20 Reasons Why You Should Visit Turkey, by a Local

Reasons of why you should visit Turkey for a vacation. Is it safe to visit Turkey? Best places to visit in Turkey and Istanbul by a local.
Why you should visit Turkey: Istanbul

Are you on the fence for a trip to Turkey? Is Turkey in your bucket list for a long time but you have some hesitations to go there? As a Turkish travel blogger who lives abroad for some time I can see those admirations and hesitations about Turkey. Thus I’ve prepared a list of reasons “why you should visit Turkey for your next vacation“. Hopefully it will help you to start planning for your next trip to Turkey…

Click for my blog post: Best Destinations for Family Vacations in Turkey

1. Turkey is not what you probably expect

I’m surprised when people still think of Turkey as a country of camels, men wearing fez, people speaking and writing Arabic. In fact, Turkey is not a Middle Eastern country. It is situated in the connecting point of Europe and Asia and have a Western feel. People speak Turkish and use Latin alphabet.

Turkey is a secular country with a population mostly Muslim but a melting pot of different cultures and life styles. Conservatives, secular all live together and are free to live the lives they want to. And most importantly for the foreigners, they all like tourists and the positive impact of tourism to the economy.

Why you should visit Turkey: lively street life
Streets of Besiktas neighborhood, Istanbul

2. A trip to Turkey will fulfill all your expectations

Turkey is a very diverse country with very different range of attractions for all kind of travel preference and expectations. If you are looking for natural beauties, you can find the most unique ones here like in Capadocia or Pamukkale and many more. If you want Western feel of vibrant city life, you can experience the best in Istanbul (and many other cities) with many restaurants, museums, art galleries, city parks etc.

Rich history, religious places, ancient ruins, turquoise sea with great beaches, resort holidays are only some of the parts of this great complex country. You will be awed by finding totally different aspects by going from one place to another.

3. Colorful transcontinental Istanbul

Why you should visit Turkey: The Bosphorus
The Bosphorus in Istanbul and Ortakoy Mosque

Have you ever been in a big city that connects two continents? A part of the great historical city of Istanbul is in Europe and its other part is in Asia and there is the Bosphorus Strait between them. With a 20 minutes ferry ride or by going through the bridges over or the tunnel under the Bosphorus you can literally cross from one continent to the other. In fact, many people living in Istanbul do this incredible journey every day.

Istanbul’s place on the map is not the only thing that will awe you about this magnificent city. Being the capital city of three great empires in the history (The Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire and The Ottoman Empire), Istanbul has so much to explore. Palaces, mosques, churches, historical bazaars, cobbled streets, underground cisterns, you would feel like a character in a Dan Brown book or a James Bond movie.

4. Unique natural attractions

Cappadocia fairy chimneys and cave hotels
Cappadocia fairy chimneys and cave hotels

Turkey has so many natural beauties that would awe you at first sight. Rock formations, thermal pools, canyons, caves, waterfalls, lagoons, lakes and many more are spread throughout different regions of Turkey. Definitely each of these attractions (some unique in the world) will inspire you and make you want to explore even more.

What’s more, since Turkey is a land of so many civilizations, most of these natural attractions have some kind of embedded history in them. Cappadocia is not only a place with a fairy tale scenery with its fairy chimney rock formations. It’s also an important area for early day Christianity with many monasteries and churches carved in the rocks.

Pamukkale is not only a natural thermal bath pool with insanely looking white terraces, it’s an ancient vacationer place for more than 2000 years. In other words, during visiting the beauties of nature in Turkey, actually you step foot on places that ancient Greeks or Romans enjoyed once upon a time! It’s pretty cool, right?

5. Once in a lifetime balloon ride in Cappadocia

Why you should visit Turkey: Cappadocia hot air balloons
Hot air balloon ride is a must in Cappadocia

Cappadocia definitely is a must place to visit at a trip to Turkey. It is so unique, it is so unworldly! Over the course of millions of years, fantastic rock formations, called fairy chimneys, have been shaped throughout the region. Fairy chimneys are not just a few, there are hundreds, thousands of them spread at the area for miles. What’s more, people have been living in those fairy chimneys for centuries. They even formed underground cities by carving tunnels through these soft rock.

Cappadocia is such a magical region that you can stay in a cave hotel, you can visit underground cities and a cherry on top to all of these you can ride a hot air balloon over the fairy chimneys. We rode at a hot air balloon as a family in Cappadocia and I can say it’s unbelievable! There are hundreds of fairy chimneys under your feet. Sometimes you get closer that you can touch the top of the rocks. Other times you go so high that you can take in the view of all of the region. It’s such a unique experience that should be done once in a lifetime!

6. A trip to Turkey is a glimpse into an exotic culture

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Speaking of unique experiences, I can tell a trip to Turkey is definitely a very different experience from all the other western countries. Since Turkey is mostly a muslim country, you would have a chance to observe muslim culture and traditions there. You would hear the call to prayer echoing from tens of mosques throughout the cities. By visiting many historical places preserved from the times of the Ottoman Empire, you would have a chance of a glimpse of the life at the past.

Mosques, Ottoman palaces, hamams (traditional Turkish baths), underground cisterns all are so unique for western travelers. Walking in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul among the shops selling hand woven rugs, colorful lamps, sparkling gold jewelry and many spices is always quite an experience.

7. Unique hammam experience

Things to do in Turkey: Turkish bath or hammam experience
Turkish bath or hammam

Honestly, not many Turks go to hammam nowadays but I can certainly say that a foamy Turkish bath is a tremendously relaxing treatment. Hammam or Turkish bath itself is very mystical with its hot marble walls all around, high ceiling dome, traditional taps, marble sinks, copper water pouring bowls and echoing steamy atmosphere.

If you like having body massages don’t skip this unique exotic treatment. A person would cover you with foams while you lay on a hot marble bed in the middle of hammam. Then he/she would wash and scrub all your body from head to toe (a little bit harshly depending on the place). You can have the hammam experience in many historical Turkish baths in Istanbul or you can arrange a treatment at your hotel if they have a hammam.

8. Delicious Turkish cuisine

Baklava with pistachios is a must try in Turkey
Baklava with pistachios is a must to try in Turkey

When you think of Turkish cuisine do you consider only kebabs? Oh boy, then you would really be surprised with all the amazing food you would discover in Turkey. For a start we can begin with our delicious Turkish breakfast which appeals to both your eyes and your stomach. Turkish breakfast consists of pastries, cheese, jams, eggs, sujuk (Turkish fermented sausage), fresh veggies, olives, simit (Turkish bagels covered with sesame) and many more. All of them of course are accompanied with plenty of Turkish tea.

Turkey is a melting pot of many cultures and all of these cultures left a trace in Turkish cuisine. There are hundreds of Ottoman recipes once made at the palace, today made by our mothers at home and many restaurants in the cities. Definitely try some traditional dishes made with meat and veggies (mostly eggplant) with rich tomato sauce.

Istanbul where to eat: Karakoy Lokantasi
Karakoy Lokantasi is one of our favorite restaurants in Istanbul.

Healthy Aegean cuisine with lots of veggie dishes and mezze cooked with plenty of olive oil is another option to choose. Lahmacun, Turkish style thin pizza, is a must to try of course. Obviously, there is lots of fish, seafood and many kinds of kebabs to feast with. Lastly try to choose between gazillion of yummiest desserts. Don’t skip baklava with pistachios or kunefe. And finally a cup of Turkish coffee would help you digest all the feast you had.

9. Turkish hospitality

Turkish people are kind and very friendly to the strangers. They would go out of their way trying to help and communicate with you, even if they know just a few English words. There is a tradition of “God’s guest” in Turkish culture, that anyone who comes to your home is fed and even accommodated for the day.

A cave restaurant in Cappadocia
A cave restaurant in Cappadocia

Tourists are all welcomed, mostly for economical reasons of course. But in addition to that Turks are curious about foreign cultures and moreover they want to show the Turkish culture to the foreigners. They are talkative, mostly cheerful and quite emotional. You would definitely be welcomed warmly with a big smile at most of the places you visit in Turkey.

10. Is it safe to visit Turkey? Yes!

As far as I can see there is one main reason why visiting Turkey is postponed all the time, especially among families with kids and solo female travelers: safety. “Is it safe to visit Turkey?” is the ultimate question in all the hesitant travelers’ minds. The answer is: Yes! It is as safe as any European city you would love to travel to. Of course you should use common sense for any unsafe looking situations and any scams as anywhere on the world. Other than that you would feel very safe at all the touristic places you would visit, public areas and transportation and residential neighborhoods.

I am telling this knowing safety conditions both as a local in Turkey and a person who have lived many years in Europe and in the US. At our last visit to Turkey from the US we were amazed once again how safe we felt even at night. We went nightlife entertaining in Istanbul, rode the midnight ferry to the Asian side, awed with all the entertainment still kept going in Kadikoy and caught the last metro to our neighborhoods. All was super safe…

11. Incredible value for money

Unfortunately in recent years Turkish economy is not doing great and thus the value of Turkish Lira to foreign currency decreased a lot. It’s terrible for the locals but a good opportunity for tourists visiting Turkey. Speaking of how cheap it is, it mostly depends on the kind of service you want. The ones who travel on a budget would find bargain prices especially compared to other European countries. People going for more luxury vacation would need to pay more (still cheaper than the other countries) but on the contrary would get much better service for the same prices out of Turkey.

Generally speaking street food can be found around 1$. A good dish at a restaurant would be about 5-10$. The price for a three meal course would be around 20$. Alcohol is not cheap in Turkey bu still not very expensive with the current currency. Beer is around 2$ in the stores and about 5$ in restaurants. Local bottle of wine is around 30$ in the restaurants. Public transportation tickets are less than 1$. Taxi prices are around 50 cents for opening and 30 cents for each kilometer.

12. The Amazing Turkish Riviera

Best Turkey beaches
A beach in south Turkey: Datca

The main reason for the most travelers traveling to Turkey are the amazing beaches and the great weather. The great beaches of Turkey could make only number 12 at my list of “why you should visit Turkey” but that’s not because they are mediocre at all, on the contrary they are perfect. Pristine waters of Mediterranean and Aegean Seas are perfect for a summer beach vacation.

Oludeniz and Butterfly Valley in Fethiye, the cute coves in Bodrum peninsula, Kaputas, Patara and Cirali beaches on the south coast and certainly beautiful beaches in Antalya are only a few of the mind blowing beaches in Turkey. You should definitely book a summer vacation in Turkish Riviera and enjoy the sea and sun at the best.

13. Spoil yourself at a Luxury Resort

Resorts in Turkey are excellent.
Resorts in Turkey are excellent.

Without a doubt, the luxury hospitality industry in Turkey is one of the best in the world. There are plenty of choices for luxury accommodation in Turkey. You can choose to stay in an ultra all inclusive resort in Antalya. Or you can prefer a vacation in a boutique hotel on the Aegean or Mediterranean coast. You even have a choice to stay in a luxury cave in Cappadocia. For sure, you would have a great service, stunning experience and amazing relaxing time at all kinds of five star accommodations.

We Turks love the experience of luxury vacations, and all the places do their best to spoil their both local and foreign guests. (For more information look at my post: “The best family resorts in Turkey“)

14. Great blue cruise and adventure experiences

Blue cruise in Turkey
Blue cruise in Turkey

You can sail your private boat or gulet (a wooden classic yacht usually built in Marmaris and Bodrum) in the turquoise seas and many coves in the Aegean Sea in Turkey. It is quite an experience sailing and anchoring on the clearest waters and enjoying the sea at its best. If private boat rentals are out of your budget, there are daily boat tours at most of the seaside towns in Turkey. They visit many coves that are not reachable by car. After a delightful sail, they anchor at the bluest waters to give you time to swim and snorkel. You can also have a diving experience at one of the diving points in Bodrum, Kas or Fethiye.

Adventure sports are also popular in Turkey. Paragliding in Oludeniz, rafting in Dalaman or at Black Sea region, kitesurfing in Akyaka, canyoning in Antalya and many winter sports in the mountains are among the ones you must try if you are an adventure enthusiast.

15. Setting foot to Ancient times

Ephesus in west Turkey
Ephesus in west Turkey

Where should I start? Turkey is located on an area that hosted tens of ancient civilizations. It sits on the fertile lands where agriculture first began. Wherever you dig the soil in Turkey, there is a high chance to make a new discovery. (Metro constructions had to be postponed many times in Istanbul with many historical ruins found during the diggings.)

There are innumerable ruins of ancient settlements in Turkey. 19 of them are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Ephesus, Archeological Site of Troy (yes the very one we know from the movie and legends), Gobekli Tepe (one of the most important archeological sites in the world!), Aphrodisias (dedicated to Ancient Greek Goddess Aphrodite), Nemrut Dag, Cappadocia and Hieropolis Pamukkale are a few sites on the UNESCO list.

As a tourist, whether you are an archeology enthusiast or not, you definitely would feel the vibe of the ancient times at the places you visit in Turkey. You can find an ancient city at the beach you are sun bathing and swimming (Phaselis in Antalya). A summer concert is even more impressive at the spectacular Aspendos Antic Theatre in Antalya. Lycian rock tombs will overlook you from the hills of seaside towns of Fethiye and Dalyan. It’s just so incredible to be surrounded with this many antic sites!

16. Great Museums

Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep
Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep

Turkey really advanced at the art of exhibiting historical artifacts at great museums in last years. For example, Museum of Troy opened in 2018, earned many awards since then. Zeugma museum in Gaziantep is one of the biggest mosaic museums in the world and certainly very impressive one.

If you are based in Istanbul as a tourist, no doubt you can immerse yourself in history and art with more than 80 museums in Istanbul. Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul Modern Art Museum, Istanbul Archeological Museum, and if you are in Istanbul with kids Rahmi Koc Museum are some of the must see museums in Istanbul.

17. Rich history of sacred places

There are many important sites of early Christianity in Anatolia (Asian part of Turkey). For example, one of the oldest and earliest surviving churches, The Church of Saint Peter, which was established by St Peter himself, can be visited in Antakya (ancient named Antioch) in the south Turkey. Antioch is also the place where followers of Jesus were first called Christians. In addition, birth place of Apostle Paul is in Tarsus in south Turkey and his birth house and his well can be seen there.

The House of the Virgin Mary, close to Ephesus in Turkey
The House of the Virgin Mary, close to Ephesus in Turkey

When you visit Ephesus you can also visit one of holy sites for pilgrimage of Catholic and Orthodox churches: The House of the Virgin Mary. Apostle John is reputed to have taken Virgin Mary to Ephesus where she spent the last days of her life. The house is also a muslim shire.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is another important landmark that was the world’s largest church in the history for nearly a thousand years. Hagia Sophia was turned into mosque at the times of the Ottoman Empire. With the establishment of modern Turkey it became a museum and in recent years Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) has been turned into grand mosque again. Topkapi Palace Holy Relics and Eyup Sultan Mosque and Tomb are the sacred places in Istanbul for muslims.

18. Multicultural vibes

You can find in Turkey a mosque, a church and a synagogue standing side by side at the same street and living all in peace. Istanbul alone is a great city to experience these multicultural vibes. Pera in Istanbul, a European neighborhood hosting many non-Muslim merchant families in last century of Ottoman era, even now preserves its beautiful western architecture. Evidently, you can still see in Pera some restaurants, cafes, apartments and arcades standing as witnessers of these times. Also, there are many churches and synagogues in Pera, Galata and Karakoy neighborhoods in Istanbul.

Colorful houses in Balat, Istanbul
Colorful houses in Balat, Istanbul

Balat is another diverse neighborhood in Istanbul with colorful houses and a history of Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Bulgarian and plenty of other families from different ethnicities all had lived here altogether in peace.

Undeniably, Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque, The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are very good examples of muslim architecture and social life. Speaking of social life, for a glimpse of modern day social life don’t skip Istanbul neighborhoods of Kadikoy, Ortakoy, Moda, Bagdat street, Bebek, Besiktas and Kuzguncuk.

19. Abundance of Off The Beat Attractions

Most of the people visiting Turkey go to Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Pamukkale and maybe seaside cities Bodrum, Fethiye, Marmaris or Antalya. Ok, all of them are great places but it’s not all. Actually, other than the popular destinations there are abundance of places to be discovered so fascinating and deserved to be visited.

– For traditional atmosphere and architecture

Greek vibes in Bozcaada streets
Greek vibes on the streets of the cute island Bozcaada
  • Safranbolu: a town in the Black Sea Region in Turkey, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the preserved Ottoman houses and representation of Ottoman urban life.
  • Bozcaada: a cute island in northern Aegean Sea with great Greek island vibes.
  • Ayvalik: Northern Aegean town with historical streets, Greek architecture and good food scene
  • Sirince: (pronanciaton sheereenja) a quint village not very far from Ephesus with restored cute Greek houses and beautiful village life
  • Mardin: Southeastern historical city designated in UNESCO World Heritage list that has impressive old town architecture with beautiful stoneworks.

– For the foodies

  • Gaziantep, a heaven for foodies, is listed as Unesco city of gastronomy. Home city of baklava, pistachio, kebabs and many dried veggies and spices. It has spectacular traditional craftsmanship bazaars as well.

– Black Sea Region

Sumela Monastery in Black Sea region, Trabzon
Sumela Monastery in Black Sea region, Trabzon

Black Sea region is the greenest part in Turkey with many lakes, waterfalls and characteristic traditional culture. Amasra, Trabzon (Sumela Monastery), Rize (Turkish tea capital), Artvin are pleasing cities to explore.

– More on the Turkish Riviera

  • The cute seaside town Kas and coast between Kas and Kalkan, on the southern coast of Turkey, also deserve to be explored. This coast hosts many beauties like Kekova sunken city, Lycian Antique city of Simena and many more.
  • Cirali (pronounced cheah-ra-leah), is one of our favorite summer vacation destinations in Turkey that we visited many times. It is a preserved area surrounded by forests and orange trees with no mass tourism hotels, but only bungalows to stay in. 3 km of pristine beach is stretched all the way up to the ancient ruins of Olympos. The flames of Chimera is also an interesting hike in Cirali.

I can list hundreds of touristic places that are off the popular routes. In short, I’m trying to tell that, Turkey offers abundance of attractions both for the first comers and the ones who want to discover it in depth.

20. Great shopping opportunities

Shopping in Istanbul
Shopping in Istanbul

It is common with people traveling to Turkey to bring extra duffel bag for the goods that would be bought from Turkey. And usually one extra bag is not even close enough for all the things purchased there. Handmade traditional Turkish carpets and rugs, textiles, colorful ceramics and lanterns are the most popular items bought from Turkey. Cashmere and silk made pashminas (traditional elegant scarves), authentic jewelries, Turkish tea and Turkish coffee sets and leather goods are other things can be bought during your trip to Turkey.

What to buy from Turkey
Traditional ceramics in Turkey

Being myself visitor to my home country every year or so, I also pack lots of newly purchased things every time I go to Turkey. Turkish towels (trust me they are the best), plenty of spices, Turkish tea and coffee, baklava, Antep pistachio (it’s the best pistachio ever!), Turkish cotton bedding and peshtamals (easy packable organic cotton thin beach towels), cotton or linen table linens, Turkish delights, organic pomegranate souce, natural olive oil soaps are some of the goods that fill my bags up.

Negotiation culture in Turkey

Whatever you buy, keep in mind there is always a negotiation part in the prices of the goods sold in the boutique shops. Don’t rush to purchase the things, ask for the price, go somewhere else find out the prices and the quality of the products there, make your mind and negotiate well for the price. Its like a little traditional game, you talk to the sellers, explore other things, drink a glass of tea in the shop, spend some eccentric time and feel great that you made a good purchase at the end.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s good to keep in mind that actually the prices are not so much for the foreigners with the currency exchange rates at the moment. Especially for the things purchased from local good sellers, spending some extra money would not effect you very much but would mean a lot for the locals.

Bonus reason 21: Gastrocity Istanbul

Michelin guide recently arrived in Istanbul and 53 restaurants in Istanbul were selected to have place in the guide. One restaurant was awarded TWO MICHELIN stars: Turk Fatih Tutak. Four restaurants received ONE MICHELIN star: Araka, Mikla, Neolokal, Nicole. In addition, Neolokal also got a Michelin Green Star for its approach for sustainability. There are 10 bib gourmand restaurants and 38 recommended ones.

Whether you are a Michelin star follower or not, undeniably all this selection of the great restaurants of Istanbul eased where to eat in Istanbul” searches for all the foodies a lot. If you are interested in exquisite dining, these 53 restaurants alone are a good reason to visit Istanbul.

Looking for more content on “why you should visit Turkey” and things to know?

See my blog post “15 Things to know before you go to Turkey”

Also, I have a post about our favorite resorts in Turkey: “The best family resorts in Turkey, by a local mom

Looking for family vacations in Turkey? Click for my post “Best destinations for family vacations in Turkey

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