A list of the top 10 things to do in Turkey, from the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia to Ephesus – the best-preserved Roman city in the Mediterranean.

Top 10 things to do in Turkey

1. Cappadocia: Whether it’s hiking among fairy chimneys, crawling through underground cities, horse riding through rolling vineyards or watching the terrain slip by from the basket of a hot air balloon, Cappadocia is a very special place. 

A bizarre and spectacular landscape largely sculpted by erosion, Cappadocia’s Göreme National Park is littered with troglodyte dwellings and subterranean towns – the remains of a human habitat dating back to the 4th century.

2. Pamukkale: Pamukkale, though Turkey’s most popular attraction by numbers, is barely known outside its country borders. It’s the iconic architecture of Istanbul and the cave dwellings of Cappadocia that steal the spotlight, but Pamukkale with its cascading travertine terraces deserves every visitor’s attention too.

3. Ephesus: Visiting Ephesus should be on every traveller’s Turkey itinerary. After more than 150 years of excavation, the city’s reclaimed and restored structures have made Ephesus Europe‘s most complete ancient city. Don’t miss the ruins of the Temple of Artemis – one of the original Seven Wonders.

4. Ayasofya, Istanbul: Ayasofya (or Hagia Sophia in Greek) is one of Istanbul’s most iconic structures. It graces travel brochures and glossy magazines and has even made a cameo in video game Assassin’s Creed. The 1,500-year-old structure is considered the most important of the Byzantine era and is one of the world’s great monuments.

5. Blue Mosque, Istanbul: Directly opposite Ayasofya is the Blue Mosque – perhaps Istanbul’s most photogenic building. The architecture combines a blend of domes, minarets and blue Iznik tiles (hence the name). Despite receiving over five million visitors per year, crowds are managed well making the Blue Mosque a site not to be missed.

6. Göbekli Tepe: Six miles from the ancient Turkish town of Urfa lies a set of massive 11,000-year-old carved stones, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had purportedly not yet developed metal tools or even pottery.

The site, discovered in the 1960s and later excavated by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, pre-dates Stonehenge by about 6,000 years and calls into question what we think we know about the progression of hunter-gatherers. Simply put, Göbekli Tepe with its intricate carving and sophisticated engineering wasn’t the work of simple cavemen.

7. Gallipoli Peninsula: This region of Turkey is like an open air memorial to World War I and the tragic battles fought here during the 1915 Gallipoli landings. The peninsula is now protected as the Gallipoli Historical National Park and is regarded as a place of pilgrimage for New Zealanders, Australians and Turks. Looking beyond the region’s grim yet poignant military history, visitors will discover some of the country’s most majestic scenery of pine forests, idyllic beaches and fertile hills.

8. Kaçkar Mountains: This area of the Anatolian plateau is Turkey’s most rewarding and popular trekking area. the mountain range stretches 1,000km (600mi) west to east, inland from the Black Sea, and features a line of 3,000m (12,00ft) highpeaks.

9. Monastery of Sumela: The most important, famed and best preserved Byzantine era monastery in Turkey is Greek Orthodox and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Clinging to the cliff-face above the Altındere valley it makes for an incredible sight above the lush forests and alpine meadows below. The main trail leading up to the site makes for a great day hike.

10. Nemrut Dağı National Park: This isolated mountaintop is a photographers dream. The surreal peak of Nemrut Dağı rises to a height of 2,106m (6,909ft)  and is surrounded by a number of large statues erected around what is assumed to be a royal tomb from the 1st century BC. The eerie statues, displaying partly mutilated, partly weathered features are scattered around the gravelly landscape

Lonely Planet Turkey (Travel Guide) is a comprehensive guide to Turkey, ideal for those who want to explore the top things to do in Turkey as well as take the road less travelled..

Lead image: Dreamstime