An ancient history, stunning mountain scenery and of course picture-perfect beaches sum up Turkey to a tee. From its inspiring culture to its amazing natural attractions and landmarks, there’s so much off-the-beaten track stuff to do, you can easily spend a few weeks discovering all that Turkey has to offer.
Whilst the amazing cities of Istanbul and Ankara offer a buzzing hive of activity, there are plenty of lesser-known attractions which will delight backpackers or intrepid explorers looking for a new adventure.
Turkey is full of natural springs and Pamukkale is perhaps the most famous one. Designated a World Heritage Site, the distinctive white slopes of the mountain have been coloured because of the sheer amount of natural calcium that runs over the rocks.
The hot springs that have formed here are due to underground volcanic activity, with many of the pools as warm as bathwater. Many of the springs are off-limit to tourists due to damage from years of visitors, however there are still many which are open for you to dip your toes in.
King Tombs of Lycia
Situated in Dalyan, these unique tombs have been carved into the rock face of the mountains that surround the river and lake. The people of Lycia have a rich and fascinating history, dating back to 1250BC, and the unique rock cut tombs were the resting places for the wealthy and noble people of this race. The best way to see the tombs is via a river tour, where your guide will explain more about the history of this region.
You can round off the trip with a visit to the Dalyan Mud Bath, which has attracted visitors for years as it was once believed that the mud had healing properties. Nowadays, it’s simply a fun attraction for tourists who fancy a snap of themselves covered in the grey stuff, so don’t forget your camera!
Turkey’s west coast is surrounded by a scattering of Greek islands which are really easy to visit. Depending on which port town you’re in, you can simply book a trip on the day, but to guarantee a place, you can book in advance.
Direct Ferries offers trips from Cesme to Chios, the fifth largest Greek island, which is full of medieval villages and an 11th century monastery. As one of the largest exporters of mastic gum, you’ll find pretty much everything for sale has the product in, including Turkish delight, soft drinks and chewing gum.
This city in ruins is perhaps one of the most important hubs in Greek and Roman history, with one of the largest collections of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. It’s the site of one of the former Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis, and while it no longer stands you can see the space it once occupied here.
The main sites of the city which are still largely intact include the Library of Celsus and the huge amphitheatre which has an estimated seating capacity of 24,000 – the biggest outdoor theatre in the ancient world.
The city also has close ties to Christianity, with the missionary Paul living in Ephesus, and what’s believed to be the last home of Mary, the mother of Jesus is also located around 4 miles from the ruins. Many Catholics make pilgrimages to this house, which has a small statue of her located inside. It has the unique distinction of having no hands, which are believed to have been hacked off by thieves.
You’ll see many people leaving notes and messages on the Wishing Wall, which is believed by some to be miraculous.
When to Visit
The tourist season starts around May and ends in September or October, which is when you’ll be able to find tours and guides easily. The summer months of June to August can be unbearable, with stuffy heat and crowded resorts, so for the best experience visit just before or after the summer season begins.