/ 12 January 2024

The best places to visit in Turkey

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A country with captivating landscapes, ancient ruins and vibrant culture, your first visit could  easily be the start of many more

This extraordinary and dynamic country has an endless supply of attractions for every type of tourist. One can’t help but gravitate towards the energy of the people, the warmth and the vibrancy of Türkiye. Renowned as one of the top travel destinations in the world, South African passport holders have the added benefit of the free eVisa when applying online.

When planning a trip, these regions and cities should be on every traveller’s itinerary. 


Istanbul with over 50 top attractions outdid itself again in 2018; not only is it the only city in the world to be located on two continents, it now showcases the Istanbul Airport, dubbed “the most technologically advanced airport in the world”.

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Turkiye is calling. With sweeping views of both Europe and Asia in Istanbul. A rich culture, delicious cuisine and amazing adventures await you.

In 2023 close to 60 000 South Africans flew to this cosmopolitan city — the direct flights with Turkish Airlines making it so much more accessible.  With one foot in the east and the other in the west, this city has a captivating blend of sights, sounds and colours.


This is the land of magic, where horses run wild and hot air balloons drift gently above the most ancient and stunning landscapes. When you arrive in this mystical area you could easily be mistaken for thinking you had arrived in a fairy tale. The landscape is covered with honeycomb chimneys and large boulders. In winter, it looks like a wonderland with the snow-dusted mountains.

Declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985, the town of Goreme is built into the remains of a volcanic eruption that occurred millions of years ago.


A canvas of colour is the best way to describe this popular summer resort city, which is a place of incredible natural beauty. Streets lined with bright umbrellas add to the holiday vibe. A kaleidoscope of sights are on offer when you choose to do thrilling paragliding right into the city centre. Visit the harbour, the magnificent gardens, and enjoy a hearty serving of street food and the fragrances of citrus in the summer months. Having perfected the precarious balance of successful tourism and charming authenticity, this is a welcome retreat from the usual city life.


This remote city with sweeping views and unique architecture, including limestone houses, has started to become popular with tourists in the last few years. The historic city is cherished for its sand-coloured buildings that blend perfectly into the arid landscape. Built on a mountainside, it’s almost an open air museum, with narrow cobbled streets and quaint rooftop cafés overlooking the plains of ancient Mesopotamia. Among the cultural gems, one can visit the ancient city of Dara, the iconic Deyrulzafaran Monastery and the Mardin museum.


With its enigmatic elegance and whitewashed houses with bright blue trims, this seaside getaway is a favourite holiday spot. The grand castle, glittering marina and delightful cafés with brightly coloured mix-match chairs give this former fishing village an intriguing air that makes it a desirable destination. Walking along the waterfront on a spring day with the sun peeking between random puffs of cloud one can’t help but notice that even the local dogs are lazily enjoying the sound of water lapping on the pebbled beach. 


This economic powerhouse is nicknamed the “Anatolian tiger” as Kayseri’s strategic location on the Silk Road led to the city becoming famous for its industry. It is beautiful in its own rustic way, with several historical monuments, including some from the Seljuk period. One of the oldest high schools in Türkiye, Kayseri Lisesi is here, which is along with Twin Madrasah one of the first medical schools where music therapy was used to treat mental illness.

Dominating the city skyline is Mount Erciyes, the most centralised ski resort in the world due to its geographical location. With 55km of slopes and world class facilities, it’s perfect for any ski enthusiast. 


Known as the last Ottoman outpost, Kars Castle dates back to around 1153, and its brown stone walls crown the ridge that dominates the city’s northern edge.

Ani on the outskirts of the town is an area often overlooked by tourists, probably because of its distance from other major tourist attractions. This magical wonderland is one of Türkiye’s best kept secrets. With its snow-capped mountains, ancient ruins, steel-grey winter sky and rich history it has been spared from the overdevelopment that plagues some areas of the country. 

Almost every street in the town boasts a cheese and honey shop. Tending bees, herding livestock and cooking traditional food is very much a way of life here. Organic honey is farmed on the vast plains of Kars and Kars honey-soaked baklava is famous all over Türkiye.


For a journey through enchanting natural surroundings with a fascinating historical and cultural heritage to match, one must visit the pearl of the east — Van. The spirit of the people in this part of Eastern Anatolia is more casual and relaxed, but the city centre has an amazing urban buzz.

There is so much more to Van than just the magnificent Van cats. The shores of Lake Van, which is the largest lake in Türkiye, are filled with numerous archeological sites and fortresses. 

Mount Suphan is the third highest mountain in Türkiye, and Muradiye waterfall and Van Castle are definitely worth seeing.

The famous Van breakfast is a meal of epic proportions. With its scrumptious 20 dishes it’s the perfect way to start your day. Breakfast is such a serious business in this region that there is even a back street unofficially called “Breakfast Street”.

Rize and Trabzon

One of the most popular destinations in the Black Sea region, Rize is renowned for its highlands and nature tourism. With high rates of rainfall, Rize’s mountain villages (called yayla) are the ideal escape from hot summer temperatures. Rize is famous for its production of tea, and is a major contributor to the tea industry in Türkiye. To best experience the tea, the Botanik Cay Bahcesi is a must visit. Not far off in Trabzon is Uzungöl, an ecotourism centre and a mountain paradise. The lake was once a hidden gem but is now a top destination. Visitors can walk all the way around the lake and enjoy the cosy coffee shops lining its shores. 


Squeezed between the dazzling Mediterranean and Taurus mountains, the historical heart of Alanya sits on a rocky peninsula with an impressive 13th century castle overlooking the sweeping beaches.

This legendary location is ideal for a sun-soaked Viking themed holiday. The octagonal Red Tower and old dockyard are not to be forgotten. Egypt’s queen Cleopatra toured the region and this is where she met Antonius. Eager to impress her, he gifted her the city as an extravagant wedding present. Now Cleopatra beach with its silky fine sand and private cabanas makes every tourist feel special.