Turkey is one of the most rewarding and diverse travel destinations within easy reach of Europe – it’s got incredible history and culture, gorgeous and varied scenery, and totally lip-smacking cuisine. But which are the best places in Turkey for solo travellers to head?
Of course, capital city Istanbul is firmly on the beaten path, as are the big sights Cappadocia, the ancient ruins of Ephesus and the travertines of Pamukkale, which form a kind of Golden Triangle of tourism.
But it’s also easy to get off the beaten path in Turkey – basically just head inland. It’s a huge country.
The coastline (particularly the SW corner) is more Westernised than other parts of the country, making it a great introduction to Turkey for newbies.
It’s a popular summer holiday destination for many people from Europe and the Middle East and is easy to navigate for independent travellers as well as package tourists. Fun, good value excursions and English-speakers are easy to find – making it an undaunting proposition for solo travellers.
You’ll find party hotspots and laid back beach towns popular with backpackers and solo travellers – particularly Aussies, who flock to Turkey to commemorate the Battle of Gallipoli.
If you’re apprehensive about solo travel in Turkey, here are some go-to destinations where you’ll find everything you need for a stress free solo trip – including cheap rooms/dorms, easy flight or connections, friendly beach bars, a youthful nightlife scene, good public transport, and a range of activities and tours suitable for solo travellers.
Turkey has a long tradition of budget guesthouses called pensions (sometimes spelt pansiyons). Many of these are on the big booking sites and some offer shared rooms as well as private. Single rooms a thing in Turkey (praise be). Only the most popular tourist destinations tend to have hostels, though they are popping up at an increasing rate.
Fethiye is a popular harbour city and the western gateway to the Turquoise Coast. It’s also delectably close to Turkey’s mega-famous beach Oludeniz (pictured above), with its blue lagoon and paragliders.
I don’t recommend staying at Oludeniz itself, or nearby resort Hisaronu, as they’re geared towards package tourism rather than independent travellers and aren’t very vibey. Whereas Fethiye has more character than most of Turkey’s coastal resorts.
The main focus of the town is its harbour and bustling market, plus there are some rock tombs up in the hills. It’s a great starting point for day trips – Sakklikent Gorge, an abandoned village at Kaya Koyu, Butterfly Valley, Kabak, Dalyan and Iztizu, and boats to the 12 islands.
Fethiye it’s also the starting point for gulet cruises. I highly recommend taking a gulet cruise – it’s the best way to see this dramatic bit of coastline, and can work out just as cheap as travelling overland. It’s also a great way to meet fellow travellers. Fethiye – Olympos (and vice versa) over 4 days is the cheapest and most popular route.
For more info read How to Gulet Cruise on a Backpacker’s Budget.
Fethiye has a few hostels – Sakura is a modern style hostel with pod beds. It’s quiet and comfortable and runs a few tours and activities. Elsewhere Ferah Pension is a friendly family-run backpacker guesthouse with great views, a small pool and cute courtyard.
If you do want to stay in Oludeniz there is now a hostel there too – Oludeniz Hostel.
You’re unlikely to come to Turkey and not the intoxicating Istanbul, where East meets West.
Istanbul is huge. But the main part that you’ll be interested in as a solo traveller is Sultanahmet, the historic quarter where you’ll find the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia. I recommend that for first-timers stay in Sultanahmet for easy orientation and access to the sights. There are plenty of hostels in this area too.
Award-winning Cheers Hostel has a great atmosphere as well as views of the Blue Mosque – it now has a number of outposts around the city too if the original full or you prefer a different location. It’s friendly and sociable and organises activities such as bar crawls and walking tours.
Design hostel lovers should check out swanky Bunk in Taksim (a good location for nightlife).
Long one of Turkey’s top attractions, the Cappadocia region with its intriguing rock formations has shot to Instagram superstardom thanks to all those dreamy shots of hot air balloons and magnificent breakfast spreads.
Cappadocia is located in central Turkey and its special landscape is formed by wind and water carving out shapes in soft tufa rock. Over the centuries humans have also dug and carved into the rocks, and part of the attraction here is staying in unique cave accommodation (beware if you have asthma though as these caves can be dusty and damp).
Goreme is the tourism epicentre and where it’s easiest to organise tours and hot air balloon flights (don’t forget to research the safety credentials of the operator).
Antique Terrace Hotel has budget private rooms and a terrace for views of the balloons.
The little village of Olympos is famous (amongst backpackers and hippies, at least) for its free-spirited vibe and treehouse accommodation.
Surrounded by green mountain scenery, it’s a short walk from Olympos village to a big unspoilt beach along a path that also takes in some small ruins (the beach is part of the ancient site so you’ll have to pay an entrance fee and keep hold of your ticket).
There’s also an eternal flame (no joke). And turtles.
No permanent structures are allowed as Olympos sits in a protected area hence the popularity of wooden structures. Only a few are actual treehouses, most accommodation is in camps with rough and simple huts or bungalows (price usually includes breakfast and dinner).
The road has recently been improved which has opened up access and changed the atmosphere slightly (more families than crusty hippies these days). It may not be quite the hippie trail hangover that it used to be but it’s still a glorious natural paradise.
Of all of Turkey’s coastal towns, eyebrow-shaped Kas is perhaps the prettiest – with its ornate bougainvillaea-draped balconies and timber woodwork. Like larger Fethiye and Kalkan, it’s a harbour town rather than beach resort which has spared it from the worst excesses of development.
Kas is a regular stop on gulet cruises and boats line the atmospheric harbour. The town is popular with independent travellers and – compared to the resorts – has a relaxed bohemian feel and good nightlife.
Don’t miss taking a boat to the sunken ruins at nearby Kekova or the tiny Greek island of Kastellorizo (also known as Meis) which is just a short hop across the water.
In House Hostel is a bit of a walk from town but worth it for its converted villa location with amazing poolside views. Can Mocamp is also outside town but has sea-view bungalows and a peaceful international atmosphere.
So where did the hippies go once the families started arriving in Olympos? The answer is the eco-paradise of Kabak, a small valley not far from Fethiye (and in the same area as Butterfly Valley and Faralya).
Camps in the wooded hills behind the beach attract new age types, the eco-conscious, families, and increasingly – bohemian travellers looking for a pool with a view.
This unique geographical feature graces IG feeds and tourist brochures around the country.
Pamukkale is a natural spa known for its blinding white calcium travertines that have formed over hundreds of years. The name means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish. Its thermal springs are attached to an underrated ancient city (Hierapolis) which has epic sweeping views over the plains of Anatolia.
Pamukkale is one of the most popular attractions in the country as you can visit on a (long) day trip from many of the coastal resorts. But it’s also a really useful stopping point if you’re heading from the coast up to Istanbul by bus, or east across to Konya, Cappadocia or beyond.
A thriving modern resort town at the other end of the Turquoise Coast, Antalya is the gateway to the region for legions of tourists who come for the area’s mega resorts (it’s popular with Russians and Middle Easterners as well as northern Europeans). Many fly in and out, but it’s a fun town to spend a day or two – and an excellent base for day trips.
Antalya has a charming and bustling old town area called Kaleici, and a compact harbour thronged with tourist boats. There’s a small (and packed) town beach and it’s just about a walkable distance to the huge Konyaalti beach (or you can hop on the tram). It won’t take more than a day to see the main sights in town, but don’t miss a trip out to see the many waterfalls in the area.
Other potential day trips include historic Side, ancient ruins of Perge and Aspendos (as well as other small sites), a boat trip to Myra/Demre, epic mountain activities in the Taurus and its many rivers.
I stayed at friendly Sabah Pension and loved it – the location is perfect and it has a pool and can fix up food all day. Antalya doesn’t really have a backpacker scene and hostels tend to attract local tourists looking for a cheap place to crash after a night of partying, but if you do want to seek out a hostel then try Gold Coast Hostel.
The most glam destination in Turkey is the seaside city of Bodrum, which is unsurprisingly a popular summer hotspot. This city ticks all the summer dream boxes – nearby beaches, cute whitewashed houses, a crumbling fortress, and a marina packed with private yachts.
Bodrum’s narrow historic streets are also home to some of the most upmarket shopping and nightlife in the country (along the same lines as Mykonos and Ibiza).
It’s the spiritual home of the blue cruise too, and there’s ample opportunity to join a boat – whether for a day or on a longer gulet cruise around the coast.
Stay at white-and-blue Eskici Hostel which is close to the waterfront and has a pool for those hot summer days.
If it’s your first-time visiting Turkey then the epic ancient site of Ephesus is probably on your list. Once a thriving Roman city, it’s now one of the most extensive ancient sites in the Mediterranean.
The name ‘Ephesus’ just refers to the archaeological site itself, rather than a town. You’ll have to base yourself somewhere nearby to visit.
The closest and most laid back option is Selçuk, a quiet but enjoyable tourist town with lots of quirky historic features of its own. Selcuk is inland and just 3km from the site.
But you can also visit from Kusadasi or Izmir, which are both large port/resort cities.
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Blue Mosque, Istanbul: © Boris Stroujko, Oludeniz: © Dudarev Mikhail / Adobe Stock, Blue Mosque courtyard: © Ruslan Kalnitsky, Cappadocia: © Tatiana Popova, Olympos/Cirali : © Clayton / Adobe Stock, Kas: © Nejdet Duzen, Kabak: © Serj Malomuzh, Pamukkale: © muratart / Shutterstock.com, Antalya: © muratart / Shutterstock.com, Bodrum: © ColorMaker / Shutterstock.com, Ephesus: © muratart / Shutterstock.com