25 best things to do in Turkey (bucket list experiences)

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Turkey is a land where East meets West, history is around every corner, and the food will make you want to move here.

You can wander through Istanbul’s lively streets, drift over Cappadocia’s moon landscapes in a hot air balloon, or just chill on a beach along the Mediterranean.

Turkey has it all.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the best things to do in Turkey. We’re talking the big-ticket stops and some hidden spots you’ll be glad you didn’t skip.

Ready to plan your trip? Let’s get started.

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Turkey bucket list experiences

1. Explore the Hagia Sophia Mosque

Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum, the Hagia Sophia is an absolute must on your Turkey bucket list itinerary!

Hagia Sophia was built way back in 537 AD, and it’s a great example of Byzantine building skills.

When you go inside, you’ll see both Islamic calligraphy and old Christian pictures on the walls, which is pretty cool because it shows how Istanbul has been a mix of different cultures throughout the centuries.

💡 Fun fact:

The Hagia Sophia was actually the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

Hagia Sophia

2. Visit the Blue Mosque

Right next to Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque.

You might have heard of it since it’s pretty famous for having six towers instead of the usual four and for the blue tiles inside.

The Blue Mosque was finished in 1616 and is still used for prayers today. It’s a magnificent building from the Ottoman times.


3. Wander through the ancient city of Ephesus

Then there’s the ancient city of Ephesus, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

It’s got some really well-kept ruins, like the Library of Celsus, and gives you a peek into what life was like during the Roman Empire.

As you walk on the old marble roads, you’ll see why it’s considered one of the top spots for archaeology in the world.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Ephesus

4. Visit the ancient site of Aphrodisias

If you’re heading to Turkey, you should definitely visit Aphrodisias.

It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can walk among ancient Greek and Roman ruins.

The place is named after Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and it’s pretty amazing because you can see temples, a stadium, and ancient sculptures.

Historically, Aphrodisias was known for its sculpture school, which tells you that art was a big deal there back in the day.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Aphrodisias

5. Explore the abandoned stone houses in Kayaköy

Another interesting spot is Kayaköy, which is an abandoned village with stone houses and churches.

It was deserted in the 1920s when there was a big population swap between Greece and Turkey.

Walking through the empty streets, you get a real sense of what people went through during that turbulent time in Turkey’s history.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Kayaköy

6. Visit the cliff-perched Sumela Monastery

When you’re in Turkey, make a point to visit the Sumela Monastery in Trabzon Province.

It’s an old Orthodox Christian monastery that’s literally built into the side of a cliff and dates back to the 4th century.

The place is not just about the history—it’s also got some seriously stunning views.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Sumela Monastery

7. Explore the ancient city of Ani

The ancient city of Ani is right on the border with Armenia.

It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, but it’s got a haunting beauty to it.

Ani used to be called the ‘City of 1001 Churches,’ and it’s a great spot to see how different cultures and the old Silk Road trade routes have left their mark on Turkey.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Ani

8. Admire the stone architecture of Mardin

Mardin is another must-see, especially for its incredible stone architecture.

The whole town is up on a hill with a view over the plains of Mesopotamia, and you’ll see buildings that show off the area’s Arab, Kurdish, and Assyrian influences.

The old markets and mosques tell stories about how important Mardin was in the past.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Mardin

9. See the ‘Gypsy Girl’ mosaic in Gaziantep

If you’re into ancient art, you can’t miss the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep.

They’ve got this famous mosaic called the ‘Gypsy Girl’ plus a lot more art from Roman times.

It’s one of the biggest collections of old mosaics you’ll find anywhere.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Gaziantep

10. Soak in the terraced thermal pools of Pamukkale

Pamukkale is one of the most unique places in Turkey!

The terraced thermal pools of Pamukkale are often called the “Cotton Castle.” The name comes from the white terraces that look like a cascade of cotton.

These terraces are made from mineral-rich thermal waters that have solidified into petrified limestone pools.

Right next to this natural wonder is the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis, where you can soak in the warm waters and enjoy a bit of history at the same time.

Pamukkale Turkey

11. Discover the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia

Another natural wonder to visit is the fairy chimneys at Göreme National Park in the heart of Cappadocia.

Cappadocia is my favorite place in all of Turkey – it’s amazing!

The tall, cone-shaped rock formations here were created by volcanic eruptions and erosion over time.

But they’re not just cool to look at – people have carved churches and homes into these rocks, and you can go inside and explore these ancient dwellings.

Read next: 10 best Cappadocia valleys you should visit

Is Cappadocia safe?

12. Take a hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia

Also, for a truly unforgettable experience, take a hot air balloon flight over Cappadocia.

It’s one of the best ways to see the landscape, with its fairy chimneys, orchards, and vineyards.

The best time to do this is at sunrise when the light is just right, and the whole place looks like something out of a fairy tale.

Cappadocia safety tips

13. Paraglide at Babadag Mountain over Ölüdeniz

If you’re up for an adventure in Turkey, you can’t miss paragliding off Babadağ Mountain.

This spot is famous for its stunning views over Ölüdeniz Beach and the bright blue waters of the Turquoise Coast.

It’s one of the top places in the world for paragliding, so when you jump off that mountain, you’re joining the ranks of some of the most elite paragliders out there.

Book here – Paragliding Oludeniz, Fethiye, Turkey

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Ölüdeniz

14. Hike the scenic Lycian Way

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, the Lycian Way is a hiker’s paradise.

This 540-kilometer trail stretches from Fethiye all the way to Antalya and is packed with history.

You’ll walk on old Roman roads, discover secluded coves perfect for a quick dip, and stumble upon ancient ruins.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Lycian Way

15. Kayak over the sunken ruins in Kekova

And if you’re into both history and water sports, kayaking over the sunken ruins at Kekova is a must.

You’ll be paddling right above ancient Lycian ruins that are now underwater.

The water is so clear you can see the ruins below you, and there are plenty of spots to stop and swim in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Kekova

16. The giant stone heads of Mount Nemrut

Mount Nemrut is a testament to the ancient Kingdom of Commagene, with colossal statues and a tumulus that speak to a bygone era.

Rising over 2,000 meters, a dawn expedition to the summit is rewarded by an awe-inspiring sunrise alongside these stone guardians.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences -  Mount Nemrut

17. Swim in the thermal waters and mud baths of Dalyan

Down at a lower elevation, the town of Dalyan offers a different kind of natural wonder with its thermal waters and mud baths.

These are not only relaxing but are also said to have healing properties.

While you’re there, you might also catch a glimpse of the native loggerhead turtles that are known to visit the area.

18. Witness the natural beauty of the Pink Lake (Tuz Gölü)

For a truly unique sight, check out the Pink Lake, also known as Tuz Gölü.

It’s one of the world’s largest salt lakes and gets its pink color from the algae and minerals in the water.

In the summer, as the water evaporates, it leaves behind a white salty crust that creates a stunning contrast with the pink areas of the lake.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Tuz Gölü

19. Visit Lake Salda

If you’re looking for something a bit different, consider a visit to Lake Salda.

Often called “the Turkish Maldives” because of its white sandy shores and clear turquoise water, Lake Salda not only offers a beautiful setting for a swim but also has mineral-rich mud along its shores that is said to be good for your skin.


20. Relax on the beaches of Antalya

If you’re heading to Antalya, you’re in for some prime beach time.

There’s a mix of lively spots like Konyaaltı and quieter ones like Kaputaş, so you’ve got options depending on your mood.

Plus, the weather is usually on point and you’ve got plenty of places to grab a bite with a view of the sea.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Kaputas beach, Antalya

21. Taste wines in the vineyards of Cappadocia

Cappadocia is not just about hot air balloons and rocky landscapes; it’s also a region rich in viticultural history.

The vineyards here, nourished by volcanic soil, have been producing wine for over 4000 years.

Enjoy a wine-tasting session in the area’s unique ‘fairy chimneys’ and enjoy the flavors that make Turkish wine a hidden gem.

22. Visit the real Santa Claus’ birth home in Patara

Patara isn’t just cool because it’s where St. Nicholas (yep, the real Santa Claus) was born, but it’s also got this massive beach that goes on for 20 kilometers.

It’s got super fine sand and these thousand-year-old ruins right next to the beach.

We’re talking about things like a huge amphitheater and a big old arch that have been standing since the Lycians were around.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Patara

23. Enjoy a Bosphorus dinner cruise in Istanbul

When in Istanbul, you have to take a Bosphorus dinner cruise.

It’s an incredible way to see the city from the water, with Europe on one side and Asia on the other.

You’ll get some tasty Turkish food, watch some traditional dancing or music, and the view is ammazing, especially at night with all the lights.

And you’ll float right past some of the city’s biggest sights, so keep your phone ready for those shots that’ll light up your social media.

24. Dive into the clear waters of Kaş

Now, if you’re into diving, Kaş is your spot.

The water is so clear it’s like looking through glass, and you’ll see all sorts of fish down there.

Kaş itself is pretty laid-back with its chill cafes and streets paved with stones.

Best Turkey bucket list experiences - Kaş

25. Taste the amazing Turkish food

Yes, I couldn’t make a list of what to do in Turkey without mentioning the food.

Turkish food is hearty, it’s tasty, and it’s varied. Think kebabs grilled to perfection, meze platters for days, and baklava that’s sticky and sweet.

Street food is a must—grab a simit, it’s like a sesame bagel, but better. And don’t even get me started on the slow-cooked kebab like testi. Yuuuum.

What to eat in Turkey

FAQ – Things to do in Turkey

Which months are best to visit Turkey?

The best months to visit Turkey are April, May, September, and October when the weather is warm but not too hot and there are fewer tourists.

What is the most unique place in Turkey?

The most unique place in Turkey is Cappadocia with its fairy chimneys, cave hotels, and hot air balloon-filled skies.

How many days are enough for Turkey?

About 10-14 days are enough to see the highlights of Turkey, including Istanbul, Cappadocia, and the Aegean or Mediterranean coasts.

Which parts of Turkey are worth visiting?

Parts of Turkey worth visiting include Istanbul for its history and culture, Cappadocia for its landscapes, the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts for beaches, and Anatolia for its natural beauty and ancient ruins.

More posts about Turkey you shouldn’t miss

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Discover the ultimate Turkey bucket list experiences with my curated guide. Uncover the top things to do in Turkey, from the bustling bazaars of Istanbul to the serene beaches of Türkiye. #TurkeyTravel #BucketListTürkiye #ExploreTurkey

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