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Ultimate Guide to the Top Tourist Destinations in Turkey

Hillary Uzomba

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If you’re planning a trip abroad in 2021, you aren’t alone. After all, 1.4 billion people take an international trip each year. Like many other dream destinations, Turkey also got listed on Forbes for 2021 and travelers have been waiting to take their seats on that plane as soon as these unusual times are over.

If you are one of those planning a trip to Turkey, check these top places to visit and get ready for your dream trip:

1) The Hagia Sophia Museum

When the Byzantines built the Hagia Sophia during the early Middle Ages, it was the world’s largest building. This structure served as the capital city’s cathedral from its construction in the sixth century A.D. to the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. When the Ottoman Empire took control of Turkey, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque.

In 1934, the Turkish government converted the church into a museum to pay tribute to the two cultures that inhabited it for nearly 1400 years. It’s one of Turkey’s top tourist destinations, which is why the Hagia Sophia Museum made our #1 pick for the top Turkey tourist attractions.

2) Mount Nemrut

Mount Nemrut is also known as Nemrut Dag, and it’s a monument the ancient King Antiochos I built for himself during the late Hellenistic Period (69 B.C. to 34 B.C.).

This ancient monument features a funerary mound of stone chips. Five massive limestone statues of ancient gods and their lion and eagle guardian statues are the real attraction of Nemrut Dag. Decades ago, the heads of the five statues fell to a lower level of the tombs.

To get to Nemrut Dag, it’s a steep trek to one of the highest points of the Eastern Taurus mountains. Yet, to see such an incredible artistic fete that’s more than two centuries old, we think it’s worth the trip.

3) The Ancient City of Ephesus

Once a port city of ancient Greece, Ephesus was built in the 10th century B.C. as one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League.

You may know this ancient city better by its famed church, Ephesus. Ephesus is one of the seven churches of the Apocalypse in Revelation. During ancient times, this city also served as one of the most important commercial centers of the ancient world.

Though Ephesus is now in ruins, you can still explore what remains of the once-great city. See the Library of Celsus and the Great Theater. Plus, the famed ruins of the Temple of Artemis are only a few yards walk away.

4) The Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis was a monument built to honor the ancient Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis, in the fifth or sixth century B.C.

Though this monument was burned to the ground in 356 B.C., the temple was rebuilt 33 years later. The temple was again destroyed in 263 A.D., but its ruins were discovered by a team of British archeologists in the 19th century A.D.

Today, the ruins of the Temple of Artemis are considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. If you prefer the real thing to the ruins, you can see a replica of the famed temple at Miniaturk Park in Istanbul.

5) The Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkapi Palace was the Ottoman Empire’s main court in the 15th and 16th centuries A.D. The palace was built in 1453 after the Ottomans dismantled the Byzantine Empire.

From 1453 to 1481, this palace was the home of Mehmet the Conqueror. Subsequent rulers lived in the palace until the 1800s, when then Sultan moved his home to a palace on the beaches of the Bosporus Strait.

Tourists can now experience how it feels to live like royalty with a tour inside this colorful structure. From the rococo-style fountains to the 300-room Harem, the Topkapi Palace Museum is an absolute must-see for lovers of royal history.

6) The Ruins of the City of Ani

The so-called city of a thousand and one church was built nearly 1,600 years ago but still stands as a haunting ruin of a formerly-great metropolitan city.

Situated between the most important trade routes, Ani was a great city for commercial activity in the early Medieval Times. The city withstood centuries of conquerors and battles, only to be abandoned in the eighteenth century.

The ruins of the city of Ani were closed to tourists for years after its abandonment. Today, though, Ani is open to tourists who want to explore the rumored haunted ruins of this eerie site that seems frozen in time.

7) The Ancient Province of Erzurum

Erzurum is the name of a Turkish province that has served as a transportation junction for nearly 6,000-year history.

Historians believe that Erzurum was built in 4,000 B.C. The history of Erzurum is almost as rich as the history of Turkey itself, with Alexander the Great and Tamerlane having both ruled this city at one point in history.

The Byzantine city walls of Erzurum are still intact and surprisingly well-preserved considering their age. In the city’s historic district, you can also explore the ancient tombs and early medieval tombs built during the 1200s. Erzurum is a must-see for any historical buffs traveling to Turkey.

8) The Sumela Monastery

Erected in the cliffs of the Zigana Mountains near the Black Sea, Greek Orthodox Christians built the Sumela Monastery nearly 1,600 years ago.

At 1,200 meters, this monastery was a fete of construction for its time. The monastery was used at least until the 18th century, as seen by the frescoes of the Virgin Mary speckled throughout the interior of the building. In 1923, the monastery was abandoned.

Tourists flock to this now-reopened structure to photograph its beauty and history. The trek through a mountainside forest and up the side of the Zigana Mountains may seem daunting at first, but the trip is worth the incredible sightseeing you can do from the top.

9) The Kariye Museum (The Chora Church)

Another Turkish holy place with centuries of history, the Kariye Museum, has been a Church of Christ, an Islamic mosque, and, now, a museum.

A Byzantine prime minister ordered the construction of the Chora Church during the early reign of the Byzantine Emperor, somewhere between the 13th and 14th century B.C. The Ottoman Empire converted the church into a mosque after conquering the Empire in 1453 and declared a national monument and museum in 1945.

In November 2019, the Turkish government announced that the Kariye Museum would be reverted to its former status as a place of worship. Though the museum may soon close to tourists, you can be among the last few who get to see the museum in its current function.

10) The Kusadasi Castle

The ancient city of Kusadasi has been around for more than 6,000 years. Colonists from Anatolia migrated to the region to take advantage of its rich farmlands.

The fall of the city of Ephesus led to the rise of Kusadasi. After Ephesus was conquered and partially destroyed in the early Middle Ages, the Byzantine Empire needed a new port city. They chose Kusadasi for its proximity to the Silk Road.

The Kusadasi Castle is one of the last remnants of the great Byzantine trading center. The fortress crowns a popular city park and, inside, you can find an incredibly unique whale fine skeleton. Considering the beautiful views, you get off the city from Kusadasi Castle; this ancient structure is a must-see for more than one reason.

11) The Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace is one of the newer structures on this list of Turkey tourist attractions. Constructed in the 1800s, this royal dwelling was the home of the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

Dolmabahce is located in the former capital of Turkey, Instanbul— the city of palaces. When the Turkish Republic moved its government center from Istanbul to Ankara, Dolmabahce became a vacation home of sorts for Turkey’s foreign political guests.

Now, the palace no longer serves as a resident. Dolmabahce is open to tourists who want to explore the extravagant interior decorations and snap photos of the impressive European-looking exterior architecture.

12) The Rumeli Fortress

The Rumeli Fortress was built in the late 1500s under Ottoman Emperor Mehmed II’s reign. The castle was meant to be a strategic military base to help the Ottomans capture Istanbul.

Also known as the Rumeli Hisari, the Rumeli Fortress helped Ottoman forces block Byzantine supplies from the black sea. For this reason, the castle played an important role in the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Byzantium.

In modern times, the Rumeli Hisari is a museum open to tourists. If you’re lucky, you may even catch one of the many events, concerts, and festivals for which the Rumeli Fortress sometimes serves as a venue.

13) The Old Silk Market

No list of the best Turkey tourist attractions would be complete without including at least a few of the country’s incredible shopping experiences.

The Old Silk Market in Turkey’s fourth-largest city, Bursa, sits within a greater shopping district called the Covered Market. Also within the Covered Market is the Antique Market, where you can find deals on beautiful historical furniture and decor.

If you love silk scarves and tapestries, you’ll enjoy browsing the Old Silk Market’s hand-crafted gems. Make sure to stick around Bursa for more than a day trip, too. This city is home to some of Turkey’s most beautiful parks and the historic Grand Mosque.

14) The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is among the biggest and most historic markets in the world. Better yet, it’s home to thousands of shops where you can bargain for unique treasures.

First erected in 1461, the Grand Bazaar has always been a marketplace for local shoppers and tourists alike. The winding covered structure of the Bazaar is at first confusing. Yet, after wandering through the Bazaar, you may start to pick up its internal order.

From colorful glass lanterns to intricately painted pottery, the Grand Bazaar is just as colorful as it is bustling. Make sure to stick around for tea with the shop keepers. Part of the tradition of the Grand Bazaar is having tea with the shopkeeper who sold you an item.

15) The Egyptian Spice Bazaar

Another Istanbul shopping attraction, the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, is among the city’s largest markets.

This market was constructed in the 17th century. Though historians suspect this Bazaar was originally called the “New Bazaar,” it got its nickname from the Egyptian-sourced funds with which it was built.

Though this market was once the primary location for spice trading, it’s now home to a more diverse range of shops. Also, make sure to check out the nearby New Mosque, an Ottoman-era structure featuring ver 65 domes and beautiful mosaic tiling.

So Many More Turkey Tourist Attractions to See

So, there you have it! Our top Turkey tourist attractions you’ve got to check out during your next trip to this historical wonderland. Keep in mind that we’ve barely scratched the surface of all there is to do and see in Turkey.

Want to plan a trip to see these 15 incredible sites? Made in Turkey Tours wants to help you get there. Contact today to find out how to plan your upcoming trip to Turkey.

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