If you got a chance to travel to Turkey, chances are you’ve probably visited Istanbul already. If you haven’t, Istanbul will likely be the first city on your bucket list to see in the country. And now you may wonder what other cities in Turkey are worth visiting outside Istanbul, so this post is the answer to your question.
In this post, I’m collaborating with a few fellow travel bloggers to present some alternative destinations to visit in Turkey outside Istanbul. After all, Istanbul is probably a must-visit city in Turkey among others, but there are also plenty of things to see and experience elsewhere.
So, what are the top 10 cities to visit in Turkey outside Istanbul?
Traveling Around Turkey
Traveling in Turkey is totally doable even when you do it without joining a tour. Most of the big cities in Turkey already have a well-maintained infrastructure that makes getting around the city relatively easy.
Public transportation in the big cities like Izmir or Ankara is also well-connected, making it more convenient for you to travel around the city on a budget.
For inter-city travel in Turkey, you also have a few options, including by bus, ferry boat or train. And if you have limited time to travel, you can also find many flight options to travel from one city to the other, whether it is through their national carrier, Turkish Airlines, or some local budget airlines like Pegasus or Anadolu Jet.
While online booking platforms like Obilet and Biletall are available, unfortunately, both don’t accept international cards for payment. Alternatively, you can also buy it through apps like 12Go, although the price is usually a bit higher than the actual price. The cheapest way to buy a bus ticket in Turkey is to purchase it directly at the sales office.
Traveling by train in Turkey is slightly easier since at least the app built by TCDD, Turkish Railway System, makes it possible to do a transaction using an internatioTraveling by train in Turkey is slightly easier since at least the app built by TCDD, Turkish Railway System, makes it possible to do a transaction using international cards. I’m not sure about other ferry boat service companies, I also had no problem booking ferry boat tickets with my international card through IDO’s official website.
As for the flight, I had some trouble making a payment using my Indonesian credit card on the Turkish Airlines website, although it was possible to do it using my Serbian debit card. Meanwhile, I had to ask my friend to make a payment for me using her Turkish credit card when I tried to upgrade my baggage on Pegasus.
13 Cities to Visit in Turkey – That Are Not Istanbul!
If it’s your first time visiting Turkey, you may want to spend around 3-5 days in Istanbul and explore some of the must-visit places in the city. But if you have more time to travel around Turkey, make sure to visit some other cities and experience their historical value, the beauty of the nature, and other things that they offer in each city.
So, what are the other cities in Turkey that are worth visiting outside Istanbul? Here we go!
Another place in Turkey for history junkies, Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire ever since it began its glory in the early 1930s. Until now, Bursa remains one of the most historical cities in Turkey. It’s an excellent add-on for your travel plan to Istanbul since Bursa is easily reached from the city by either bus or ferry boat on a daily basis.
There are plenty of activities you can do in Bursa. From sightseeing and shopping around the Central Bazaar to visiting the well-preserved walls of the first Ottoman citadel that has now become the home of the historic clock tower and also the tombs of the founders of the Ottoman Empire: Osman and Orhan Gazi.
If you’re more into nature, Uludag Mountain or the ancient Mysian Olympus can be reached easily from the city center. Being the highest mountain in the Marmara region, it is also a popular ski destination during the winter. Despite that, Bursa is still recommended to visit all year round.
There are a few options to get to Uludag from Bursa city center, including through Bursa Teleferik. This 9-km cable car journey provides full support for visitors, making it the longest telpher line in Turkey.
Çanakkale is not a Turkish city that many people have heard of, and it’s often overlooked in favor of more celebrated places like Istanbul or Antalya. But in spite of its relative anonymity, Çanakkale is definitely worth adding to your Turkey itinerary because it’s the gateway to two of the country’s most important historical sites: Gallipoli and the ancient ruins of Troy.
The city sits in northwestern Turkey, on the Dardanelles Strait. It was here, in 1915 during the First World War, that the Allies attempted to invade Turkey and gain a strategic victory over the Ottoman Empire. The attack was a failure, and many died – and today you can visit the battlefields and memorials that commemorate this part of Turkey’s history.
Nearby is the site of another famous battle: the siege of Troy. This legendary war was immortalized in Homer’s epic tale, The Iliad, and in many books and films, but for centuries historians thought it was just a story.
Then, in 1870 archaeologists discovered a buried ancient city close to Çanakkale, and over the last 100 years, they have uncovered strong evidence to show that it is in fact the real city of Troy. Today you can explore the ruins and find out more about the city in the excellent on-site museum.
Later, you can return to explore Çanakkale itself. This bustling port city has plenty of hotels and restaurants, a beautiful waterfront promenade, and you can even see the famous wooden Trojan Horse from the 2004 movie of Troy starring Brad Pitt.
Izmir is Turkey’s third-largest city. Located on the coast of the Aegean Sea, the city had a history of vibrant trade activities as a port city, and a stunning sea view embraced by sprawling houses on the surrounding mountains.
Izmir is a popular travel hub or pitstop to many tourists as it is conveniently connected to a number of heritage sites like the acropolis of Pergamon and the Old Smyrna Agora. Apart from that, the city itself is a beautiful scene, with a view of its harbor wherever you go.
Starting from Alsancak at the Konak Meydani, the historic center of the city, take a walk on the pedestrian promenade Birinci Kordon and observe the locals stroll, ride a bike or walk their dogs.
Explore the Agora Open Air Museum, one of the most important heritage of the Greco-Roman period, the original site was seriously damaged after an earthquake in the year 178, today the Corinthian columns are retained and the market retained the layout of an ancient Roman market.
To learn more about the Greco-Roman past of the city, visit the Kocaeli Museum, an ethnographic institution showcasing sculpture, silverware, and jewelry collected from Agora Open Air Museum.
To appreciate architecture, head up to the mountain and enjoy a panoramic view of the city at the Kadifekale. A citadel was constructed by Alexander the Great in 334 BC.
Best known for being the gateway to the impressive ancient ruins of Ephesus, Selcuk, Turkey is an incredible and unmissable destination in Turkey for travelers, and particularly for history buffs.
The ruins of Ephesus are home to the impressive Library of Celsus, which is the only remaining Roman library, as well as a massive amphitheater and countless buildings around this sprawling site. If you can, plan to visit in the off-season to enjoy this site – one of Turkey’s most well-known attractions – without all the visitors that can overwhelm it in the summertime.
Spending a night in Selcuk and arriving at the site first thing in the morning is another great way to best take advantage of your time here.
Despite this city is best known for the ruins of Ephesus, there is much more to see here, too. Selcuk is also home to the remains of the Temple of Artemis – though just one single pillar of this ancient temple remains standing today, it is one of the ancient wonders of the world.
Visitors can also head to the important religious pilgrimage site just outside of town, a home believed to be where the Virgin Mary lived until the end of her life.
Once a quiet farming village, Kuşadasi is now the largest beach resort town on Turkey’s western Aegean coast. Today, the town is a popular cruise ship destination and also another gateway to the historic ruins of nearby Ephesus.
Kuşadasi, meaning “bird Island,” is home to incredible beaches, restaurants, cafés, bustling bars, 2 waterparks, and a myriad of excellent sightseeing opportunities. Sit along the seafront promenade and watch the cruise ships docking, or enjoy one of the breathtaking sunsets.
If you are looking to spend the day at the beach, head to the very popular Ladies Beach. There, you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas, enjoy some watersports, or head to one of the nearby restaurants or cafés for a delicious meal. For a little more privacy, head to Silver Sands or Love Beach, which are far less crowded, just a little further down along the coast.
Kuşadasi also has a popular pedestrian market located right near the waterfront. There you will find plenty of souvenirs like jewelry, leather, belly dancer outfits, and even Turkish Delight or Baklava.
If you are looking for a little outdoor adventure, head just outside the city where you can go on ATV Quad Tours, do some horseback riding, or head to Dilek Peninsula National Park for Canyon Walk, a long trek around the beautiful mountains. Don’t forget your swimsuit! The beaches at the National Park are incredible!
The best time to visit Kuşadasi is between June and September when both the days are sunniest, and the water temperature is the warmest. Of course, this is also peak tourist season, so keep in mind that the attractions, beaches, and restaurants will also be at their busiest.
Bodrum is best visited in the summer months, to take advantage of the coastal location. Most of the town shuts down through winter, but if you can visit during the shoulder months, you are likely to pick up some great hotel deals and have a more peaceful time without hordes of tourists.
Stroll the old town shopping and stop in cafes for coffee. Wander along the waterfront and book a traditional Turkish boat trip. You can even take the ferry across to Kos, a Greek island, for the day, or travel around to neighboring beaches and bays.
The infamous UNESCO site of Pamukkale is easily visited from Bodrum on a day trip. The white terraced hot pools are worth the visit!
The food in Bodrum is very delicious. Try the freshly caught fish and fried calamari at any of the great little restaurants that line Bodrum beach. Stop by Mado café, a popular Turkish café that specializes in desserts and tasty Turkish ice cream.
If relaxing is more your thing, Bodrum has some great day spas to visit for that authentic Turkish hammam experience.
Getting to Bodrum is easy with daily direct flights from Istanbul. Or for the more adventurous, catch a ferry!
Marmaris is a popular resort town along the Turquoise Coast known for its fantastic bargain shopping, tasty restaurants, and nightlife. There is so much to see and do from beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters, to historical relics and ruins.
Marmaris is easy to get to and the Dalaman International Airport is about 100 kilometers to the Marmaris city center. The best time to visit is during the months from mid-May to the end of June, and from early September to mid-October.
If you are looking to enjoy some time on the beach, you have a number of beaches to choose from within a short distance of the city center. Some of the most popular include Icmeler Beach, Amos Beach and Turunc Beach. All can be easily accessed by taking a dolmus minibus.
Some other must-do things include haggling at the Grand Bazaar for a bargain, or learning about the historical significance of the region at Marmaris Museum or the Kapurcuk Kultur ve Gastronomi Evi Museum.
There are also lots of day trips readily available including visiting the famous Carian Rock Tombs, a well-preserved archaeological site, and Dalyan where you can enjoy a beautiful boat trip across Koycegiz Lake, take a mud bath or enjoy some time at Turtle Beach. Other popular day trips are to wander around the ancient towns of Kavn and Amos, or enjoy a day on a pirate ship exploring ancient cities, caves and beautiful beaches.
With so many things to do in Marmaris, you will be spoilt for choice!
It is easy to mistake Istanbul as the capital city when it is absolutely not. Ankara, Turkey’s capital city that is often overlooked by Istanbul’s popularity, may not be on the top of your bucket list, but it’s still worth visiting.
Situated in the heart of Turkey, Ankara is a perfect place to stay if you’re planning to travel around the country. The capital city is only 4-5 hours by car from Istanbul or the famous Cappadocia. But there is so much more to Ankara than just being the center of the Turkish government.
What was once the home of the Hittites, Ankara has transformed into a modern city with an advanced public transportation system. It is fairly easy to get around the city, and the city has everything for everyone.
If you’re into history, don’t forget to visit the citadel and Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, is also located in the city worth visiting while in Ankara. The most visited site in Ankara, the latter is also the most prominent modern pilgrimage site, especially for Turkish people.
Kas on the Turquoise Coast in southern Turkey has long been a favorite with visitors looking for sun, sea and Mediterranean culture. The laid back resort town is home to some of the best beaches in Turkey, while those looking for culture will find ancient Hellenistic ruins both above and underwater.
Unlike the larger resort cities in Antalya Province, Kas remains blissfully unspoiled. You can spend your days swimming and bronzing yourself at one of the many hidden coves and islands. Kaputas beach, with its golden stretch of sand and unreal cobalt blue water, should not be missed.
A popular day trip from Kas is kayaking or snorkeling over the sunken city of Kekova, a submerged ancient city. Another option is to take the ferry across to the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
The Hellenistic theatre near the harbor is the perfect place to catch the sunset before heading out for dinner. For chilled nightlife, head down to the waterfront after sunset. Locals and tourists converge here for their daily social fix as they wine and dine and hang out at the taverns, cafes, and hookah bars.
To experience the best of Kas, visit in summer, between June and September. While it never feels overcrowded, those looking for peace and quiet while still enjoying warm weather should consider coming in October.
On the northern Black Sea coast, Amasra is one of the most picturesque cities in Turkey.
The historical center of Amasra spreads across a little peninsula, with a beautiful Byzantine bridge connecting one half to the “mainland”. Perched at the top of a hill, there is a castle offering stunning views along the coast and out to sea.
It’s a wonderfully laidback place. Wandering through the atmospheric winding streets and alleyways, you will discover a handful of family-owned cafes, bakeries and restaurants, many of which have terraces with amazing views.
In the evening, there’s usually a small group of people gathered together on the harbourfront to watch the sun go down. There are several places where you can jump into the clean, clear sea and do a spot of sunset swimming. It’s really idyllic.
Best of all, northern Turkey (known locally as “Karadeniz”) is still a fairly off-the-beaten-track destination. Despite its incredible beauty, the region hasn’t yet been hit by a wave of mass tourism, unlike other parts of the country. This also means that, overall, prices tend to be lower here than in some of the better-known Turkish holiday destinations.
The best time to visit Amasra is in the summer, between June and September. During these months the weather is usually warm and dry, perfect for exploring this fantastic place on foot.
While the name is unknown to most foreigners, Gaziantep is the dreamy city of delicious cuisine and pistachios for most local Turks. Often considered to be the gastronomic capital of Turkey, Gaziantep is legendary for its food, especially its kabobs as well as the birthplace of Turkish baklava.
No trip to Antep (as it’s more informally known) would be complete without sampling one of the dozens of Baklava shops along the streets. How they all manage to stay in business is a shock to me.
Beyond the food, which in itself is worth a trip alone, the city houses many incredible historical and cultural areas to see. The well-known “Gypsy Girl” often seen donning various Turkish Tourism ads is housed here in Antep in the Zeugma Mosaic Museum.
The old city streets, bazaars, and citadel can round out a great visit to the city and give tourists many things to explore. On top of that, You could spend hours shopping for home goods and food in the market and argue over the day’s prices of pistachios.
End your day by wandering about in Maanoğlu Parkı and taking in one of the local tea shops to sit and chat with your travel companions about your explorations and plans for the next.
The best times to visit Gaziantep are in the Spring and Fall, as it tends to be very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.
Western Turkey gets a lot of hype and for good reasons, but there is something magical about the Black Sea Region. Driving along this coast is still one of my favorite trips in Turkey. Trabzon is a great anchor city. You can start there and travel out and around or spend all your time there. It is rich with culture and history and delicious food.
While in Trabzon what you do will in part depend on if you rent a car or not. It is safe to say that driving in downtown Trabzon is not for the faint of heart but if you want to get out and about, I definitely recommend it. I also recommend downloading RadarBot so you won’t blow through speed traps.
In this area, you can eat the best sütlaç in all of Turkey in a small town not far from Trabzon called Hamsiköy. It is so delicious because the diet of the cows is so varied. Their milk is like cream. Heavenly.
If you know anything about Turkey, you know köfte (meatballs) are a big thing here as well. Each region has varying methods and spices used. Akcabat Köfte are famous and for a good reason. Just west of Trabzon you can add another delicious flavor to your palate!
Best seen in May. You’ll miss most of the rain of winter and spring and beat the summer heat.
Around the area also stands the Sumela Monastery – a Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is unclear how old it is but the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism places it around 386AD. It is famous not only because of its age, but also because of its location. If you go to see it, make sure you check if it is open as there are often renovations as this amazing site deteriorates.
Van is a city located in Eastern Turkey. The scenery of the place is beautiful, has lots of great local dishes and its history is quite impressive, I must add.
Do you like kittens? Visit Van Cat Institution of Yuzuncu Yil University. The experience is a remarkable one!
Visiting Van, especially during the winter season makes for a great adventure! Kids can do most of the winter sports like skiing, ice skating, or snowboarding. During summer, you can swim in swimming pools, or terminal springs, play tennis, or riding a horse.
Try out the famous Van breakfast which comprises over 15 dishes filled with yummy and organic local ingredients (herbs, herbal cheese, all of them are native to the region!). I recommend the Matbah-1 Van, Van Kahvaltisi Restaurant. Their food is good, the staff helpful and you can try out the whole breakfast experience for 2 for only 100 TRY. It is open from 8 AM to 7 PM.
If you plan on visiting Erzurum while in Van, you’d be happy to know that the distance between the cities is approximately 400km (5 hours drive max).
Plan Your Next Trip to Turkey
Turkey was one of a few countries that never closed their borders, even when the pandemic hit in early 2020. Now that the world reopens, most travelers can enter Turkey with their vaccination certificates only. No PCR test is required, unless otherwise stated.
So, are you ready to plan your nex trip to Turkey? Which city are you going to first? Share in the comment below, and cheerio!
Marya The BeauTraveler
I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry, but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017 and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.
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