Istanbul, which serves as a gateway between Asia and Europe, has more than enough sites to keep you enthralled through the day and into the bustling nightlife. See the stunning Blue Mosque; cruise the gorgeous shoreline, shop the Grand Bazaar, and then, before you jump into a cafe for dinner, rejuvenate in a luxurious Turkish bath.
Renowned as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the spellbinding Byzantine glory of the Aya Sofya Museum (Hagia Sophia) is not only one of the top things to do in Istanbul, but also in Turkey – making it a must-see for every tourist visiting the country. Adorned with delicate minarets added after the Ottoman conquest, this massive site with its cavernous frescoed interior is a grand reminder of Constantinople's power.
Not to be missed, the mighty ruin of Ephesus is a city of colossal monuments and marble-columned roads. One of the most complete, still-standing Roman cities in the Mediterranean region, this is the place to experience what life must have been like during the Roman Empire. A sightseeing trip here will take at least half a day to cover the major highlights and longer; if you really want to explore, make sure to plan your visit with lots of time.
One of Turkey's most famous natural wonders, the pure white travertine terraces of Pamukkale ("Cotton Castle" in English) cascade down the slope looking like an out-of-place snowfield amid the green landscape. Although the travertines are themselves a highlight of a trip to Turkey, the vast and rambling ruins of Roman Hierapolis, an ancient spa town, lie on the top of this calcite hill, providing another reason to visit. Have your camera ready for dusk when the travertines glow as the sun sinks below the horizon.
Spend a day aboard a boat tour of the Bosphorus, the strait that splits Istanbul. Along the city's shoreline you'll see castles, colourful Ottoman villas, and small fishing boats – and many tours include lunch on the shore.
Bargain with a shopkeeper in one of the largest covered markets in the world to buy a gorgeous Turkish rug for a unique, attractive keepsake. Turkish rugs aren't the only commodities in the bazaar, of course – you'll also find the market inundated with jewelry, leather and more.
Hop a flight to spend a few nights in Antalya, Turkey, a popular vacation spot for locals. This large town, situated atop steep cliffs on the Mediterranean, is known for its picturesque landscape, warm, sunny weather, and lively nightlife.
The best times to visit are during the fall and spring between September and October and April and June when the temperatures are mild and daily highs are between 61 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.