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Turkey really is the land of incredible scenery, culture, food and adventure. During my time in Turkey with Travel Talk I saw and experienced some amazing things. To me, Turkey meant delicious food but I soon learnt that it meant much more than that. I highly urge you to visit this beautiful country and experience all that it has to offer because there are so many great things to do in Turkey!
Here are the 23 best things to do in Turkey
Ballooning over Cappadocia
Cappadocia has one of the most unusual landscapes on earth and by air is the best way to see the fairy top chimneys! Hot air-ballooning should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s an experience but especially so you get to see one of earth’s most mysterious landscapes. Cappadocia is one of the best places to visit in Turkey!
Taste the local Raki
Raki is an alcoholic drink that traditionally is served with water and ice although many tourists just down it as fast as they can. This is not how you drink raki! After a couple of glasses of this, you’re bound to be either bouncing from the walls or passed out in a gutter. Either way, it makes for a great story.
Be brave and drink Ayran
Ayran is a super unusual drink that typically the locals drink made of yoghurt, water and salt. This is either a hit or miss, you will love it or absolutely despise it. A great summer drink because it rehydrates you, that’s if you don’t spit it out!
Smoother yourself in lemon kolonya
You’re not Turkish until you smell like lemon. It used for a multitude of reasons but the most popular being a cologne. You will find it in most homes around Turkey. Due to its alcohol content its used as a disinfectant. It’s usually offered to guests to freshen up when they visit or at restaurants and hotels.
Try a fish sandwich and pickle juice on the harbour of Istanbul
If you want to become a true İstanbullu then you need to make your way to the river Bosphorus near the Galata Bridge and you will find places serving the famous fish sandwich. The fish is placed in a bun along with, green salad, onion and dressed with lemon juice. The traditional way to have the sandwich is with a shot of pickle juice too.
Have your picture take in the iconic Troy horse
Unfortunately, the ancient city of Troy was mostly destroyed but at the site is a replica of the famous Troy horse which you can climb inside. It wouldn’t be a trip to Turkey without a trip to Troy. This is a must do in Turkey!
Another must-visit ancient city is Pergamum. Although it’s not in great condition like Ephesus, it’s still one of the three most famous ancient cities here in Turkey.
Visit the ancient city of Ephesus
This ancient city was home to 30,000-60,000 people and is in surprisingly good shape considering it was built in the 10th century BCE. This city was famous for its Temple of Artemis, which was named one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. See if you can find the public toilets in this city. This was where the men of the city hung out and talked important business! This was one of my favourite places to visit in Turkey and one I highly recommend!
Okay, pigeons may not seem so glamorous to you but in Turkey they love Pigeons and take care of them. At Pigeon Valley, you will see a huge amount of pigeons (obviously) but also a tree which is covered in blue evil eyes. The tradition of the eye dates back thousands of years ago and it’s believed that the eye swallows up the evil and bad luck so you will be safe. Just about every Turkish person will carry one of these or have them hanging in their house.
Try REAL Turkish delights
I have to admit, I have had many ‘Turkish delights’ and every one of them I tasted I have hated. The real Turkish delights are amazing and I love them. They don’t taste like the nasty ones we have in New Zealand or other western cultures. You are guaranteed to come home with a box of them. The most popular flavour is pistachio.
Go for a Turkish spa
Are you wondering what to do in Turkey that’s relaxing also? The Turkish bath is an iconic thing to do on your visit to Turkey. Men and women have separate sections of the bath where you will relax in a heated marble filled room while a lady or man will scrub to exfoliate and then massage you with oils. Typically, the Turkish will make time to do this once a week.
Pamukkale means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish. It’s a UNESCO site which contains many terraced hot pools. People have come to these pools for thousands of years meaning that unfortunately in the past, they have been damaged. Back in the day, there used to be hotels that used these pools as their own backyard but after it was declared a world heritage site these were torn down. Thankfully, that was done in time before more damage was done. These days you can still walk over a small part of the terraces and swim in the hot pools too! It’s an amazing place and is one of the best things to do in Turkey.
Visit a silk carpet factory
If you get the chance to visit a carpet factory then it’s totally worth it. In Cappadocia, there are ones that are run by the government in Cappadocia to help supply the women in the villages with jobs. They provide all the tools and materials and then the women get to make their own carpets to sell. It’s a great scheme to make sure that the locals have jobs and can feed their families.
Watch the locals make Turkish pottery
If your anything like me when you see the Turkish pottery you would have wished you had taken an extra suitcase just to pack it full of the stuff. Make sure you visit a traditional pottery and watch how they make and hand paint these beautiful dishes.
Pay your respects at Gallipoli
If you are a New Zealander or Australian you will know all about the history of Gallipoli. Our Anzac soldiers fought and lost in Gallipoli to knock the Ottoman Empire out of World War 1. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in the bloody battle. It’s an amazing experience to be able to pay your respects to those who lost their lives there. If you can make it for actual Anzac Day then it’s totally worth. You can read all about my experience here. It’s something I will never forget.
The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque)
One of the most impressive pieces of architecture I have ever seen. The blue mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet I between 1609 and 1616. It consists of 26 columns ad 30 domes. It’s still used today so during the day it can be closed off to non-worshipers for the 5 daily prayers. Make sure you wear suitable clothing, if not they will supply you with cloaks to wear.
Just a stone’s throw away is the Hagia Sophia. It used to be the largest church on earth but nowadays it is the fourth largest. It has an interesting past as it was used as a church for 916 years and a mosque for 481 years. Nowadays it’s a museum for all people to enjoy. It’s interesting to see the mix of religion inside the museum and is a must-see when visiting Istanbul!
Experience a traditional Turkish night of dancing
On my Travel Talk tour we had the option to experience a traditional Turkish night that consisted of dancers and unlimited alcohol. It was a fun interactive show and great to see the traditional dancing, it’s highly recommended!
Try a traditional Turkish coffee
Personally, I don’t drink coffee but I decided to try, because when in Turkey! To my surprise, I liked the strongest coffee on earth! How is this possible? I still have no idea. Turkish coffee is served black with the beans at the bottom of the cup so try and not down the whole coffee and you may get a nasty surprise at the bottom of the cup!
Eat your weight’s worth of Pide
Pide is basically a Turkish pizza. Expect lots of cheese on a thin dough with the option of lots of delicious flavours. My mouth is watering right now as I speak!
Visit the Göreme open air museum
In Cappadocia, there are estimated 600 churches that are cut into rocks. It’s one of the most popular places to visit in Cappadocia, with beautiful frescoes and bizarre architecture it’s easy to see why. Make sure you visit the church just outside of the open-air museum as well. The detail and colours are incredible.
You must try shisha at least once when visiting Turkey. Its an instrument where you vapour and smoke flavoured tobacco. Shisha is readily available in most restaurants and bars and it’s a popular pastime for most Turkish people.
Underground city of Derinkuyu
The underground city of Derinkuyu was only discovered in 1963 by a man while improving his house he found a secret room which then lead to a tunnel and a full underground city! At least 20,000 people lived in this city including animals in this 18-storey masterpiece. Nowadays you can wander through the first 8 storeys weaving through the tiny tunnels. If you’re a tall person, be warned, it may be a bit uncomfortable!
As you can see Turkey boasts some incredible sites that should not be missed. There are so many more things to do in Turkey so make sure you leave any suggestion down below! Make sure you check information about the Turkey visa validity before you arrive into Turkey to avoid any trouble.
I visited Turkey with Travel Talk Tours on their 10-day Anzac tour that I can highly recommend. Although this trip was sponsored, all opinions are my own and I would never recommend something I didn’t absolutely love!
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- Experiencing Anzac Day in Gallipoli with Travel Talk Tours
- Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!
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