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Things to see and do in Turkey

Attractions in Turkey

Be dazzled by the Whirling Dervishes

The renowned Whirling Dervishes are one of Turkey's most iconic tourist attractions. Members of the Mevlevi Order perform the famous whirling dance known as Sema as part of an aged ceremony. It's best seen in Konya where the Order originated, though many shows catering to visitors are put on in Istanbul, too.

Cruise down the Black Sea

Explore the northern suburbs of Istanbul by ferry-boat, criss-crossing the Bosphorus to visit villages that stretch up to the mouth of the Black Sea. You can escape the tourists further and join holidaying Turks at one of the small Black Sea coast towns like Ünye or Giresun – less crowded, cooler and greener than the Mediterranean coast.

Detour to the capital, Ankara

The Turkish capital is overlooked by many visitors but has some excellent museums. The superb Museum of Anatolian Civilisations provides a rich chronicle on the dynamic history of the region, while the Ethnographic Museum in Ankara provides a great insight into Turkish culture.

Discover caves and bazaars in Sanliurfa

Wander through a traditional bazaar at Sanliurfa in the southeast, close to the Syrian border, and pay a visit to the cave where Abraham is said to have been born. Since the conflict in Syria, the border has become less secure, and caution is advised.

Explore the Kaçkar mountains

Go trekking in the wild Kaçkar mountain range of Turkey's northeast, close to the Georgian frontier. Take a trail through dense pine forests and scenic pastures, before hitting heights of almost 4,000m (13,123 ft). Routes across higher altitudes are only open during the summer months unless trekkers are equipped for snowy weather.

Explore the beaches of Bodrum

Although home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the Mausoleum of Mausolus – Bodrum in Turkey's southwest is perhaps better known today as the country's finest Aegean resort. Dominated by the Castle of St John, the town is renowned for its shopping, dining and nightlife, not to mention its sweeping sandy beaches.

Get some water therapy

The incredible pools at Pamukkale near Denizli attract tourists and locals alike who come to bathe in the warm therapeutic waters that fill the natural travertine terraces. The pools, together with the ancient ruins of the city of Hierapolis nearby have been declared a World Heritage Site.

Glide over the dreamland of Cappadocia

Formed after the eruption of Mount Erciyes and fashioned by nature over the ages, Cappadocia offers an unrivalled landscape of rock cones, sprawling pinnacles and gaping ravines. Only many years later did the human touch arrive, providing tourists with cave houses and underground tunnels to explore. Hot-air balloon rides over the area are very popular.

Go white-water rafting

White-water rafting is becoming increasingly popular with tourists in Turkey. There are trips going down the Dalaman River, the Köprülü River, the Zamanti River or the Coruh River, which is rated by professionals as one of the top rafting descents in the world. Hold on tight!

Hit the southern coastal town of Antalya

Not much known in the West, Antalya is nevertheless one of the most-visited cities in the world. Sitting on the Mediterranean and Turkey's southern coast, it's not hard to see why with its vast beaches, lively nightlife and atmospheric old town. Then there's the harbour, Kaleiçi, and the superb Archaeological Museum, as well as many historic sights throughout the city, not least Hadrian's Gate.

Hop on a boat through Lake Van

Use the eastern city of Van as a base to travel along the beautiful south shore of Lake Van. From there you can catch a boat out to the 10th-century Armenian church on Akdamar island, famous for its intricate stone reliefs depicting biblical scenes.

Search for Noah on Mount Ararat

Look for fragments of Noah's Ark, reputed to have washed up on the slopes of 5,165m (16,945ft) Mount Ararat in Turkey's eastern region. Apart from the biblical appeal, the snow-capped mountain is an incredible sight, visible from many kilometres away. Only authorised trekking companies are recommended for scaling mighty Ararat.

Sumela Monastery

Before Ottoman rule, much of Anatolia was home to Greek settlements. One spectacular example is the 14th-century Greek Orthodox Sumela Monastery, 54km (34 miles) from Trabzon. Set into a sheer cliff, 300m (1,000ft) above the valley floor, it's a jaw-dropping sight. The inside is filled with magnificent frescoes.

Take a ferry to Prince's Islands

Sip tea or smoke shisha as you watch the sunset at one of the traditional cafés beneath Istanbul's Galata Bridge. Then take a ferry from the Eminönü dock to the Princes' Islands, a tranquil summer getaway popular with Istanbulites where cars are banned and horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the transport of choice.

Trek the Lycian Way

Turkey isn't touted much for its hiking, but it has some great, uncrowded routes. One of the most beautiful is the Lycian Way, which stretches for 500km (311 miles) between Fethiye and Antalya, providing a month's walking through some of Turkey's most spectacular scenery.

Walk with historical giants in Istanbul's Old City

Once the capital of Byzantium – the greatest empire in Christendom during the Middle Ages – Constantinople became Istanbul after the Ottoman conquest of the 15th century, and has been an Islamic metropolis ever since. Its architectural treasures include the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophie.

Wind down in a Turkish bath

You can't visit Turkey without experiencing a traditional Turkish bath. Known as a hammam, locals go for a scrub and massage, as well as a good steam. The most popular historic baths in Istanbul are the Galatasaray Hammam in Beyoğlu and Cağaloğlu Hammam in Sultanahmet, though less-known local baths are often just as good.

Tourist offices

Turkish Tourism Office in the USA

Address: 821 United Nations Plaza, New York City, NY 10017
Telephone: (212) 687 2194.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1800.

Turkish Culture and Tourism Office (TCTO) in the UK

Address: 4th Floor, 29-30 St James's Street, London, SW1A 1HB
Telephone: (020) 7839 7778.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1800.

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