TURKEY: 5 Places to Visit in Turkey

If you have been following us on our adventures, you know I just finished up the 8 part video series and blog posts about our Black Sea Road Trip. You can always go back and check that out! 

You have been asking for some more Turkey content and here it is! 

For the month of February (the month of lllooooovvvvveeeee), I am doing a quick little mini LOVE series. Each week I will cover 5 “…” I love about Turkey.

Here is the line up!

  • WEEK ONE: 5 Things I love about Turkey 
  • WEEK TWO: 5 Places I love in Turkey
  • WEEK THREE: 5 Foods I love in Turkey 
  • WEEK FOUR: 5 People who also love Turkey too 

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Let’s get started! Read on to learn the 5 PLACES I love in Turkey

1. ISTANBUL

While it is first on my list it is not necessarily my favorite city in Turkey. Obviously when we moved here we live to Izmir. 

However, Istanbul will always have a special place in my heart. I live for 2 years, ten years ago. It’s where I first met my husband (also American). It is a lot longer story, but we became friends during that time.  As well, I never lived in a big city in America, and Istanbul was my first major massive big city. It will always be a very dear city.  

Grown to a city of 20 million people, Istanbul has been a part of four major empires. Positioned between two continents, you can travel from Asia to Europe in one day by just taking a ferry or you can cross over one of the intercontinental bridges. Most people only spend a day or two going to the most visited tourist areas and seeing sights like the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapı Palace which is where the Ottoman sultans used to live. With all the historical sites, one can easily spend two weeks in just Istanbul. 

So many people who have come to Istanbul and fallen in love with this city. I think it has the same big city draws as New York. So many people, not just Turkish, but other nationalities who come for a visit, find a city so enticing, and move here.

2. IZMIR

I’m sure it is no surprise that the second place on my list is Izmir. I don’t just say that because we live here, but I’m sure it has some influence. It is truly a beautiful city. Much like Istanbul, it is positioned right along the coast curving around a bay area. Here too one can enjoy a ferry from one side of the city to the other. 

This city of 4 million people is big enough to attract expat community. It tends to be sunny most of the year with a little bit of rain and cooler temps in the wintertime. Known as the ancient city of Smyrna, Izmir is the starting point for people to visit Ephesus. Being one of the biggest open-air Museum in Turkey, Ephesus is absolutely worth your visit. As well, Izmir is a great base for taking several day trips out to different areas like the beach, mountains, villages, and other historical sites. i

3. PAMUKKALE

I know that Pamukkale would not make most people’s list. Because I have never seen anything like this outside of Turkey, it has become one of my favorite places in Turkey! 

Pamukkale literally means ‘Cotton (pamuk) Castle (kale).’ The white hill juts up from the ground in the middle of valley making it visible for miles on a clear day. It looks like cold, snowy mountain, but it most definitely is not!

So, what makes it white? The mineral rick thermal hot springs in this area are particularly rich in calcium sulfate. This unique site and thermal pools make it a popular stop-off for folks doing a huge Turkey tour.

Pammukale is also part of the ancient city of Hierapolis. The theater is one of the best around and has an awesome view of the area. The grounds of Hierapolis are extensive and can take you up to 3 hours to see everything, including the extensive city roads and tombs.

Just 15 minutes south of Pamukkale is another historical site, Laodicea, also known as the last of the 7 churches on this route. Laodicea is ACTIVELY being excavated/restored and continually improved. Since I first visited in 2009 ish, they discovered a church in 2010 and now have opened it to the public!

If you live in or visit Izmir OR if you have never seen anything like this before, you should definitely add Pamukkale to your itinerary. While you can make it out to Pamukkale and back in 1 day (if you do it this way, get a bus tour and let them do all the hard work), it will be a VERY long day. Otherwise, it’s best to make the trip an overnight one since Pamukkale is a solid 3 hours drive ONE WAY without stops (near a town called Denizli).  

Laodicia Turkey

4. CAPPADOCIA

The area of Cappadocia is well-known among tourist for its world-renowned hot air balloon rides and massive sprawling rock formations that have been created into the soft rock. For nature lovers, this is an ideal location – several hiking routes, ATV tours, and horse riding. It’s beautiful anytime of year, but I especially love it in the snow!

Several different valleys with unique rock formations that have been created throughout this area of Cappadocia. Cave homes where dug into the rock. Even though still a lot of people who actually live in the cave homes, a lot of these locals have opted to turn their homes into hotels.  

There is a historical significance when it comes to who lived here too. At one point, this land was known as Galatia and a Christian group called Galatians resided here. During their time, there was a lot of persecution among the Christians. Due to that persecute, they created underground cities – yes, multiple underground cities. Derinkuyu is one of the most visited and this city extends 6-7 (that they have safe discovered) levels underground. People would retreat and hide whenever they felt threatened by raiders. 

In the same way, homes were built high up into these rock formation for safety too. People were able to pull up their long ladders and hide from their enemies. Because there were Christians in this area, many churches were discovered within these caves and underground cities covered in original frescoes. Today you can still see frescoes that date back hundreds of years. 

Thankfully, these areas are very much protected can truly see kind of all these communities trying to live they how they lived based off of these seeing these cave homes. 

Once you get a small taste of Cappadocia, you will definitely want to go back for more. 

5. RIZE

It’s probably because we just did our 2-week trip road trip throughout the Black Sea region…  (By the way, you can see a whole playlist on that). We took two weeks and drove from Ankara all the way to Rize.) Out of all the places we visited on this trip, I wish we had more time in Rize

When people think of Turkey, what comes to mind? I’ve asked people what they thought and they usually think desert, camels, etc. but never imagine lush, mountainous, densely forested green paradise.  It is absolutely beautiful.  The mountains provide a very different scenery than here in Izmir where we’re on the coast. Actually, Rize IS on the water, located on the Black Sea, but the landscape escalate very quickly into the mountains. 

The mountains in this area have a type of plateau on top, called ‘yayla’ in Turkish. On these spots they have created little communities of hotels, pansiyons (like hostels), and even little groups of bungalows. From the top of these mountains you can experience just the beauty of nature. We visited waterfalls, castle, try different foods that are only known to this region. 

As well, Rize is also known for its çay production. Because it gets so much rain, it makes it a perfect location to grow çay bushes. Çay is the Turkish words for tea. It’s funny, (and perhaps you have noticed in my videos…) whenever I’m talking even in English, I generally still use the Turkish word for tea! 

Every country has their own culture and traditions, and these can differ within the country based off of smaller regions. Turkey is no different. 

Unfortunately, most tourist never make it out to the Black Sea region. If you are repeated visitor to Turkey than I think the Black Sea region definitely deserves on some of your time when you come next!

There you have it! Those are my top five places I love to visit in Turkey. I think I will have to do a part 2 because I could easily name 5 more!!! 

Check out our matching video over at our YouTube Channel.

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • Have you visited Turkey? 
  • Where do you love to visit?
  • Or where would you love to visit one day?

Check out our other Mini LOVE Series videos and blog post too!

  • 5 Things I love about Turkey: BLOG POST (coming soon!) + VIDEO
  • 5 Place I love in Turkey: BLOG POST + VIDEO 
  • 5 Food I love in Turkey: next week
  • 5 People who love Turkey too: 2 weeks

Thank you for watching my mini love series and so thankful for you and I hope you enjoy the freebies!