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Turkey Destinations: 5 Cities in Turkey to Visit

Turkey is home to hundreds of towns and cities, some quite small, but some among the largest cities in the world. Each one has something different to offer, but if you’re looking for five that are most popular here’s a selection of cities, of different sizes and offering different attractions.

Photo of the old city of Istanbul Turkey including Golden Horn, Galata Bridge and New Mosque

Istanbul

Turkey’s largest city is also its most popular, attracting tourists from all over the world for its great variation of architecture, culture and heritage, yet these attractions stand alongside some of the most modern buildings and services in Europe.

Istanbul is located in the northwest of Turkey and is set across the Bosphorus, the stretch of water that connects the Black Sea to the Marmaris. The western side of the city is in Europe, while the eastern side is Asia, resulting in an eclectic mix of Asian and European.

Istanbul has so many different sights to see: on the historic peninsula you’ll find the most iconic images of the city; the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, the Grand Bazaar, and Topkapi Palace. Across the Golden Horn is the popular Galata Tower, and heading up from here you’ll arrive at the city’s entertainment district, centered around Istiklal Avenue and Taksim.

Ankara

The capital of Turkey and its second largest city is Ankara. Ankara doesn’t offer quite the same appeal as Istanbul but if you scratch past the surface you’ll find there’s more here than meets the eye.

Ankara is located to the west of central Turkey and it took over the honor as capital of the country following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. Though plenty of new development happened in the years after this, Ankara is in fact an ancient city with thousands of years of history to share. The result is a broad mix, much like Istanbul, of ancient landmarks, historical buildings, and modern skyscrapers.

Sights include Ataturk’s mausoleum, Atakule Tower, the old city and citadel, Roman temples and baths, the Column of Julian, expansive mosques, and interesting museums.

Antalya

Photo of the Antalya Turkey waterfall showing city on cliff and ocean below

Far more popular with international visitors is the city of Antalya, situated right on the coast in the south of Turkey, on the Mediterranean. This too is an ancient city and is very popular today because it offers a mixture of history and culture, combined with great beaches and weather.

The old city, known as Kaleici, has many historical sites, and has a great atmosphere for wandering around. There are many waterside hotels and restaurants to enjoy, while on the outskirts of the city you’ll find some wonderful beaches.

Fethiye

The city of Fethiye is much smaller though almost as popular as Antalya. Again, it offers a mix of old and new, with fabulous beaches, though this coastal city is on the Aegean not the Mediterranean. Fethiye is well known for its tombs, carved right into the hillsides and includes the Tomb of Amyntas. A little way along the coast from the city of Fethiye is Turkey’s best known beach, at Oludeniz. The spectacular scenery and the Blue Lagoon rivals any beach in the Caribbean, making this one of the country’s top tourist destinations. Oludeniz is also world famous for its paragliding, offering high mountains just above the coastline, and the chance to soar over some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.

Marmaris

While Marmaris also offers a selection of history this town is better known as a full blown tourist resort and is very popular with Europeans coming here for a sun and sand vacation. Marmaris is on the Aegean coast in the south west of Turkey too, in an area known as the Turkish Riviera.

Although it is probably the most vibrant destination in terms of nightlife, Marmaris is still very much a family friendly resort town. There are two water parks where you can take the children for a fun filled day of sliding and swimming, while off the beaches surrounding the town you can swim and dive too. Boat cruises are prevalent from here, and affordable too, while the town is close enough to some of Turkey’s major historical sites that you can visit for a day trip, including the spectacular Ephesus.

Written by Claire Bolgil

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