28 famous landmarks in Turkey

In this post of our World Landmarks series, we focus on the famous landmarks in Turkey. From the enchanting monuments in Istanbul to Cappadocia, Turkey is blessed with attractions and unbelievable places worth visiting. As usual in this series, we invited a few fellow bloggers to contribute with some of the most famous Turkish landmarks to produce the best information possible.

Turkey is one of the most popular destinations in the world. It is well-known for its wonderful beaches, impressive landscapes, historic cities, and unique and exotic culture. It simply has everything you need to have a wonderful trip, but the highlight goes to the historic buildings dating back to the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires (two of the things Turkey is famous for).

So, without further delays, let’s explore some of the most famous landmarks in Turkey.

Famous landmarks in Turkey – Istanbul

Hagia Sofia

By Ania James from The travelling twins

Istanbul has always been an important city due to its prime location on the Bosphorus Strait between Asia and Europe. This prime location allowed it to be conquered by multiple parties, including the Greeks, Romans, Genoese, and the Ottomans.

Hagia Sophia was built in 537 AD for the Christian population of Constantinople during the time of Emperor Justinian. Very little is known about the construction of the building, but it has been well-preserved over its long history with restorations being done multiple times.

The Hagia Sophia has been used for various purposes throughout history. Some of these include being a church, a mosque, and also falling into disrepair at one point due to being robbed of its materials. It was most famously converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire when Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453. This is when it was given the name the “Great Mosque of Istanbul” and became a place of worship for Muslims. As a mosque, it underwent restorations that made some changes to the building, such as adding minarets. Over the years, the Hagia Sophia has been modified to fit different purposes. One of these is when it was used as a museum in 1935.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985., Hagia Sophia is an iconic landmark in Turkey and one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.

Famous landmarks in Turkey
Hagia Sophia, possibly the most famous landmark in Turkey

Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is one of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul and, consequently, in Turkey. Constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I, it’s located right in front of the most iconic landmark in Turkey, the Hagia Sofia. Since 1985 it’s been included in the “historic areas of Istanbul,” UNESCO heritage site.

Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue mosque is an Ottoman-era historical mosque that’s still functioning. It’s known for the 20 000 hand-painted blue tiles that adorn the interior. With five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes, this Mosque is considered the zenith of the Ottoman mosque development, combining Byzantine elements and traditional Islamic architecture.

Visiting the Blue Mosque is free, as there are no tickets. However, you may expect lines and lots of people. Remember that besides being a huge tourist attraction, it’s a functioning mosque. As with other mosques and religious sites, you have to follow the dress code: Men should wear long trousers but can wear short-sleeved shirts. Women should cover their hair and arms, as well as their legs from the knees up.

Blue Mosque exterior
Blue Mosque, one of the most beautiful mosques in the world

Dolmabahçe Palace

By Chelsey Evans from Chelsey Explores

Dolmabahçe Palace is the largest palace in the country and one of the must-see landmarks of Turkey. It was built between 1843 and 1856 and commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I. The lavish palace was where the last six Ottoman Sultans resided and ruled the Ottoman Empire.

The palace is located on the banks of Bosphorus on the European side of Istanbul (Besiktas district). The white marble palace has a European baroque style architecture with oriental texture.

Dolmabahçe Palace is known for its distinctive glass and crystal features. The staircases are made from marble, while fourteen tons of gold were used to cover the ceilings, and the walls are ornately painted and gilded.

The palace is home to the world’s largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers. You will find opulent furnishings and accessories with the grandeur of the Versailles in Paris.

The first President of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, also spent his last years at the palace before passing on in 1938. While touring the rooms, you’ll find his bedroom turned into a museum, and his bed is covered in a 100% silk Turkish flag.

Istanbul Landmarks
Famous landmarks in Turkey – Dolmabahçe Palace

Galata Tower

By Julie Laundis from Wandering Sunsets

Galata is a 205 ft, cone-capped, and cylindrical tower with nine stories. This is one of the most historical landmarks of Turkey. It’s located on the European side of Istanbul in Karaköy, previously known as Galata district. 

It was built in 1348 and named ‘Christea Turris’ (Tower of Christ in Latin). It was originally built to be the city’s tallest structure as its main purpose was to be a watchtower, mainly for the defense of Istanbul.

The tower served as a lighthouse, and then it became a dungeon when the Ottomans conquered the city. Today it still dominates the skylines of Istanbul as an observatory.

The tower became famous in the 17th century when aviator Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi flew from Galata tower to Uskudar on the Asian side of Istanbul with artificial wings attached to his arms. 

The tower is associated with love and marriage, and it’s a popular place to propose in the city. Galata is also one of the best places to photograph sunsets in Istanbul.

One of the best things to do in the area is walking across the Galata Bridge, climbing the Kamondo stairs, and having Khavalti at one of the many cafes. 

Topkapi Palace

By Jesal Desai from Tourist to travellers

Located in the heart of Sultanahmet, the old city of Istanbul stands the erstwhile abode of the Ottoman Sultans – The Topkapi Palace. The powerhouse that was the Ottoman Empire ruled from the Balkans to Arabia, and Topkapi served as its headquarters. The Topkapi Palace dates back to the 14th century, and since then, it has been built upon by the many sultans that resided therein. Today it is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Comprising of Harems, four courtyards, a museum, and a sprawling garden and grounds, there is so much to explore. One will need at least half a day to explore the imperial collections and architecture. Holy relics of Prophet Mohammed are kept in the Chamber of Holy relics. One can view these; however, do note that photography is not allowed.

How to Reach Topkapi Palace?

Topkapi Palace is located within 5-8 mins walking distance of The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. If you stay in Sultanahmet, then all of these will be within walking distance. If you are put up further away, then the best/ cheapest option to reach there would be by the Tram. The closest Tram stop is Gulhane Station.

Ottoman Landmarks in Istanbul
Topkapi Palace, one of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul

The Walls of Constantinople

By Margarita from The Wildlife Diaries 

The Walls of Constantinople are a series of monumental defensive walls that encircled the city of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). These impressive stone walls were one of the reasons Constantinople flourished for over 1,100 years, ever since Constantin the Great relocated the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium in 337 AD and then promptly renamed the city after himself. 

In their millennium-long history, the Walls of Constantinople were breached only twice: by the Crusader army in 1204 and by the Ottomans in 1453. Today the walls run through the city of Istanbul and form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Historic Areas of Istanbul. 

There are two main sections of the Walls of Constantinople that you can visit today: the Land Wall and the Sea Wall. The latter is the more easily accessible of the two – it wraps around Seraglio Point below Topkapi Palace and runs along the shore of the Sea of Marmara. Chances are, your taxi ride from either Sabiha Gökçen or Atatürk airports to Sultanahmet will take you past this section of the wall. 

The Land Wall will take more effort to visit, but it is by far the most impressive of the two. Built as a series of two walls with a terrace between them, the Land Wall (aka Theodosian Wall) is an epic fortification. The easiest way to explore this section of the wall is by combining it with a visit to the stunning Chora Church in the Edirnekapi neighborhood. The neighborhood takes its name from Edirnekapi Gate, and you literally have to walk through a section of the wall on your way to the church.

The legendary land walls of Constantinople
The legendary walls of Constantinople

Basilica Cistern

By Yukti Agrawal from Travel with me 24 x 7

Basilica Cistern is a unique landmark in Turkey with a magnificent Byzantine style. The name Cistern Basilica comes from Stoa Basilica which was located above the cistern at the time of construction and during the early Roman Age, it was a commercial, legal and artistic center. Built underground in the 6th century, between 532 and 537, the Cistern provided water for the great palace and other buildings in the area.

Located only 150 meters from Hagia Sophia it’s a very easy-to-reach monument and one that could be missed if you aren’t aware of its existence. With more than 300 marble columns, each 9 meters high and arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns it’s a sight to behold. The chamber is about 9 800 square meters and holds 80 00 cubic meters of water.

The Basilica Cistern impresses for its size and beauty. Plus, today’s lighting and special effects make this monument even more mystical and enchanting. The impressive columns are mostly of Ionic and Corinthian styles, with the exception of a few Doric with no engravings. The most notable are two upside-down sleeping heads of medusa. There is no explanation why they were put in this position making it even more mystical.

The Basilica Cistern should always be included in your Istanbul city tour as it is one of the easiest and most fun to visit monuments in the city.

Byzantine landmarks in turkey
The Basilica Cistern, one of the fascinating landmarks in Istanbul

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is one of the most popular landmarks in Turkey. It’s visited by virtually everyone who visits the city and it’s also very popular among the locals. In fact, it was listed as the most visited tourist attraction in the world, with 250 000 to 400 00 daily visitors. Yes, daily! That means about 100 000 000 visitors per year…

With over 4000 shops, spread through 61 streets and a total area of 30 700 m2, the Grand Bazaar is considered one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It’s sometimes dubbed as the world’s first shopping mall, as its construction started during the winter of 1455/56, and opened in1461 having expanded steadily ever since.

Today the Bazaar is almost a town inside Istanbul, with its own police station, banks, mosque, post office, and restaurants. Located inside the walls of Istanbul in the Fatih district, it stretches between the Mosque of Beyazit and the Mosque of Nuruosmaniye. It’s very easy to reach the bazaar by tram, you just been to exit at the stop Beyazıt-Kapalıçarşı.

28 Famous Landmarks In Turkey
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

Turkey Landmarks – Cappadoccia

Fairy Chimneys Cappadocia

Jackie of Jou Jou Travels

The fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, Turkey, is a magical scene to witness. These special rock formations are what the city is known for and are so spectacular that they have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1985.

The rock formations were all naturally formed through erosion. It dates back to 60 million years ago but also demonstrates evidence of Byzantine art. There are many beautiful panoramic views where you can witness the dramatic fairy chimneys. Most are located in the famous valleys of Pasabag Valley, Love Valley, Rose Valley, Zelve Valley, Devrent Imagination Valley, and Pigeon Valley in Goreme National Park.

Another way to experience the fairy chimneys is to ride in a hot air balloon to see them, which is an amazing experience in itself as thousands of them take off each morning in Cappadocia. If the thought of riding in one scares you, you can go for a hike or do a Sunset ATV Tour to cover more ground.

You can get to Cappadocia through one of two airports: Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) or Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport. They are both relatively the same distance away, and you can take shuttles into Goreme, which will take at least one hour. 

Fairy Chimneys in Cappadocia, a natural landmark in Turkey
Famous fairy Chimneys in Cappadocia

Cave Houses of Goreme

Jane and Duncan To Travel Too

In the Cappadocia region of central Turkey lies the town of Goreme, famous for its cave houses and churches.

It is a unique landscape of cave houses, churches, and underground villages carved centuries ago out of tuff rock.  The cave houses are used as residential dwellings, and others have been converted into luxurious, unique hotels. Some of these cave hotels in Cappadocia are truly magical.

The underground cities were built as protection against invaders, some as deep as 100 meters, a labyrinth of underground tunnels and narrow passages. The top parts of the underground cities were used as storerooms and where their animals were kept. Further down were the bedrooms, living areas, and kitchens. They created wells for their supply of drinking water and even had toilets.

It is quite an experience spending a few nights in a cave house.  The best way to see this vast landscape of cave houses is from the air in a hot air balloon flight.

The ‘cave houses’ in 1985 were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are two airports close by Kayseri (80 km away) and Neveshir (40 km away).  Overnight bus travel is available from Istanbul.

Cave Houses, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Turkey

Selime Monastery

By Lindsey Puls from Have Clothes, Will Travel

Selime Monastery is the largest religious structure in Cappadocia, Turkey. In this 13th century, the rock-cut monastery is believed to have taken more than 200 years to shape, and it could house around 5,000 people! Visiting this landmark is one of the best things to do in Cappadocia.

Be prepared, though! Getting to the Selime Monastery does require hiking in some rather tricky spots. It is worth the challenge, though! Not only is this Turkish landmark itself amazing to explore, but it also offers some astonishing views of the unique Cappadocia landscape once you hike to the top. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes or hiking boots when visiting.

Selime Monastery is located in the village of Selime, at the end of the Ilhara Valley. You could do a 2-hour hike from the Village of Ilhara through the valley to get to Selime Monastery. Other options include taking a day trip tour from Goreme to see Selime Monastery and Ilhara Valley or renting a car and driving to Selime.

Selime Monastery, the largest religious structure in Cappadocia
Human-made Turkish landmarks – Selime Monastery

Derinkuyu Underground City

By Lindsey Puls from Have Clothes, Will Travel

Derinkuyu Underground City is an ancient city located about 60 meters underground. It is a UNESCO site and is big enough to have housed as many as 20,000 people, along with their food stores and livestock. It is Turkey’s largest excavated underground city, and touring it is a must for any Cappadocia itinerary.

It was built in the Byzantine era, and the Christians hid here during the 14th century. Derinkuyu was opened to visitors in 1965, although you can only tour about 10 percent of it. At some points, the tunnels are quite narrow and will force you to crouch to go through them. (This is something to consider if you are especially claustrophobic.) The tunnels were made this way to force invaders to have to go single file into the city.

To get to the Derinkuyu Underground City, there are local buses from Nevşehir to Derinkuyu that leave every half hour. Another option is to take the “Green Tour” for the Cappadocia region of Turkey – which includes a tour through Derinkuyu Underground City.

Derinkuyu Underground City is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm in winter and 7 pm in summer. The entrance cost is 15 TL.

Tunnel in Derinkuyu Underground City
A tunnel in Derinkuyu Underground City – one of the most famous landmarks in Cappadocia

Uchisar Castle

By Sean Lau from LivingOutLau

The Uchisar Castle is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Located in Uchisar, it is only a 5-kilometer drive from Goreme, the most popular town in Cappadocia. Visitors can take one of the public buses from Goreme or just catch a taxi in the town for cheap.

The fortress rises anywhere from 50 meters to 100 meters above ground level (depending on which side you are looking at it), and it is the highest point in Cappadocia. Not only does this provide an excellent viewpoint to admire the dreamy desert landscapes and Cappadocia’s unique fairy chimneys, but it also played a significant historical role.

Due to its strategic height, this natural Turkey landmark was the perfect watchtower to see incoming invasions from the enemy. In fact, that is exactly that it was used for during the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman era. The Uchisar Castle itself is filled with caves and rooms, many of which are inaccessible now because they have collapsed.

Nonetheless, see the beauty of this natural landmark up close is an unforgettable experience. It is also one of the cheaper attractions in Cappadocia at 20 TL for entrance!

Uchisar Castle on the horizon
Uchisar Castle

Landmarks Turkey – Others

Anıtkabir, Ankara

By Kenny from Knycx Journeying

Ankara is located in the country’s Central Region, and it has been the capital of Turkey since the declaration of independence in 1923. 

On top of Observation Hill in Ankara’s city center, an iconic landmark called the Anıtkabir. The monument is a mausoleum dedicated to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish War of Independence leader, the founder, and the first President of the Republic of Turkey. 

The site is a must-see in Ankara for first-time visitors because of its status and importance. The architecture is simple yet impressive – the symmetrical cube-shaped monument is a fine example of Turkish architecture. The building acts as a centerpiece of Anıtkabir as it faces a ceremonial plaza of over 10,000 square meters. Some signs and memorials showcase the history of Turkey that we know today.  

While in there, admire the artwork through the Road of Lions, pay respect to Atatürk’s tomb in the Hall of Honor, and take a walk in the Peace Park; For those with more time, explore the many towers around the site, and visit the Anıtkabir Atatürk Museum, as it exhibits important artifacts with great historical value, including stories of Turkey’s most significant figure, and many of his personal belongings. Finally, the back of the mausoleum offers a panoramic view of the city.  

Anıtkabir in Ankara is a modern landmark in Turkey
Anıtkabir in Ankara, the mausoleum of Atatürk

House of the Virgin Mary

By Faith from XYUandBEYOND

The House of the Virgin Mary is located on the top of Mount Koressos. A long winding beautiful drive up the mountains brings you to the site. It was discovered in the 19th century using descriptions from the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, a Catholic nun, and visionary.

Apparently, Mary preferred this remote, peaceful area and was brought here by the Disciple John, where she stayed until her Assumption into heaven.

The house of the Virgin Mary was made entirely of stones and dates back to the 4th Century AD. The house is 2 stories, and there is a prayer room considered the Christian Church area. The fireplace room is used as a Muslim Chapel. It is both a sacred place for Muslims, and since Mary (Meryem Ana) is spoken of in the Quran, Muslims come to visit and Christians.

Outside you can visit the holy waters where you are encouraged to drink and make a wish. Local legend says that each tap represents an aspect of life – wealth, health, and fertility. This is the  “Water of Mary,” a wishing well of sorts that is believed to be the source of miracles. Pilgrims tie their personal wishes and worries on paper or fabric, hoping that its miraculous powers will give them some comfort. 

House of Virgin Mary in Turkey
Mary’s house, another religious landmark in Turkey


By Bella from Passport & Pixels

You might already have seen photos of Pamukkale, with its shimmering turquoise pools and dazzling white travertine formations formed over millennia by mineral-rich hot springs dripping down over the hillside. The Greeks and Romans loved this place so much they built a spa town here – Hierapolis – the ruins of which sit at the very top of the travertine cliffs. Together they make an incredible spectacle, which is why Hierapolis-Pamukkale is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Greeks founded Hierapolis in the 2nd century BC before being handed over to the Romans in the 2nd century AD. It was a busy and vibrant city, and today its stunning ancient buildings are some of the best ruins in Turkey. There’s a temple, a very early Christian church, several bathhouses, a magnificent amphitheater, and a stunning necropolis crammed with tombs and sarcophagi.

Pamukkale and Hierapolis are located in western Turkey, about 3 hours drive from İzmir. You can also get there on a tour from Istanbul. It’s a huge site, so it’ll either be a long day trip or, if you can, book an overnight stay in the nearby village of Pamukkale and enjoy the site at a more leisurely pace.

Iconic Turkey landmarks
Ruins of Hierapolis

Ruins of Ani

By Jonny from In Faraway Lands

Ani is the medieval ruins of an Armenian city located in the Far East of Turkey near the Armenian border and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

It’s been called in the past “the City of 1001 Churches and 40 gates,” and for a good reason, as the whole area is scattered with church ruins spread out between a ravine and valley over a massive area. It was strategically located on different important trade routes.

During its heyday, 100,000 people were living there, and it’s famous for being one of the largest cities in the world back in medieval times. An example of early gothic architecture can be found in the Cathedral of Ani, and its defensive fortifications were some of the most advanced at that time.

Today the buildings are mostly ruined, although there has been some restoration work carried out to preserve what is left.

The closest city to the ruins of Ani is Kars and is where you should base yourself for a visit to the ruins. From Kars, regular tours go to Ani for a day trip, and the other option is to rent a car in Kars and drive yourself. Kars is easily reached by train, bus, or flight from other parts of Turkey.

Landmarks in eastern Turkey
Ruins of Ani, in Eastern Turkey

Gallipoli Graves in Gallipoli Peninsula

By Tom Bartel from Travel past 50

In the early years of World War I, millions of British Commonwealth and Turkish troops fought over the Gallipoli Peninsula of Turkey, and more than half a million young men were killed. The Battle of Gallipoli lasted about eight months; about half a million men from both sides were killed or wounded.

Gallipoli today is a peaceful place. The Turks have declared the entire peninsula, more or less, a “Peace Park” and have prohibited building anything bigger than a farmhouse. Most of the area that isn’t the well-kept grave and memorial sites has grown back into the rough vegetation that was there when the Commonwealth troops landed.

It’s rough country and full of valleys flanked by steep hills that were places for defensive Turkish gun emplacements. On those hills, too, are the remains of trenches and tunnels occupied by the Commonwealth and Turkish armies. In some cases, the trenches are only meters apart.

To fully appreciate the battlefield, you’re best off hiring a local guide because the site, and the events that happened there, are too big to comprehend without some context. If you’re coming from Istanbul, the best advice is to get a travel agent to arrange transport and a guide. It’s a long bus ride.

Modern turkey landmarks
One of the most recent Turkey landmarks in this list


By Michelle Moyer from Moyer Memoirs

Aspendos is an ancient Greco-Roman city with the best-preserved ancient theater in the world.  It is located in the Antalya province of Turkey and 16 km from the Mediterranean Sea.  The drive from the city of Antalya is 47 km, so it is easily added to a group tour itinerary in Turkey.  Another option is to take a day-tour from Antalya, which will often include Perge, another ancient Greek city in Turkey.

The magnificent theater in Aspendos was built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Legends say that Aspendos was built during a competition to construct the structure that brought the most prosperity to the ancient city.  Although it was constructed in the Roman period, it has many Greek features, such as its horseshoe shape.

The Greek architect Zenon built the theater against the adjacent hill. The stage is incredibly massive, with many supporting columns still standing today. The acoustics were well-done so that those on stage could be heard perfectly in each of the 7,000 seats carved in the theater.

From the archeological excavation around the theater, many coins have been found. Aspendos was one of the earliest cities in the ancient world to mint its own coins, indicating its importance in the ancient world.

Today, the Aspendos theater is still used. The Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival is an annual event that fills the theater during its shows.

Aspendos theater
Aspendos theater, an impressive landmark

Selimiye mosque, Edirne

By Raluca from Travel With A Spin

The imposing Selimiye Mosque is located at the center of Edirne, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire. Legend says that Selim II chose this place for the new mosque because of a dream of prophet Mohamed standing right on that spot. This was also supposed to be his final resting place, but he died three months before it was finished. Thus, he was buried at Hagia Sofia.

It’s not only a religious edifice but an entire complex that includes educational institutions, a covered bazaar, an outer courtyard, and a library. The site was included on the UNESCO world heritage list as the most harmonious architectural expression of the Ottoman külliye, a complex of buildings raised around a mosque and managed as a single institution.

The architect, Mimar Sinan, eighty at the time, was the most famous in the 16th century. In the end, he recognized Selimiye to be his best work. The central mosque has a single massive dome and four elegant minarets that can be seen from afar. For the interior decorations, brilliant Iznik tiles, elaborate calligraphy, and 999 stained-glass windows were used. It is said that Sinan wanted his masterpiece to have 1000 windows, but Selim disagreed with him on this. So the mosque only has 999,  but they are enough for an extraordinary illuminated interior.

The ceiling of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, a famous Turkish monument
Selimiye mosque, Edirne

Ephesus, Izmir

Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

Located about 3 kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk in Turkey’s İzmir Province, Ephesus was a city in ancient Greece that was built in the 10th century BC. It was one of 12 ancient cities that were members of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era, ultimately coming under the control of the Roman Empire in 129 BC.

Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, the city was originally best known for the Temple of Artemis, designated as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The massive temple was destroyed numerous times over centuries, first by a flood, then in a case of arson, and lastly during a raid in 268 AD by the East Germanic tribe known as the Goths.

Today the temple site is marked only by a single column made out of fragments discovered during an archaeological excavation in the late 1800s. Still, some relics uncovered by that dig are displayed in London’s British Museum and Turkey’s İstanbul Archaeology Museums.

There are plenty of other ancient ruins to see at Ephesus, one of the seven churches of Asia cited in the Book of Revelation (and possibly where the Gospel of John was written). Highlights include the Gate of Augustus (built to honor Emperor Augustus and his family), the Library of Celsus (built in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, governor of Roman Asia), the Temple of Hadrian, and an expansive open-air theatre where 24,000 people would watch plays and gladiator battles. 

Ephesus is an extremely popular attraction today, in part because of its proximity to the Adnan Menderes Airport and Kuşadası, a cruise ship port located about 30 kilometers south. So if you go, get there early or be prepared to deal with the cruise crowds.

Ephesus Ruins, ancient landmarks in Turkey
Ruins in Ephesus

Ancient Tombs of Dalyan

By Peta and Jonas from Exit45 Travels

The Ancient Tombs of Dalyan, also known as Carian Rock Tombs, are situated in Kaunos, located just outside the modern resort town of Dalyan. Alternatively, they can easily be reached on a day trip tour from Marmaris beach resort.

The Carian Rock Tombs, of which there are 167, are unique temple-like rock-cut tombs cut high into a cliff above what used to be the approach to one of the Ancient City of Kaunos’ ancient harbors. They date back to the middle of the 4th Century BC and are thought to be the burial tombs of the Lycian elite.

The Lycians were ancient people who inhabited the bays between Turkey’s Antalya and Fethiye. They buried the most well-respected members of their society high up on the cliffs as they believed the souls of their dead would be carried to the afterlife by winged spirits.

These stunning tombs form part of the UNESCO-recognised Ancient City of Kaunos, an archaeological site that also showcases a 5,000 seat Hellenistic theatre, several Lycian temples and churches, and a rock-cut Roman bath.

N.B. In an effort to preserve these intricate and majestic carvings, tourists can only see them by boat or from the opposite side of the river.

The Ancient Tombs of Dalyan seen from the river
Ancient Tombs of Dalyan seen from the river

Ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

By Michele Peterson from A Taste for Travel

Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was an elevated tomb structure built in honor of King Mausolus of Caria. Built in the 4th century BC, the Tomb of Mausolus is located in modern-day Bodrum, once known as the Greek city of Halicarnassus, in southwest Turkey on the Aegean Coast. 

Commissioned by Queen Artemisia II of Caria and designed by the Greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene, the most remarkable characteristic of the mausoleum was its size. It towered an estimated 45 meters (147.6 feet) high and featured marble reliefs depicting images from Greek history and myths such as the battle between the Centaurs and Lapiths.

Also remarkable were the tomb’s colossal statues, including a four-horse chariot that crowned the pyramid-shaped roof. Some of the original statues and reliefs can be seen at the British Museum.

While the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was destroyed by an earthquake and pillaged for its marble, its ruins are an important archeological site and are one of the top attractions of Bodrum. It’s within easy walking distance of the city center. The payment of the modest admission fee of 14 Turkish lira allows you to enter the onsite museum, see a model built to scale and explore the grounds where the scattered remains of the monumental structure now lie.

Ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world
Ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

Mevlana Mausoleum, Konya

By Claire from Claire’s Footsteps

Konya isn’t a very touristy Turkish city, but it is well worth visiting. Most famous for being the home of the whirling dervishes, Konya also has the almighty Mevlana Mausoleum, one of the most important Turkish landmarks. 

It is the mausoleum of Jala ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, who was the 13th century Persian Sufi mystic and world-famous poet who wrote about tolerance and acceptance. He also founded whirling dervish ceremonies, which were a type of meditation. 

This area of Turkey was renowned for its links to Sufism, an area of Islamic mysticism. Rumi was perhaps the most famous Sufist, making Konya a valuable place to visit to learn about this branch of Islam. 

The Mausoleum itself is iconic of Konya. It consists of a bright turquoise tower next to a dome and is a beautiful building to photograph. 

You can explore the beautiful interior and exterior of the building and browse exhibits about Rumi and his life, as well as the broader concept of Sufism. Additionally, there are whirling dervish performances every Thursday in the summertime. You can also catch these in Istanbul, but there is something special about seeing them in the city they were created!

If you are visiting Turkey in winter, you will miss the whirling dervish performance in Konya, but you can still visit the mosque, and there are a lot of other things to do here, from exploring the many mosques to shopping for Konya carpets!

Turkey landmarks - Mevlana Mausoleum in Konya
Mevlana Mausoleum, Konya – Turkey Landmarks

Natural Landmarks in Turkey

Saklikent Canyon

By Mal from Raw Mal Roams 

Turkey is so much more than a beach destination. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll enjoy Saklikent Canyon, situated in southwestern Turkey. The canyon is one of the deepest in the world, measuring 300 m in depth and 18 km in length.

The best time to hike the canyon is in the summer months between May and September when the snow melts away inside the gorge leaving behind a fresh spring with icy cold water that remains very cold even in the summer because the sun never gets to the bottom of the gorge. There are 16 caves inside the canyon, all inhabited by a prehistoric man and woman in the past. For that reason, Saklikent is also referred to as a hidden valley or a lost city.

An excellent base for exploring Saklikent Canyon is Oludeniz, situated 50 km from the National Park the canyon is part of. A range of restaurants and cafes are available in the canyon for lunch and refreshments. You can also rent water shoes for walking in the canyon. Adrenaline seekers can also go rubber ring rafting on the river next to the Saklikent Canyon, which is great fun!

Natural landmarks in Turkey
Saklikent Canyon, one of the most beautiful natural landmarks in Turkey

Kaputas Beach

China De Wet & JinMuseum of Wander

The Turquoise Coast in southern Turkey is where you’ll find some of the best beaches in the country. And of these stunning beaches, Kaputas beach must be the most beautiful.

Kaputas draws holidaymakers with its sandy beach (most others in the area are pebble beaches) and incredibly blue water. The beach lies at the bottom of a cliff, and the view from the top overlooking the sandy beach and that cerulean blue water of the Mediterranean is simply breathtaking.

Yachts and gulets on the popular Blue Cruise also drop anchor in the beautiful waters of Kaputas.  

Kaputas is about 20 km from the resort town of Kas, next to the road leading to Kalkan. The best way to get here is to rent a scooter in Kas or Kalkan and come here for a day. Dolmus (minibusses) running between Kas and Kalkan will also drop you off at the beach.

Entrance to the beach is free of charge, and there are also free toilets, changing huts, and showers. You can rent sunchairs and umbrellas, and a cafe serves snacks and drinks.

Definitely come and spend the day at Kaputas Beach when you’re on vacation in Kas.

Kaputas beach from above - Turkey natural landmarks
Kaputas Beach, possibly the most beautiful beach in Turkey

Mount Nemrut

By Roxanne de Bruyn from Faraway Worlds

The ruins on Mount Nemrut, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are perched on the top of one of the tallest peaks of the Taurus Mountains in south-eastern Turkey. Huge stone heads, the remnants of huge statues of ancient gods, greet those who make their way to the summit. The statues were built over 2,000 years ago and are thought to mark the tomb of the Hellenistic king, Antiochus I. They are designed to be visited at sunrise or sunset, the light bathing the statue gold or red, depending on the time of year. The views from the mountain are also beautiful, with the countryside and the Euphrates River visible from the site.

If you want to visit Mount Nemrut, head into the town of Kahta, either by car, bus or on a tour. From Kahta, either drive or take a tour to the mountain – it takes less than an hour to get there. If you want to watch the sunrise, a tour is probably the best way to go as you’ll need to leave in the early hours of the morning and road signs are easy to miss in the dark. If you want to see the sunset, driving yourself is a good option. Entry to the site is 25 lira per person and is free for children under eight.

Mount Nemrut at sunset
Famous natural landmarks in Turkey

Bosphorus streit

The Bosphorus Strait is the narrow, natural strait that separates Europe from Asia, dividing Turkey and Istanbul. Considered the world’s narrowest strait used for international navigation, it connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and consequently the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. Thus, the Bosphorus allows maritime connections from the Black Sea to the rest of the oceans making it a crucial waterway for the passage of goods to/from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Romania, and Bulgaria.

The majority of the shores of the Strait are heavily populated, particularly the southern part as the 17-million people metropolitan area of Istanbul sits alongside it. The Bosphorus is about 31km long, with a maximum width of 3.4 km and a minimum of 700 meters. The depth varies between 13 and 110 meters with an average of 65 meters. The smallest section is on a sill located in front of Dolmabahçe Palace, which we mentioned above.

Due to different densities, the Bosphorus has 2 water flows. One of fresh water at the surface and another near the bottom of saltwater. Because of this, some scholars talk about a “black sea undersea river”.

It is possible and easy to take a cruise through the Bosphorus. It allows you to see the Bosphorus, but also a few castles, palaces, and settlements along the way. It also provides great scenic views of Istanbul. There are several options, from a cheap hop-on and hop-off cruise to a luxurious night cruise with great entertainment.

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Famous landmarks in Turkey