Spanning over two continents, Turkey is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Despite the country’s size and cultural wealth, most tourists gather in the same 4-5 regions. On this basis, here are ten underrated places in Turkey to include on your Turkey travel itinerary.
After eight trips to Turkey, I can safely say it’s one of my favorite countries. The primary reasons for that include Turkish hospitality and the country’s diversity.
- If you want to work remotely in Turkey, check out my complete Turkey digital nomad guide.
Central Anatolia, Southeastern Turkey, and Northeastern Turkey aren’t on many foreign visitor’s radars, but these regions are undoubtedly worth a visit.
Here are ten underrated places in Turkey that combine cultural wealth, natural beauty, and authentic Turkish culture.
10 Underrated Places in Turkey
Depending on where you start your Turkey travel itinerary, you can easily include some of these places on your next trip.
Turkey has a well-integrated bus network and also domestic flights. As such, most of these destinations have airports. The ones who don’t are accessible by bus from nearby big cities.
Bursa and Lake Uluabat
Located in Northwestern Turkey, Bursa is the fourth-most populous city in the country.
When it comes to “hidden gems” in Turkey, Bursa is one of my top picks. The city was the capital of the Ottoman Empire between 1335 and 1363. As such, it’s home to a variety of stunning historical sites.
In this context, Bursa has mosques that rival the ones in Istanbul and a vast medieval bazaar. Overall, Bursa is one of the most underrated places in Turkey and a perfect stopping point on your Istanbul to Cappadocia road trip.
Finally, there are some great day trips in the region of Bursa. The best is arguably Lake Uluabat and the town of Gölyazı, a pristine fishing village.
- Read my guide on the Best Things to do in Bursa.
Diyarbakır: the Largest Kurdish-Majority City
For years, Western governments told their citizens not to travel to the city of Diyarbakır in Southeastern Turkey. There were clashes between the military and terrorist groups and a lot of political tension. As such, it was one of the places to avoid in Turkey.
Today, however, the situation has calmed down, and Diyarbakır is trying to reinvent itself.
If you want to learn about the culture and history of the Kurds, Diyarbakır is the place to be. Apart from that, the city has an incredible 1000-year-old mosque, some of the longest medieval city walls in the world, great food and nightlife, and a 700-year-old fully renovated Armenian church.
Çanakkale, Gelibolu, and Ancient Troy
Çanakkale is arguably the most underrated city on the West Coast of Turkey. It’s a young, hip, and vibrant town with various beaches and islands nearby.
Apart from that, it’s the gateway to two major historical sites: Gelibolu and Troy.
Gelibolu (Gallipoli) is where one of the bloodiest battles of World War One happened. Today, the area is still full of military cemeteries, with about 500k soldiers dying on one small peninsula.
Ancient Troy isn’t as spectacular as Ephesus or Pamukkale, but the new Archaeological Museum is undoubtedly worth a stop.
With around two million inhabitants, Gaziantep is the biggest city in Southeastern Turkey.
The city is well-known as Turkey’s culinary capital and has thousands of years of history. You can visit millennia-old castles here and taste some of the region’s unique delicacies, including lamb liver.
Gaziantep is also home to the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, one of the most extensive collections of Byzantine mosaics in the world.
Şanlıurfa or “Urfa” is known as the “city of prophets.” According to some sources, it’s the birthplace of the prophet Abraham (Muslims call him Ibrahim). His birthplace is located below a mosque near a lake with sacred carp.
The area is called Balıklıgöl and is one of the most underrated places in Turkey because many people have never heard of this historical wonder. Around the site, you’ll find a stunning mosque, authentic bazaars, and lots of delicious food.
Urfa is highly conservative, and this city feels like the Middle East. It’s a completely different world from places like Izmir in Western Turkey. And that makes it fascinating to visit this part of the country.
Apart from the city itself, you can take day trips to the mystical Mount Nemrut, the stone village of Haran, and Göbeklitepe, the oldest known temple complex in the world, constructed around 10,000 BC.
Located in Eastern Turkey, Lake Van is one of the most beautiful natural sites in Turkey. Few foreigners make their way this far east, but the region is undoubtedly worth a stop.
Surrounded by high peaks and charming villages, the largest lake in the country is a great addition to your Turkey travel itinerary – especially if you want to overland to Georgia.
When it comes to unusual places in Turkey, Mardin is a genuine gem.
The small city in the Southeast looks and feels like the Middle East, and a large proportion of its population is of Arab descent. The city’s stone houses are a UNESCO World Heritage site, with many stone mosques and churches.
Mardin is a bit like Göreme but without the balloons. As such, it might become super touristy in the future, so now is the time to visit.
Konya: Turkey’s Most Conservative City?
Turkish people often call the Central Anatolian city of Konya “Turkey’s most conservative city.”
And yes, the city does have a conservative vibe, but I think that it’s actually less religious than Urfa.
Apart from the tomb of the famous Persian poet Rumi (Mevlana), Konya is also famous for whirling dervishes, a tradition that you can admire every week at the city’s cultural center.
- Read my complete guide on the Best Places to Visit in Konya.
Eskisehir: a Cool Student Town
Between Bursa and Ankara, Eskisehir is a liberal island in a conservative region.
What does that mean? Well, Eskisehir is a mid-sized city full of young professionals and students. As such, it’s a fun and hip city to visit, but it also has a beautiful historic core, a charming riverfront, and fascinating museums.
Overall, it’s a city to soak in the atmosphere if you like authentic Turkish culture and nightlife.
Internationally, Northwestern Turkey isn’t that well-known.
The region of Rize is one of the most unexplored places in Turkey – and brimming with natural beauty. With high mountains and breathtaking hiking paths, the area is a nature lover’s dream.
The city itself doesn’t have that much to offer but the surrounding national parks should feature on your Turkey travel itinerary.