By European standards, Turkey is a huge country, the size of the UK and France combined; it’s impossible to see it all in a single trip. Lovers of the beach, mountains and Graeco-Roman sites will be attracted to the beautiful southwest Mediterranean coast. With a little longer you can combine vibrant İstanbul with Cappadocia’s fairy-tale landscape, while adventurers with more time to spare will be drawn to the spectacular “wild east”.
If you are planning your travel to Turkey yourself, use these itineraries created by our travel writers as a starting point for inspiration.
To do justice to Turkey’s stunning “wild east”, you’ll need at least three weeks.
The perfect gateway to Turkey’s east. Explore Gaziantep’s Arab-like bazaars, taste some of the country’s finest cuisine, and admire the fantastic Roman mosaics at the state-of-the-art Zeugma Mosaic Museum.
2. Nemrut Dağı
The colossal Hellenistic statues that dominate this remote mountaintop fully reward the effort it takes to reach them.
Famed for its pool of sacred carp, this traditional bazaar city makes the perfect base to visit the unique Neolithic temple sanctuary of Göbeklitepe, and the beehive houses at Harran.
For a real understanding of what makes eastern Turkey tick head to the impoverished but fascinating village of Yuvacalı to “homestay” with a local Kurdish family, and sleep beneath a star-washed sky on the flat roof of their simple abode.
Honey-coloured medieval houses cluster beneath an ancient citadel, looking out over the checkerboard fields of the impossibly flat Mesopotamian plain.
Going but not yet gone, this incredible medieval ruined city, perched above the Tigris, will disappear beneath the waters of a controversial dam.
Explore the vivid blue-soda Lake Van and its high-mountain hinterland, studded with unique Urartian sites and atmospheric Armenian churches – notably on Akdamar island.
This scruffy town, close to Iran, is the base for assaults on nearby Mt Ararat, and more sedate visits to the fairy-tale palace of a Kurdish chieftain, İshak Paşa Sarayı.
Set in vast, rolling tablelands, this city was brought to life in Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. Take a day-trip to the long-abandoned Armenian city of Ani.
An upland city that holds fascinating Islamic monuments and is the gateway to Turkey’s best ski resort, Palandöken.
11. Kaçkar Mountains
This beautiful, green alpine range, dominated by Mt Kaçkar, spangled with yaylas (alpine pastures), glacier lakes and flowers, is perfect for trekking.
Ancient Trebizond, a fiercely proud Black Sea port, has a superbly frescoed Byzantine church, the Aya Sofya, and is the base for day trips to the spectacular cliff-hanging monastery of Sumela.
With fifteen days at your disposal, you can get to know İstanbul; explore the wonders of Cappadocia; and visit the ancient treasures of the Mediterranean coast.
Truly one of the world’s great cities, straddling Europe and Asia, İstanbul is blessed with fascinating Byzantine churches, curvaceous Ottoman mosques and bustling bazaars. It even boasts a buzzing nightlife scene.
A unique landscape of weird rock pinnacles and deep valleys is enhanced by rock-cut, frescoed churches and entire underground cities. Two full days is an absolute minimum.
Once home to the founder of the mystical “whirling dervish” order, the city captivates the spiritually inclined.
A welcome respite from a surfeit of sightseeing; most visitors to lakeside Eğirdir stay on the tiny island and simply admire the mountains, swim and eat.
Glistening white travertine basins and hot springs form a geological wonder to match Cappadocia. The Greeks and Romans would agree; their ruined spa-city, Hierapolis, remains integral to the experience.
This former Greek fishing town is now an all-white architectural treat of a resort. Famed in ancient times for the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, today it’s better known for its club of (nearly) the same name, Halikarnas.
Charming little town with welcoming places to stay, a good museum, the Basilica of St John and the remnants of the Temple of Artemis. It’s also handy for both iconic Ephesus and İzmir international airport.
Allow a minimum of ten days to enjoy the best of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
This small resort, well served by Dalaman international airport, is unusually but beautifully situated on a reed-fringed river, opposite a superb ancient site and handy for the turtle-nesting beach at İztuzu.
A superb coastal retreat, with low-key accommodation in the village of Gelemiş, a Roman site peeking from the dunes, and Turkey’s longest beach.
Turkey’s self-styled adventure capital, located at the feet of towering mountains, makes an excellent base to try scuba diving, sea kayaking, paragliding, canyoning or hiking the Lycian Way – or just chill.
A relaxed resort hidden in citrus groves, backed by mountains and home to the romantic Roman ruins at adjoining Olympos, the eternal flames of the Chimaera, and a great sweep of shingle beach.
This bustling city is home to a superb archeological museum as well as the old walled quarter of Kaleiçi, which offers characterful accommodation, great nightlife and a tiny but pretty beach.