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Turkey is a huge country. In fact, most people don’t realize how big it is.
A few years ago, when news of the war in Syria began to intensify, many tourists began to worry about visiting Turkey because it shares a land border with the troubled country. BUT, did you know that to reach Syria from one of Turkey’s most popular beach resorts, such as Marmaris or Bodrum, you’d have to travel by bus for 24 hours?
That’s how big it is!
This is a country that has countless landscapes, and it’s packed with endless history. However, it’s also a country that has many hidden gems too. People flock to the most popular places, such as Antalya, Izmir, Bodrum, Marmaris, Cappadocia, Ephesus, and Pamukkale (and those places are 100% worth a visit), but that means that some of the most amazing and beautiful spots are being overlooked.
It’s not possible to write a full list of all the hidden gems this huge country has to offer, but let’s whittle it down to a top 7 list to give you some ideas for your next visit.
Mount Nemrut, Adiyaman
This particular sight is very off the beaten track for most tourists visiting Turkey for a beach break, but if you do want to stretch your legs and see something truly magnificent, then it’s more than worth the effort.
Mount Nemrut is located in Adiyaman, which is located in south-eastern Turkey, not too far from the Syrian border – do not let that put you off as this is a very touristic place and safe as a result. The mountain has stunning views on its own, but that’s not what it is famous for.
It’s most famous for the huge carved stone heads that sit almost randomly placed at the top of the mountain and on the path leading to the summit. Nobody is 100% sure how they got there, but the theory is that they were put there to show the power that Alexander I yielded back in the day.
You can see this amazing and quite jaw-dropping sight at any time of the year, but this part of Turkey does see freezing temperatures and a lot of snow during the winter, so between April and October is the best time to go. You can fly from Istanbul or Ankara to Adiyaman Airport, and many guided tours will take you to the site from there – as a side point, a guided tour is the single best way; it’s best not to attempt it on your own.
Duden Waterfalls, Antalya
Millions of visitors head to the Antalya region every year, but few know about the beauty of the waterfalls that are just a stone’s throw from Antalya International Airport!
The waterfalls are formed from the cascades of water that spills down from Mount Taurus before heading down to the sea. As the light fades and the sunsets, the water starts to glisten and forms beautiful waterfalls that you simply must catch on film.
Duden Waterfalls are situated in a protected park, so there’s plenty of greenery to chill out in, and it’s never too crowded, apart from during important national days in Turkey when locals head out with their family members to spend some time together in the sun.
You can reach the waterfalls on your own steam by hiring a car; they’re only around 15 minutes away from the airport, or you can book a tour which is probably the easiest way. Tours take you to the foot of the waterfalls, or you can go on a boat trip and see them from cascading into the sea for yourself.
In the region of Macka, you will find Trabzon city and the Sumela Monastery. This crazy high monastery is a 1600-year-old ancient Orthodox monastery of the Panaghia located 1200 meters high on a cliff.
Amasra, Black Sea Coast
When thinking about a beach break in Turkey, most people fixate on the south coast, but the Black Sea Coast in the north is truly beautiful. This is a spot that is off the beaten track for most tourists, but it’s quite busy with locals.
Amasra has a truly authentic feel to it, and despite its small size, it really is a fantastic place to visit. There are several beaches and plenty of walking opportunities around the coastline. You can go on a boat trip or head to Amastra Museum and learn more about the local area.
A must-do is to head to a traditional Turkish restaurant and enjoy some fantastic cuisine. The seafood around here is divine and very fresh.
Izmir is a bustling and well-visited city, but Alacati remains a hidden gem. This city suburb has a genuinely charming and authentic feel to it, full of traditional houses with colorful doors and old mills that used to work hard back in the day. If you love food and wine, this is also a place to head for you, as it’s packed with small restaurants and cafes that have some of the best food you will have ever eaten in your life.
Head to the beach to cool down in the summer sun and check out how clear the water is. It’s also a place where there seems to be a constant breeze, which makes it an excellent spot for watching professional windsurfers and kite surfers – you can even try it for yourself!
Alacati is easy to reach from Izmir (around 1 hour depending on traffic), and you’ll also find tours that take you there for the day. Why not stay for a couple of days to really soak up the chilled-out atmosphere?
A visit to the ancient Gobekli Tepe temple in Urfa is a must for anyone visiting Sanliurfa or surrounding areas.
Akyaka, Dalaman Region
If you’re staying in Icmeler or Marmaris, you might not be aware of the literal paradise that is waiting for you, just 20 minutes away by car!
Akyaka is a beach resort, but it tends to be more for locals than tourists. That doesn’t mean you can’t go however as it’s quite busy with foreign visitors during the summer months. The beautiful thing about Akyaka is that it’s set at the foot of a high, soaring mountain, the water is beautifully cool no matter what the month, thanks to the almost constant breeze, and you can walk out for a long distance in the shallows before the water seems to have any depth to it!
Aside from the beach, the Azmak riverboat trip is a must-do! This is a shaded, icy cold river paradise that you have to see to believe. It’s almost like the Everglades, but much smaller and thankfully devoid of alligators! Be sure to check out the traditional fish restaurants that sit on stilts at the side of the river, serving local catch from around the region.
It’s effortless to get to Akyaka. You can hire a car and drive (only 20 minutes), or you can take the local dolmus bus service which stops at the bottom of the hill, and you simply need to walk for 10 minutes in a straight line to arrive in the town. You could also get a taxi from Marmaris if you wanted to splurge a little; this would cost you around 300 lira return (do haggle your price beforehand), which works out at about 30 Euros currently.
Dalyan Lycian Rock Tombs, Dalaman Region
History and beauty collide at the Lycian Rock Tombs, which most people stumble upon by accident! If you’re staying anywhere in the Dalaman region, you’ll see trips to the local mud baths and Turtle Beach, where the loggerhead turtles lay their eggs during nesting season.
However, what they don’t tell you is that on your way from the mud baths to Turtle Beach, you go on a riverboat tour of the Dalyan River, and as you do that, you sail past what can only be described as a piece of historical beauty.
Carved into the soaring rock face, you will find tombs – literal tombs. These date back to the 4th century and were created by the Lycians, who believed that angels transported the dead to the afterlife. They wanted to make life easier for the angels, so they created these tombs at the highest vantage point.
A mud bath and Turtle Beach trip is a great way to see these tombs, and you also get to see a couple of other areas of interest all rolled into one price! Trips are available from any of the resorts in the Dalaman region, including Icmeler, Marmaris, Fethiye, Hisaronu, Dalyan, and Olu Deniz. If you’re staying in Bodrum, the tour will take you a couple of hours longer, but it’s well worth it.
Incekum, Dalaman Region
First things first, let’s get the pronunciation right to avoid any embarrassing mishaps. This is pronounced IN-JE-KUM. With that out of the way, let me tell you why you should definitely go.
If you love beaches, this is a spot for you, but if you love jaw-droppingly beautiful, clear water and white sand beaches, with shady trees in the background and a tractor that takes you from the parking lot to the actual beach because it’s so private – this is for you!
You will need to pay a small fee to get into Incekum, but that’s actually a good thing, and it’s meager cost; in 2020, the entrance fee was 25 lira, which works out at about 2.50 Euros. The entrance fee covers the transportation to the beach, down a long country road, and it ensures that this stunningly beautiful area remains clean and well preserved. The numbers are also controlled, so it’s never too crowded.
I can’t explain in words just how stunning this beach is. A day here is never enough. You can reach Incekum by car from Marmaris or Icmeler in about half an hour, but it is a pretty winding road, so if you are car sick, be warned! There are also stunning sights to see on the way, including a panoramic view over the sea from almost the top of a mountain.
Which of these seven hidden gems in Turkey will you head to first?