Last updated on April 17th, 2024

Visit Turkey – Plan Your Trip

Best Time of Year to Visit Turkey

The weather in Turkey is hot and dry in summer. Rainfall is higher in winter and there can even be light snow. Spring and fall are likely the best time of year to visit Turkey if you want to see the major attractions. Those more interested in spending time at the oceanfront on the Turquoise Coast should pick July or August as the best time of year to visit.

Visit Turkey – Visa Requirements

Turkey has complex lists of citizens who are exempt from visa requirements. For a list of countries requiring a travel visa, visit the Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site or check your specific country at VisaHQ. For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa. If you need a Turkish visa, the Turkish government now provides an online eVisa at a reasonable price. The visa on arrival system was phased out in 2014. Ocean cruise lines often handle visa arrangement for their passengers visiting Turkish ports of call, such as Istanbul and Kusadasi.

Turkey – Currency

The currency used in Turkey is the Turkish lira (TRY). You can often buy small amounts of Turkish lira from money changers who sit outside major tourist attractions.

Electrical Adapters for Turkey

When you Visit Turkey you will need a two prong European electrical adapter. Type C and Type F electrical adapters will work. Electrical adapters for Turkey also will work in many European countries, like Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Spain and Eastern Europe.

Turkey Background

Turkey became a country in 1923 through the efforts of its founder, Musafa Ataturk. The country is in the transition area between Europe and Asia along the Bosphorus, which joins the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean. Turkey shares borders with Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Turkey has a population in excess of 70 million and the official language is Turkish. In the past the region was ruled by the Byzantines, the Romans and the Ottomans.  The transition from Christianity to Muslim is apparent in its architecture. Most of the population is now Muslim. The Kurds occupy the border areas with Iraq and have experienced long struggles for independence.

Touring Turkey

Blue Mosque or Sultanahmet, Istanbul Shore Excursion

Blue Mosque or Sultanahmet

Choosing a Tour Company for Touring Turkey

You will have lots of options for choosing a tour company for touring Turkey.  Companies like G Adventures and Intrepid offer tours that are suitable for solo travelers with options for less expensive hotels.  Personally I like Gate 1 Travel because they have great itineraries with nice hotels and knowledgeable local guides.  Gate1 also has reliable online booking and they respond quickly and efficiently when you call their customer service center.  Check the internet and you will find lots of other options for touring Turkey too.

Best Time of Year for Touring Turkey

Spring and fall are the best time of year for touring Turkey.  Summers are too hot and winters can be cold with light snow.  June and September are good choices for touring Turkey.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Touring Turkey –  Istanbul

When you are touring Turkey, your vacation will most likely start in Istanbul.  The city of Istanbul is one of the top destinations in the world for travelers.  In 2018 Istanbul had more than 10 million visitors.  That’s particularly impressive because of the political unrest that is common in Turkey.  The country often has disagreements with Israel and is involved in warfare in Syria.  In 2016 Istanbul suffered from bombings, but that hasn’t deterred visitors.  Tours usually spend a day in Istanbul, so you will be able to see the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul Shore Excursion

Grand Bazaar

If you visit Istanbul by cruise ship instead, you can easily visit the city on your own on an Istanbul Shore Excursion.  From Istanbul, you will do a circle tour of Turkey, so let’s head to Ankara by train.  You can also do your tour in reverse order, which means you would head to Canakkale next.

Ataturk Mausoleum, Ankara, Touring Turkey

Ataturk Mausoleum, Ankara

Touring Turkey –  Ankara

High speed rail between Istanbul and Ankara started in 2014 which is why rail is popular for this section of your tour of Turkey.  Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the second largest Turkish city after Istanbul.  Ankara has Hittite, Phrygian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman archaeological sites.  The city is also known as Angora.  Angora cats come from Ankara.  Almost every tour group will stop at the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk.  Ataturk is the founder of Turkey.  You might also visit the Anatolian Civilizations Museum and archeological sites such as the Ankara Citadel.  After a couple nights in Ankara, it’s time to head to the Cappadocia region by bus.

Goreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia, Touring Turkey

Goreme Open Air Museum

Touring Turkey – Cappadocia

The bus ride to Cappadocia will take about 4 – 5 hours.  Cappadocia is in the interior of Turkey.  It’s nothing like Ankara or Istanbul.  Cappadocia is an area encompassing several cities.  It’s known for its underground cities and rooms carved out into its unusual rock formations.  Sometimes harder rock sticks on top of hills like a top hat.  These are called fairy chimneys.  The Göreme Open-Air Museum near the city of Goreme is the center piece of the area, because you can see so many tunnels and chambers in the mountain sides.  Hot air balloon riding has become extremely popular in Cappadocia and you will find organized events launching large numbers of hot air balloons at the same time.  You are likely to enjoy a Whirling Dervish Performance in Cappadocia too.

Underground City, Cappadocia, Touring Turkey

Underground City, Cappadocia

There are more than a 40 underground settlements in Cappadicia.  Six of them are open to the public – Tatlarin Underground City, Derinkuyu Underground City, Ozkonak Underground City, Mazi Village Underground City, Kaymakli Underground City and Gaziemir Underground City.  People started the cave dwellings in the Byzantine period of the Bronze Age.  Likely these people were seeking protection in carved out tunnels and underground chambers.  Today the tunnels have electric lights, but guides will tell you that when they were children, they played hide-and-seek in the dark in these cities.

Touring Turkey – Pamakkale

The trip from Cappadocia to Pamakkale takes more than 8 hours, so your tour will probably add a stop in between at Konya.  Along the way you might stop at the Caravanserai of Sultanhan, which is an old caravan trade route inn and fortress.  You might also visit the Mausoleum of Mevlana in Konya.  Some tours will head even farther south to Antalya and the Turquoise Coast before returning inland to Pamakkale.  The Turquoise Coast can also be a longer term destination where you sail the Turkish coast and islands while staying on board a watercraft.

Pamukkale Travertine Mineral Springs, Touring Turkey

Pamukkale Mineral Springs, © Can Stock. / starush

Pamakkale is best known for its warm water limestone mineral springs.  The travertine minerals build up into a white “cotton palace” with beautiful blue pools trapped in the limestone.  Visitors can walk into the pools at the Pamakkale World Heritage Site.  You can also visit the ruins of Heirapolis above the limestone mineral springs of Pamakkale.  Hierapolis is part of the World Heritage Site.  It includes a Greek necropolis, Greek ruins and a Roman amphitheater.

Wading in Pamukkale Mineral Springs, Touring Turkey

Wading in Pamukkale Mineral Springs

Touring Turkey – Ephesus

The next stop touring Turkey is Kusadasi.  Every tour of Turkey will stop at this site.  Kusadasi is a beautiful port town on the Aegean Sea, but the main reason visitors stop here is to visit the nearby ancient ruins of Ephesus.  The ruins at Ephesus are extensive and include an amphitheater.  The highlight of the visit to Ephesus is the Library of Celsus with its two story facade still standing.  You might also visit the House of the Virgin Mary on your day trip to Ephesus.  Many visitors also arrive in Kusadasi by cruise ship for an Ephesus Shore Excursion.

No Tourists, Library of Celsus, Ephesus Shore Excursion

No Tourists, Library of Celsus

Touring Turkey – Canakkale

The last stop on your circle tour of Turkey is Canakkale.  On the way to Canakkale, tours stop at the 4,000 year old ruins of the city of Troy.  The site is famous for the Trojan War and the defeat of the Spartans by the Greeks by using a Trojan Horse.  The WWI Anzac Cemetery in Gallipoli is on your route from Canakkale back to Istanbul, where your Turkey Tour completes its full circle of the country.

Touring Turkey Slide Show

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