A country rich in ancient history, from Greek rule to Romans and Lycians, there are so many remarkable landmarks in Turkey to visit. The landscape is dotted with well-preserved ruins which open a window into the country’s varied history. Many of these sites are still being explored by archeologists. The mixture of old-world architecture, incredible restaurants showcasing local fare and a youthful night scene are not to be missed within its cities.
Turkey is filled with hidden treasures, from secret beaches and coves only accessible by water to hidden settlements carved directly into the rock face. Turkey is a country of hospitality, striking architecture and natural wonders. Here are 20 incredible historical, natural and famous Turkish landmarks to see.
- Landmarks In Turkey
- Natural Landmarks
- Historical Landmarks
Landmarks In Turkey
1- Lake Van
Lake Van is Turkey’s largest lake covering 1434 square miles (3713 square km). To locals, the lake is known as the Sea of Van.
The lake is surrounded by snowcapped mountains, including Mount Ararat, a volcanic cone and Turkey’s highest peak.
The lake’s main allure is its striking blue waters, however, recent archeological expeditions have unearthed an unusual landmark under this already famous lake.
Beneath the lake are the remains of a 3000-year-old settlement, which became submerged entirely due to rising lake waters leaving the city abandoned and in ruins.
Lake Van is in Van.
Manavgant Waterfalls is Antalya’s most famous waterfall. The waterfall is sourced from Mount Seytan.
Despite the falls being small in height, cascading over a mere 15m (49ft), the tranquil turquoise waters and forested shoreline make the falls a spectacular natural landmark.
Many river cruises sail up the Manavgat River to the falls, most featuring a meal and entertainment for passengers.
You can swim in the river, although be warned that the waters are icy cold.
Manavgat Waterfall is at Cayyazl, Manavgant 07600.
3- Blue Lagoon
Ölüdeniz, or Blue Lagoon as it is known the world over, is a serene aquamarine body of water.
The lagoon is a popular destination for tourists and has many luxury hotels, private beaches, and water sports.
Blue Lagoon is also one of the best spots in the country for paragliding.
Surrounding the waters are many hidden coves, most of which are only accessible by water.
For a break from the crowds of tourists that flock to the lagoon each summer, head to nearby Kayaköy, a ghost town since 1923, to see the dilapidated but still beautiful homes and churches.
Blue Lagoon is at 48340 Fethiye/Muğla.
4- Butterfly Valley
Butterfly Valley is a hidden landmark in Turkey not to be missed.
The valley is only accessible by boat and features high rocky cliff faces dotted with trees and a hidden beach with pristine white sands.
The valley is home to many species of butterflies, which give the valley its name.
Butterfly Valley is approximately 86000 square meters (21.3 acres) in size and leads down to the sea.
There are more than 100 butterfly species in the valley, including the Jersey Tiger butterfly.
In 1987 the Turkish government protected the valley by naming it a preservation area to conserve the butterfly population.
Butterfly is at Uzunyurt, 48300 Fethiye/Muğla.
5- Burning Flames of Chimaera
Burning for more than 2500 years, the flames of Chimaera are a must-visit natural landmark in Turkey.
For centuries sailors used the flames as a form of navigation as they were bright enough to be seen from the sea.
According to legend, a Chimera – a mythical beast with the body and head of a lion, a tail with the head of a snake and a goat’s head rising from its back – breathed fire in the area, causing the rocks to catch fire.
In reality, the flames are fuelled by methane and hydrogen gas escaping from underground.
Burning Flames of Chimaera is at Kuzdere, 07980 Kemer/Antalya.
6- Mount Tahtali
As one of the tallest mountains in the Taurus Mountains, Mount Tahtali is both a natural wonder and one steeped in legend.
The mountain goes by another name; Mount Olympus. Mount Olympus is where Zeus, the ancient Greek god of sky and thunder, resided during the summer months.
The mountain is 2365m (7762ft) high and is one of only three mountains in the world that rises from the sea.
From its peak, views of the entire coastline are visible.
The aerial tramway takes visitors to the mountain’s summit and is the second-longest tramway in Europe.
Mount Tahtali is at Beycik, 07982 Kemer/Antalya.
7- Fairy Chimneys
The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia are unusual and a must-visit natural landmark in Turkey to see while travelling around the country.
The unique rock formations were formed millions of years ago following an ancient volcanic eruption.
Once the ash settled, it formed a soft rock that was gradually eroded by wind and water.
Harder rock was left behind, forming the fairy chimneys.
The tallest fairy chimney is 4.5m(130ft) tall.
The region has drawn people to these unique formations for centuries.
Christians fleeing Roman persecution fled to the area and created living quarters from the soft rock which allowed them to hide from view amongst the towering chimneys.
Fairy Chimneys is at Zelve Yolu, 50500 Çavuşin/Avanos/Nevşehir.
8- Mount Nemrut
Mount Nemrut is an incredible natural landmark topped with some of Turkey’s history, making it also one of the most important historical landmarks.
The mountain’s summit is 2150m (7053ft) high and offers spectacular views over the surrounding Taurus mountain range.
The top of the mountain is a mausoleum and is dotted with carved stone heads of gods like Apollo, the son of Zeus, and Helios, the god of the Sun.
The mountain and its stone heads are only accessible during the summer, as it is covered in heavy snow and ice for the rest of the year.
Mount Nemrut is at 02402 Kayadibi/Kâhta/Adıyaman.
Pamukkale, translating to ‘cotton castle’, is a natural phenomenon and must-visit landmark.
Pamukkale is a series of calcite travertines or terraces that flow into each other with water rich in minerals and built up from limestone deposits.
One of Turkey’s most photogenic locations, Pamukkale features tranquil blue waters edged in white.
Both colours are created from the minerals that flow through the waters.
Close to the terraces is the ancient city of Hierapolis, a Greek-Roman city that is well preserved and worth a visit in itself.
Within the city are the remains of a bathhouse, where it is still possible to bathe in the warm, mineral-rich waters in picturesque surroundings.
Pamukkale is at 20190 Pamukkale/Denizli.
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10- Hagia Sophia
An important landmark from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, Hagia Sophia is an architectural marvel.
Hagia Sophia was initially built as a Christian basilica more than 1500 years ago before spending time as a mosque.
Today it serves as a museum.
The Hagia Sophia has had many forms during its history.
First commissioned by Emperor Constantius in 360AD, the original structure was made from wood.
Over the centuries, fire and conflict repeatedly destroyed the Hagia Sophia.
The current Hagia Sophia was built in 537AD. It features a large domed roof traditional of Orthodox basilicas and is adorned with intricate mosaics.
Hagia Sophia is at Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı No:1, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul.
11- Myra Ruins
Myra was once the most important city in the Lycian League. Its ruins are one of the most incredible historical landmarks in Turkey.
Within the ruins is a large theatre capable of seating 13,000 people, and perhaps most famous of all, the necropolis Lycian rock tombs.
Due to their age, entry into the tombs is not allowed; however, you can get reasonably close.
The tombs reflect the Lycian culture and beliefs through the detailed carvings adorning the facade.
The Lycian’s believed that by building tombs on cliffs, a gigantic winged creature would transport the dead to the afterlife.
Myra Ruins is at Alakent Mahallesi, Demre (Kale) 07570.
12- Sumela Monastery
The ancient Orthodox monastery of Sumela is more than 1600 years old and sits 1200m (3937ft) atop a cliff.
The monastery is famous for its 18th-century frescoes depicting Christ and the Virgin Mary and other key passages from the bible.
In 1923 the site was abandoned and later turned into a museum. In 2010 the first mass was held at Sumela since its closure.
Sumela Monastery is at Trabzon.
13- The Blue Mosque
Frequently described as the ‘architectural masterpiece of Istanbul’, the Blue Mosque is one of Turkey’s most recognisable and beautiful places to visit in Istanbul.
Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa designed the mosque, which was built between 1609 and 1616 during Ahmed I’s reign.
The mosque continues to draw tourists to admire its beautiful design, and despite being a popular tourism destination, the mosque is still fully functioning.
The mosque gets its name from the hand-painted blue tiles that cover the interior walls.
Inside the mosque are also more than 200 stained glass windows, verses from the Qur’an, and an intricately carved marble mihrab.
The Blue Mosque is at Sultanahmet Mah At Meydani Cad No 7, Istanbul 34122.
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14- Topkapi Palace
Construction on Topkapi Palace began in 1459 at the request of the Ottoman Sultan.
The palace became the imperial residence of the Sultan, his court and harem for more than four centuries.
Over the centuries, each reining Sultan added to the palace giving it a unique architectural design.
The additions were made to accommodate a greater number of people, to repair damage caused by earthquakes or fire, and to commemorate victories over the Sultan’s enemies.
The palace was converted into a museum in 1924 and is a marvel to explore.
Visit the kitchens to see a collection of fine Chinese porcelain or the Dış Hazine-Treasury to see the armoury.
Topkapi Palace is at Cankurtaran Mahallesi Gulhane Park, Near Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul 34122.
Troy is a must-visit ancient landmark in Turkey.
Despite being well documented in works by Homer, Herodotus and Strabo, Troy’s location remained lost until the 1800s as archeologists began searching for a more precise location of the famous city.
Troy’s history is embedded in classical legends, particularly the Trojan War, which features characters from Greek literature such as goddesses Aphrodite and Athena, and the famous Helen of Troy
Her beauty launched 1000 ships into battle.
A wooden horse at the entrance to the site is a reminder of the Trojan horse featured in the legends.
The ruins themselves include an amphitheatre, defensive bastions and walls of the citadel.
The ruins at Troy were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
Hattusha was once the capital of the Hittite Empire which dates back to the late Bronze Age.
The city was destroyed in 1700 by Anitta, a king of Kussara.
According to legend, during the fall of the city, the king laid a curse on the ground and on anyone who attempted to rebuild the city.
A prominent structure within Hattusha is the Lion Gate, one of five gateways into the city.
The best-preserved structure within the ruins is the Great Temple, which dates back to the 13th century.
One of the mysteries of Hattusha is the ‘wish stone’; a large green rock made from a stone not commonly found in the area.
Archeologists are still debating how it came to be at Hattusha.
Hattusha is at Hisar, 19310 Boğazkale/Çorum.
Ephesus is an ancient city worth visiting and a well-preserved landmark of Turkey.
Ephesus was once an important port town and key trading post of the Mediterranean.
Legend has it that Androclos, an Ionian prince founded the city during the 11th century.
While looking for the city, he sought advice from the Delphi oracles, who told him a boar and a fish would guide him there.
While cooking one day, Androclos’ fish jumped out of the pan and landed in the bushes, the bushes caught fire, and a wild boar ran out of the flames.
At that exact location, Androclos built Ephesus.
Ephesus is at Selcuk 35920.
18- Grand Bazaar
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar has more than 60 streets and 4000 shops, making it one of the largest covered markets in the world.
Within the Bazaar are stalls, restaurants, bars, and even a mosque.
The Bazaar is grandly decorated, with its entrances featuring high arches, carved facades and imagery and inscriptions adorned in gold.
Within the Bazaar, bargaining is key to securing a good deal on your purchase, however, avoid the aggressive sellers.
Those offering the best deal and the highest quality products will not be pushy.
Grand Bazaar is at Sokak 12, Kapalicarsi, Istanbul 34126.
19- Ruins of Aphrodisias
Some of Turkey’s best-preserved ancient ruins are at Aphrodisias.
Aphrodisias is an ancient temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
The site is vast and well preserved, with some areas having seen some restoration. The ruins of Aphrodisias often have fewer crowds than other historical ruins.
The site features many free-standing columns, a traditional bathhouse, and a colossal stadium.
Aphrodisias was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017.
Ruins of Aphrodisias is at Geyre, 09385 Karacasu/Aydın.
20- Dalyan Delta
The Dalyan Delta is a beautiful valley and river in Turkey, made famous by its proximity to several historical landmarks.
Carved into the Delta’s rock face are the well-preserved Carian rock tombs dating back to the 4th century.
Another key historical landmark within the Dalyan Delta is Kaunos, a settlement dating back to the 9th century.
The Carians, Lycians, Greeks and Romans once ruled Kaunos.
Kaunos is not as famous as other ancient landmarks, however, it is one of the few that still holds regular excavations, and as a result, the city and its ruins are continually expanding.
Dalyan Delta is at Dalyan, 48800 Ortaca/Köyceğiz/Muğla.
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