Turkey is a country rich in history, myths, natural and architectural marvels. The Mediterranean coastline and the ancient ruins provide memorable experiences, but divert from the tourist route for a while and you’ll discover some of the country’s lesser known yet equally inspiring sights.
Here’s CLC World’s favourite hidden Turkish gems…
Meaning ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, Pamukkale is a unique site with natural springs cascading down a cliff and an extraordinary landscape of terraced pools. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the milky white pools are deep enough for swimming, and the thermally-heated water remains at a constant 33ºC, whatever time of year you visit.
Legend has it that the water has healing properties – the ancient Greeks thought so, anyway!
The Lycian Way, Olympos
Olympos is a tiny village located in a valley along the famous Lycian Way, an iconic path spanning 500km of the ancient Lycian coast. The village has a lovely beach while hidden in the hills and forests above are ancient ruins.
The views from the hillsides onto this rather bohemian village are magnificent and you can reach those heights by trekking, biking or ride to the summit of Tahtali Mountain by cable car.
Flames at Yanartas
Close to Olympos are the “Flaming Stones” at Yanartas. This naturally occurring feature is a series of small fires that burn all year long. Best seen at sundown to get the full eerie effect, a small path leads through the forested area and up the cliff side to the fires.
The flames at Yanartas have been burning constantly for over 2,500 years and are often used by locals and visitors to brew tea, known as Cay!
A wonderfully clear lake, perfect for a refreshing dip in the summer, Egirdir is also a ‘cittaslow’ or slow town where life meanders along at a sedate pace. Carp is a local delicacy and you can take a boat out onto the waters.
In the town, a crumbling fortress and unique minaret provide architectural features to what is primarily a great place to enjoy nature and unwind.
Derinkuyu is the deepest underground city in Cappadocia and was built during the Byzantine era between 780-1180 AD. A host of long tunnels connect the city’s churches, stables, schools, wells, tombs and 600 entrances.
An incredible insight into life underground.
In the east of the Cappadocia region is the 4,000 year-old trading post, Kayseri. Seljuk and Ottoman monuments adorn the city lanes while the mighty Mount Erciyes volcanic mountain, whose summit is always covered with snow and fog, serves as an incredible backdrop.
Don’t be put off by the industrial outskirts as the city centre is full of surprises. An afternoon pottering along the narrow bazaar streets admiring the monuments is worthwhile.
Butterfly Valley is a serene and totally secluded valley only accessible by boat, about 4 and ½ hours from CLC Kusadasi Golf & Spa. Wander through the leafy greenery away from the beach and let the stream guide you to a majestic waterfall. You’ll feel like the first to witness this natural marvel.
Back on the beach, a local hostel serves food and you get to enjoy this little piece of Turkish paradise as you relax on white sands.
In the southeast of Turkey near to the city of Adiyaman, Mount Nemrut is one of Turkey’s rarer gems but well worth the visit. The tomb of King Antiochus is situated on the mountain and his huge statue head, and various others representing ancient gods and kings, are scattered around.
Dating back to 62 BC, these statues, some 8-9 metres tall, represent animals, Antiochus other Greek, Armenian, and Iranian gods. It’s as if an ancient god kicked over the statues in a rage!
One of the most beautiful towns in Turkey, Safranbolu is named after the saffron flower and saffron tea is a local delicacy. Ottoman houses line cobbled streets while their inhabitants keep the traditional lifestyle alive. The architecture earned the city entry on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Split into two main areas, the “bazaar”, formerly known as the ‘city’ is where locals lived during the winter before moving out to the “vineyards” in the summer. The marketplace remains lively and hectic whatever the time of year.