most beautiful cities in Turkey

35 Beautiful Cities in Turkey & What You Get Visiting Each of Them

Looking for the best cities in Turkey to visit on your trip? Well, there are quite a few of them, are you ready? Below I am including my list of Turkey’s best and most beautiful cities with reasons to see each of them!

Whether it’s stunning beach destinations and bays, ancient historic sites and wonderful mosques, or delicious cuisine and hospitable population, cities in Turkey always have something in store for all types of travelers. 

Many people who plan their holidays in Turkey usually come to have a beach vacation, spend a few days in Istanbul, go to Cappadocia, and possibly a few ancient sites. But the majority doesn’t really come for cities alone.

However, Turkish cities promise memorable experiences with some surprising things to do! With so many attractions in or around them, it will be difficult to fit everything into your Turkey itinerary, so you will surely want to return to this country again and again!

If you love visiting cities and aim to see at least a few of them on your trip, get ready. You may have a hard time deciding where to go and what to skip. Turkey is a huge country and the number of wonderful cities is high enough. 

But I hope with my list of these best and most beautiful cities in Turkey you will be able to prioritize and pick the top cities for you to visit. This list is based on my own travels around this country and on my own Turkey bucket list. Let me know if you’ve been to more Turkish cities and which ones of them were your favorite!

And then if along the way you want to pause in one or a few lesser-known beach towns in Turkey, make sure to do it from April to October. For the most adventurous experience, rent a car in Turkey and go on a drive!

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you).

How Many Cities Are in Turkey? 

If you follow the information from Wikipedia which defines a city as a settlement that starts with 30,000 people, then you’ll see that Turkey has more than 200 cities with Istanbul being the biggest Turkish city.

But if I stick to the definition that a city is an area with at least 100,000 inhabitants, then this number drops to 82.

However, for the sake of this article, I am not going to talk about all Turkish cities. Below I mention 36 of them that I believe are the most fascinating places to visit. I have been to the majority of them on my own and hope to see others in the near future as I return to Turkey every year for a few months. 

How to Travel Between Turkish Cities?

To travel between cities in Turkey, you can opt for one of several transportation options or go with the tour company. But your final pick will depend on the distance between cities and where exactly you want to go.

If you plan to see different parts of the country within a short period, then your best bet is to hop on a plane. Domestic flights in Turkey often cost less than dinner for one in a restaurant, so flying around in Turkey is very affordable and saves you time.

But if you like road-tripping and are ready to cover a few cities in one trip exploring on your own, it is better to rent a car. 

Check prices for car rentals with one of the best companies in Turkey and to know how to find the cheapest car rental in high season follow my tips on Turkey car hire.

If you are looking to travel with a tour company, from my experience I can recommend Bookmundi which arranges well-thought tours packed with action.

Quick List of the Best Cities in Turkey to Visit This Year

Beautiful & Famous Cities in Turkey Not to Miss

1. Istanbul (the largest & one of the most beautiful and touristy cities)
2. Antalya (most famous city in the south of Turkey)
3. Göreme (the heart of Cappadocia region & capital of whimsical fairy chimneys)
4. Izmir (most European-like Turkish city) 
5. Ankara (beautiful capital of Turkey)
6.Çanakkale (gateway city in Turkey to Ancient Troy)
7. Alanya (the sunniest city in Turkey)

Most Beautiful Coastal Cities in Turkey

8. Bodrum (the city of surfing, flowers & fashionable parties)
9. Marmaris (one of the best cities on the Aegean Sea)
10. Alaçatı (white sand beaches & colorful houses)
11. Ceşme (Turkish city for wellness & beach holiday on a budget)
12. Fethiye (beautiful city in Turkey at the junction of two seas)
13. Kusadasi (Turkish Nice)
14. Kemer (the most green city on the Mediterranean Sea)
15. Belek (luxurious & expensive city on the Mediterranean Coast)

Most Beautiful Cities to Visit in Eastern Turkey

16. Mardin (gateway to Eastern Turkey)
17. Sanliurfa (city of Biblical Significance)
18. Van (biggest city in Turkey’s East)
19. Erzurum (most high-altitude city in Turkey)
20. Diyarbakir (best ancient city & with the best eastern food)
21. Gaziantep (culinary heritage & thousand years old historical marvel)
22. Adana (home to the largest mosque in Turkey & best kebab)
23. Kars (best city in Turkey for a rich Armenian heritage)

Best Cities in Turkey That You Didn’t Hear About

24. Edirne (Turkey’s gateway to Europe)
25. Bergama (former major center of the Hellenistic civilization)
26. Safranbolu (city-museum on the UNESCO World Heritage list)
27. Eskişehir (Venice of Turkey with a Disney-like park)
28. Bartin (one of the newer resort cities in Turkey on the Black Sea)
29. Isparta (the city of roses, lavender & mountain lake)
30. Yalova (city of thermal springs)
31. Mersin (port city in Turkey on the Mediterranean Sea)

Other Beautiful Cities in Turkey That You Should Visit

32. Bursa (the first capital of Ottoman Empire)
33. Konya (capital of Islam in Turkey)
34. Trabzon (busiest port city on the Black Sea by the “Turkish Alps”) 
35. Samsun (best city in Turkey on the Black Sea coast)

Map of All Cities in Turkey That You Have to See

Brief Description of All These Best Cities in Turkey

1.) Istanbul – Largest & Most Touristy Turkish City

walking in Istanbul to Galata Tower
streets of Istanbul city in Turkey

I want to start my list of the best cities in Turkey with one of the most historically rich, and vibrant cities that has to be on everyone’s list and that is Istanbul!

Being the most populated city in Turkey and one of the biggest cities in the world, Istanbul offers a huge number of attractions related to three periods at once – Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman. It is the only city with such a unique geographic location and the only city with an endless number of things to do. 

You come here for a myriad of reasons and a range of experiences, to get immersed in its rich cultural heritage and see the unique beauty of its location.

I love Istanbul for so many things! For its very unique mansions and palaces where you can even spend a night. Also for ancient landmarks and monuments, for its gorgeous sunsets, incredible restaurants, and all those beautiful neighborhoods where each of them has its style and history.

For example, Sultanahmet is striking in its beauty, which has preserved its medieval features. Arnavutkoy with its fishermen and some of the best fish restaurants can surprise even the most demanding gourmet.

Karakoy is home to the best fish sandwich and one of the most beautiful ports. Cihangir is stylish, Nisantasi is posh with elegant streets, luxury boutiques, and high-end restaurants. And then Balat and Fener neighborhoods with multicultural heritage and some authentic hidden gems.

Istanbul is always so different. It has those giant modern avenues but also narrow old streets, medieval oriental bazaars, and new modern shopping malls. Different times and cultures have come together and made it one of the most interesting major Turkish cities! 

You can spend 3 or 4 days in Istanbul or a whole week and still have plenty of places left for other visits as there are many cool locations to visit not just in the city but near Istanbul and awesome destinations where to go on a weekend getaway.

Best Time to Go

There is no ‘best time’ when to visit Istanbul. It is beautiful in any season with a ton of things to do.

I have seasonal guides about Istanbul in case you are curious about what it’s like to visit Istanbul in winter or in spring. And for more inspiration, you need to check out my Istanbul travel guide with dozens of posts.

Best Way to See It

Any way – on your own, with a guide, on a cruise, or even on a layover during one day in Istanbul!

However, if budget allows, do not hesitate to pay for tours because in this city at some point you do need someone to show you around and tell stories that hide behind the walls. You may also need to purchase tourist pass if planning to sightsee a lot. To understand if you need it or not, refer to this post about the Istanbul museum pass.

2.) Antalya – Resort & Port City in the South of Turkey

warmest cities in Turkey in winter
Antalya is also one of the warmest cities in Turkey in winter!

One of the main cities in Turkey Antalya is underrated by many. It has much more to offer than just all-inclusive hotels on the Mediterranean coast and parties.

Antalya is a wonderful city to visit in Turkey and one of the best cities where to live. Everyone can find something to their liking there and have a great time. The beach season lasts 6 months a year, but even in winter in Antalya, there is still a lot to do. And two weeks of vacation will not be enough to see everything. 

Antalya is steeped in history, where the old center of Kaleici is especially delightful with beautiful Ottoman houses, narrow streets, and alleys. Nearby lies the Roman-era harbor – a great place to stop and breathe in the sea, as well as several beautiful beaches ideal for relaxing.

Not far from Antalya there are several popular resorts such as Belek, Side, Kemer, Tekerova, and others that are full of different hotels with good service. The city’s coastline looks absolutely stunning and the towering hills offer great mountain views.

Before visiting Antalya for the first time, I didn’t really have any desire to go there at all. But after finally moving to Antalya city, I realized how beautiful this destination is and how comfortable my life can be there. 

Best Time to Go

The answer here will depend on what you want to do. If thinking to go for a beach holiday, the best time and weather is from September until November (including). For sightseeing and nature trips any time besides January-March and July and August.

Best Way to See It

The best way to see it is not to rush. Because a trip to Antalya doesn’t imply only a trip to the city but to a province. There are a couple of interesting ancient cities in the area (that were mentioned in the Bible) and some gorgeous beaches with canyons.

Come here to rent a car in the airport or city and go on a road trip. You can literally go in any direction and find lots of activities. I went on many road trips and wrote about a few in my posts about Antalya to Fethiye by car and Antalya to Pamukkale drive.

But for more ideas on what to do in Antalya province, see my post about Antalya day trips and tours and my Antalya travel guide page with more posts.

3.) Göreme – the Capital of Whimsical Fairy Chimneys

Goreme city
the most unique city in Turkey

Well, Goreme is technically not a city. It is a town that has a population of a bit more than 2000 people who live there permanently. But due to its popularity from spring to fall and influx of tourists, the size of the population grows massively. This is why I can say with confidence that for most of the year, Goreme feels like a city (except for a few weeks in winter and month of March).

Nestled in the heart of Cappadocia, Goreme undeniably stands as one of the most beautiful places in Turkey as well as one of the most popular.

If you have never been to the Cappadocia region before, start with Goreme with its surreal landscape, characterized by whimsical fairy chimneys, towering rock formations, and vast valleys. These unique geological formations, shaped by the forces of nature over centuries, will transport you to a world that feels straight out of a fairytale.

One of its most remarkable features is its ancient cave dwellings and rock-cut churches. Throughout history, people carved out homes, churches, and monasteries within the soft volcanic tuff, leaving behind a stunning legacy. Exploring these fascinating rock-cut structures is like stepping into the past and experiencing the rich history of the region firsthand.

Best Time to Go

Any time is good to be able to see its landscape and cave homes with hotels. But for hot air balloon rides, it is better to avoid traveling in November, January, late February and March. 

Best Way to See It

The city alone is easily explored on foot. But you travel there not just for Goreme but for the entire region of Cappadocia which requires you to rent a car and drive around or join tours. Decide at first how many days in Cappadocia you want to spend and plan accordingly. 

4.) Izmir – the Most European-Like Turkish City on the Aegean Coast 

panorama of Izmir city

Among all beautiful cities in Turkey, the third most populous city Izmir is the most liberal and cosmopolitan. In ancient times it was also known as the Greek city of Smyrna which used to be one of seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation. 

Located on the Aegean coast, Izmir has many archaeological sites of ancient civilizations located in the city and around it. And they have been preserved very well until our days.

Izmir has always been a port city in Turkey. Today, it has an embankment that is almost 35 km long, equipped with bicycle and walking paths. Bike rental shops are very popular there, so you can just rent a bicycle and go explore the city on two wheels.

Apart from being a huge port city, Izmir is teeming with life and energy. With a lovely waterfront full of great restaurants and multicultural heritage, it is very easy to find many delicious dishes in traditional restaurants. The fantastic oriental bazaar is a great place to stroll through. And then visit one of many old churches and mosques, as well as great history and art museum.

Izmir is particularly a nice destination for sightseeing and shopping. It will take more than one vacation to explore attractions around the city and visit shopping centers, boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants. You should also see Izmir’s sunsets because they are amazing.

Best Time to Go

For sightseeing and nature, absolutely any month of the year is great. But for beaches in the province (there are no beaches directly in the city), July throughout September is the best time.

Best Way to See It

Fly in and explore it on foot occasionally using public transportation. But if planning to see the province with its most famous ancient city Ephesus, then rent a car and drive or join a tour.

5.) Ankara – Beautiful Capital of Turkey

in Ankara old town
streets of Ankara

Although the country’s capital is often overlooked by tourists, Ankara is a fascinating destination and one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey with a fresh vibe.

It is currently a sophisticated modern city that is home to countless embassies. But Ankara also has many fine restaurants and trendy cafes, five-star hotels with an excellent level of service, and some interesting museums and parks. Even though at times the city can still feel like a kind of concrete jungle.

I loved Ankara’s Old Town with its cobblestone streets and an old castle in the middle of the city. The castle has a museum of Ottoman civilization and incredible panorama.

There are also many old Christian churches and medieval Muslim mosques with the Kocatepe mosque being the symbol of the city. 

Ankara, of course, is not a seaside resort destination and not anywhere similar to Istanbul. But spending a few days there is very surprising since there are a lot of local traditions and beauty to enjoy.

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Ankara is during the spring months of April to June or the fall months of September to November for mild weather and pleasant conditions.

Best Way to See It

The best way to see Ankara is by exploring its historical sites, museums, and vibrant neighborhoods on a self-guided walk or with guided tours for an in-depth understanding of the city’s rich culture and heritage.

There are a couple of nice free tours in Ankara for those who are on a budget.

6.) Çanakkale – Gateway City in Turkey to Ancient Troy

beautiful city in Turkey on the sea

Çanakkale is a well-known beautiful port city in Turkey on the southern coast of the Dardanelles, which connects the Marmara and Aegean Seas.

Like Istanbul, it is geographically located both in Europe and in Asia and is separated by a strait. Although the city of Canakkale itself occupies the territory on the Asian side.

This city is suitable for those who appreciate meaningful travel. Since Çanakkale is located not only at the junction of two continents but also two cultures, it has an interesting history. 

But the most important thing is that it is the gateway to ancient Troy and is the site of the Trojan War. Its ruins were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. The first thing that will catch your eye when arriving in the center of Canakkale will be a wooden statue of the Trojan horse. This is a copy of the figure from the movie “Troy” which serves as a popular background for photos.

But besides the historic part, this ancient city can also offer relaxation on its beaches as well as a few cool wineries and some excellent restaurants.

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Canakkale is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when there are no winds and rain or high temperatures with humidity. So you can enjoy visiting Troy without the extreme heat of summer or colder temperatures of winter.

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore Canakkale is on a tour from Istanbul by visiting its historical landmarks, including the Gallipoli Peninsula and Troy, and taking scenic boat tours to fully appreciate the city’s maritime beauty.

7.) Alanya – the Sunniest City in Turkey 

warmest cities in Turkey

Rocky capes on the coast, sandy bays, clean sandy and small-pebble beaches, shallow sea, affordable prices in hotels… These are the main features of Alanya that attract tourists. But besides them, this city has an incredible number of attractions. The territory is simply strewn with fortresses, temples, and clean streets. But most importantly, a special atmosphere that can not be found anywhere else.

Alanya has been generously rewarded with nature and since it’s protected by the Taurus mountains range, there are almost no winds inside the city which makes it a warmer place in winter.

People who come on vacation will find many cafes, restaurants, and lounges that will allow to have a good time and enjoy exclusive national cuisine with drinks.

Alanya is considered a German and Russian resort because most of the foreign tourists are either from Germany or Russia. Prices for hotels range from the cheapest to the most expensive ones. However, overall, Alanya is known as the cheapest city in Turkey for vacation.

As with Antalya, Alanya also didn’t interest me much. But once I visited and spent some there, I realized this is a very nice city where to spend cold European winters or even come and live when moving to Turkey. And of course, Alanya is also a beautiful Turkish city to visit outside beaches.

Best Time to Go

Best time to visit Alanya is the same as Antalya mentioned above. Avoid July and August when it is unbearably hot and crowds are massive. 

Best Way to See It

You can easily explore Alanya’s iconic landmarks on your own, going to Alanya Castle and the Red Tower following online guides with information about them.

Alanya is also all about the beautiful beaches, so the best way to see them is by taking boat trips along the Mediterranean coast for stunning views of the city and surrounding landscapes.

Most Beautiful Coastal Cities in Turkey

8.) Bodrum – a City of Flowers and Fashionable Parties

Gumusluk Sianji resort Bodrum
Bodrum city as Turkish Venice

Even though bright colorful Bodrum has the largest number of nightclubs, bars, and discos, there is much more to this destination than just flowers and parties.

This city has a good selection of accommodation (from five-star hotels, apartments and villas to inexpensive guesthouses), many interesting cultural and historical sights, scenic views, sandy and pebble beaches with excellent infrastructure, and much more.

Bodrum is undeniably one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey that has everything you’d want for a holiday destination. You come here for a bit of sightseeing and traditional whitewashed houses, boat trips to blue waters, delightful little cafes, and cobbled alleys that you can find everywhere, and its gorgeous sunsets.

But the main thing here is the beaches and weather conditions for kitesurfing.

What makes it particularly special is the weather. Among all Turkish cities to visit on the coast, Bodrum is the best for travel in July and August. In summer, Bodrum’s weather is hot, dry, and windy which helps to tolerate the heat. The most favorable months to visit are June through September.

Best Time to Go

I have a separate post about the best time to visit Bodrum as most months are great for one type of travel or another. Find out when is the best time to go and when to avoid! 

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore the Bodrum peninsula is by car. In this way, you’ll go not just to a city to visit its famous attractions like Bodrum Castle and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, but also drive around checking out all the best places Bodrum is famous for.

9.) Marmaris – One of the Sunniest Coastal Cities in Turkey

Marmaris city panorama with the best beach

Of course, the list of the most beautiful cities in Turkey couldn’t be complete without Marmaris. It is another small Turkish city on the shores of the Aegean Sea which is so beautiful and bright that it makes it difficult not to want to visit it.

Marmaris is relatively close to Izmir and only three hundred kilometers west of Antalya. Many people make a stop there on their Turkey road trip while others choose it as a base for a sea vacation.

In my experience, it is a perfect small city where to make a base for a few months since the number of activities on the peninsula is huge. Plus, the Greek island Rhodes is only a short boat trip away which is very easy to go to from Marmaris.

The city itself has a modern tourist infrastructure, several resort areas, many interesting sights, about a hundred high-star hotels, and more than a thousand villas. 

Marmaris is very similar to Bodrum in some ways. But the city offers tourists a beautiful long beach and many restaurants, boutiques, water parks, and nightclubs nearby. Many local hotels operate on the all-inclusive system and almost the entire coast near Marmaris is occupied by yachts.

Best Time to Go

April through October is the best time to visit Marmaris, although sea in April and May (even in the first week of June) is still cold to swim in. But these two months have the lowest prices for resorts in the area.

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore Marmaris is by taking advantage of its scenic coastal location and joining boat tours to destinations like Dalyan and Cleopatra Island.

Book yourself a nice hotel stay in one of the quiet coastal villages on the peninsula and enjoy a mix of natural beauty and cultural experiences directly in the center of Marmaris.

10.) Fethiye – Another Beautiful Turkish City at the Junction of Two Seas

Fethiye city in Turkey
Since Fethiye is built on the hills, there are a lot of vista points with panoramic views

Among all cities mentioned on this Turkey city list, Fethiye is one of the smallest. Yet, the number of resorts, historical and natural attractions is so big that you can’t even tell.

Officially it is the easternmost city on the Aegean coast, although it is considered to be on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Located in a beautiful natural harbor, Fethiye is stunning with its turquoise waters and forested hills. 

The city and its surroundings provide a comfortable, varied vacation with clean beaches, water sports, restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs. Beaches are ideal for relaxing and you can easily take a yacht cruise around the bay or go to one of the nearby islands.

Although the city of Fethiye was almost destroyed by an earthquake in 1958, it has been impressively brought back to life, with many of its ancient sites still intact. The stunning tombs of Amyntas Rock are certainly worth a visit as is the ancient city of Cadyanda nearby. 

Best Time to Go

The same timing as for Marmaris.

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore Fethiye is by visiting its nearby attractions such as Ölüdeniz with its famous Blue Lagoon, the ancient Lycian rock tombs, picturesque Butterfly Valley, and Kayakoy ghost town.

You can do it all with a combination of road-tripping and boat trips to nearby islands.

11.) Kusadasi – Turkish Nice

famous cities in Turkey

Kusadasi became another popular seaside city in Turkey thanks to numerous travel companies. It is known for a high number of hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs along the coast where guests can enjoy noisy parties.

The number of hotels, compared to other Turkish resort cities, is not high. But many of them are of a five-star standard.

Kusadasi also has an excellent entertainment program such as water parks and various attractions, and its sandy beaches with azure water, soft golden sand and a gentle entrance to the sea are perfect for all types of travelers.

During the high summer season, up to half a million tourists come to Kusadasi, mainly from the UK and Ireland. Therefore, the local staff speaks very good English.

Besides the beautiful beaches and stunning sea views, Kusadasi’s proximity to famous historical and natural landmarks is another reason why more and more people visit each year.

The archaeological site of Ephesus is mesmerizing with its splendor. While the Dilek Peninsula National Park is a great place to immerse yourself in nature. Sirince, a mountain village with its fruit wine cellars and shops is a short drive away. And Greek Island Samos is also very close.

Best Time to Go

The same timeframe as for Marmaris and Fethiye. In winter Kusadasi is too quiet as many businesses close for the season.

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore Kusadasi is by visiting iconic landmarks like the ancient city of Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary, relaxing on the beautiful beaches, and experiencing the lively atmosphere of the town’s bazaars and waterfront.

One of the must-have activities here is boat trips to nearby islands such as Pigeon Island and Greek island Samos.

12.) Kemer – the Greenest City on the Mediterranean Sea

Kemer city beach
Beaches in Kemer are also some of the best in Turkey!

Kemer, in the Antalya province on the Mediterranean coast, occupies a special place among the most beautiful cities in Turkey. It includes resort villages Beldibi, Goynuk, Kiris, Camyuva and Tekirova.

Most of the territory around Kemer is mountains and coniferous trees. This is why it has the most beautiful landscapes and the healthiest air. The beaches here are pebbly, and the sea, thanks to this, is clean and transparent.

All local beaches in Kemer are built up with all-inclusive hotels that by the way are the cheapest five-star hotels in entire Turkey.

I personally love Kemer not for hotels but for nature and the ability to enjoy all the beauty without staying in a hotel. Unlike Belek, where the entire coast is taken by hotels, in Kemer the hotel area is not gated. Even if you stay somewhere else, you are welcome to come to Kemer for a day or a few and have access to the beach. Pay a visit to its beautiful parks, walk a path by the sea, and just enjoy the area.

Best Time to Go

In May and June) and then from September to October. Summer is very hot but perfect for trips into the canyons around Kemer and for the beach holiday in one of the all-inclusive resorts.

Best Way to See It

By taking advantage of its coastal location, relaxing on its pristine beaches, and engaging in water sports.

Additionally, exploring the nearby Goynuk Canyon, experiencing the vibrant nightlife, and taking boat trips to discover the scenic coastline contribute to a well-rounded visit to this Turkish resort town.

13.) Belek – the Most Expensive City on the Mediterranean Coast

coastal cities Belek

This coastal city is among the most expensive, yet at the same time most visited cities in Turkey. Located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the province of Antalya, Belek is famous for its sandy beaches with a total length of over 20 km.

Most of the shore in Belek is lined with five-star all-inclusive themed hotels and many golf courses. Belek’s beaches are simply magnificent. They have Blue Flags, as well as soft sand and gentle descent into the sea, clear, clean water and wonderful modern infrastructure. An ideal place for a family vacation.

If you don’t plan to stay in Belek, don’t visit for the sake of an excursion or walk. There is nothing to do in the city alone besides spending time in hotels that look like real artwork.

It is worth choosing Belek only if you want to spend your holidays in Turkey in a hotel on a sandy beach.  

Belek can be also safely called a large SPA city due to the number of mineral springs there. 

Best Time to Go

Belek in July and August is incredibly hot. So to avoid the heat and to be able not just come to its beaches but for ancient cities and mountains in the area, it is best to come from April to June and from September to December.

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore Belek is by experiencing its world-class golf courses, relaxing on its beautiful beaches, and visiting nearby historical sites such as the ancient city of Aspendos.

Belek is renowned for its luxury resorts and golfing facilities which is why it is easy enough to have a perfect blend of leisure, relaxation, and cultural exploration.

14.) Alaçatı – Town of White Sand Beaches & Colorful Houses

Alacati streets

Well, Alaçatı is technically not a city but a town located on the Cesme peninsula off the coast of the Aegean Sea. Until recently it was still pretty unknown with only fishermen and artisans living there. But then it started to attract many tourists (especially during the high season) and the population started to increase every summer to the size of a city. 

Alaçatı has gained considerable attention for its unique architecture, bohemian atmosphere, and access to beaches with azure water. There are many lively cafes, boutique shops, trendy restaurants, and cozy heritage hotels. Each corner has either a bustling local market with fresh produce or a local shop with handmade crafts and local delicacies.

Hotels there, by the way, are known for their unique style and personalized service. There is a big number of Pansiyons that offer a cozy and homely atmosphere, often run by local families.

What makes it truly one of the most beautiful places in Turkey is the number of beaches around Alaçatı with white sand, also quick access to wineries, and of course traditional stone houses with wooden balconies, arched doorways, and traditional tile work. 

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Alacati is undeniably during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when the weather is mild, making it ideal for windsurfing, exploring the charming streets, and enjoying the local cuisine without the summer crowds.

Best Way to See It

By immersing yourself in its atmosphere through a stay in one of the guesthouses or hotels in the old part of the city, strolling through the narrow streets lined with stone houses, and experiencing the renowned windsurfing scene on nearby beaches.

15.) Ceşme – Great City For Beach & Wellness Holiday on a Budget

cheap beach city in Turkey
View from the Reges Hotel & Resort

Cesme is a small city on the peninsula of the same name next to Alacati which I mentioned above. It is located 80 km west of the large city of Izmir next to the Greek island of Chios. Like many other Turkish cities along the coast, Cesme also offers resort-type vacations by the sea.  

However, it is considered a small resort city by Turkish standards. There are not many hotels (about two dozen), but there are several hundred guest houses, apart-hotels, flats and houses available for rent. Many people in Turkey own a flat or a small house in Cesme where they love going to for summer vacation.

The range of attractions is rather modest. There are mainly two small water parks, a fortress about 500 years old, a local history museum, and excavations of the ancient city of Erythrai. 

Yet Ceşme has gained the status of a popular western resort city due to its unique nature and high level of tourist infrastructure. It differs significantly from the nearby Alacati and other Turkish seaside cities in its appearance, in particular, the architecture has a lot of Greek motives.

Another thing that I noticed was how clean and well-groomed Cesme is. It is hidden in flowers and greenery, has many walking paths and neat sidewalks. Its houses, playing with colorful paints, create a special atmosphere and simply lift up the mood.

Cesme has a number of well-maintained beaches and the ideal climatic conditions turn this miniature corner into a real paradise for summer holidays. But the best part – this city allows combining beach and wellness holidays in Turkey since there are sources of mineral water and healing mud.

Best Time to Go

The same timeframe as for Alaçatı.

Best Way to See It

By relaxing on its sandy beaches, experiencing the healing properties of its thermal waters, and visiting historical landmarks such as Cesme Castle. I’d say that the best best to travel here is by car.

Most Beautiful Cities to Visit in Eastern Turkey

16.) Mardin – Gateway to Southeastern Turkey

Turkish Mardin city

Ancient Turkish city from oriental tales Mardin should be on everyone’s itinerary. It is a city in southeastern Turkey with incredible oriental architecture and ancient Christian history.

Many Turks admire this city even without ever visiting it. And almost everyone in Turkey is curious about Mardin and wants to see with his own eyes.

For the first time, Mardin was mentioned in 4500 BC. Its old town is under the protection of UNESCO which did a great job preserving the buildings in their original form until our days.

A visit to this incredible city is a must for connoisseurs of history. There you can walk along a thousand-year-old street or sit in a cafe over a cup of hot tea, as the locals did 400 years ago.

Christian churches, that were built by Syrian Orthodox Christians, dilute the oriental flavor. Mardin mosques differ in their architecture from ordinary Turkish ones. They are more like Arab mosques because for about 450 years the city was under Arab occupation from 640 to 1104.

Best Time to Go

Any time of the year but try to avoid summer when it is very hot and exploring sites is physically difficult. 

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore Mardin is by joining a tour through its ancient city walls and traditional stone architecture. You have to visit iconic sites like the Great Mosque of Mardin and Zinciriye Medrese, and try local food here. 

17.) Sanliurfa – Sacred Turkish City

lesser-known Turkish city
Balıklıgöl Mosque Wall in Sanliurfa. It surrounds the sacred pool which is a significant religious and historical site in the city. This wall is part of the complex that includes the Prophet Abraham’s Cave, the holy fish ponds, and the surrounding courtyard, creating a serene and spiritual atmosphere. Very interesting place!

You’ll find this city in the southeast of Anatolia. It is the capital of the province of the same name also known as Urfa and “City of the Prophet”.

Sanliurfa has many beautiful old buildings with a rich history and the oldest temple complex on earth Göbekli Tepe, built around the 9th millennium BC.

Until the final establishment of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, it was constantly conquered, burned, and rebuilt. Nowadays, it is a lively, well-developing city. Lots of its greenery on the streets contrasts nicely with the semi-desert landscapes that begin outside on the outskirts.

Many people come here on pilgrimage, to meditate and connect with their inner self. Others come on tours since it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Turkey and learn about its different past. 

New urban development projects mean the city is rapidly changing. But its ancient past still shines in the form of the stunning Dergah Park and mosque complex. In the old part, which is very different in appearance from the new one, there are temples, ponds, parks.

Best Time to Go

Year-round besides July and August.

Best Way to See It

Also on a tour. You can always come here and explore on your own but for the filling experience it is much better to go with a guide who’ll be able to introduce the city in the best way and be a translator.

18.) Van – Beautiful Biggest City in Turkey’s East

famous cities in eastern Turkey

In the very east of the country, literally a few kilometers from the Iranian border, there is the Mystical Lake Van with saltwater and soda. This is a unique place that helps in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism.

Lake Van is considered one of the most beautiful places to visit in Turkey. But a lovely bonus to it is the biggest city on the lake with the same name, which is simply overflowing with historical sights.

Van, at first sight unremarkable, a real jewel for lovers of the history and culture of the ancient world. It was deserted during the First World War, and an earthquake in the 1950s destroyed its Ottoman architectural heritage. But the city managed to preserve the ancient castle Van Kalesi, beautifully located right on lake’s shore.

From Van, it is also good to explore the area with the notable Armenian church on Akdamar Island.

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Van is from the late spring to early fall. The weather then is just perfect which works well for both historical sites and natural attractions, including Lake Van, without extreme temperatures.

However, winter in this part of the country is beautiful too. If it snows, the mountains around the lake are simply stunning!

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore Van is by visiting historical landmarks such as the Van Castle, exploring the Armenian Church of Akdamar Island, and enjoying the scenic beauty of Lake Van.

Both independent travel and organized tours work great in this city.  

19.) Erzurum – the Most High-Altitude City in Turkey 

beautiful Turkish cities
Photo credit:

Erzurum is another very old city in Eastern Turkey that is well worth a trip. It once belonged to Russia, Byzantium, Armenia, and Persia and this is why also has an early history of Turkish monuments. However, the main reason people travel there is not that. 

A bit more to the South of Erzurum is Palandöken Resort which offers excellent skiing in winter. In summer the town sometimes serves as a base for mountain hikers and rafters heading into the East Pontic Mountains. The season starts in December and ends in May which implies that winters are cold and snowy. The average temperature in January is -10.

Erzurum is the most high-altitude(1700 m) and open to wind and sun city in Turkey. It has the most frequent earthquakes and one of the most devout residents in the country. Some local women there wear a dark-colored “charshaf” (Ottoman-style robe-like dress) to match the steppes surrounding the city. Others wear a black chador borrowed from Iran.

Due to its strategic position at the intersection of trade routes from Persia, the Caucasus, and Western Anatolia, Erzurum has always been the subject of dispute between many rulers. Therefore, by tradition, a strong military garrison is still located there.

Best Time to Go

If you want to find snowy landscapes in Turkey with mountains nearby, then choose winter. It snows in this part of the country a lot! Also, it is a good place in summer to escape the heat.

Best Way to See It

Come here by plane and explore Erzurum by visiting its historical sites, including the iconic Erzurum Castle and the Grand Mosque. In winter, skiing and snowboarding on Palandöken Mountain are popular activities. 

20.) Diyarbakir – best Ancient City & With the Best Eastern Food

Diyarbakir old city

Diyarbakır is a city with an ancient soul and a complex history that offers an authentic Eastern Turkey experience. Being next to Mardin and Şanlıurfa and offering an almost equally rich experience, it is not as sought after as these cities. But it should.

Diyarbakır is famously dubbed “the Paris of Turkey”, probably because it has a somewhat metropolitan look in certain parts, especially when compared to the neighboring cities. However, that’s a bit problematic, as it is not at all what this destination is about.

The thing is, if you want to have a metropolitan experience, there are a lot of cities to visit in Turkey mentioned above (such as for example Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Eskişehir) before Diyarbakır. But once you visit them, come to Diyarbakır to explore the remnants of ancient civilizations and try the best Eastern Turkey delicacies (as Diyarbakır is known for its distinctive cuisine).

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit is during the spring (April to June) or autumn (September to November).

However, if you don’t mind cooler temperatures and are prepared for potential winter weather (together with rainfall which is frequent here), visiting Diyarbakır in winter offers a different perspective on the city with fewer crowds. Places are open and roads well-maintained.

Best Way to See It

You can visit this city on your own when flying in the local airport (DIY) or on a road trip through Eastern Turkey together with Mardin and Sanliurfa. However, if that’s your first time in Turkey and you haven’t traveled much, I would better suggest you go to Diyarbakir with a tour company. 

Like many other cities in southeastern Turkey, Diyarbakir has experienced security concerns in the past due to conflicts between government forces and groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Even now, echoes of dramatic events occasionally ripple through its streets, particularly in the labyrinthine alleys of its old quarter, known as “Sur.”

So going on a guided tour has more perks – tour companies prioritize safety, deliver curated experiences, and provide translations (in this city you’ll need them as almost no one speaks English).

21.) Gaziantep – Culinary Heritage & Thousand Years Old Historical Marvel

Gaziantep nature
When in Gaziantep, you need to see not just the city but nature around it! Rent a car and drive around or join local tours. It is home to a beautiful canyon similar to what I saw when traveling in the US

Right before Şanlurfa, Gaziantep is where Southeastern Turkey starts, another interesting city in Turkey famous for history dating back thousands of years.

Gaziantep is among the most famous places to visit in the east of the country, not just by tourists, but by Turkish people as well, thanks to its cultural heritage and of course culinary culture – which apparently for a lot of Turkish people is enough of a reason to visit this city (Turkish people love traveling for food alone!) and I don’t blame them! 

The area, one of the most important places of the Anatolian lands, as well as one of the oldest that is still inhabited, has been home to various civilizations (including the Hittites, Assyrians, and Romans) and it has a special place in the history of the Turkish War of Independence too.

It was used to be called just “Antep”, but after the war, its name was changed to “Gaziantep”, with the addition of the word “Gazi”, meaning “war veteran” in Turkish.

Number one reason to travel to this city is its culinary culture. Although if you are on a diet, maybe it is best to postpone the Gaziantep trip, as its local cuisine with tasty kebabs and desserts are just too good to stay away from! 

And number two reason to go there is to learn about the past which holds a lot of fascinating stories together with a 6000-year-old castle!

Best Time to Go

As with other must-visit cities in Turkey east, the best time to visit Gaziantep is also during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November).

It is that time when the weather is mild and comfortable. Summers can be hot, with temperatures reaching high levels, while winters are relatively cold.

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore Gaziantep is on foot, especially in the historic areas where you can appreciate the traditional architecture and visit landmarks. However, besides the city itself, you need to visit it for nature. Gaziantep area has a few spectacular natural landmarks.

Additionally, using local transportation, such as buses or taxis, is convenient for reaching various attractions. Come here on a multi-city tour with a company or on your own when on a trip through Eastern Turkey.

22.) Adana – Home to the Largest Mosque in Turkey & Best Kebab

Adana city

Adana is a lesser-known beautiful city in Turkey which is often overlooked by tourists due to its location and the number of earthquakes that shake the city. In fact, an earthquake of 2023 ruined it very badly and destroyed some of the city’s landmarks. But repairs are on the way and this city continues to welcome visitors.

The first thing you need to know about is – Adana is a ‘breadbasket of Turkey’ (since it has fertile soil that grows the finest citrus fruits and vegetables as well as wheat and barley) and a center of ancient Roman treasures and archaeological rarities.

People come here for several reasons – for the largest mosque in Turkey (the second largest mosque is in Uskudar district of Istanbul), for Seyhan River (part of it with some stunning views you can see in the photo), and of course for its cuisine, especially Adana kebabs.

Of course traveling from across the world to Adana specifically for these reasons is not really practical. But if you are planning your Turkey itinerary and want to see the east, it makes a lot of sense to incorporate Adana into your route.

Best Time to Go

Being in the same climatic zone as Gaziantep and Mersin, Adana has the same weather. So spring and winter are the best times to go. March and November are excellent too. Avoid traveling in summer as the sun is scorching hot. 

Best Way to See It

Here you’d need to go with a guide as too few people speak English and touristy sites are oriented mainly on Turkish-speaking visitors.

Adana is great to explore by walking around its vibrant city center, where you’ll find historical sites, parks, and lively markets. 

23.) Kars – City With a Rich Armenian Heritage

best cities in Turkey

Kars is a fantastic city to visit in eastern Turkey near the border with Armenia. It has a rich Armenian heritage with churches and monuments reflecting the region’s historical connections and looks very different from any other city in Turkey you visited before.

There are many reasons to travel to Kars but the main ones – to see those historical traces that show the Armenian cultural legacy and visit sites in the Kars region that reflect its complex history and the interactions between different empires, including conflicts between the Ottoman and Russian Empires.

Another thing about the beauty of Kars city is its nature. Kars Province is home to the Eastern Anatolian Mountains, with high plateaus that offer as incredible sceneries as you’d find in Mestia, Upper Svaneti or the Bernese Region in Switzerland

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Kars is from late spring (May) to early fall (September but max October) when the weather is nice and perfect for walks and hiking in the area as well as exploring the iconic Ani Ruins without extreme temperatures.

Best Way to See It

If you can, go on a tour or on an expedition that will include mountaineering. Nature around Kars is very impressive but roads are bad and you’d want to have a local to drive you around and bring you to trails that he knows well.

Best Cities in Turkey That You Didn’t Hear About 

24.) Edirne – Turkey’s Gateway to Europe

old Turkish city Edirne

Edirne, as a city in the northwest of Turkey near the border with Greece, also used to be the capital of the Ottoman Empire. It preserved fantastic old imperial buildings, Ottoman palaces, historic houses, and mosques. You’d probably need at least a few days to see them all together with modern neoclassical architecture, colorful bazaars, and interesting ancient bridges. 

The Selimiye Mosque, for example, is a must-see spot in this beautiful Turkish city. And the Old Quarter is extremely interesting to walk through.

Due to its strategic location and proximity to Greece and Bulgaria, Edirne has a European influence and is often called the gateway of Turkey to Europe. It is one of a few main Turkish cities where two religions (Orthodoxy and Islam) and cultures meet and exist very well together.

There are many reasons why to visit Edirne and one of them is Turkish cuisine. Local restaurants offer a variety of delectable dishes and drinks.

For the best experience, it is best to visit Edirne during the period from April to June and September-October. July and August are just unbearably hot. Although summer has a big traditional Kirkpinar Olive Oil Wrestling Festival.

Since the city is located not far from the Gulf of Saros, there are excellent beaches within a short drive. The most developed and beautiful beaches in that part are between the town of Enez and the city Keshan. 

Best Time to Go

Spring until June and fall until December including. The weather is best at that time and in December there are Christmas decorations as there is a good influence from nearby Bulgaria and Greece.

Best Way to See It

By delving into its Ottoman heritage, visiting architectural gems like the Selimiye Mosque, and experiencing the atmosphere of Grand Bazaar. This is also a city to travel to for food and different historic neighborhoods, so don’t hesitate to join walking tours and participate in cultural events.

25.) Bergama – Former Major Center of the Hellenistic Civilization

Bergama Turkey

Among all the best cities in Turkey for a visit, Bergama is the smallest one and probably the least known. The thing is that the population of this city is slightly more than 70,000 people (which by Turkish definition of the city is more like a town), it is located away from the beach and is easy to miss due to its location and not much information.

But the main reason to visit (which you’ll love) is the Acropolis of Pergamon which was a major cultural and political center during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It is an ancient site with well-preserved ruins such as the Library of Pergamon, the Altar of Zeus, and the Temple of Trajan. In fact, it is one of the best-preserved ancient towns in Turkey.

I have a separate post about Pergamon & Bergama to give you a better idea of what it is like and why to visit.

Best Time to Go

Any time, although June through August are very hot months when exploring Pergamon is a difficult task. Winters are great but make sure you book accommodation with heating to stay warm inside.

Best Way to See It

On your own when on a road trip through the Turkish Riviera or when driving from Istanbul to Izmir.

To best experience Bergama, start at the Acropolis to explore the well-preserved Library of Pergamon, Altar of Zeus, and Temple of Trajan. After that visit the Asclepion, discover the Red Basilica, explore the Bergama Museum, and take in the town’s modern charm.

Wear comfortable shoes, consider a guide (as with him/her you will understand more), and appreciate the city’s historical and contemporary facets.

26.) Safranbolu – City-Museum on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Safranbolu city view

Safranbolu is not a famous Turkish city to visit but it is undeniably very special. It is located near Zonguldak (a beautiful Turkish city on the Black Sea coast) and not far from Ankara, which makes it easy to go to if you have a car and cruise around. 

Safranbolu is the brightest example of Ottoman architecture and is a well-preserved example of urban development from the Ottoman era. In 1994, among other 9 sites in Turkey, it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. And it’s also on the list of the twenty best-preserved cities in Europe.

This destination, originally owned by Paphlagonia, a Roman province, has seen many civilizations, including the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman empires. It was an important point on the Silk Road route. And it was here where the residence of the imperial family was located.

Safranbolu owes its name to the saffron growing in the area which is used to add aroma and exquisite taste to desserts and other dishes of Turkish cuisine. Also, this plant is part of a unique paint used for the production of Turkish carpets.

I added Safranbolu a long time ago to my Turkey city wish list with its extremely rich historical and cultural heritage. I want to visit to see some of its wonderful architectural monuments, which are examples of Turkish architecture, preserved in the original environment.

Best Time to Go

To go for Safranbolu’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, visit during the late spring or throughout fall until January. But if weather is not an issue then any time during the year.

Best Way to See It

The best way to see Safranbolu is by taking leisurely walks through its cobblestone streets and going to historical sites like the Cinci Han and the Safranbolu Houses, and of course savoring local delicacies.

There are tours from Istanbul to Safranbolu, take advantage of those and go on a day trip to this city.

27.) Eskişehir – Venice of Turkey With Disney-Like Park

Wonderland amusement park in Eskişehir city
Eskişehir - best lesser-known city in Turkey

I discovered Eskişehir for myself just recently when planning a drive from Bursa to Ankara and looking for unique places to visit along the way. And to my huge surprise, after talking to many of my Turkish friends I found this incredibly beautiful city which (as per locals) has the best quality of life and rich culture.

Eskişehir is now a new fast-growing European-like city in Turkey that is also called “Turkish Venice” due to its many enchanting canals that wind their way through different neighborhoods and are reminiscent of the famed canals of Venice.

But that’s not the only feature that makes this Turkish city beautiful and special.

Eskişehir is home to an enchanting destination that shares similarities with the magical world of Disney, known as Eskişehir Wonderland. Just like Disney parks, this park also features meticulously designed and themed areas, enchanting attractions, and a focus on creating a whimsical atmosphere with a big number of attractions for all ages.

Best Time to Go

Spring and fall. Summers are very hot and humid, winters are chilly with wet snow. 

Best Way to See It

On a road trip through central Turkey or on a day trip from Bursa, Istanbul or Ankara if you’d like to visit Eskişehir Wonderland.

Once in the city, stroll through the streets of the Odunpazarı district, known for its well-preserved Ottoman architecture and arts scene. Also do a boat ride on the Porsuk River, visit landmarks like the Eskişehir Grand Mosque, and indulge in the city’s lively cafe culture.

28.) Bartin – One of the Newer Resort Cities in Turkey on the Black Sea 

beach city in Turkey on the Black Sea

Among all the coastal cities in Turkey, Bartin is the most unknown one. I wanted to add it to this Turkey city list because you need to discover it before everyone else gets there.

It is already a new tourist hot spot, yet for now just among the Turkish tourists. The city is home to canals and bridges over the river (very similar to canals in Eskişehir, just on a smaller scale) that make it look like Venice.

Bartin also has a few historic districts showcasing a fascinating blend of architectural styles, reflecting its Ottoman and Byzantine heritage. But one of its true gems and highlights is Amasra, a small coastal town located within its borders. Amasra has a lovely old town nestled between two peninsulas with a castle which in some ways reminded me a lot about Herceg Novi in Montenegro.

Once there, besides nature and historic spots, you also need to pop into local seafood restaurants as Bartin is famous for its fresh fish and seafood delicacies. Sample the flavors of the Black Sea cuisine since it is different from the cuisines of other regions. It puts its emphasis on seafood, corn-based dishes, and hearty flavors.

Bartin is located not far from Safranbolu. Thus you can visit both of these cities together on a trip from Ankara or even Istanbul.

Best Time to Go

From May to August to enjoy the warm climate of the Balck Sea region and in September and October for the Velvet season. 

Best Way to See It

By Car. You can easily go by rental vehicle from Istanbul and have a memorable road trip and the Black Sea coast.

29.) Isparta – the City of Roses, Lavander, & Mountain Lake

most beautiful city in Turkey

Isparta is another beautiful city in Turkey that’s not on the travel radar for many people. The city itself does not really have a lot of attractions but it is rich in natural landmarks that lay in the vicinity on all sides.

Among Turkish people, Isparta is known for a few things. First one – for the lavender fields and its rose oil, which is produced according to the best Bulgarian recipes and ancient technologies. Souvenir shops sell soaps and perfume compositions based on rose oil or lavender, natural cosmetics, and sachets.

Second thing that makes Isparta famous is the beautiful Burdur Lake and Lake Eğirdir with picturesque towns on its shore and the most striking town among all Eğirdir. Hidden among the rocks, it is great for walking and meditation.

There are also many gorges and caves in the Isparta region. The most interesting is the Insuyu Cave, the total length of which is 760 m and Gölcük Nature Park located on top of the mountain of the same name. 

In winter this part of Turkey is a nice place for skiing since the Davras ski center opens its doors and offers to get a ride on their one of the longest cable cars in the world. 

Best Time to Go

The period for Isparta is rather short, only from April to June and in September to October. In the spring and July, you can experience blooming rose fields but fall is an ideal time to explore Isparta’s natural beauty and historical sites without extreme temperatures.

Best Way to See It

By car from Antalya or on a cross country road trip from Izmir to Cappadocia, especially during the rose and lavender harvesting season in late spring. 

30.) Yalova

city to visit near Istanbul

Yalova is one of the best cities in Turkey for thermal waters and spa vacations. It is located in northwestern Turkey near Istanbul and Bursa on the eastern coast of the Sea of Marmara.

It is also the capital of the Yalova Province which is known for thermal spas, natural beauty, and a few historical sites. Although the main reason to plan a getaway there is not the sites but thermal baths.

Being close to Istanbul (and Bursa), going to this city is easy on a weekend getaway for a night or two just to relax and enjoy the thermal experience.  

The main thing you do in this city is choose a hotel with thermal water (or near it) and go soak away your stresses. You do not travel here particularly for historical landmarks or cultural attractions, but rather for the tranquility of its surroundings.

Best Time to Go

Any time, really. Everything depends on the type of weather you prefer for soaking in hot springs. Winters are chilly but the appeal of thermal spas during colder weather with falling snow can add to the overall experience. Personally, it’s my favorite time to enjoy the warmth of thermal waters.

Best Way to See It

The best way is to rent a car in Istanbul and go on a drive to Yalova. In this way, you can make stops on the way and turn it into a little road trip.

Otherwise, you can take a ferry when coming from Istanbul or by bus from Bursa. Public transport is well developed between these cities but using it of course will take more time. 

31.) Mersin – Lesser-Visited Port City in Turkey 

lesser-known Turkish cities to visit
city in Turkey south

Mersin is one of the most unique cities to visit in Turkey for many reasons. First of all, it is a city with 50% of the population under 24 years of age due to many universities around.

Second, it has a huge port with a cool embankment with dozens of cafes and shops which is an ideal place for leisurely walks and admiring the picturesque Mediterranean landscapes. Third, it is one of the warmest cities to visit in Turkey in winter.

Tourists began to appear in Mersin quite recently. This is why there are not too many fancy hotels as in other coastal cities in Turkey. Due to its important economic importance, all the attention was paid to the development of the industrial and commercial sectors. And this was quite justified since the piers and docks of the port have a capacity of 3800 ships per year.

You won’t find there many clubs and discos usual for Turkish cities by the sea. But the presence of clean, certified beaches and warm sea, as well as palm and myrtle alleys and parks clearly indicate the huge tourism potential of the city. Also, even though there are mainly young people in Mersin, at night around 10 pm it becomes very quiet. Liveliness remains only in the port.

In the vicinity of this city, there are a few high-quality hotels with an all-inclusive system and entertainment programs. Thanks to a large number of cozy bays, coves, and rocky coasts, you can feel yourself a hero of pirate novels.

Best Time to Go

Spring through June and fall.

Best Way to See It

On a tour that includes stops in multiple cities of eastern Turkey. Another option is to go by car from Alanya or Antalya if you are ready to have a self-guided adventure to Cappadocia.  

Other Beautiful Turkish Cities That You Should Visit

32.) Bursa – the First Capital of the Ottoman Empire

beautiful Bursa view

The fourth-largest city in Turkey has grown rapidly in recent years and was once the first capital of the Ottoman Empire.

These days Bursa is a modern city with a slightly chaotic atmosphere, where the ugly industrial outskirts are in stark contrast to the historic center, which by the way is delightful in every sense.

With some fantastic mosques, mausoleums and museums, Bursa has a lot to offer the tourist and the devout population is very welcoming and friendly. It was here, when Mark and I visited, where everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful and welcomed us in a way we never experienced before. 

Among tourists, Bursa is mainly famous for nearby Uludag Mountain with excellent ski slopes. But it is an important city to visit for history and culture since most of the notable sites date back to the early period of the Ottoman Empire. Also, there are many brilliant hamams and restaurants.

Among Turkish people, Bursa is known for silk, chestnuts, peaches, a laid-back atmosphere, and ancient settlements of the Ottomans and Seljuks which form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Best Time to Go

Any time of the year is good for Bursa but in winter you have to be ready to dress warmly, and in summer to sweat a bit. 

Best Way to See It

The best way to explore Bursa is by delving into its rich Ottoman history and enjoying the natural beauty of the mountains around the city.

Come here by car or bus from Istanbul and visit the UNESCO-listed Bursa Grand Mosque, explore the historic Bursa Citadel, and take a cable car ride to Uludağ Mountain for panoramic views. Stroll through historic marketplaces like the Grand Bazaar and try local specialties such as Iskender Kebab to fully experience the cultural and culinary richness of this beautiful Turkish city.

33.) Konya – Religious Center of Turkey

Azizia mosque in Konya
Konya central street on a holiday

I would love to finish my list of beautiful cities in Turkey with one of the oldest cities in the world and the largest religious center in Turkey – Konya.

It is not like any other city in Turkey. Everything there is so imbued with the spirit of conservatism that this atmosphere literally permeates its residents and guests.

Konya knows how to attract with its cultural and religious monuments, which allow you to plunge into the history of Islam and immerse in the spirit of the Mevlevi Order. Visiting this picturesque city allows one to discover a completely different Turkey, highly spiritual and conservative, immortalized in numerous attractions.

Therefore, if you are interested in the traditions of Islam and its history, or you would just like to see the country from a different, more elevated angle, then devote a few days and go to the city of Konya. 

We visited it on a road trip from Antalya to Cappadocia and it was an interesting discovery. Although I made a mistake and didn’t dress conservatively. You can see on photos above what I wore on a trip to Konya which made me feel uncomfortable. This is the only city so far (among all I’ve been to in Turkey) where what you wear is taken very seriously. No one told me anything but I could tell people were staring at me with too much interest and a bit of condemnation.

Still, I absolutely loved a visit there and want to return!

Best Time to Go

I’d recommend you to avoid summer as it is usually very hot but any other season is great for a visit. 

Best Way to See It

On a tour either self-guided when you do research in advance and on a guided when local guides can help have an immersive experience of spiritual heritage and understand the history and why it is the capital of Islam in Turkey.

If you are in Cappadocia, I recommend you plan an itinerary in that way where you visit Konya on a day trip from there. This tour is a good example. 

34.) Trabzon – Busiest Port City on the Black Sea Coast of Turkey

Trabzon city in Karadeniz

One more port city in Turkey built on a Black Sea coast near Georgia in the past had a strategic location on the old Silk Road. This is why it has been ruled by different cultures for millennia and has a rich history.

Trabzon since ancient times was not just a large port but a big trade center. It was founded by the ancient Greeks in the 8th century BC and until the 20th century, many Greeks and Armenians lived there leaving monuments and architecture from different cultures and styles.

This seaside city may not be the best place for a beach holiday. But it has its unique vibe, an abundance of historical monuments, good shopping opportunities, and a wonderful landscape. In fact, you should rent a car and go to the nearby mountains and black tea region Rize for turbulent mountain rivers, beautiful waterfalls, and tea plantations.  

Best Time to Go

When someone chooses to go to Trabzon, it should be mainly for the mountains outside the city. And for that, the best time to go is in summer (when it is possible to go hiking) or in winter for snowy wonderland.

Best Way to See It

Fly to Trabzon and rent a car there to drive to the iconic Sumela Monastery, Uzungol Lake, and Rize region. In the city alone, take a stroll along Trabzon’s waterfront, explore the bustling bazaars, and indulge in local Black Sea cuisine.

In winter, book a chalet there to have a romantic getaway into the snow.

35.) Samsun – the Most Developed City in the Black Sea Region of Turkey!

best city in Turkey on the Black Sea coast

Turkish Samsun became a real discovery for me. I didn’t know about its existence until we went on our big road trip from Istanbul along the Black Sea coast. But it turned out to be the best city to visit in Turkey on the Black Sea coast. 

Samsun is a mysterious city with one of the largest Black Sea ports in Turkey and an Amazon village where by some sources Amazons (a mythical tribe of warrior women from Greek mythology) resided.

And another thing – it is the most developed city in the Black Sea region with ancient history, beautiful nature, and rich national and cultural traditions.
The history of the city goes back many centuries and you can learn about it in one of its multiple museums and of course visit nearby Amasya for the history and culture of the Ottoman Empire. 

Also, once in Samsun, you should definitely go to the Şahinkaya Canyon to see the beauty created by nature (it’s in the photo above) and to the bird reserve of the Kyzylyrmak River delta, where you can not only watch birds but also fish.

Best Time to Go

Any time of the year, although winters are a bit cold and very windy so have warm winter clothes with you. In summer, you can also spend time on one of the beaches in the area.

Best Way to See It

The city on its own is best to explore on foot but nature reserve, Amasya, and beaches by car. Samsun is well connected with Istanbul and other cities of Turkey by air transport, so you can even come here on a day trip and rent a car to drive in the area.

Another way (which we loved) was to come here by car and include Samsun to your Black Sea coast road trip.

More Inspiration For Turkey Travel

If you landed on this page for the first time, let me tell ya that I have a lot of content about Turkey and constantly add more! I live in Turkey for part of the year and absolutely love discovering this country at a slow pace!

See more of my posts that will help you plan your trip:

More Beautiful Places in Europe

Most beautiful cities in Turkey
best cities in Turkey
Best cities in Turkey
Most beautiful cities in Turkey

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  1. Hi Anya, thank you so much for this great article! I also love Turkey very much and look forward to exploring more of its cities. I really appreciate your articles.

      1. Hi Anya,

        Thank you so much for this great article. I’m planning to visit turkey with my husband in the 2nd week of December for 8-9 days for the first time. I want to see a mix of snowy mountains and must see attractions as well. I’ve read amazing things about winter in turkey but I’m not able to make a decision, I have a few places in mind…since we have limited time I would not want to waste too much time traveling and avoid any complicated routes. I understand 8-9 days is really short and don’t want to make a haste to cover more places and end up making it a hectic vacation. Me and my husband like doing things at a slow pace in our own time. We’re having the following places in mind
        1. Istanbul
        2. Bursa
        3. Pamukkale
        4. Capadoccia
        5. Antalya
        6. Bolu

        What do you suggest we do?

        Thanks in advance

        1. Hi Marissa, I am offering itinerary planning for a fee. If you are interested, let me know and I’ll send two different packages with details that I have on offer.
          If you want to see the snow, I recommend you definitely pause in Bolu and go to Udulag near Bursa and that area around the Olympos mountain near Antalya. For all these trips I’d suggest you rent a car.

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