The 30 best places to visit in Western Turkey

 

In the north west of the country along the waterfront of Canakkale city is a huge Trojan Horse Sculpture, built as a prop in the filming of the 2004 film Troy starring Brad Pitt. After filming, the wooden horse was donated to the city where it has become a major tourist attraction. 

30. Trojan Horse Sculpture

 

Completed in 2009 in the city of Izmir is a large concrete relief known as the Ataturk Mask, depicting the face of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, considered the founder of modern Turkey. At 42 metres (138 ft) high it is the highest relief sculpture in the country and one of the highest relief sculptures in the world.

29. Atatürk Mask

 

In the extreme south of the country along the Mediterranean coast directly north across the sea from Cyprus is the medieval fortress of Mamure Castle. Dating back to the 12th century Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, this enormous castle complex was repaired and added to through the Byzantine era, the Crusades and the Ottoman Empire, with it's walls now covering an area of nearly a quarter of a square kilometre.

28. Mamure Castle

 

On the south western coast close to the tourist hot spot of Ölüdeniz is the abandoned village of Kayakoy. Inhabited by Anatolian Greeks up until the 1920's, they then found themselves persecuted, eventually deported or driven out with many even facing death, given no choice but to abandon their village. Today the area is preserved as a museum with hundreds of rundown abandoned Greek style houses and churches.

27. Kayaköy

 

On the south western coast close to the Greek island of Kos on the Gulf of Gökova is the port city of Bodrum, it's most famous landmark being the heavily fortified Bodrum Castle. Constructed in the 15th century by the Knights Of Saint John, the unfortunate legacy of the castle is that it was built using the materials of the nearby Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the original Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World.

26. Bodrum Castle

 

Built in 1953 in the countries capital, Ankara, is the memorial tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first president of Turkey, the leader during the Turkish War Of Independence. Set within the enormous Ceremonial Plaza, lined with statues and surrounded by a Peace Park the prominent mausoleum building stands at 27 metres (89 ft) high. It has quickly become one of the most symbolic structures in the capital.

25. Anıtkabir

 

Directly north of the capital, Ankara, not far from the Black Sea is the ancient city of Safranbolu, an important caravan stop on the Asia-European trade route. The old town within a deep ravine preserves many historical buildings with architecture that influenced development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire. Due to this high concentration of ancient architecture, the entire old town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

24. Safranbolu

 

In the far west of the country close to the Aegean Sea, north of the city of Izmir is the ancient city of Pergamon, once a rich and powerful ancient Greek city. The remains of it's impressive monuments can still be seen in ruin at the site, these include the Library Of Pergamon, one of the most notable in ancient Greece, and the Hellenistic Theatre, the steepest of the ancient world, today offering incredible panoramic views over the modern city of Bergama. The most outstanding monument of Pergamon is the masterpiece known as the Pergamon Altar, a monumental construction dating back to the 2nd century BC, today housed within the Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

Pictured is the The Hellenistic Theatre.

23. Pergamon

 

In the centre of the country within the Cappadocia region there are several underground complexes, the largest of these excavated underground cities can be found in Derinkuyu. Dating back to the 8th century, extending to a depth of approximately 60 metres (200 ft) it is large enough to have housed 20,000 people together with livestock and food supplies during times of war.

22. Derinkuyu Underground City

 

In the south of the country, east of the city of Antalya is a 366 square kilometre (141 square mile) area of protected land known as the Koprulu Canyon National Park. This landscape of pristine forest is most famous for it's 14 kilometre (8.7 mile) gorge with canyon walls reaching as high as 400 metres (1,300 ft) from the rivers surface. Within the park visitors will also find the Roman Oluklu Bridge and the Bugrum Bridge, both considered engineering feats at the time of their construction. 

21. Köprülü Canyon National Park

 

Directly north of the capital, Ankara, close to the Black Sea is the Kure Mountains National Park, a 376 square kilometre (145 square mile) protected area of land that stretches over the mountain range of the same name. With it's high mountains, large intact forests, caves, canyons, waterfalls and array of wildlife it has become a favourite among nature lovers and trekkers visiting north western Turkey.

20. Küre Mountains National Park

 

In the south of the country, east of the city of Antalya is the ancient city of Aspendos, famed for having the best preserved theatre of antiquity. Built by the Ancient Greeks in 155 AD, it has a diameter of 96 metres (315 ft) and could hold up to 12,000 people. As well as the incredibly well preserved theatre there are also the remains of other ancient structures, these include the nearby basilica, agora, meaning square, nymphaeum, and 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) of Ancient Roman aqueduct.

Pictured is the theatre of Aspendos.

19. Aspendos

 

In the south of the country, west of the city of Antalya in the Taurus Mountains is the Mount Güllük-Termessos National Park, centred around the ancient city of Termessos. Built upon a natural platform on top of Mount Gulluk, reaching a peak of some 1,665 metres (5,462 ft) above sea level, Termessos has remained one of the best preserved ancient cities in the country. It's main square, temples, ancient theatre and rock hewn tombs date back to the 1st century BC, allowing visitors to walk around in one of the few places Alexander The Great was unable to conquer.

Pictured is the ancient theatre of Termessos.

18. Mount Güllük-Termessos National Park

 

Directly south of Istanbul across the Sea of Marmara is the city of Bursa and the village of Cumalikizik. Located on the slopes of the Uludag Mountain, both places helped establish the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire and became the seat of the Sultan in the early 14th century. Having been able to preserve an adequate amount of the original 14th and 15th century fabric of the city and continuing the culture of the Ottoman era to date, both Bursa and Cumalikizik remain some of the most traditional locations in Turkey, and as such both have been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

17. Bursa & Cumalıkızık

 

In the south of the country, east of the city of Antalya on the southern Mediterranean coast is the small Ancient Greek city of Side. Situated on a small peninsula it was for centuries one of the most important trade centres in the region, and leaves behind a wealth of notable ruins. From the well preserved city walls through the Hellenistic main gate visitors can find the colossal ruins of an Ancient Roman style theatre complex, the remains of a Byzantine basilica, temples, an aqueduct and a nymphaeum all within less than one square kilometre that makes up the cities old town.

16. Side

 

In the north of the country between Istanbul and Ankara is an area of wilderness in the shape of the Sülüklügöl Nature Park. This beautiful natural area of large wild forests, steep cliffs, high plateaus and relatively small lakes is a haven between the countries two major cities.

15. Sülüklügöl Nature Park

 

Dating back to the 4th century BC in the south west of the country between the modern day tourist hot spots of Oludeniz and Marmaris are the ornate ancient temple facades known as the Lycian Rock Tombs. The Lycian's believed their dead would be carried into the afterlife by winged creatures, and so placed their tombs as high as possible. Impressively carved into the sheer cliff face, what remains are no more than just weathered stone facades of ancient entrances to the afterlife.

14. Lycian Rock Tombs

 

Completed in 1570 in the southern city of Konya is the double minaret Selimiye Mosque, sometimes known as the Selim II Mosque. Built in a typical 16th century Ottoman style, it is one of the largest and most impressive mosques in Turkey outside of Istanbul.

13. Selimiye Mosque, Konya

 

In the southern centre of the country east of the city of Konya is Lake Meke, a crater lake within an extinct volcano. Due to a large quantity of micro-organisms the water has turned red, creating a visually alien landscape. The red Lake Meke with it's volcanic island cone within beautiful surroundings has been declared a national natural monument of Turkey.

12. Lake Meke

 

In the south of the country between Antalya and Oludeniz on the Mediterranean Coast where the small town of Denre now sits, are the Roman and Lycian ruins of the Ancient City Of Myra. With the Acropolis on the Demre Plateau, the partly excavated Roman baths and Roman theatre, rebuilt after the earthquake in 141 AD, the highlight of the site are the two necropolis of Lycian Rock Tombs. The large number of temple fronts carved into the cliff face are the most impressive of their kind in all of Turkey.

11. Myra

 

South of the city of Antalya stretching down to the Mediterranean Coast is the Beydaglari Coastal National Park. This beautiful mountainous region in the western Taurus Mountains is home to the 2,366 metre (7,762 ft) Mount Tahtali, sometimes referred to as the Lycian Olympus. Visitors are able to take a cable car to the top, where from it's peak it offers incredible views over the surrounding terrain. Another feature of the park is the Yanartas burning gas field in the foothils of the mountain, a site of dozens of small fires which burn constantly from vents in the rock.

Pictured is the view from the top of Mount Tahtali.

10. Beydağları Coastal National Park

 

South east of the city of Konya, dating back to the Byzantine Empire is the incredible Manazan Cave City, an entire village carved into a vertical cliff face. Stretching for 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) and reaching up to five storeys high, the intricate series of caves and tunnels housed churches, family homes and storage facilities for centuries. Now uninhabited, the caves are becoming a major tourist attraction for the region.

9. Manazan Cave City

 

In the south west of the country, north of the tourist hot spot of Marmaris is the Ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias, named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. The archaeological city today holds a wealth of ancient monuments that date back to the 3rd century BC, these include the ruins of the Temple Of Aphrodite, the Monumental Gateway and the Stadium Of Aphrodisias. Measuring around 270 metres (890 ft) by 60 metres (200 ft) the stadium has thirty rows of seats encircling the track and would have held up to 30,000 spectators. It is considered one of the best preserved structures of it's kind anywhere in the Mediterranean. The entire Archaeological Site of Aphrodisias and the Ancient Marble Quarries that surround it have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

8. Aphrodisias

 

In the extreme west of the country, between Izmir and Bodrum close to the coast of the Icarian Sea are the remains of the Ancient Greek city of Ephesus, one of the Seven Churches Of Asia, one of the Twelve Cities Of The Ionian League where once stood the Temple Of Artemis, one of the original Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World. Today Ephesus is one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean, it's ruins giving some idea of the cities original importance and grandeur. Though destroyed by war and earthquakes over the centuries some of the cities Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman period structures have remained, the most notable being the ruins of the Temple Of Hadrian, the 25,000 capacity Theatre Of Ephesus and the wondrous facade of the Library Of Celsus. The Ancient City Of Ephesus has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Library of Celsus.

7. Ephesus

 

In the centre of the country between Konya and the capital, Ankara, is the 1,665 square kilometre (643 square mile) Lake Tuz, one of the largest hypersaline lakes in the world. Covering a flat tectonic depression this large shallow lake over a bed of white salt stretches off over the horizon creating one of the most incredible landscapes in Turkey.

6. Lake Tuz

 

Separating the Mediterranean Coastal Region from the Central Anatolian Plateau is the enormous Taurus Mountain Range. Extending some 560 kilometres (348 miles) almost parallel to the southern coast of the country, with a peak 3,756 metres (12,323 ft) above sea level, this vast mountain range of high plateaus, steep rocky mountains, snow covered peaks with some of the largest caves in Asia is among the most rugged and naturally beautiful landscapes in the entire country.

5. Taurus Mountains

 

Completed in 1574 in the extreme north west of the country, close to the border with both Bulgaria and Greece in the ancient city of Edirne is the Selimiye Mosque. The square structure with it's single enormous dome and four 83 metre (272 ft) minarets dominate the skyline of this former capital of the Ottoman Empire, it's interior decorated beautifully using the finest Iznik tiles. The mosque complex which includes madrassas, a covered market, clock house, outer courtyard and library were all designed and built by Sinan, the most famous Ottoman architect of the 16th century. Considered to be the finest work of the most revered Ottoman architect, the mosque unsurprisingly also holds the accolade of being a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. The Selimiye Mosque Complex has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Selimiye Mosque, Edirne

 

In the south west of the country directly north of Oludeniz is the Pamukkale, meaning Cotton Castle. The Turkish name refers to the shimmering white limestone, shaped over millennia by calcium rich springs fed by underground volcanic activity. These hot springs drip slowly over the mountainside creating petrified waterfalls, mineral rich waters collect in the terraces spilling over a cascade of stalactites into the pools below.

Adjacent to the Pamukkale is the often overlooked Hierapolis, an ancient city whose large structures now lie in ruin. The Necropolis, the large Theatre, the Temple Of Apollo and the many open air pools fed by the areas natural hot springs were established by he Attalids, the kings of Pergamon, as far back as the 2nd century BC.

Pamukkale and the Ancient City Of Hierapolis have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. Pamukkale & Hierapolis

 

Once the capital of the largest empire in the world, known as Constantinople, straddling the Bosphorus Strait between Asia and Europe is Turkey's largest and most populated city, Istanbul. Strategically positioned along the Ancient Silk Road, viewed as the bridge between east and west, Istanbul has been one of the most significant cities in history, and today ranks among the most visited tourist destinations on the planet.

One of the largest cities on Earth with a rich history dating back millennia, it's entire Historic Centre partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, click here for the Must See Locations In Istanbul...

2. Istanbul

 

In the almost exact centre of the country, within the historical region of Cappadocia is Göreme National Park, encompassing an area of incredibly unique geological and cultural features. Millions of years ago the rocks in the region eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillared and minaret like forms, where the soft volcanic rocks were later carved into houses, churches and monasteries by the people that chose to live there. The complex contains a large number of rock carved churches and chapels, some with superb frescoes inside dating back to the 9th century. One of the favourite ways to view this incredible landscape is by taking a hot air balloon tour. In the early morning when hundreds of these balloons float over this amazing terrain it creates one of the most iconic scenes anywhere in the world. Göreme National Park & The Rock Sites Of Cappadocia is among the most wondrous sites on our planet and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Göreme National Park

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