Best Turkey holiday destinations and when to travel each one

A country steeped in history, Turkey combines lively cities, popular coastal towns, ancient historical sites and some of the most varied natural phenomena on Earth into one diverse nation.

From cosmopolitan Istanbul and the capital of Ankara to beloved beach resorts such as Bodrum, Alanya and Marmaris, the country’s main towns and cities attract millions of tourists a year to sample everything from culture to coastlines.

With an array of idyllic beaches, high-octane cities and incredible natural sites like the Pamukkalelake and the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, Turkey has bagged a place among the world’s most popular tourist destinations – it welcomed over 44 million visitors in 2022 the fourth highest number of any country in the world.

If you’re planning a trip to this varied and storied country, read on; below, we’ve rounded up a list of some of its premier destinations.


Istanbul is the world’s only transcontinental city

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The most populous city in Europe is where the west meets Asia. Having been the capital of three different empires, the city has over 2,500 years of history and its main attractions include Byzantine structures such as the Hagia Sophia and the soaring minarets of the Ottoman-era Blue Mosque.

Other popular tourist spots include the Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern, but a simple visit to the Sultanahmet district will likely cover many of the ‘must-do’ things in the city. Those wanting to venture further afield will want to see the city’s famous Grand Bazaar, the Bosphorous Straight and neighbourhoods including Balat and Fener, where you can discover everything from foodie delights to local markets. For great views, try climbing the Galata Tower.

When to visit Istanbul

June and September are the most pleasant times to visit Istanbul. Average temperatures will hover around 22C, while you’ll avoid the peak summer crowds – perfect for enjoyable sightseeing and al fresco dining.

Where to stay

Located in the Taksim area of the city, Hotel The Public is set in a historic building – built in 1901 – on the well-known Istiklal Avenue. Interiors are contemporary but period features like exposed brick walls remain, creating an eclectic aesthetic right in the thick of the city.


Bodrum is a popular resort in the south

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A destination that is popular with those wanting a taste of the Turkish coast, Bodrum is another city with links to ancient times. Once known as Halicarnassus (and home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), Bodrum still houses some ancient ruins as well as its own famous medieval fortress, Bodrum Castle. Away from the sights, Bodrum has a vibrant and lively nightlife scene, with a mix of bars and clubs in the town, on the beaches and in the marina area.

However, most tourists flock here for access to some of Turkey’s best beaches. The surrounding region is a scenic mix of charming villages, rolling green hills and tranquil marinas, with dozens of fine golden sand-stretches lapped by turquoise water. Set back from the sea, several hotels and resorts offer a mix of luxury and more affordable stays.

When to visit Bodrum

Bodrum can be sweltering in the summer, with average daily highs hitting 35C in July and August. With average temperatures of 22C and very few crowds (apart from at half-term), October can be a good choice for a more affordable trip to the southern resort.

Where to stay

Kaya Palazzo is a large resort right on the Bodrum coast, just 15 minutes away from Bodrum itself. The accommodation features a private section of beach and a seasonal outdoor pool, while rooms are elegant and modern.

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Cappadocia is well-known for its ’fairy chimneys’

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The chances are that a visit to the Cappadocia region will be unlike any other trip you’ve been on. Starting with nature, Cappadocia has a distinctive topography shaped by soft volcanic rock, volcanic activity and erosion that has caused various rock formations such as the so-called ‘fairy chimneys’ (rock spires seen in the image above), as well as the presence of a large range of caves throughout the region. Many of these caves now act as charming hotels, with rooms carved into the rock and restaurants that serve authentic local fare overlooking the hills.

While hiking, biking and visits to open-air museums are some of the popular activities in the area, the stand-out excursion is a hot air balloon trip, offering unforgettable views of mesmerising landscapes and orange sunsets. For a bit more exploration, the main towns in the region include Avanos, Goreme, Uchisar and Urgup.

When to visit Cappadocia

Daily temperatures at the height of summer can vary as much as 15 degrees between 32C and 17C, but with average temperatures around 24C, these months are a good choice for pleasant weather and hot air balloon watching.

Where to stay

For a sensational stay near Goreme, opt for Argos. Located in the hills near the centre of Uchisar, the hotel consists of a series of stone buildings offering accommodation options ranging from smooth stone rooms to large suites carved from tuff (a light rock local to the area) with private indoor pools.


Antalya is the main city in the eponymous province

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Another popular destination on the southern coast, Antalya is the main city in the Antalya province. The province as a whole offers miles of coastline, ancient city ruins (including Perge, Aspendos, and Termessos) and a range of activities (Belek is well-known for its range of golf courses), while the city itself is also an excellent choice for a holiday. Its charming Old Town (Kaleici) is a maze of narrow, paved streets, Ottoman-era architecture and ancient walls, while the marina and harbour areas offer sea views in a relaxed setting. There are many family-friendly sites too, including a zoo, aquarium and waterpark.

Near the city, the Duden and Kursunlu waterfalls are a dramatic site of natural beauty, while the Taurus Mountains offer opportunities for hiking. For soaking up the sun and taking a sip, Cirali, Konyaalti and Patara are some of the best beaches in the region.

When to visit Antalya

Antalya is another place where summer highs can reach over 35C, so July and August are best avoided. September generally receives little to no rain, and average temperatures will stay around a much more manageable 25C.

Where to stay

Tuvana Hotel is situated in the historical heart of Antalya, just 450m from Hadrian’s Gate. Traditional Ottoman decor and retained period features line the interiors, with several garden areas providing a great option for romantic drinks and dinner.


Izmir is the third most populous city in Turkey

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The third most populous city in Turkey may not be on most visitor itineraries, but this coastal hub has a rich history to add to its contemporary arts and cultural scene. There are nearby top-notch beaches in places like Cesme, Alacati, and Urla, while in Izmir itself you’ll find a 20th-century Clock Tower, the Agora and Kadifekale (an ancient castle). Modern living is showcased in the shops and restaurants of the lively Kordon Promenade or the city’s annual International Fair, and visitors can enjoy a blend of Turkish, Greek and Aegean cuisine.

When to visit Izmir

June and September carry average daily temperatures of 25C and 26C. Alternatively, for a better mix of cooler (but still pleasant) temperatures (think 21C on average) and far fewer crowds, visit in May or October.

Where to stay

Key Hotel is situated right on the city’s coastline, boasting spectacular sea views from its reception and restaurant plus some rooms.

Kas (Myra)

An aerial view over part of Kas

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Kas is another destination on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, lying between Bodrum and Antalya. A popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, it sits between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, while the 320-mile Lycian Way hiking route runs near the town, providing excellent hiking opportunities and the chance to do a host of activities including kayaking, scuba diving and paragliding.

The town itself is a smaller settlement with whitewashed houses and russet-tiled roofs and cobbled streets, with a laid-back atmosphere both in the centre and on beaches such as Kucuk Cakil. Historical sites such as the ruins at Xanthos, Patara, and Myra, the Kas Amphitheater and the Sunken City of Kekova can all be found within the region.

When to visit Kas

Similar to Antalya, temperatures in Kos can get sweltering at the height of summer. Consider May and October to beat the crowds, with average highs that are perfect for some winter sun (think around 22C).

Where to stay

The Mandalina sits at the western tip of a peninsula just west of Kas (roughly 10 minutes away by car). The hotel has a pool with sweeping sea views and access to a private beach area, while the suites offer spacious and comfortable accommodation (some with balconies and private pools).


Oludeniz beach, located at the southern part of Fethiye

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Oludeniz is one destination where nature is the focus. The main attraction is the Blue Lagoon, an idyllic bay where azure waters are surrounded by curved stretches of white sands backed by green hills. Oludeniz Beach is popular for swimming and water sports ranging from jet skiing to snorkelling, and there are plenty of other beaches in the nearby Kidrak National Park.

Away from the sea, Babadag Mountain has a range of hiking trails and is a popular paragliding spot, with panoramic views over the Blue Lagoon and other areas. The area around the village is a nature reserve, offering untouched landscapes and a peaceful atmosphere; for those who do eventually want to return to civilisation, the village itself has options for eating, drinking and nightlife, and the popular town of Fethiye is just a 30-minute drive away.

When to visit Oludeniz

June and September are the best options outside of school holidays, with average temperatures staying at 24C, providing optimal weather for relaxing by the sea.

Where to stay

Sitting just 50 metres from the beach, the Bronze Hotel has a large outdoor pool and terraced seating where buffet breakfasts are served every morning.

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