Turkey map & itineraries
Make the most of your time
Turkey is a kaleidoscope of possibilities whether your tastes are cultural, active or culinary!
There are places to visit in Turkey to feed any passion – while a cuisine flavoured by Europe, Asia and the Middle East feeds you! Dramatic mountains and walking routes vie to burn calories, alongside rafting rivers and shores to kayak. Diverse seaside spots beckon along 7200km of coast - laidback resorts, boho beach camps, secluded bays swum by dolphins and turtles. And as a meeting point of a multitude of civilisations, Turkey's archaeological sites are a treasure trove unsurpassed in Europe.
Ani & around
The mountainous northeastern valleys near the Armenian border are a wonder of rustic villages framed by cherry and apricot orchards, historic Armenian churches, and a panoply of castles and ancient sites. The ruins of Ani, a 10th century Silk Road metropolis, are a must-see, while Kars is a great base alive with Azeri, Russian and Kurdish influences.
Turkey’s central Anatolian wonderland seems lifted from fairytale, surreally carved by volcanic activity and water erosion. Caves honeycomb soft stone cliffs, while fresco-adorned early Christian churches dot brightly hued valleys studded with strange columns. If you only ever do one balloon ride consider it here. The ancient village of Goreme is a great base for hiking with a superb museum and cool cave hotels.
This old farming village turned bucolic coastal hideaway attracts loggerhead turtles to lay eggs on a coarse sand beach backed by fruit groves and eucalyptus. It's also hiking distance from the unique 'fire rock' (yanartas) by the ancient city of Olympos – eternal flames made by natural gas venting from the earth, believed to have inspired Homer's fire-breathing Chimera in The Iliad.
Hidden away in Turkey’s north-west by the Greek and Bulgarian borders, Edirne was the early Ottoman capital and a major Roman city. Its wonderful architecture reflects two millennia of evocative history, from the gorgeous Selimiye Mosque to the mazy streets of the old Roman district. Erirne is also the HQ of oil wrestling – come in June/July to witness surreal slippery bouts.
Ephesus is perhaps the most complete classical metropolis in Europe – despite an estimated 80% still unexcavated! As Roman capital of Asia Minor and with links to figures like Alexander and Croesus, its breathtaking sights include the giant Temple of Artemis (one of the ancient Wonders of the World), the statue-lined Curetes Way and the Terraced Houses.
Traditional embarkation point for gulet cruises from its magnificent natural harbour, Fethiyhe pairs historic sites (2,500-year-old carved tombs, a Crusader fort) with a pleasant low-rise town risen from the carnage of a 1958 quake. Nearby, Kayakoy is an eerie abandoned hill village whose Greek population were deported in 1923. It inspired Louis de Bernieres’ 2004 novel Birds Without Wings.
The now tranquil pine forests and brush of this slender north-west peninsula are woven with poignant memories of WW1 carnage when forces part led by Mustafa Kemal (the future Ataturk) repelled Allied land and sea assaults in a triumph Turks celebrate – and Allies mourn - every March. The southern part of the peninsula is a national park – peaceful counterpoint to wartime memories.
A sensual feast bridging Asia and Europe, Istanbul – aka ancient Byzantium, then imperial Constantinople – has an eclectic history unmatched perhaps by any other European city. Ottoman mosques jostle with Byzantine churches, and calls to prayer vie with the cries of street hawkers by the Bosphorus, where commuter boats shuttle between continents. Superb cultural spaces plus plentiful contemporary chic ice the cake.
An enclave of high altitude pastures, densely forested lower slopes and lonely mountain lakes, the Kackars stand tall between the Black Sea and the white waters of the Coruh River. It’s a wonderful place to hike, though the higher spots like 4000m Mt Kackar (complete with glacier) only open up in July and August.
Konya is the 4000-year-old HQ of the 'whirling dervishes', and the tomb of their revered founder Jelaluddin Rumi. Set in plateau prairie, the city's rich historic architecture includes a mosque whose beauty is said to prove God exists. Labyrinthine markets rub shoulders with tea gardens and fine museums like the Mevlana (dervish culture) plus others for tiles and carved objects.
Brainchild of intrepid British walker Kate Clow, this rugged 500km route traces the coast with patchwork of old paths and herding tracks across the ancient kingdom of Lycia. Alongside coastal hills, idyllic coves and picturesque fishing hamlets are stunning historic sites like Olympos and the partly submerged city of Simena – plus the unique natural fires of the Chimera.
Set by the Iran/Armenia border, Ararat is where Noah’s Ark reputedly came to rest, nestled between twin peaks that are mythical home to Armenian gods. At 5,137m, Greater Ararat is Turkey’s highest point, and a beacon for climbers (permit and guide mandatory). The less hardcore have brilliant local hikes taking in twitching mecca Fish Lake plus sections of the old Silk Road.
Now UNESCO World Heritage-listed, Sanfranbolu is Turkey's most perfect example of a traditional Ottoman town. Join nostalgic locals meandering cobbled streets lined with saffron vendors among half-timbered houses out of an old engraving. Artisans and merchants ply their trade in bazaars overseen by medieval mosques. The nearby Yenice Forest adds natural beauty.
Thrust up by the collision between Europe and Africa’s tectonic plates, The Taurus Mountains divide southern Turkey’s Mediterranean littoral from the central Anatolian Plateau. 3500m+ peaks rise from a stirring karst landscape concealing vast caves and underground rivers. As well as hiking and climbing, the area is a distinctive ski spot. Antalya is the city base for day-tripper mountain explorers.
Travel times in Turkey
The following times give you a rough idea of the travel times between the main attractions in Turkey.
- Dalaman airport – Fethiye: 45 minutes by car
- Istanbul – Konya: 5-7 hours by train
- Konya – Cappadocia: 5 hours by car/bus
- Istanbul – Cappadocia: 12 hours by overnight bus
- Istanbul – Edirne: 5 ½ hours by train (Fri-Sun only at present)
- Istanbul (European side) – Istanbul (Asian side): 20 mins by ferry