Turkey Tour & Travel Guide – Part 2, Regions of Turkey & Places to Visit

Turkey is divided up into 07 main regions, which are then subdivided into 81 provinces. Each province is then subdivided into a total of 923 districts. Below you will find a brief outline each region, noting the main provinces and a few highlights for which each are most famous.

Aegean Region

One of the most popular regions of Turkey, the jewels in its crown being Izmir City, Ephesus Archaeological Site & the House of Virgin Mary, the natural formation of travertens & ruins in Pamukkale, seaside resort towns of Cesme, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Fethiye and many more. This region abounds with Archaeological Sites, pristine beaches, olive groves and pine forests. It is also home to the 7 Churches of Revelations.

Izmir : It is in this province that you find the World famous Ephesus Archaeological Site along with other highlights such as the House of Virgin Mary, Ancient ruins of Pergamum, the seaside towns of Urla, Cesme, Alicati & Foca. Izmir City itself offers a number of museums, great bazaars, yummy restaurants, as well as the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely stroll along its seaside boulevard & ferry trip across the bay. From Cesme you can also connect by ferry to the Greek Island of Chios.

Denizli : It is in this province that you find the natural wonder of Pamukkale (translates as “Cotton Castle”) with its formation of lime travertens  and thermal waters, as well as the ancient ruins of Hierapolis Archaeological Site. Other sites to visit in this area include the ruins of Ancient Aphrodisias (dedicted to the love Goddess Aphrodite), the Ancient Site of Laodicia (mentioned in Revelations) and Kaklik Cave, a “subterranean Pamukkale”.

Aydin : The coastal town of Kusadasi  (70km from Izmir) is the most visited as it is a good overnight location if you are planning to visit Ephesus Archaeological Site and/or make a day trip out to Pamukkale. From this port city you can also make ferry connection on to the Greek Island of Samos and from there on to other islands such as Mykonos. Greek Island Cruises also call in at Kusadasi Port before heading on to Patmos, Rhodes and other islands on their route.

Mugla : Famous for the main coastal & resort towns of Bodrum, Fethiye, Marmaris, Dalaman, Datca, Koycegiz & Milas. From Bodrum you can also connect by ferry to Kos and from Marmaris connect by ferry to Rhodes. For those seeking to spend time sailing along this stunning coastline, the world famous “Blue Voyage” sailing routes, in traditional gulets, operate from the ports of Bodrum, Marmaris & Fethiye.

Aegean Turkey Travel Ideas

Below are a few examples of how you could spend your time in this region. Of course all these options can be combined with other areas of Turkey too, such as include Istanbul, Cappadocia, Antalya, gulet cruise, etc.

*Number of days noted are for actual sightseeing time, excludes day of arrival & day of departure.

If wish to hop over from the Aegean area of Turkey on to the Greek Islands then check-out our:

Marmara Region

This region falls in both Asia and Europe.  Edirne and Istanbul on the European side (Istanbul of course having parts ofit’s vast area on both sides) with Cannakkale, Balikesir and Bursa on the Asian side. This region has something to offer in all seasons.
Istanbul : The most famous of all Turkey’s cities, with so much to do, see, hear & taste that you could easily spent a few weeks (or a lifetime) exploring this amazing city which connects the East to West, Europe to Asia. For most first time visitors, the historical area of Sultanahmet is the primary focus, with its many historical gems such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar. Besides historical treasures, Istanbul is also a shoppers mecca, with its numerous malls and shopping centers offering local & international designer brands. Istanbuls’ two main airports makes it a major connecting hub, so even if your destination this year is not Turkey you can still do a short Istanbul Tour Stop Over.

Istanbul Blue Mosque
Photo by Michael Parulava
Istanbul Galata Tower
Photo by Damla Özkan
The list of what do so & see in Istanbul is truely endless, so here we briefly focus only what we consider to be our TOP 10 list for Istanbul.

  • Exploring major sites of the historical Sultanahmet area (St Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar etc)
  • Enjoy a cruise on the Bosphorus
  • Attend a 1 hour evening performance of the Whirling Dervishes at the Hodjapasha Cultural Center
  • Turkish Bath (Hamam), wash away the stresses of modern life in a relaxing historical setting
  • Sample the delights of Turkish Cuisine at local eateries in the Karakoy and Beyoglu areas
  • Stroll along pedestrian Istiklal Street (or take the Red Tram), connects Beyoglu to Taksim Square
  • Big Bus Istanbul, passing through interesting districts and neighborhoods with pre-recorded commentary
  • Do a half day (4 to 5 hours) cooking class, either in the morning with lunch or evening with dinner
  • Take the funicular up Piere Loti Hill for wonderful views over the Golden Horn
  • Enjoy a drink or cocktail from a good rooftop bar with views over the city

Edirne : Located approximately 240km northeast of Istanbul, the most visited attraction of Edirne is the Selimiye Mosque (16th century) which was built by the master Turkish architect, Mimar Sinan. Here you can also explore the Grand Synagogue, Fatih Cephanelik Bridge, Uc Serrefeli Mosque, Muradiye Mosque & Sultan Beyazit II Mosque, various vineyards, the Kaleici area with beautiful timber houses dating back through the 18-19-20th centuries. The Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival also takes places in this area.

Canakkale : Located on the Dardenelles Strait, an approx 5 hours drive south from Istanbul, it is in this area that you find the Archaeological site of Troy and the Gallipoli Battlefields and Memorials (World War I). Most tours that cover Troy & Gallipoli are over a period of 02 days including 01 overnight spent in Canakkale town center. These can be done roundtrip from Istanbul or starting Istanbul ending Izmir/Kusadasi.  Another alternative, for those with more time, would be to include the nearby seaside village of Assos and of little further down to the seaside town of Ayvalik (in Balikesir region).

Balikesir : This area is mostly for nature lovers, with various national & nature parks to explore : Kazdag National Park – Ayvalik Islands Nature Park – Daridere Nature Park – Degirmenbogazi Nature Park – Sarimsakli Nature Park. For the twitchers amongts us, there is the Manyas Bird Paradise National Park, located right on the international bird migration routes. For those who love waterfalls, here you can find the Kirazli Waterfall – Sutuven Waterfall (Hasanboguldu) & Gurlek Waterfall. The Sahinderesi Canyon is ranked second in the world in terms of oxygen density and is located in the Kazdagi National Park.

Bursa : Nicknamed “Green Bursa” thanks to its many tree filled parks & the splendid mountain backdrop of Uluday, one of Turkey’s most famous mountains & skiing resorts.  Besides doing a cable car ride up Uludag (weather permitting) no Tour of Bursa would be complete without exploring the Green Mosque, Green Mausoleum, Ulu Camii, Koza Han, Bazaars & a meal of famous Bursa Kebab (slivers of roasted beef on squares of pide smothered in a tomato scauce, accompaied with fresh Turkish yoghurt). Also worth a visit is the nearby village of Cumalıkızık, dating back to the Ottoman Empire, with a well-protected historical atmosphere that can be experienced through its historic cobblestone streets & Ottoman-era houses. The Irgandı Bridge (1442) is an unusual find, an arched bridge with a bazaar on top.

Central Anatolia

Home to the Whirling Dervishes (Mevlana) and the magical fairy chimneys and carved churches of Cappadocia. This area is frequently referred to as “The Cradle of Civilization”, due to remnants of numerous civilizations & faiths that have called these lands home over many hundres of years.

Ankara : Capital of Turkey – here you find the Mausoleum of Ataturk (Hero of Turkey) & the Anatolia (Ancient) Civilisations Museum which houses artifacts covering a period of more than 7500 years, from the Palaeolithic Age through to the most extensive collection of Hittites artifacts.

Konya : Home of the Whirling Dervishes (Mevlana) Mausoleum. Please note that if you are interested in watching a Whirling Dervishes Performance, these take place in Istanbul & Cappadocia.

Kayseri & Cappadocia : Kayseri Airport & Nevsehir Airport are used to connect travellers to the area of Cappadocia. During winter season Kayseri offers skiing opportunities on Mount Erceyes. The Cappadocia area offers something for everyone, making it one of the “must visit” places of Turkey. Besides spending time exploring the fairy chimneys, mushroom shaped pinnacles & carved Churches such as those found in the Goreme Open Air Museum, you can also enjoy adventure activities such as Sunrise Hot Air Ballooning, Horse riding, Atv (quad) biking and hiking in the numerous valleys.

Eskisehir : Main interests here are the Archaeological Museum housing artifacts from the Phrygian era as well as the 19th century architectural Ottoman House Museum. Meerschaum Stone is particular to this region, which is used to hand craft ornaments & intricate smoking pipes.  This provinces other claims to fameare being the birthplace of Nasreddin Hoca, a master of humor and philosopher & the burial place of the poet Yunus Emre.

Eastern Anatolia

This is the largest region of Turkey, covering approx 21% of the total land area of the country. Here the visitor can experience a wide variety of landscape from barren wild wastelands to fertile basins, the lofty Mount Ararat, the vastness of Lake Van, the skiing resort area of the Palendoken in Erzurum and much more.

Agri : It is here that you find Mount Ararat (Mt Agri), which has legendary status as it is said there here lies the remains of the Art of Moses. It is also the region where you can find the stunning Ishak Pasa Palace near the town of Dogubeyazit.

Van : Famous for its lake (the largest lake in Turkey at approx m2) and its local cats that love to swim in the lake and have different colored eyes. In the middle of the lake, accessably only by boat ride, you find Akdamar Island which is home to the Church of the Holy Cross and Armenian Monastery ruins. Hosap Castle is another of the major attractions of Van.

Malatya : This city, which has been in existence for more than 3000 years is most famous for being the base from which to visit Mount Nemrut, where Antiochus I of the Commagene Kingdom built a temple at the summit in honor of himself. It is also famous for its delicious apricots.

Erzurum : This is a great area for nature lovers, offering Mount Palandoken for skiing, Lake Tortum with its magnificent waterfall and mountaineerring opportunities with peaks of 3000 meters. On the historical side you could check out various Seljuk Period buildings such as the Ulu (Grand) Mosque built in 1179 and the Double Minaret Medrese (theological school).

Kars : Most visitors travel out to this area primarily to visit the ruins of Ani, located some 45km east  on the Turkish-Armenian border. Besides Ani, Kars is also famous for its cheese, honey, butter & geese. Some other interesting sites to visit are the 937AD Armenian Church of the Apostles, 15th-century OttomanStone Bridge, the Citadel and a 19th-century Russian cathedral.

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