Istanbul is Turkey’s most famed city, and it is no wonder since it is teeming with history, culture, and food. The city has reliable and extensive public transportation and taxi services, making it easy for travelers to get there and get around. There is plenty of shopping to be done in the Grand Bazaar, and depending on how much you want to explore, you could make several trips back. It is the oldest covered market in the world, and massive in proportion. The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia (Ayasofya) Mosque are must-sees when visiting Istanbul. The Hagia Sofia Mosque was a church during Byzantine rule, and was later converted into a mosque when the Ottoman Empire conquered the city. Researchers are continuing to uncover paintings and relics from the old church hidden under the mosque’s walls. As with any other large city though, Istanbul can be expensive especially for tourists. Backpackers on a budget have many other options and cities to travel to elsewhere in Turkey.
Van is located in the eastern part of the country on the eastern shore of Lake Van. One of the most popular destinations in Van is Akdamar Island, one of four islands located in Lake Van. The island boasts Akdamar Church, a historic Armenian church.
If Van seems to be too far east for you, Ankara and Cappadocia are located in the central part of the country and have a lot to offer travelers. Ankara is the capital of Turkey and often overlooked in comparison to Istanbul. Ankara is not typically considered a tourist town, as it has two main sites (Anitkabir and Atakule). You will interact with, and feel more like a local in Ankara than you would on the bustling streets of Istanbul.
Located about 3.5 hours from Ankara, Cappadocia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination. Cappadocia consists of rock formations entirely formed by natural erosions from water, and volcanic lava, as well as evidence of entire underground towns and homes built into the rocks dating back centuries. There are several hotels located conveniently in the rock dwellings of Cappadocia, and they offer relatively inexpensive accommodations outside of the peak tourist months.