equals anywhere.
The city will rebuild and those tourists will visit again soon, everyone hopes.
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