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9 Must Dos When Visiting Turkey

A Traveler’s Guide to a Trip to Turkey

Are you ready to experience what living history feels like? With its rich history extending to the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, to the Ottoman Empire and, now, modern day Turkey, the country functions as a physical and cultural bridge between Asia and Europe. The richness of the cultural history manifests itself in the food, the scenic destinations, landscapes and even in daily life.

Just a promenade in one of the old streets, a quick detour to shop in one of the many bazaars, a boat ride through the beautiful Bosphorus will prove to you why Turkey should be on the top of your wish list. In fact, did you know that Istanbul, Turkey is among the top 50 most visited destinations for our users on Pin Traveler? Let’s see why that may be the case.

9 Things You Must Do When Visiting Turkey

1. A Boat Tour on the Bosphorus

As someone who lives in Istanbul, this simply never gets old. Fall in love again and again with the beautiful views as you cruise from Asia to Europe on the Bosphorus strait that cuts the city in half. This tour will allow you to see many of the great landscapes of Istanbul, as seagulls make their way above you hoping to steal the simit from your hands. I recommend you approach this experience as a great finish to a walking tour. Enjoy brunch at Mangerie in Bebek overlooking the sea, then make your way slowly to the nearest ferry station while taking in the cute streets of Bebek, Arnavutköy and Kuruçeşme.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my parents taking me across the Bosphorus to Kanlıca with the ferry, simply to eat “kanlıca yoğurdu”. Kanlıca is a place where all the restaurants will sell different flavors of yogurt as it is what it is famous for! An afternoon tour in Kadıkoy, and you can call it a day well-spent! To this day, I enjoy the occasional ferry ride, both to avoid the daunting traffic, but also to remember that I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

2. Experience the Raki Tradition

Here are two words you must learn: raki and meze. They go together like fire and ice. Meze is the word Turkish people use to refer to a selection of hot and cold dishes as hors d’oeuvres, or as a side to a main course of fish or meat. This feast is usually accompanied with the traditional Turkish drink called raki, which is a sweetened alcoholic drink that turns white when you pour water on it. Get ready for a night to remember, or not! Beware, for the alcohol content of this sweet tasting beverage is very high and it will get you slurring your words in no time. Might as well enjoy yourself while you are on vacation, right? For the ultimate raki experiences, I would recommend the following restaurants: Kıyı, Eftelya, 70'lik Meyhane, or Asmalı Cavit!

3. Hot Air Balloon Tour in Cappadocia

Open your eyes to a new morning as you watch the sun rise up in the air in your hot air balloon. Cappadocia, a wondrous landscape sculpted by land erosion through thousands of years, is home to hundreds of underground villages.. Get lost in history, and discover the scenic wonders of the site.

I remember visiting this place when I was younger and being terrified of the dark and seemingly congested paths down in the underground villages. So, maybe not the best place if you have severe claustrophobia like me. Still, it is enchanting!

Here are 5 cool things you could do here to fully complete the Cappaddocia experience: take a ceramics class in one of the ancient ateliers such as Chez Galip, hike in the Güvercinlik vadisi, do sunrise yoga in your boutique hotel overlooking the many baloons (there are also seasonal yoga camps that visit the area), participate in a gondola tour in Kızılırmak, or watch the Zelve mapping spectacle where they project a historic visual show on the ancient ruins!

4. A Cruise in the Aegean Sea

The most sought out summer or springtime vacations for Turkish people is renting a cruise boat with family and friends and going on week-long journeys around the Aegean Sea; this journey is called “mavi tur”, which literally translates to blue journey! The boats tend to cruise around popular summer destinations such as Marmaris, Göcek, Çeşme and Bodrum, offering different scenic feasts and beautiful sea adventures. These trips are definitely ones to remember as you discover new islands, stop for a great dinner overlooking the sea, get served delicious local delicacies on the boat all week, and even hop on land for a night out!

5. Fall in Love with Pamukkale

I couldn't believe my eyes the first time I was introduced to the reality of this place. No, that white thing you see there is not snow. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Pamukkale is famous for its thermal spring water leaving a carbonate mineral. The snow-white limestone attracts thousands of tourists year long longing to take a dip in the hot waters. Try to visit this place when it is off-season to avoid large crowds! The heat of the water may not be due to the thermal spring by then(!)

6. Eat Everything...

Yes, I mean everything. Turkey is super famous for its food, and when you get here your stomach will know no limits. Although it is impossible to choose what to eat among the myriad of options, here is a list to get you started: kebabs, İskender döner, pide, lahmacun, dolma, simit, mantı, köfte, kuru fasulye pilav… The list goes on and on…

If you are looking for a bite to eat as you visit Istanbul’s most famous sights there are plenty of great restaurants to choose from. You can stop by Hamdi Restaurant at Eminönü as you visit the historic peninsula, to get a taste of the wide variety of traditional dishes Turkish cuisine has to offer; what is referred to as “ev yemeği”, which translates to home food, is what Turkish people would die for. Are you a person that prefers restaurant food to home cooked meals? Well, in Turkey, places like Hamdi offer you the entire Turkish home food experience.

Even better, when visiting the Bosphorus, you can fully take in the sights while enjoying a rakı-balık meal. For this, I would recommend Kıyı Balık for the best fish you will ever have.

If you are on a more culinary journey, you can wander off from the more touristy parts of the city to eat where locals eat! Visit Aşkana for mantı, Erdal Şef for kebab, Elbet for meat, and Bayramoğlu for döner!

7. Feast on the Desserts

The most famous one being baklava, made of layers of thin pastry sweetened with syrup or honey with chopped pistachio or nuts, the sherbet desserts have many tourists coming back to Turkey for more. Definitely don’t go home without trying künefe, katmer, sütlaç, lokma, macun, ekmek kadayıfı, tahin pekmez, and more…

As a local, even I can’t restrain myself when I get a sight of these desserts. I prefer these spots to occasionally let my taste buds party; Güllüoğlu in Karaköy for Baklava (enjoy this dessert after a walking tour around the cute boutiques in Karaköy), Saray Muhallabecisi for anything with milk such as sütlaç, and literally any kebab restaurant for katmer or künefe! Also, keep in mind that rakı-balık restaurants are famous for their chocolate soufflés.

But, do you know what the best place is to feast on all of these at once, maybe even for free? Check out the next item on our list!

8. Visit the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market

Think of your favorite shopping mall; now, add culture, history, roaming crowds dazzled with new textures, fabrics, tastes, and smells. Step into this ancient bazaar, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world with thousands of shops. Feast your eyes on the many Turkish delicacies offered to you to taste (usually for free!), or buy a little souvenir for your home. This site typically attracts over 400 thousand visitors daily! Watch out though, when the sellers notice you are tourists, they may increase the price on the items! Maybe a Turkish friend to tag along with you would be wise.

9. Visit Ephesus

An ancient city in the Central Aegean region, Ephesus is home to excavated ruins from the Greek and Roman Empires. Walk among the historic monuments, baths and squares and pay a visit to the temple of Hadrian, built before 138 AD. You will feel like you are traveling back in time!

Pictured is one of the most famous libraries in the world, constructed in the Roman period and functioned as both a library and a cemetery. It has gained the name Celsius as this was the name of the governor of Ephesus, whose son built the library for his memory. The site was restored in the 1970s, along with the Artemis Temple, one of the 7 wonders of the world.

Having read all that, are you ready to pin Turkey to the top of your wish list for next year? Visit Pin Traveler now to track your travels, create bucket lists, save your favorite locations, and more!


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