20 Tours In Turkey To Tick Off Your To-Do List

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It was 100 years ago foreign powers were finally expelled, with Greece, Italy, France and the UK no longer having a presence in the Republic of Turkey. While their presence influenced Turkish life, over the centuries, greater influences had helped shape what was once known as Asia Minor. Many of the places that students of the Roman or Greek Empire learnt about are actually in modern-day Turkey. Mesopotamia, the Assyrians, the Hittites and more have all lived in this land at one time. Add to all that, Turkey’s position on the edges of Europe, Asia and Africa makes the country unique.

Turkey is geographically vast and reaches the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea, extending much further east, bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. They are just three of the eight countries with which it shares a border. Fortunately, there is an extensive and regular domestic flight schedule with more than 50 airports within the country, making all parts accessible. Read on and you will find a selection of tours in Turkey that can take you throughout this vast country. You will find regional differences and a climate ranging from hot in the summer to extremely cold in the mountainous interior the further north and east you go in Turkey in mid-winter.

20 Turkey Tours

Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

Luxury Tours In Turkey

1- Visit The Turkish “Moonscape”

The impact of Cappadocia is immediate and the first time you see the landscape, you will hardly believe what you are seeing.

A two-day tour from Istanbul is easy to arrange.

A relatively short domestic flight from Istanbul to Kayseri begins the adventure that includes Goreme Open Air Museum, Kaymakli Underground City and an early morning hot air balloon ride over this wondrous region.

Walk among the fairy chimneys created by erosion over the years and enjoy panoramas from vantage points like Uchisar Castle, the highest vantage point in Cappadocia.

At the end of the second day, it is back to Istanbul with great memories and an album full of photographs.

Recommended tours:

2- Rent A Luxury Yacht

Seeing Istanbul’s skyline from the Bosphorus is unforgettable.

It’s one of the world’s most iconic cityscapes with mosques, stunning shoreline buildings, palaces and bridges.

You can rent a luxury yacht where your skipper will advise you of the best places to cruise to based on your personal preference.

On the European side, you will get close to the final home of the Ottomans, the Dolmabahce Palace, with other highlights being the Ortakoy Mosque, the Bosphorus and Fatih Bridges, Rumeli and the Anatolian Castles.

If you want to enjoy the Bosphorus independently, with family or friends, renting a luxury yacht for a cruise exclusive to yourselves, this is the way to do it.

Recommended tour: Luxury Private Yacht Rental

3- Explore Memorable Battle Locations

Gallipoli evokes memories of struggle and, sadly, death.

It was a battle towards the end of World War I when the Turks repelled the Allies but not without significant casualties.

There are numerous memorials there that you will see if you take a two-day tour south and west from Istanbul.

The story of Helen of Troy and the Wooden Horse is equally famous, perhaps even more famous.

Troy is also in this part of Turkey and there are the ruins of several settlements from those days (3000 BC – 2500 BC) and a horse similar to the one described in the legend.

It is now a comfortable return journey to Istanbul after visiting two famous locations in Turkey.

Recommended tour: From Istanbul: 2-Day Tour to Gallipoli & Troy

4- See The Best Of Istanbul

A full-day VIP tour of the European side of Istanbul with a private guide with extensive knowledge of the city is well worth considering.

It will guarantee that you see all the highlights without the need to queue at landmarks which are inevitably busy most months of the year.

You will visit the 17th-century Blue Mosque, nearby Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, the home of the Ottoman Sultans for several centuries.

Other highlights include the Obelisk from Egypt and the Serpentine Column from Delphi.

The day finishes by entering the huge Grand Bazaar, which is fascinating as well as historic, even if you don’t want to shop.

Recommended tour: Private 7-Hour Istanbul Tour with Red Carpet Treatment

5- Fly Over A Natural Wonder

The famous white travertine and pools at Pamukkale, near the southern city of Denizli, are beautiful from above, with a gyrocopter ride giving you a bird’s eye view.

The ancient city of Hierapolis, with its antique theatre, was home to ancient Greeks.

Gyrocopters can fly low and at a speed that makes photography very easy.

You will get a safety briefing, but you can also be assured that the civil aviation authorities have fully approved their use.

Recommended tour: Pamukkale: Gyrocopter Tour Over the Travertines & Hierapolis

Sailing Tours In Turkey

6- Sail Out Into The Aegean

The Aegean is a holiday paradise with warm crystal-clear waters while a slight breeze as you cruise will cool you on a hot day.

This tour out of Kusadasi, an important cruise ship port near Ephesus facing west, heads north after leaving the port.

You will see a rugged coastline as you sail along, and you can expect plenty of chance to swim as the boat weighs anchor in different bays.

If you decide to snorkel, you may see some colourful marine life as you proceed.

Lunch at one of the bays is a BBQ with salad, fruit and pasta.

Recommended tour: From Kusadasi: Full-Day Boat Cruise

7- Go Island Hopping Out Of Gocek

Turkey’s Turquoise Coast is in the southwest of the country, and Gocek, despite being a small town, is an important marina between Dalaman Airport and Fethiye.

The setting with a mountain backdrop is stunning even before you hop onboard to join a 12-islands tour out to sea.

Yassıca Island is the first swimming break, while on the island itself, you may catch sight of wild rabbits.

The largest of the islands where you will anchor is Tersane Island.

Bedri Rahmi Bay is a popular stop before a BBQ lunch.

There is a chance of seeing dolphins and smaller flying fish but if you snorkel, you will see other marine life.

Recommended tour: Göcek: 12 Islands Boat Trip

8- Marvel At The Sunken City

Further east along the Turquoise Coast, there are places that have been significant in ancient times.

One such place is the sunken city at Kekova.

Starting out from Demre, you head west to Kekova Island to see the sunken city of Dolchiste which was flooded after a 2nd century earthquake struck.

You will be in a glass-bottomed boat so with the clear waters you will see everything clearly.

There is also a stop in the village of Kalekoy, where the ancient Simena Castle will be in view.

The boat stops several times to allow everyone to swim, and at one of them, Karemlik Bay, there is a chance that you will catch sight of a turtle.

A delicious BBQ lunch is served at one of the stops.

A great day out!

Recommended tour: From Demre: Day Trip to Kekova by Boat

Walking Tours in Turkey

9- Explore Ephesus

Ephesus was an important trading port during the time of the Greek Empire.

It is a short distance inland from Kusadasi and was originally accessed down a small channel that is no longer open.

It was once a magnificent city and the ruins are stunning.

Earthquakes have caused damage over the years but there is still plenty to see.

After entering the site, the walk is slightly uphill for two kilometres along marble streets.

The Temple of Artemis, one of the original 7 Wonders of the World, was here, sadly now just ruins.

The Library of Celsus and the amphitheatre are among its landmarks.

The House of the Virgin Mary and the Basilica of St. John in nearby Selcuk are additional places of interest.

Recommended tour: Kusadasi: Ephesus, Virgin Mary House, & Artemis Temple Tour

10- Walk Around Galata

Starting in Taksim Square, you will walk along busy streets filled with cafes and restaurants before reaching the neighbourhood’s focal point, Galata Tower.

It is one of the city’s significant landmarks and was included on the UNESCO World Heritage Temporary List a decade ago.

It is thought to date back to 500 AD.

The stylish Camondo Stairs follow then the SALT Galata Art Gallery with its impressive exhibits housed in a former bank building.

Galata Bridge spans the Golden Horn and it provides plenty of photo opportunities as you cross into Eminonu and the Spice Bazaar.

Recommended tour: Istanbul: Galata Tower, SALT and Spice Bazaar Walking Tour

11- Head To Istanbul Highlights

Ancient cities were relatively compact and that was certainly the case with Constantinople.

The neighbourhood of Sultanahmet was the heart of the city, and many of its main landmarks are all within walking distance of each other.

Topkapi Palace was the place from which the Ottoman Empire was administered, and centuries before that, Hagia Sophia and the Justinian Cistern were already in place.

The Blue Mosque is a two-minute walk from Hagia Sophia, so you can see many highlights within the day, especially if you take a guided tour that gives you priority entry.

Even the Grand Bazaar is walkable from here, with your guide ensuring you do not get lost in the maze of streets and stalls.

Recommended tour: Istanbul: Best of the City Private Full-Day Walking Tour

12- See The Best Of Ankara

Ankara is Turkey’s capital and using a local guide is the best way to enjoy the city.

While Istanbul overshadows Ankara, there are still some notable landmarks like the Ataturk Mausoleum, where you will be able to read the tribute from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the country’s first President, to paying homage to those who fell during the struggle at Gallipoli.

Ataturk incidentally led the Turkish forces and went on to lead the move for independence in the following years.

Recommended tour: Ankara: Private Tour with a Local

Food Tours in Turkey

13- Sample The Flavours Of Two Continents

Turkish cuisine is based upon fresh produce, fruit, vegetables, meats and yoghurt, a variety of bread and plenty of sweet desserts.

As you walk the streets of Istanbul, you can sample several local favourites like kebabs, tasty mezes and ice creams.

This tour includes stopping at 10 different places both on the European side of the city but also the Asian side over the Bosphorus.

Turkish breakfast is a great start to the day; cheeses, tomatoes and cucumber, jams, yoghurt, bread and eggs.

Turkish coffee, juices and sweet baklava will be on the day’s menu, as will dolma (stuffed vines leaves), kebabs, soup and more.

At least as you are walking, you will be getting some exercise.

Recommended tour: Istanbul Food Tour: Taste of Two Continents

14- Delve Deeper Into Turkish Cuisine

Lahmacun is Turkey’s version of pizza, thin and crispy.

It is a good start to learn about the national cuisine.

Donor kebab is important, served with fresh local produce and washed down with Turkish coffee.

Menemen is another breakfast option; eggs, tomato and onion with seasoning cooked like scrambled egg.

The tour will involve some wine as well as manti, similar to Italian ravioli but usually served with yoghurt.

This tour varies depending on the season.

Most of the dishes may be new to you if you are a first-time visitor to Turkey.

You’ll enjoy them!

Recommended tour: Istanbul: Turkish Cuisine Walking Food Tour with Guide

15- Let An Expert Teach You More

The Spice Market might not get the attention of the Grand Bazaar but you will love it.

Exotic spices and a real splash of colour are the order of the day then head on over the Galata bridge to Karakoy for breakfast.

The amount of food you put in front of you will be a surprise, everything from eggs and tomatoes to jams and honey, cheeses and bread.

Turkish tea is normal, as well as fruit juice.

Later you will see several different species in the fish market and perhaps sample stuffed mussels.

Turkish coffee and dessert are a great way to finish your tour before heading back over the Bosphorus.

Recommended tour: Private and Guided Istanbul Food Tour – Tastes of Istanbul

16- Delve Into Antalya’s Roman Past

The Hadrian’s Gate is an impressive door to Antalya’s Old Town, Kaleici, which slopes down to the small harbour that was a trading port many centuries ago.

Kaleici is cobbled stoned with old Ottoman-style houses, many now converted into cafes, restaurants and bars.

You won’t get lost because if you walk downwards all the time, you will reach the harbour.

Likewise, if you keep walking up, you will end up by the old city walls and into modern-day Antalya.

A tour guide is very useful, though and he or she will point out the Clock and Bramn Tower and the Yivliminare Mosque as well as tell you stories not in the guidebooks.

A short boat ride is fun after walking, with the highlight being Duden Waterfall which sees the water descend direct into the sea.

Another option is the cable car to get panoramic views of this lovely city.

Recommended tour: From Antalya: Day Tour of Ancient Roman Sites

Other Tours In Turkey

17- See The Best Of Turkey

If you prefer to get experts to organise your whole tour of Turkey, there are options that take little more than a week and take advantage of the excellent transport system within the country.

Istanbul is the best starting point, and it is worth the three days allocated to see its many landmarks and cruising on the Bosphorus.

Flying to Izmir, south and west, there are then two highlights, the travertine terraces and pools at Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) on the first day and the Greek city port of Ephesus.

Both involve comfortable road travel and a little walking.

Cappadocia is a sixth day, with another flight into Kaseri to see what has often been described as a “moonscape.” Highlights here include the underground cities of the Hittites, the fairy chimneys and Rose Valley.

Two days is just about enough before your return flight to Istanbul.

Recommended tour: From Istanbul: Ephesus, Pamukkale & Cappadocia 8-Day Tour

18- Sign Up To A Comprehensive Tour

The first three days of this seven-day tour concentrate on Istanbul’s major landmarks and highlights, followed by a flight to Kayseri to experience the wonders of Cappadocia.

These include the fairy chimneys in Urgup, Pigeons’ Valley, Goreme Open Air Museum with its numerous ancient churches and the Kaymakli Underground City.

The Izmir flight is next with your hotel in Kusadasi before heading to Ephesus, where you will walk the marble streets passing many ancient landmarks and seeing the Virgin Mary’s House.

The flight back to Istanbul brings this lovely tour to an end.

Recommended tour: From Istanbul: Highlights of Turkey 7-day Guided Tour

19- Marvel At The Monastery On A Mountainside

The Black Sea area in northeast Turkey is the country’s tea-growing area.

The city of Trabzon is a good base from which tours head inland, up steep river valleys to a plateau.

One thing that is a “must” is the Sümela Monastery, dating back to the 4th century and built in a mountainside, an amazing feat of engineering!

There is time to explore before heading on to Zigana Mountain Summit with its incredible panoramas and the Karaca Cave, discovered by accident in the 1990s by a local farmer.

The caves are not large but there are impressive stalactites and travertines.

Hamsiköy is the final stop, a village known for its rice pudding, which you will eat before returning back to Trabzon.

Recommended tour: Trabzon: Sümela Monastery Daily Tour & Cave & Hamsiköy

20- Step Back Centuries Before Christ

There are limited opportunities to join an organised tour in the far southeast, and the terrible earthquake of early 2023 has not helped that.

However, one option which will show you how long people have lived in this ancient land is to fly to Sanliurfa, the birthplace of Abraham, to get to the site of Göbeklitepe, dated in the 10th century BC.

Şanlıurfa Archaeology Museum and the Holy Lake in the city are also on the itinerary before heading out to Harran, where the first university of Mesopotamia was built.

The beehive houses here remain homes for locals and you will be impressed when you walk inside.

Recommended tour: Istanbul: Gobeklitepe & Archaeological Highlights Day Trip

The Republic of Turkey celebrates its centenary in 2023.

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Steve Smith is a widely travelled man who has lived on the South West Coast of Turkey since 2008. He hails from North East England where he lived most of his life but has been to every continent of the world, with a particular love for Southern Africa and its wildlife. He lists Argentina, India, and Vietnam as other favourite places that he enjoyed greatly while sport is also a passion, cricket and golf as a participant, rugby union and soccer as a spectator.