Welcome to Turkey. Land of bustling bazaars, dreamy beaches, ancient ruins, interesting rock formations, cotton castles, and fascinating landmarks.
Turkey is an incredibly diverse destination full of history, art, culture, and stunning landscapes. If you’re visiting Turkey soon, you’re probably overwhelmed by the sheer amount of famous places to visit. To help you out, here’s our list of the most incredible landmarks in Turkey not to miss during your trip!
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Table of Contents
Major Turkish Landmarks Quick Overview
Before we dive into the best Turkish landmarks, here’s a quick look at the sites covered in this guide.
Famous Landmarks in Instanbul: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Camlica Mosque
Cultural & Historical places in Turkey: Ephesus, Aphrodisias, Zinciriye Madrasa, Ancient City of Troy, Derinkuyu Underground City, Anitkabir, Selimiye Mosque, Sumela Monastery, Pergamon
Natural Landmarks of Turkey: Pamukkale, Kaputas Beach, Pasabag Fairy Chimneys, Mount Nemrut, Goreme Open Air Museum
19 of the Most Famous Landmarks in Turkey
Also known as the Shrine of The Holy of God, Hagia Sophia is one of the most important historical landmarks in Turkey.
With a nearly 1500 history, the Hagia Sophia has had many faces during its life span. It started as a Christian basilica in the 6th century under the rule of Emperor Justinian in 537AD. Then hundreds of years later, during the Ottoman Empire, after Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453, it was converted into a mosque. And in 1935, it was declared a museum attracting large crowds from all over the world. Even though it was reclassified as a mosque in recent years, the Hagia Sophia remains one of Istanbul’s top UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Along with its historical richness, the Hagia Sophia is famous for its magnificent architecture. The building is magnificent inside and out, featuring a mix of Byzantine and Islamic designs. The dome rises 56m and spans 33m in diameter, and beautifully decorated mosaics and marble adorn its interior.
If you plan on visiting lots of the tourist attractions in Istanbul, it’s worth getting a tourist pass. Joining a guided tour is another great way to learn more about the monument’s history. Visit on weekday mornings to avoid most of the crowds.
- Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm, expect Mondays, and the first day Ramadan and Eid-al-Adha.
- Address: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı No:1, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
Officially known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque is one of the most famous sites in Turkey.
With its iconic blue-tiled roof, the Blue Mosque was built during the 1600s under the rule of Sultan Ahmet I to reaffirm Ottoman power. It stands 73m high, and its central dome spans 23.5m in diameter. In addition, the building also has six minarets, five main domes, and eight secondary domes. The design incorporates Byzantine elements and traditional Islamic architecture and is perfectly symmetrical.
As impressive as the mosque is from the outside, you’ll find many treasures within its walls. Take your time strolling through the immaculate courtyard with its hexagonal fountain. Inside the massive prayer hall and galleries, you can admire beautifully decorated stained glass windows and more than 20,000 hand-painted ceramic tiles. These depict everything from gardens to flowers to fruit trees, with some even featuring gold leaf and jade.
The Blue Mosque is a must-visit Istanbul landmark when exploring the city’s historical center, Sultanahmet. Since the mosque is a place of worship, it is not open to tourists during prayer time. Make sure to cover your legs and shoulders when visiting. Women should also cover their hair.
While you can easily see the Blue Mosque independently is worth joining a guided tour to learn more about its history. If you can, come back at sunset to watch the sun bounce off the domes.
- Opening times: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
- Address: Sultan Ahmet, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Not too far from the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque is another must-visit building in Istanbul – Topkapi Palace.
Once home to the Ottoman Sultans, Topkapi Palace has a long and rich history. Built in 1460 under the rule of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, this incredible palace took 18 years to build. Over the years, the site served as the home to several Sultans—who added additions and expanded the palace to its current state. Today the Topkapi Palace covers a sprawling 700,000 square meters and serves as a museum.
The complex includes four main courtyards, beautiful gardens, ornate gates, and a Harem with 300 rooms. The Imperial Treasury is a treasure trove offering a glimpse into royal life with jewelry, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, imperial clothing, weaponry, and important manuscripts and relics on display. One notable item to see here is the Spoonmaker’s Diamond – an 86 carat pear-shaped diamond.
Set aside at least 2-3 hours to tour the grounds. However, one could easily stay longer. For minimal crowds, it’s best to visit during weekdays.
- Opening hours: 9 am to 6 pm (closed on Tuesdays)
- Address: Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar, located in the Fatih district, is a bustling hive of people, colors, and smells.
Dating back to the 15th century, the Grand Bazaar was built during the Ottoman Empire. While the Grand Bazaar has undoubtedly changed over the centuries, enduring numerous fires and even a few earthquakes, it remains a highlight on any Instanbul itinerary.
Today, it is one of the oldest and biggest covered markets in the world. With more than 4000 shops spanning dozens of streets, it’s not surprising that it is one of the most famous historical landmarks in Turkey and arguably the best place to go shopping in Istanbul.
The Grand Bazaar covers a mammoth 30,700 m², so leave ample time to explore its nooks and crannies. Take your time strolling the aisles and alleys because there are loads to see, do and buy. The bazaar sells just about anything under the sun, from antiques, jewelry, leather items, and carpets to sweets, spices, Turkish tea sets, lanterns, and all kinds of souvenirs.
You can easily spend hours getting lost in the labyrinth of shops and stalls. Don’t forget to haggle, and definitely don’t forget your camera! To learn a little more about the bazaar’s history, joining a guided city tour will be well worth your time.
- Opening hours: 8.30 am to 7 pm (closed on Sundays & public holidays)
- Address: Beyazıt, Kalpakçılar Cd. No:22, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul
Explored by Sean from Living Out Lau.
When you think of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul, your mind might jump immediately to the Hagia Sophia or Blue Mosque. While those two have significant history, one modern landmark that is often overlooked is the Camlica Mosque. As the biggest mosque in Turkey, there is no excuse not to visit Camilca Mosque, no matter how many days in Istanbul you are spending.
Unfortunately, unlike most of the mosques in the country, there isn’t really much history with Camilca Mosque since it was only opened in 2019. The Camlica Mosque was constructed for the sole purpose of strengthening the country’s economy. It provided jobs during the stages of construction and hopes to provide future tourism. Still, it is a controversial topic as many people believe that money could’ve benefited the people of Turkey directly.
Nonetheless, the beauty of the Camlica Mosque is undebatable. It totals three floors with immaculate design on each. Equally stunning is the sahn, a courtyard with breathtaking architecture and perfect symmetry.
The mosque sits atop Camlica Hill and offers visitors incredibly panoramic views of the Asian side of Istanbul. On a good day, you can easily see the famous Bosphorus Strait.
- Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm daily (closed to the public during prayer times)
- Address: Ferah, Ferah Yolu Sk. No:87, 34692 Üsküdar/İstanbul, Turkey
The Pamukkale Travertines
Explored by Laura from Laura the Explorer.
The Pamukkale Travertines, more commonly referred to as the Cotton Castle, is one of Turkey’s most beautiful and unique landmarks. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the stunning white terraces are formed by mineral deposits, created as thermal spring waters cascade 600m wide down the hillside, leaving the unbelievable white layers of pools filled with bright blue water.
The most beautiful terraces are protected from foot traffic. However, there is a section through the middle of the decks where pools are accessible for swimming in the mineral-rich waters – make sure to bring your swimsuit! The site also includes the ruins of Hierapolis, the ancient thermal spa town founded in the 2nd century BC. It is definitely worth a visit, especially the amphitheater, which retains an incredible level of detail.
You can easily visit Pamukkale on a guided tour from Antalya, or take a local bus from elsewhere. There are no direct buses, though. Since all buses connect through the town of Denizli, it’s a great idea to stay in the small town. That way, you can visit the travertines for sunrise or sunset.
The Cotton Castle is extremely popular, especially with tour groups throughout the day, so get there early. It’s best to get to the Upper Entrance at opening time to beat the tour groups and make your way through the terraces back down to town.
- Opening Hours: 6:30 am to 8 pm daily.
- Location: Town (Lower) Entrance: Memet Akif Ersoy Boulevard, near the Tourism Office, Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey. Upper Entrance: On the Pamukkale-Karahayit road, about 5km from Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey.
Pasabag Fairy Chimneys
Explored by Jenifer from The Evolista.
A trip to Cappadocia will reward you with some of the most iconic landmarks in Turkey, and the Pasabag Fairy Chimneys are definitely one of them. These strange-looking rock formations have been a source of wonder for centuries, and they continue to captivate visitors from all over the world.
The Pasabag fairy chimneys are formed when the wind and rain erode the soft volcanic rock, leaving behind the hardier basalt columns. These columns can range in height from a few feet to over 30 feet, and they are often clustered together in groups of three or more.
The area is also called Monk’s Valley because monks used to live inside some of the larger ones. You can also experience staying in one of these unique structures in one of the incredible Cappadocia Cave Hotels.
While the Pasabag Fairy Chimneys may not be as well-known as some of Turkey’s other landmarks, they are a hot spot in Cappadocia. Time your visit to be there when it opens to avoid the crowds and plan to spend about 30 minutes to an hour. It’s a 20-minute ride from downtown Goreme.
- Opening hours: 8 am to 7 pm
- Address: Zelve Yolu, 50500 Çavuşin/Avanos/Nevşehir, Turkey
Explored by De Wet & Jin from Museum of Wander.
The Turquoise Coast in southern Turkey has some of the best beaches in the country. Those who know will tell you that Kaputas beach near the resort town of Kas is the shining star.
With its unbelievably azure-colored water and sandy beach, this spectacular beach sits at the bottom of a cliff, and you’ll love it before you have even set foot on its golden sands. The view from the clifftop is stunning, and hundreds of steps lead down to the beach itself.
The beauty of Kaputas makes it a popular stop with gulet cruises along the Turkish coast. Kaputas sits next to the road connecting Kas and Kalkan. If you’re not joining a cruise, the best way to get there is to rent a scooter in either town and ride out to the beach. Regular minibusses between Kas and Kalkan will also drop you off there.
Entrance is free of charge, and facilities include free changing rooms, showers, and toilets. You can rent sunbeds and umbrellas for the day, and a small cafe serves food and drinks. You really can spend the whole day on this fantastic beach.
- Opening hours: 24/7
- Address: Next to the D400 highway between Kas (20 km away) and Kalkan (7 km away).
Explored by Kenny from Knycx Journeying.
Once the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period, Pergamon is a rich and powerful ancient Greek City in Aeolis and a fascinating heritage site along the Aegean Coast today.
The Attalid dynasty was at its best in the Hellenistic Period between 281 and 133BC. When the leader Attalus III died in 133BC, he left the kingdom for the Roman Republic to avoid war.
The kingdom eventually fell. Pergamon and its valuable historic treasure were buried until German archaeologists excavated the site in the early 20th century. Most of the movable items, including the Pergamon altar, were shipped to Berlin and are now on display at the Pergamon Museum.
Today, visitors can only see the ruins of the acropolis, Roman theatre, Temple of Athena, Temple of Dionysus, and Temple of Trajan. However, the buildings’ giant pillars and remaining foundation will still give you a glimpse into the city’s massive scale.
Pergamon’s library was once the second-largest library globally, with 200,000 pieces of scrolls. The Roman theatre is another worthwhile stop where you can get a bird’s-eye view of Pergamon and the city of Bergama below.
- Opening Hours: 8 am to 5 pm daily (Nov-Mar) | 8 am to 7 pm daily (Apr-Oct)
- Address: Kurtuluş Mah., Akropol Yolu 2, Bergama, İzmir
Explored by Alex from Just Go Exploring.
Sumela Monastery is one of the most famous landmarks in northern Turkey.
This Greek Orthodox monastery has an incredible natural setting. The complex was built into the side of a mountain in a thickly forested, misty valley. Parts of the monastery hang, impossibly, over the edge of a vertical cliff.
It’s even more impressive given that the monastery is over 1,700 years old.
The Rock Church is the oldest part of the monastery and lies at the heart of the complex. It contains colorful frescoes illustrating scenes from the Bible. There are many other buildings you can visit, including a library, a bakery, kitchens, and dormitories.
Sumela Monastery lies 45km south of Trabzon, a major city and transport hub in north-eastern Turkey. It takes about an hour to drive from Trabzon to the monastery. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or a dolmuş, though direct dolmuş services from Trabzon to Sumela only operate during the summer season.
While this part of Turkey generally doesn’t see large numbers of tourists, Sumela can still become a little busy at weekends. To avoid the crowds, try to visit midweek, either early or late in the day.
- Opening hours: 8:00am to 7:00pm (Apr-Sept) |8:00am to 5:00pm (Oct-Mar)
- Address: Altındere, 61750 Maçka, Trabzon
Explored by Iris from Mind of a Hitchhiker.
Edirne is a city close to both the Greek and Bulgarian borders in western Turkey. It does not ring a bell for most, but it used to be the capital of the Ottoman Empire for 84 years before the fall of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. More than a century later, Sultan Selim II ordered imperial architect Mimar Sinan to finally build his masterpiece – the Selimiye Mosque.
Not only a personal achievement, but this mosque also represents the best of Ottoman Islamic architecture. Today, it’s the symbol of the city of Edirne and the top place to visit as it has had UNESCO World Heritage status since 2011. Non-Muslims can visit when they adhere to the dress code. Next to the mosque is a museum and a bazaar to buy specialties from the region of Thrace.
Edirne can be reached domestically from Istanbul, Tekirdağ, and Çanakkale by bus and train. There are also international options from Bulgaria and Greece.
- Opening hours: 6:30 am to 8:30 pm daily.
- Address: Meydan, Mimar Sinan Cd., 22020 Edirne Merkez/Edirne, Turkey
Explored by Baia from Red Fedora Diary.
Anitkabir is one of the famous landmarks in Turkey worth checking out. This mausoleum of Ataturk is also one of the best things to do in Ankara, the country’s capital. Translated as the “memorial tomb,” the landmark is devoted to the life and doings of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the creator of the Republic of Turkey. The government even included the building on various banknotes of Turkish Lira between 1966-1987 and 1997-2009.
The mausoleum is massive and features various monuments within its part and the main building. Anitkabir Ataturk Museum showcases memorabilia starting from his birth certificate to his death. The enormous collection of items, clothes, paintings, books, and even his Cadillac of 1936 will leave you in awe.
The layout is well thought out where you follow Ataturk’s life and reforms chronologically. His tomb is in the Hall of Honor, the iconic building of Anitkabir, decorated with columns rising to 14.4 meters high. Besides Ataturk, Anitkabir is also a burial spot of Turkey’s second president, Ismet Inonu.
- Opening hours: 9 am – 5 pm. Closed on Sunday.
- Address: Maltepe, Anıt Cd., 06570 Çankaya/Ankara, Turkey
Derinkuyu Underground City
Explored by Anne from Packing Light Travel.
Central Turkey’s unique landscape and fascinating history influenced the construction of massive warren-like underground cities.
The deepest is Derinkuyu in Cappadocia, 35 km from Göreme. Little is known about who, when, why, and how Derinkuyu was built. The prevailing view is that it was likely started in the 8th or 7th century BC to offer protection from invaders for as many as 20,000 people.
At 18 levels deep (currently, eight are open to the public), the underground city housed a church, school, storage areas for food and water, wine and oil presses, communal kitchens, living quarters, weapons arsenals, and stables. Passageways were narrow to slow the progress of invaders who discovered entry points.
Defense systems included huge stone doors that could be rolled into place to block internal corridors where intruders were left to starve to death. During less turbulent times, the constant temperatures averaging 13°C made the underground city useful as cold storage facilities, wineries, and barns.
- Opening hours: 08 am to 7 pm | 8 am to 5 pm (Oct – Apr)
- Address: Bayramlı Mahallesi, Niğde Cd., 50700 Derinkuyu/Nevşehir, Turkey.
Ancient City of Troy
Explored by Sarah from A Social Nomad.
The city of Hissarlick in Turkey is the location of the ancient city of Troy. You’ll likely know of Troy as the story of the huge wooden horse taken inside the city as a gift yet full of enemy soldiers.
Troy is the basis of Homer’s Iliad and holds a unique position in literature and history. Troy still has a wooden horse, although it’s a replica from a recent movie. Troy’s history is extensive. The site of the ancient city is in ruins, but there are ruins here of the ten different times that the city was rebuilt before being abandoned. There aren’t many of the richer finds left here, though. Many were removed by archaeologists and explorers who took them to foreign museums.
There are informational signboards throughout the site that explain the nature of the ruined areas and lovely views around the countryside. Taking a copy of the Iliad to browse through while sitting under a shady tree will make it all the more real.
- Opening Hours: 10 am to 7 pm (Apr – Oct). Winter season closes at 4pm
- Address: 17100 Kalafat/Çanakkale Merkez/Çanakkale, Turkey
Explored by Sasha from Mog and Dog Travels.
In the center of Mardin’s historic old town is Zinciriye Madrasa. The gorgeous 14th-century Islamic school was built by Sultan Isa, the last ruler of the Artuquid dynasty. Located just below Mardin Castle, this beautiful building operated as a religious school until the 1920s, when Turkey became a secular republic.
The best time to visit Zinciriye Madrasa is in the early morning or at sunset, as you can escape the tour groups that visit around lunchtime. Take a stroll around the beautiful flower-filled courtyard and tea garden, and explore the mosque and Sultan Isa’s tomb. In the center of the square is a pool fed by a natural spring representing the life cycle of birth and death.
Afterward, make your way to the rooftop terrace, which has incredible views of the old city and the plains of Mesopotamia. Zinciriye Madrasa’s position on a hill is no accident – the building was also an observatory back in the day. Students at the school studied courses on astronomy, literature, and religion.
The steps to Zinciriye Madrasa begin at the main street (1 Cadde) in Mardin. They could be a bit steep for anyone with mobility issues, in which case a short and inexpensive taxi ride is an alternative option for getting to the madrasa.
- Opening Hours: 9 am to 5 pm (Monday to Friday, closed on Saturday and Sunday)
- Address: Şar, 47100 Artuklu/Mardin, Turkey
Explored by Noel from This Hawaii Life.
One of Turkey’s most spectacular and off-the-beaten ancient ruins is Aphrodisias, in the midwestern Anatolia part of Turkey.
This old Greek site was dedicated to the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, also known as the goddess of fertility. Built around the 3rd century, Aphrodisias is a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with elaborate structures, art, and sculpture. The importance of Aphrodite continued during Christian dominance when the Catholics converted the temple into a church in 500 AD.
The city grounds are extensive with various temples, bathhouses, an agora, a theater, and many other civic structures to explore, along with an impressive museum filled with artifacts, sculptures, and art.
It’s easy to arrange tours to Aphrodisias from various cities in the country’s western region. Because of its remote location, the impressive site doesn’t get too many visitors.
- Opening hours: 8:30 am to 7pm
- Address: Karacasu-Ileçsi, Geyre, Turkey, Pamukkale
Explored by Roxanne from Far Away Worlds.
Situated in south-eastern Turkey, Mount Nemrut is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for the ruins on its summit. Enormous stone statues of ancient gods built over 2,000 years ago still remain on the mountaintop today.
The statues are thought to mark the tomb of King Antiochus I, a Hellenistic ruler. They are designed to be viewed at sunrise or sunset when they look golden or red in the light. There are also beautiful views from the mountain, and you can see the Euphrates River in the distance.
To visit Mount Nemrut, head towards Kahta, the closest town. Mount Nemrut is an hour’s drive from Kahta, and you can self-drive or take a tour. If you plan to watch the sunrise, a tour is the best option as you’ll need to leave in the early morning hours to arrive at the summit in time. Entry to the site is 25 lira per person and is free for children under eight.
- Opening hours: 24/7
- Address: Mount Nemrut, Kâhta, Adıyaman, Turkey
Goreme Open Air Museum
Explored by Elizabeth of Three Week Traveller.
When you arrive at Goreme Open Air Museum, at first, it might look like dozens if not hundreds of caves in a big rock. However, these crevices are actually churches built on volcanic rock from the Middle Ages with stunning frescoes. Visiting this place will help you understand where the famous “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia come from.
While you can explore independently, you can get the best out of your visit if you join a guided tour. There are some “VIP” areas, such as Dark Church, where you have to pay 30 Lira extra (it’s worth the fee, though).
The museum is located only 2 km from the main town and it’s very easy to get there on foot. It is best to visit at noon when the crowd is thinner. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants around, an ideal stop before or after your visit.
- Opening hours: 8 am to 4 pm every day
- Address: 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey
For a close-up look at one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, a visit to Ephesus is a must.
Located only 18km north of Kusadasi, Ephesus is one of the most famous landmarks in Turkey. And not surprisingly, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 10th century, Ephesus is an ancient Greek city and was once an important trading post in the Mediterranean region.
Many of its impressive ruins remain there today, offering a fascinating glimpse into its past. Some of the highlights include the Library of Celsus, the Basilica of St. John, the Temple of Hadrian, the Gate of Augustus, and a massive amphitheater that could hold thousands of people.
Another unmissable attraction is the remains of the Temple of Artemis. Once known as one of the world’s seven ancient wonders, only a single column remains today. It’s believed that Ephesus also played an important role in spreading Christianity. And nearby you can also visit the House of the Virgin Mary, where the Virgin Mary spent her last days.
Ephesus is a popular attraction. Therefore, it’s best to time your visit. Come in the early morning to beat the crowds. Although, Selçuk is the nearest modern city, basing yourself Kusadasi is highly recommended.
- Opening hours: 8:30 am to 7:30 pm (Apr – Oct) | 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (Nov – Mar)
- Address: Acarlar, Efes Harabeleri, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir, Turkey
Turkey Landmarks in Conclusion
From the ornate mosques and ancient sites to the mind-blowing natural wonders, Turkey has some of the most stunning landmarks in the world! While this post barely scratches the surface of famous places in Turkey, it’s an excellent starting point.
There you have it – our ultimate list of unmissable landmarks in Turkey! Got any other tourist attractions in Turkey to add to this list? Feel free to share your tips and favorite Turkish landmarks in the comments below!
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