Places to visit in Turkey
Turkey is a massive country so we have highlighted the best places to visit which will most appeal to families. Distances can be huge between Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus so internal (and surprisingly economical) flights are handy. The Turquoise Coast can be explored either as a circuit or by using budget airlines to fly into one spot and out of another. Below are our favourite Turkish Delights!
Never has a coastline been more aptly named than the Turquoise Coast. Many families consider this the jewel in the crown for a Mediterranean family holiday. Turkey’s southern coastline is packed full of idyllic beaches (some hugely over-popular, some incredibly peaceful and understated) where the lush, green forested hills meet white sand and aquamarine sea.
Cue endless water-based fun activities including snorkelling, diving, SUP, sailing and kayaking. Canoe over sunken ruins at Kekova, relax on the low-key beach at Cirali or the world-renowned lagoon of Oludeniz. Sail the 12 Islands from Fethiye and swim from picture-perfect Patara, Turkey’s longest beach. Head inland and ruins abound – from ancient Olympos to Xanthos and the little-known Pinara. Bustling Kas and Antalya are natural bases to enjoy some traditional Turkish hospitality whilst Dalyan offers rock tombs, the ancient ruins at Kaunos, hot springs for mud baths (kids, get those selfies going) and memorable encounters with loggerheads turtles.
The Taurus Mountains form a spectacular backdrop and the famed long-distance path, the Lycian Way, can lead you to great heights at Mount Olympos (2,366m) as well as display subterranean mysteries at the Chimaera site. Here flames from underground gases spew into the sky – or is it a mythological beast… Wander the deserted ghost town of Kayakoy and enjoy superb fresh fish in the romantic harbour village of Kalkan on your journey along this stunning coast. Explore with a hire car or with a driver-guide.
Istanbul is one of the most culture and history-rich cities in the world. Its vibrant streets are easy to navigate and full of wonderful sights and smells – and sounds (the call to prayer hauntingly echoing from dawn to dusk). Importantly, it is also a very friendly city where vendors will charm children with their entertaining antics, guides will amuse with stories from ancient pasts and restaurateurs will laden tables with exotic (but very child-friendly) dishes.
This incredible city has a history spanning thousands of years, first as Byzantium, then Constantinople and finally Istanbul. It is packed full of eye-opening sites. The Topkapi Palace with its intricate carvings and jewel-packed treasury will set the scene from the city’s powerful past. Absorb the spiritual atmosphere of the time-worn Hagia Sofia and the impressive Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet.
Kids will ogle at the goods on sale in the 3,000 stalls of the Grand Bazaar as well as the kaleidoscope of colours in the Spice Market. Wander the creepy tunnels of the Basilica Cistern, take a vintage tram ride along chaotic Istiklal Street and cruise the Bosphorus, which links the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean – enjoy lunch in Asia and dinner in Europe!
Cappadocia is a child’s dream of an outdoor adventure playground – created by Mother Nature (with just a little help from man..). Imagine lunar landscapes, weird and wonderful rock formations, towering rock chimneys, peculiar fairy chimneys and valleys filled with rock-hewn churches, troglodyte cave dwellings and immense underground cities.
There is nothing like it on earth (except perhaps Middle Earth). View the colourful frescoes at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Goreme Open Air Museum. Explore the subterranean world at Derinkuyu and Kaymakli. Hike, ride or bike the Love, Pigeon and Rose Valleys. Kids will absolutely love exploring meandering rock tunnels and caves, giggle at peculiar rock shapes and gasp at a hot air balloon ride over this mesmerising, mysterious landscape. Drink in the ever-changing hues of the rose-red rock at sunset then head ‘down’ to bed in an underground hotel cave room.
Ephesus is one of the world’s best-preserved ancient cities. Its Greco, Roman and Hellenistic ruins include a 25,000 seat amphitheatre (with the most incredible acoustics kids will love), a marble road and the mighty façade of the Library of Celsus which has defied earthquakes and war to remain the city’s most famous sight. Children will enjoy spotting the chariot tracks still visible to this day as well as posing for photos on the ancient stone-carved public lavatories. This will surely ignite every child’s imagination and will really bring ancient history to life.
Other historical sites nearby are the House of the Virgin Mary (reputed to be the final resting place of the Virgin Mary) and the foundations of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ephesus can be combined with a trip to Pamukkale on a two day trip from the Turquoise Coast, with flights out of Izmir.
The totally natural site of Pamukkale is like nothing else you will have seen before. Kids will think these dazzling white calcified limestone terraces are made out of cotton – and in fact, they are known as Cotton Castles. Calcium-rich springs cascaded down the hillside in ancient times inspiring the Romans to build a health spa. Although you can no longer bathe on the terraces, you can take a dip in the hot springs and sacred pool where children will love swimming around the Roman columns and sculptures.
You can also visit the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, right next door to the site. Pamukkale can be combined with a visit to the ancient Roman city of Ephesus on a two-day road trip from the Turquoise Coast or as a long day excursion from the Aegean Coast
Imagine falling asleep under the stars, gently bobbing in a sheltered bay somewhere along the Turquoise Coast after a day in the sun, on your traditional Turkish sailing yacht. Dive from the boat into crystal-clear waters, moor up for lunch at a secluded taverna, explore ancient ruins hidden in the forested hills that run down to the beach – then swim back to your vessel for a doze on the deck. Bliss. Gulet cruising is the quintessential Turquoise Coast pastime and absolute bliss for families – and for any age. From three day-cruises to week-long adventures, a Turkey gulet cruise will be the absolute highlight of a Turkey family holiday.
Gallipoli and Troy
A hugely emotive location, Gallipoli is a must for any history scholar as well as anyone keen to pay tribute to one of WWI’s most iconic and tragic battles. Follow the battlefield guide of the British Sector around the toe of the peninsula and the ANZAC sector. You will be able to see the beach where the ANZAC landings took place and children of a suitable age will find it fascinating to see where trenches were dug and imagine where the soldiers would have been hiding. A visit to one of the many the immaculately maintained war cemeteries will sear any visit into memory.
You can then cross by ferry to the university town of Canakkale and explore the shoreline of the historic Dardanelles and the ‘Narrows’, where the British and French fleets unsuccessfully attempted to force their way through in a naval assault on March 18 1915. It is then a logical combination to visit the nearby ruins of the 4,000yr old city of Troy, synonymous with such names as Paris, Hector and, of course, Helen. However, we would want to curb any zest from classic students of The Iliad as the wooden reproduction of the Trojan Horse leaves a little to be desired in authenticity….. Gallipoli and Troy can be visited on a two-day trip from Istanbul – or linked to a longer road journey south to Ephesus and the Turquoise Coast.
Turkey’s Aegean Coast has been a highlight of Turkey family holidays for decades. Well known resorts such as Marmaris, Bodrum and Kusadasi provide top quality facilities – along with good access to key sites such as Ephesus and Pamukkale. The Turquoise Coast is a hop away so this can easily be included on a self-drive itinerary. Or pop over to an Aegean Island (Turkish or Greek) and experience the best of the Mediterranean.
Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.
Turkey in pictures
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