Turkey is a country that provides a rich menu of experiences for all tastes of travelers. History buffs can explore Roman ruins, Ottoman buildings and World War I battlefields. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy paragliding, snow skiing and hot air ballooning. And for those who want to relax, there are four seas sprinkled with beautiful beaches, bays and islands.
Having lived in Turkey for the past seven years, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to explore this vast country by train, car and bus. This post shares my favorite five places to visit.
5. Ordu – My favorite Black Sea town, Ordu is nestled on a curved seaside park crowned by a hilltop. Beachside walking trails, coffee shops and pedestrian friendly streets line the compact city center. A cable car from the seafront park whisks you up for incredible views. A new inexpensive snow ski area called Çambaşı (50 km south of the city) makes a fun winter escape. If traveling overland by bus, I suggest breaking your journey here rather than the busier transit hub of Samsun.
4. Selçuk – There’s just something restful about this friendly little town, my favorite base for exploring around Ephesus. There’s a quiet serenity that settles across the rooftops at sunset. Check out the storks nesting atop the ancient aqueduct, the mystery of Mary’s house and the jumbled ruins from different historical eras. Perhaps catch the camel wrestling festival in January! I love riding the little train that chugs through connecting Izmir with Pammukale. The Ephesus ruins are world famous. Experience other local delights including St. John’s basilica, the hilltop citadel, the mountain village of Sirince and steam train museum at nearby Camlik.
3. Fethiye/Ölüdeniz – The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts are home to many lovely spots, but an offseason wintertime visit to Fethiye remains branded in my mind. Spot ancient Lycian tombs cut into the hillside and scattered around town. Choose fresh fish from the waterfront market and have it grilled for you at an adjacent café. Visit the nearby abandoned stone village of Kayaköy, then take a leisurely hike over to Ölüdeniz beach. Adventure seekers can try paragliding from Babadağ peak.
2. Sümela Monastery – This amazing cliffside sight is the “must see” attraction in the northeast Black Sea region, but there’s so much more. Lush national parks, waterfalls, caves and mountain pastures (known locally as “yaylas”) provide ample opportunities for hiking and touring. Mountain getaways at Uzungöl, Ayder and Çamlihemşin provide relief from the summer heat as well as gorgeous winter scenery.
1. Cappadocia – This is a traveler’s paradise. Unusual fairy chimneys, colorful canyons and rock-cut cave churches abound in this otherworldly landscape. Enjoy easy day hikes or horseback rides. Stay in a funky cave hostel or an upscale boutique hotel. If you’ve never been in a hot air balloon, this is the place to try it. Sunrises and sunsets are extra special here. Try the testi kebap, a regional specialty baked in a clay pot and broken open at your table.
As they say in Turkish, iyi yolculuklar! (Bon voyage!)