Dig a hole in Turkey, so they say, and an archaeologist will come running. The country’s location on the border between Europe and Asia has made for a truly spectacular place, and whether you’re into sight-seeing, sun-bathing or taking in culture, then Turkey definitely has you covered.
At dealchecker we firmly believe that the best tour guides are you, so we trawled Instagram to find what hidden gems and overlooked attractions lie within the coves, mountains and forgotten villages of Turkey. Here’s what we found out:
Famed for its architecture, vineyards and windmills, Alaçatı has been popular with holidaymakers for at least 150 years. This is the only place close to a major town on the Çeşme peninsular, but it doesn’t look much like one with its quaint streets, lovely alfresco dining and breath-taking sea views. The town has been growing ever more stylish in recent years, culminating in its very first vintage vinyl shop, which opened in 2013.
Even though the charm of the place is starting to attract bigger and bigger numbers of visitors, the sheer picture postcard looks of the town still make it worth a visit; if only to catch a glimpse of the Mediterranean idyll in all its glory.
The Lost Churches of Cappadocia
An area that is famous for its spectacular rock formation and landscapes, Cappadocia is a place with a secret. Hidden away in caves and rocks, lies some spectacular churches built by the Christian Greeks who lived there until they were expelled in 1923. The most spectacular has to be St. John the Baptist near Cavusin. Built in the 5th century and cathedral-like in size, most of the frescoes and murals are faded by smoke but it still rivals some of the churches of Italy in its sheer majesty.
Lost churches are still being uncovered in Cappadocia, but things took a weirder turn in April 2015 when workers stumbled upon a gigantic underground city with room for up to 20,000 people. It seems the region still has many secrets to give up.
A UNESCO world heritage site, Safranbolu is a slice of old Ottoman Empire nestled in the mountains of the Black Sea coast. An almost perfectly preserved Ottoman town, right down to the traditional architecture and red-topped buildings, the old town in particular looks as if it’s come from inside a chocolate box.
Once a source of saffron, the town feels like one long nostalgia trip among timber-framed mansions and converted boutique hotels. Strolling the old hamam and revelling in the cobblestone quaintness is about as strenuous as it gets, but if all the history does begin to get a bit overwhelming, then a hike in the surrounding Yenice Forest offers a hefty dose of nature.
Simena’s Sunken City
Curiously overlooked by many guide books, the sunken remains of Kekova are some of the most haunting underwater ruins in the world. Records are sketchy, but the town was once thought to be a Byzantine fishing port until it was pitched into the sea by an earthquake some time during the middle ages.
The area is strictly controlled by the Turkish government to prevent looting and vandalism, but tourists can still visit by taking a boat or kayak trip from the nearby resorts of Kas and Kalkan. For those looking for a dryer and more romantic view, the ancient Byzantine fortress of Simena lies almost directly across the bay, offering commanding views of the coastline.
It’s a well-established fact that Turkey does beaches well, but Butterfly Valley really takes the biscuit. Named after the many species of rare butterflies that flutter around, Butterfly Valley is like a Garden of Eden. Sandwiched between impressive rocky outcrops, this is a paradise of lush, green pastures and golden, sandy beaches.
Anywhere else you’d expect an over-priced resort to be set up, but Butterfly Valley is refreshingly unspoilt. A credit card free zone, it’s all self-service food shacks, wooden huts and pop up tents. This laid-back, hippy vibe even extends to the accommodation, with visitors able to sleep on the beach to awake to stunning sea views and brisk cliff-top walks.
Discover more hidden secrets on a holiday in Turkey, and share them in the comments below.