Let’s skip the tourist spots and visit these unique places in Turkey

An eclectic country with a diversity of landscapes, art, culture and culinary experience, Turkey has fascinated people all over the world. While a large portion of tourists primarily flock to Istanbul, there are less explored and lesser known destinations. Famous places such as the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia, hot air balloon trips in Cappadocia, the Grand Bazaar, the Temple of Artemis or the ancient ruins of Ephesus have always been highlighted, but Turkey rolls beyond of that.

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Turkey Cotton Castle

Spectacular white calcite travertine (terraces), Pamukkale formed as a natural wonder with calcium rich mineral springs looks like cotton candy interspersed with blue springs. Located in the Aegean region of southwestern Turkey, these hot springs are known for their healing properties. As the ancient Greeks were well aware, they built Hierapolis, once a Roman and Byzantine city just above the travertine. As this calcium-rich water flows downward, traces of calcium carbonate are left behind, which eventually turn into limestone. Limestone deposits over the years have formed snow-white terraces accumulating hot springs and culminating in a phenomenal natural wonder. The sacred pools are esteemed as a repercussion of earthquakes and are considered magical in contemporary times.


How to reach the castle

The town near Pamukkale is Denizli, and one can take a minibus to Pamukkale later. A bus from Istanbul to Denizli takes about 8-9 hours, and a rental car about 6 hours. The nearest airport is Cardak, and there are shuttle services from the airport to Denizli. The distance between Denizli is 3.3 km in total.

Visit this gate of hell

Known as ‘Gateway to Pluto’ or ‘Gateway to Hell’, historians believe it was an ancient sacred site dedicated to the Roman god of the underworld, Pluto. This small cave is traced in the Phrygian city Hierapolis, which is today Pamukkale and is full of misty, dense steam where the ground can barely be seen. Today’s Greco-Roman mythologists agree that the gate is perilous because an animal passing inside itself meets instant death. It is also believed that the white travertine of the springs of Pamukkale originated in this cave. Back then, people could just stand at the entrance to the steps while the priests performed sacrifices and rituals.


Related: Here’s how much a vacation in Turkey will cost you (with breakdowns)

Walk among the sculpted heads

Mount Nemrut, a mountain in southeastern Turkey, is popular for the large number of statues carved around it and is also considered a royal tomb. In 62 BC. J.-C., the king Antiochus undertook the construction of an immense religious sanctuary where people could come to request it. The king was called “Mount Nemrut”, meaning the abode of all the gods. In this attempt to bring all the gods together, a row of five limestone statues was erected along with animal statues. The stone statues are believed to celebrate the glory of King Antiochus and worship other gods such as Zeus, Hercules, Apollo, etc. The technology used to build the structures was well beyond time as the architecture displays the perfection of the Hellenistic era. In 1987, the site was declared a UNESCO heritage site and was visited often from April to October.


How to reach

Located in the Toros mountain range, Mount Nemrut is accessible via the city of Adiyaman. The distance between them is 73.4 km. People usually arrive at this place by car, bus or helicopter from Adiyaman province. Tours are also available from Malatya or Kakhta to Mount Nemrut. Also, direct flights are available from Istanbul or Ankara to Mount Nemrut.

Healing with mud bath therapy

Dip your whole head in the mud! Sounds crazy, right? Mud baths have been around for decades and are considered an amazing way to detox. Mud and volcanic ash are believed to be radioactive and contain healthy minerals. Mud baths originate from natural hot springs that have a high concentration of sulfur, the main ingredient in mud treatments. The spa and wellness industry touts this treatment for effectively fighting aging and promoting healthy living.


Places to find mud baths in Turkey

“Daylan Mud Bath” is a popular destination which is located in Mugla Province of Turkey. In contrast, Koycegiz Lakeside Mud Bath involves not only mud bath, but also Iztuzu Beach, Caunos Ruins, and Lycian Rock Tombs. Another less popular destination is ‘Afyon Mud Baths’ and a remote area of ​​Karahayit near Pamukkale. The latter can be used for free, but the magnificence is much less compared to the others. The cost of visiting the mud bath in Daylan is around 20 lira ($10) which includes a boat ride to the lake, a one-hour mud bath and an additional $4 for the pools of sulfur.

Related: Dos and Don’ts of Visiting Turkey for the First Time

Stay in nomadic tents

Have a true essence of ancient Turkish culture in the village of Yuvacali, a traditional Kurdish village where home stays in the form of nomadic tents are provided. The Kurds are cattle herders. Yuvacali village has been prominent for homestays. The main purpose of these homestays is to bring the ancient Turkish back to the modern world. You can be on the farm, milk the cattle, bake bread like the locals and have the essence of rustic living. Nomad Tours Turkey is an organization that organizes such homestays. While here, one can visit Mount Nemrut, drive to Siverek or take a day trip to Sanliurfa, home to the cave in which Prophet Ibrahim is believed to have been born.


How to reach Yuvacali

Yuvacali is quite a remote destination. Buses to Diyarbakir from Sanliurfa pass through Hilvan can be arranged for collection. The nearest airport is Usak Airport, at a distance of 96 km from Yuvacali.

Uncover one of the world’s greatest mysteries

This archaeological site in Turkey is believed to be 6500 years older than Stonehenge and 7000 years older than the oldest of the pyramids. The amazing fact about Göbekli Tepe is that it represents megalithic structures built around 12,000 years ago. Demonstrating the ingenuity of people in Neolithic times, the structure has remained protected from the weather over the centuries. Göbekli Tepe exudes exemplary innovative engineering, workmanship and architecture. It also gives insight into people’s lives at the time.

How to get here

When planning your trip to Göbekli Tepe, plan to spend at least two days in Urfa. Must-sees and things to do here include visiting Göbekli Tepe and the city’s Archaeological Museum. 12 km from the ancient city of Urfa (officially named Sanliurfa), two days in Urfa are necessary. This region is full of things to see and do. A few hours from town is another ancient site, Karahan Tebe, which is perhaps even older than Göbekli Tepe. But this is still under investigation.

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