Be covered in minutes - Freephone Our UK Call Centre
0800 848 8608
Home » Blog » Destinations » All-in-one Guide to Turkey

All-in-one Guide to Turkey

Written by: Russell Wallace | Travel Insurance Expert
Last updated: 23 September 2022 | Created: 24 August 2022

The meeting place between two continents, Turkey has always been a crossroad of the world. This ancient cultural touchstone draws around 2.5 million brits each year. With so much to offer and experience in Turkey, it can be a little overwhelming. So if you plan on seeing the Viking graffiti in the Hagia Sophia or soak up some sun on one of the many beaches, this all in one guide can help you narrow down your options.

5 things to do

Kekova Island, Kaleüçağız Köyü

Just under the waters of this Turkish island lie the sunken ruins of an ancient city. The ruins predate the Ottomans, Byzantines and even the Romans. The city of Simena was built by the Lycians, who were one for the world’s first diplomatic federations. As the whole island is now a protected area, you sadly cannot snorkel around the ruins, but you can take boat tours which cruise over the ruins, only a few metres below the calm seas.

Pamukkale Water Terraces, Denizli

Named “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, this dramatic rock formation was once a Roman health spa. Water from hot springs cascades down the white rocks, gathering in pools and forming a natural fountain. Both the pools and the Roman ruins which overlook them are now a UNESCO world heritage site and are protected from development.
While you can no longer soak in the natural pools, they have built some artificial pools if you wish to soak in the calcium rich waters.

Basilica Cisterns, Istanbul

This subterranean marvel was built in AD 532 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to store fresh water for the palace complex. Amazingly, this wonder was lost and forgotten for centuries. It was rediscovered in the 1500’s by a visiting Frenchmen. He’d heard stories of locals fishing and drawing fresh water in their cellars. Between the stories and legends of lost underground temples he decided to go exploring.

The complex is huge, and while you can no longer tour it by rowbot due to the water levels, you can explore it via walkways. Take in the hundreds of columns and intricate stonework before stopping at the cafe for a bite. You can even share it with the fish which still call the Cisterns home.

Yanartaş, Antalya

Found near the Olympos valley national park, this mountain doesn’t look like anything special from a distance. But make your way to the top and you’ll discover fires that have been burning for over 2,500 years. In ancient legend Yanartaş was the home of the Chimaera, the fire breathing beast with the head and body of a lion, with the extra head of a goat and a snake’s head in place of a tail for good measure. Ancient sailor used the mountain as a natural lighthouse. These days you can use the flames to toast marshmallows or make a cuppa.

Lycian Rock Tombs, Fethiye

The ancient Lycian’s believed that the souls of the deceased were carried away by winged beings to the afterlife. To help them out, they buried their dead in high places such as cliffsides. For the rich and powerful, this meant carving amazing tombs directly into the sides of soaring cliffs. While many of the newer tombs are incredibly intricate on the outside, the insides of all the tombs are simple and spare.

5 Best Beaches

Mermerli Beach, Antalya

A stone’s throw from the city centre of Anyalya, this small beach is a bit of a hidden gem. There is a small fee to pay at the entrance, but that covers a sun lounger and parasol. Space can be a bit limited on the sand, but the water is clear and warm. There’s also the option to have food and drink brought to you from the restaurant. A great beach to visit after a morning of exploring the city.

Patara Beach, Gelemiş

At 18 kilometres long, Patara is Turkey’s longest beach. The entrance is through the nearby Roman ruins of Patara and a small fee is required. Being so long makes this the perfect beach for long strolls and finding a nice private spot for sunbathing and reading. It’s not just humans that visit the beach, as it’s also a breeding ground for loggerhead turtles. There’s a small cafe on the beach but that’s about it as far as development goes for this national park beach. When the sun goes down, the beach is off limits to people, allowing the turtles to reign.

Cleopatra Beach, Alanya

A favourite beach with both modern holiday makers and the famous ruler of Egypt herself. Cleopatra was said to have fallen in love with this spot while touring the Mediterranean. With warm, deep blue waters, perfect for a dip, it’s not hard to see why she loved it. The beach gets over 2 million visitors a year, and now has a host of cafes and other amenities to enjoy.

Kaş, Antalya

This charming fishing village has two beaches to choose from, Small Pebble Beach and Big Pebble Beach. Both beaches offer great facilities and warm, calm waters, perfect for a dip. Being so close to the village means you can take a stroll through the streets and explore the harbour and whitewashed cottages.

Blue Lagoon, Ölüdeniz

Found in a national park where the Mediterranean meets the Aegean, Blue Lagoon beach is probably the most famous beach in Turkey. The nearby mountains provide a stunning backdrop and the multi-hued sea is a joy to swim or snorkel in.

5 Best Restaurants

Seki Restaurant, Cappadocia

This restaurant is built inside one of the largest and oldest monasteries in the world. Naturally this means it offers some stunning decor and views. The menu is varied, with slow roasted meats and artisanal pasta side by side. All the dishes use local ingredients for a fresh flavour of the area.

Platoda Mola, Rize

Perched on top of a mountain, Platoda Mola offers views which wouldn’t feel out of place in Switzerland. While the view might be Swiss, the food is classic Black Sea cuisine. If the freshly made breads and jams don’t tempt you, try the mıhlama (melted regional cheese with cornflour) or the stuffed black cabbage and eat like a local.

Kebapçı Halil Usta, Gaziantep

Considered by many to be the culinary heart of Turkey, the city of Gaziantep offers a multitude of amazing restaurants. Halil Usta specialises in lamb, possibly the meat most associated with Turkish food. Offering good sized portions and using high quality lamb, this is a carnivore’s dream. Kebabs have a bad reputation in the UK, but try the local favourite simit kebab and you’ll be converted.

Deniz Restaurant, Izmir

If it’s seafood you’re after, you can do worse than Deniz. Run by three brothers, the restaurant offers three tasting menus so you can experience the best of Aegean sea food. Fresh local fish are used in the exotic dishes, such as seafood pancakes and fish meatballs.

Mikla, Istanbul

One of Istanbul’s best restaurants, Mikla has been pioneering fine dining for over 15 years. Traditional Turkish dishes such as the local ravioli with roasted garlic and smoked buffalo yoghurt sit alongside newer dishes and trends. The Pumpkin & Celeriac dish is worth trying even if you’re not vegan. After your meal head up to the rooftop bar for stunning views of the Turkish capital.

5 top tips

Respect the culture

Being a secular state, the Turkish people have the freedom to practice their religion how they see fit. Locals are welcoming but you should return this by respecting their culture. If you visit one of the many beautiful mosques or any of the more conservative areas, be sure to dress well and cover your head. It can also be best to avoid discussing politics in public.

Bring cash

Always a handy tip, no matter your destination, but card machines and ATMs are not as widespread in Turkey as they are in other countries covered under European travel insurance. As such it’s a good idea to keep some Turkish Lira handy, especially if you’re visiting more rural areas.

Learn some Turkish phrases

English is not widely spoken in Turkey. Only around 17% of Turks speak English beyond a few phrases. With this in mind it’s a very good idea to learn some key phrases in Turkish before you head over. You can learn some useful phrases here.

Don’t be afraid to haggle

Haggling and grabbing a deal are a large part of Turkish culture. When you’re visiting a bazaar or market, don’t be afraid to haggle. Don’t offer insultingly low prices, but don’t just accept the first offer. The seller will likely huff and puff dramatically and you’ll settle on a price in the middle of both offers. Not only do you get a bargain, you also get to enjoy a fun part of the local culture.

Pick up a museum pass

If you plan on travelling around Turkey, or even just spending a lot of time enjoying the depth of history and culture at the many museums, grab a museum pass. At just over £36 the pass is accepted at most museums and archaeological sites in the country.

Now that you have some ideas about what to do and eat while you’re in Turkey, remember to pick up your Turkey Travel Insurance so you can travel with peace of mind as you explore this beautiful country.