If you truly want to explore Turkey, then you will need to plan enough time to check out the popular destinations and also discover some hidden ones. After all, this is a country with beautiful beaches and a very long history dating back to thousands of years. If you are planning to get off the beaten path, then check out these secret gems only locals know about.
1. Sumela Monastery
Found in the northeast of Turkey, the Sumela Monastery is 1,700 years old and is located on top of a cliff 1,200 meters above sea level. This monastery was built by the Romans but every ruling empire after that had somehow restored and slightly altered it since then. You can also enjoy the beautiful nature around it but because of its location, very few tourists make it up here.
2. Butterfly Valley
The Butterfly Valley, or Kelebek Vadisi in Turkish, is near the west coast of Turkey. It is accessible only by taking a boat from the main city of Olu-Deniz. Upon arriving, you can find a local hostel to stay in while exploring the waterfalls and forests in the valley. You can explore the jungle to watch the waterfall, although seeing it from up top is also a great idea. This is possible by taking a Dolmus, a local taxi.
3. Mount Nemrut
Although this mountain is not that far away from Adiyaman, it is still not as popular with tourists. This is because Mount Nelmut is a bit further from bigger cities in Turkey. However, locals will recommend climbing up the mountain and watching the sunrise from the top, which is considered a sacred experience. From the peak, you can also view the huge stone statues, which are all that remains of the tomb of King Antiochus. These statues, 8 to 9 meters tall, represent the world’s history and religions.
4. Lycian Way at Olympos
This is a tiny village that very few tourists visit but should definitely in your bucket list. Beyond the beaches, it can be a starting point to walk the Lycian Way, a 500-kilometer footpath along the ancient Lycian coast. Along this way, there are numerous ancient ruins to be seen, as well as breathtaking views of the landscape.
5. The Flames of Yanartas
Yanartas is a short drive from Olympos, where you can check out a curious natural geographical feature. The Flaming Stone, which translates to Yanartas in Turkish, is actually flames coming out of vents in between the rocks. They burn all day, all year long, for more than 2,500 years already. You should, however, plan your visit at around sunset to enjoy the sight of these flames. They used to be used by explorers and sailors for navigation but are now used by locals to brew tea.
6. Ishak Pasha Palace
Located in the isolated region of Dogubeyazit, the Ishak Pasha Palace is the best place to explore Islamic architecture. It was built by the Ottomans and includes a mausoleum, a mosque, kitchens, dungeons, and a harem. Beyond giving you a great chance to see Islamic architecture up close, you can also enjoy seeing the snow-capped peaks of the nearly Ishak Pasha mountain.
There are many undiscovered sites and corners that never make it to the usual tourist itinerary, but it does not mean that these are not worth the visit. To truly appreciate the history and the landscape of the country, you might want to take the time to explore every corner of this unique country.