Treasured Second Cities in Turkey You Can’t MissOctober 5, 2020 | By Nafeesah Allen
Nestled between Europe and the Middle East, Turkey is a country that blends cultures and sensibilities. Istanbul, in particular, is famous for being the gateway between Asia and “the West.” In June, Turkey’s Foreign Culture, Tourism, and Transportation ministries launched a Safe Tourism Certification program to safely reopen accommodation and hospitality sites for visitors from all over the world. The country has implemented a long spate of rules to safely re-open and, not surprisingly, tourists have gotten their e-visas and have come back in droves. Your best bet for beating the crowds is to get off the beaten path and find hidden gems that are normally overshadowed by Istanbul and Ankara. Here are some notable “second cities” to add to your Turkey tour:
This beautiful town in the “Turkish Riviera” is seeing a comeback. When Turkey re-opened its borders, Eastern European visitors made a b-line straight for the beach. Though Antalya is normally a very popular destination in the Turquoise Coast, hospitality providers feared that visitors would be slow to return. Instead, demand for sun and sand has far exceeded expectations, and the limited tourist bookings allowed under new safety policies quickly fill up. Beaches and mountains surround the city and make it a perfect place for social distance and open-air sightseeing.
For those looking for water without seaside crowds, Lake Eğirdir is a pleasant escape just 66 miles north of Antalya. The lake has two islands (Life and Green Islands) and a quaint town to explore, but most people come to do a whole lot of nothing. The town is part of the Cittaslow Movement, meaning that life here is intentionally slow and deliberately local. Skiing and swimming are favorite pastimes, but lazy walks around the stone and wooden homes in the city center also get rave reviews.
Enchanting and ethereal are words that travelers use when talking about this scenic town in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey. From cave churches to castles, people love visiting this area because of the various outdoor adventures that it offers. It boasts a world-famous national park, hot air balloon rides, and fairy chimneys. Underground tunnels and challenging hikes can keep people safely occupied for hours on end. The Open Air Museum is also a hit with both foreign and local tourists interested in religious history and nature.
Technically, this island is still Istanbul-adjacent, but it truly feels a world away. As the largest of the Prince Islands, Büyükada gets lots of ferry visitors who want to go back in time. Sure, the Byzantine churches from the time of Justin II (569 CE) are awe-inspiring, but folks come for Trotsky. The revolutionary Russian theorist hid out here in exile for four years. Once you get to the island, it is easy to see why.
Yes, of course, people don’t want to miss out on the Hagia Sophia, but they also love the Black Sea. This stop on the Silk Road still basks in its ancient glory, with Persian textiles and grande architecture. Though the region has a tragic connection to the Armenian genocide, its modern culture centers around its port life and fascinating local cultures. Greek-speaking Muslims and views from Boztepe Hill are just some of the reminders that this town has a long history of being a global melting pot.