With its rich and complex history, stunning architecture, and impressive landscapes, the reasons for visiting Turkey are endless. As a geographical and cultural bridge between Europe and Asia, it has been a crossroads for people and cultures for thousands of years.
Turkey exists today as a place where old world mixes with the new, and remnants of past empires remain throughout the country allowing you to travel through time in one of the top-ranked destinations in the world. From visits to archaeological sites like the ancient cities of Troy and Ephesus to Istanbul's Grand Bazaar and Blue Mosque, and over a dozen UNESCO World Heritage sites scattered throughout the country, there's no shortage of things to see and do.
Don't worry, the country isn't just one big history lesson. Mixed in with Turkey's rich past, you'll discover unforgettable landscapes ranging from the "cotton castle" mineral baths of Pamukkale to the famous "fairy chimneys" of Cappadocia, and hundreds if not thousands of miles of mountain ranges and coastline to paddle, bike, trek, and adventure your way around.
Many city tours in Turkey begin and end in Istanbul, and can vary from a few days to several weeks depending on how much time you have.
You can expect to spend your time exploring the palaces, mosques, and bazaars of Turkey's major cities combined with travel around the country to the fairytale-like rock formations of Cappadocia, the mineral-rich thermal waters of Pamukkale, and along the turquoise seas of the Mediterranean coastline.
History & Culture Tours
As a crossroads for people and cultures throughout time, Turkey has an endless amount of history to discover through visits to museums, archaeological sites, and more.
It's home to not one, but two Wonders of the Ancient World -- the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus -- as well as tales, architecture, and ruins of civilizations spanning from the ancient Latin, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires to modern day.
Walk through somber battlefields and historic World War I memorial sites at Gallipoli, visit the legendary city of Troy, and admire the striking architecture present throughout the country.
Whether you're interested in exploring what's below the sea, trekking across the land, or enjoying the view from above, Turkey's diverse landscape offers a multitude of adventure activities.
You can dive, sail, or paddle along the coastline, bike, trek, and hike through peaks and valleys in nearly every region of the country, and even fly up in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia. If you're looking for a challenge, consider walking the Lycian Way -- over 330 miles of ancient roads and footpaths dipping in and out of southern Turkey's coastline from Fethiye to Antalya.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit Turkey
Turkey is great to visit any time of year, though you'll find that there's a balance between catching the prime weather and avoiding peak tourist season.
Fall and spring are typically high-season for Istanbul and Cappadocia, and off-season for the Mediterranean and Aegean coastline. During this time, you'll still find moderate temperatures, longer days, and warm waters.
Summer temperatures can get quite high throughout the country from mid-June to August, and the coastline is often packed while Istanbul and Cappadocia are typically less crowded during this time. Winter can be chilly and rainy with a few sunny days scattered here and there. You'll likely benefit from lower prices and smaller crowds during this time.
If you're planning to hit the trails in Turkey, April, May, June, and October are the best months to plan a trekking or biking tour.
What to Look for in a Tour to Turkey
Turkey is a large country -- it's at least 10 hours of drive time from Istanbul to Cappadocia -- so be mindful of tours that try to cram too many things into a short amount of time. Decide what you'd like to see and do, and be sure to consider how much time you're willing to spend in transit before booking a tour.
Whether you're keen to explore Turkey's land, cities, or sea, consider your travel style and gain an understanding of what is included in the tour price. Accommodation, meals, and transportation can vary greatly in cost, comfort, and quality.
If you're interested in history and culture, make sure the company has knowledgeable guides who will speak to each site that you visit, rather than simply dropping you off to explore on your own. When participating in adventure activities, make sure your guide is qualified and all safety precautions are in place.
Typical Tour Cost
Tour costs in Turkey vary greatly depending on the type of activities you're participating and the level of comfort you wish you enjoy. Day trips and basic multi-day tours that include ground transportation, mid-range accommodation, and some meals typically average $100 per day. Tours that include high-end accommodation, domestic flights, ground transportation, meals, and more can equate to several hundred dollars per day. Keep in mind that travel costs can fluctuate between high and low season.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Turkey is a large country with several climates, and what you need to pack will vary depending on the season you plan to visit and the activities you want to participate in. As a general rule, it's always best to pack clothing that you can layer as temperatures can be quite cool at night, even in the summer.
As a female in Turkey, you'll find that styles vary from quite liberal to extremely conservative. In general, it's a good idea to dress modestly and always carry a scarf with you in case you need to cover up.
If you're participating in adventure activities that require specialized gear, check with your tour provider to see what's included. In most cases, you'll be able to rent whatever isn't provided.
Other Tips for Travel in Turkey
Travelers from the United States who plan to stay in Turkey for less than 90 days can apply online for an e-visa ($20) in advance or use a visa kiosk at their port of entry ($30), though it is recommended to obtain an e-visa prior to travel.
Health & Safety
As with anywhere, you should make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before traveling to Turkey. Hepatitis A and Typhoid shots are generally recommended, as are Hepatitis B and Rabies in some cases.
While you shouldn't have any issues with drinking the tap water in Turkey, you'll find that most people drink bottled water due to the taste. In any case, it's perfectly safe to brush your teeth and wash fresh produce with tap water.
While it's generally safe to travel to Turkey, the country has seen a massive dip in tourism following several terrorist attacks and a failed coup. Central and Western Turkey, the areas surrounding Cappadocia, and the Mediterranean coastline, have not been significantly impacted by terrorism.
In Turkey's major cities, rallies and demonstrations take place frequently and at short notice -- stay alert and avoid the area if you come upon one. Violent crime is rare, and tourists shouldn't be concerned for their safety. That being said, watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas, and keep an eye on travel advisories during your time there.
Eastern Turkey along the Syrian border remains the least stable part of the country, and travel to this area is not recommended due to the civil war in Syria and the Kurdish-Turkish conflict in the region.