If you’re looking for a warm European getaway this autumn, look no further than Turkey. This is a message for Europeans who are looking for cheaper alternatives to other mainstream destinations. But, Muslim travelers from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and other regions also flock to the country to explore its rich history, enjoy its varied cuisine, and much more.
Europeans and, others as well, of course, need to visit Turkey not just to avail cheaper holidays. But, the country has a lot more to offer than its cheap prices.
The city of Marmaris on the Mediterranean coast is thought to be the cheapest European holiday destination right now.
And with average temperatures between 18°C – 25°C in October, while many Europeans see Turkey as the perfect ‘fly and flop’ beach holiday, it has much more to offer than just sun loungers.
Turkey bridges Europe with Asia and is often described as where ‘east meets west. It shares borders with Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Each country influences Turkey’s culture in its own way, so each corner of the country feels completely different from the others.
Here’s everything you need to know for the last-minute getaway.
Where should I visit in Turkey?
Turkey’s capital is Ankara, but its largest city and financial center in Istanbul. Either one makes for a great jumping-off point, but Istanbul is easier to navigate as a tourist.
Turkey has seven regions. These are the Eastern Anatolia Region, Central Anatolia Region, Black Sea Region, Mediterranean Region, Aegean Region, Marmara Region, and the Southeastern Anatolia Region.
The Eastern Anatolia Region is the largest, consisting mainly of mountains and Turkey’s largest lake, Lake Van. The capital, Ankara, is located in the Central Anatolia Region and the tourist hub of Istanbul is in the Marmara.
Each area is famous for different things, but in general, Istanbul is seen as the most popular destination. Bodrum works out as the best place to stay on a budget and Cappadocia has some of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes. The best beaches are Patara beach, the Bodrum peninsula, and Kaputas beach.
Here are 5 great things to get up to on your stay:
Take a trip to Göreme National Park, Cappadocia
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia are on the UNESCO World Heritage site list. The spectacular rocky landscape was entirely sculpted by erosion and contains evidence of Byzantine art in the post-Iconoclastic period like nowhere else. You can also see the remains of ancient human dwellings dating as far back as the 4th century.
While you’re there, you can take a 1-hour hot air balloon flight and look out over the “fairy chimneys”, a nickname for the unique tick formations there. The best time to go is at sunrise when the skies are a faded orange.
Bathe in the blue lagoon of Ölüdeniz
Ölüdeniz is a lagoon and beach resort in the Fethiye district of the Muğla Province in southwestern Turkey.
This area is known as the Turquoise Coast and so unsurprisingly, the seawater of Ölüdeniz is famous for its shades of turquoise and aquamarine. Here there is a sandy bay to visit and the lagoon itself is a national nature reserve.
A great activity to do here is paragliding. It is regarded as one of the best places in the world to experience it due to its unique panoramic views and stable weather conditions – 2000m in the air.
The best international airports to fly into for the Turquoise Coast are Fethiye and Antalya.
Spot sea turtles in Dalyan
Nature and animal lovers will adore Dalyan turtle beach (also called Iztuzu Beach). It’s known all over Turkey for its natural splendor. There are over 100 varieties of bird species here as well as three varieties of turtle, including the endangered Loggerhead sea turtle.
You can take a boat trip from the town’s harbor to reach the beach and visit the main turtle conservation area. This is a great place to swim alongside turtles, visit nearby hot springs or take a mud bath.
The mud here is rich in minerals like magnesium and sulfur, both beneficial to the skin.
Visit the Blue Mosque in Istanbul
The famous Blue Mosque (or Sultan Ahmed Mosque) is an Ottoman-era masterpiece and functioning place of worship in Istanbul.
But why is it called the Blue Mosque? Because its interior is lined with over 20,000 İznik tiles, a ceramic that is turquoise in color. The mosque’s upper levels are also painted blue, with lots of natural light and more than 200 stained-glass windows.
The mosque is particularly architecturally unique due to its six minarets and five domes. Six minarets were unusual even for an imperial mosque built in the 1600s as they implied equality with the multi-minareted mosques of Mecca.
It’s popular with both tourists and worshippers, so you’ll have to make sure you book your slot – but it’s worth it to experience the grandeur of this historic building.
Explore Derinkuyu’s underground city
The Derinkuyu underground city is an ancient, multi-level city in the Nevşehir province. It was built to shelter 20,000 people during the Arab–Byzantine wars (780–1180 AD), spanning eight floors and reaching depths of over 280 feet (85 meters).
The city continued to be used by Christians as protection from the Mongolian incursions of Timur in the 14th century and then when the region fell to the Ottomans, it was used as a refuge by the natives from the Turkish Muslim rulers.
You can take a guided walking tour and explore the excavated ruins, including the remains of stables, cellars, storage rooms, kitchens, wineries, and wells.
The experience is unforgettable and a very popular option for tourists, but be aware that the narrow tunnels and small chambers can make navigating Derinkuyu tricky for those who suffer from claustrophobia.
When is the best time of year to visit Turkey?
April, May, September, and October are lovely and warm, with temperatures between 20°C and 30°C. These are typically the best times to visit Turkey’s historic sites and the latter two months can offer European travelers some much-needed winter sun. Fethiye, Bodrum, and Antalya are considered the top three winter sun destinations.
By November the temperatures drop but with averages hovering in the mid-teens it’s still much warmer than most other parts of Europe.
The summer months of June through to September tend to be very hot, with temperatures reaching 35°C on the south coast.
Is it safe to travel to Turkey?
The UK’s FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) advises against all travel to areas within 10 km of the border with Syria, except the city of Kilis.
This extends to all but essential travel to other areas of Sirnak, Kilis (including Kilis city), Hatay provinces, the provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli, and Hakkari.
The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign affairs also advises against travel anywhere along the borders with Iraq and Syria.
However, the FCDO also notes that most trips to Turkey every year are trouble-free.
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