These days, all the media hype about travel in Turkey generally focuses on how many foreign nationalities are visiting the country. Yet over the last eight years, domestic tourism in Turkey has risen by staggering amounts with increasingly more Turks choosing to explore their homeland.
The reasons why are plentiful. More Turks now than ever before own a car and the income per household is double that of 2003, so families in the long drawn out school holidays often opt for the large all-inclusive resorts hosting a variety of child activities.
Domestic Tourism in Turkey
It would be easy to credit it solely to the rise in income, but the Turkish government is deliberately promoting domestic tourism as part of their 2023 Turkey vision plan. Frequently aired travel programs report from the mountains of the North, the Mesopotamian plains of the South and the beach resorts of the West.
Educational information in schools also encourages travel, so Turks learn more about their cultural heritage and branded campaigns by regional tourism offices often appear in newspapers.
Travel companies selling cheap bus tours around the country sell them at remarkably affordable prices and Turkish soap operas also contribute because fans travel to filming sets to retrace the steps of their favourite actors.
According to stats by the Turkish Statistical Institute (Turk Stat), from April to June alone in 2017, 17 million Turks travelled for a trip lasting one night or more. The average amount a Turk spends on this trip is 388 Turkish lira.
These stats included business travel and journeys to see relatives during public and religious holidays such as Bayram and New Year. The other reasons were leisure, holiday and health. So where do Turks go when they want some downtime?
6 Places Where Turks Go on Holiday
1: Bolu District
Stats say Turks are particularly fond of ski resorts and thermal spa centres which explains the all-year-round popularity of the Bolu district in Northern Turkey. Its thirty thermal spring spas believed to be beneficial to health and well-being, average temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius and is one of the region’s leading attractions.
By far its most recognisable and famous landmark is Lake Abant, best visited between May to September. Offering a variety of activities including biking, walking, trekking and photography, its stunning landscape scenery appeals to citizens of Istanbul who want to escape the urban lifestyle for a weekend.
During winter though, Bolu also makes a roaring trade because of its famous Kartalkaya skiing resort with 25 marked runs covering 70 kilometres.
2: Erzurum and Mount Erciyes
The Turkish passion for skiing is being driven by the country’s attempts to diversify its tourism scene to provide year-round income, so naturally, ski resorts are getting a lot of attention, especially from the younger generation.
Including the above mentioned Kartalkaya, Palandoken ski centre in Erzurum is one of the highest altitudes in the country and guarantees an abundance of snow from December to March. The latest upgrade includes an ultramodern lighting system for night-time skiing.
Mount Erciyes, near Kayseri city and the Cappadocia region, is also undergoing an upgrade of services and facilities to make it a prominent skiing destination of the world. The dormant volcano standing at 3917 metres altitude has 18 marked runs, and 20 kilometres of cross-country runs, and its wide range of rental shops easily attracts novice skiers, who are eager to try their hand at the adrenaline sport.
3: Ottoman Houses in Beypazari
For residents of Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, the favoured remedy for getting away from the hustle and bustle is a short weekend break in Beypazari, an old town renowned for its authentic Ottoman architecture as well as surrounding landscapes filled with an immense variety of the country’s flora and fauna.
Hidirlik Hill, the local landmark gives off a fabulous view of the old town centre while the protected Inozu Valley attracts city dwellers looking to get back in touch with nature.
TV shows like Magnificent Century heavily contribute to a renewed interest in the Ottoman era and hotels keeping much of their original architectural style are in high demand. The town also has a unique claim to fame because the humble carrot is their local mascot and you can buy anything made with it including Turkish delight.
4: Dogu Express Train: The Latest Domestic Travel Trend in Turkey
Countrywide newspapers are reporting a surge in popularity on the 24-hour Dogu Ekspresi train from Ankara to Kars. Such is its popularity with the younger generation, its nickname is the “Instagram Express” after the widely used social media channel.
If you want to follow this national travel trend in Turkey, be prepared to wait because tickets are hard to come by, even though six new wagons have been added. Passing through the Kayseri, Sivas and Erzurum regions, the 1933-kilometre track paves the way to some of Turkey’s most beautiful landscapes, hence its Instagram appeal.
5: Windsurfing in Alacati
For many decades, Cesme in the Izmir province has been a favoured summer resort for wealthy circles of Turkish society who owned holiday villas there. However, in recent years, its neighbouring resort of Alacati, sitting on the same peninsula has risen to fame for two reasons.
Younger generations love its windsurfing and party vibes while the older guests adore the nostalgic blue and white architecture of the stone houses. The bohemian vibe engulfing it also attracts Turkish artists seeking creative inspiration for their work. Such is the growing popularity of Alacati, house prices have risen dramatically making it a more refined part of the Turkish real estate market.
6: Cheap and Cheerful in Didim
While Cesme attracted the elite of Turkish society, Didim has always been and will be the cheap and cheerful place for Turks going on holiday. They love beaches, and this is where Didim steps up to the mark with three main sandy stretches surrounding the town that become jam-packed especially during Turkish school holidays.
Although the town, also called Altinkum, has become a favourite British expat haven, Turkish culture shines through in selective restaurants, bars and areas surrounding the Apollo Temple, Didim’s primary landmark.
One of the town’s main attractions for both Turks and Brits is the cost of a holiday is extensively cheaper than other leading hubs on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey.
Further Reading: To know more about life in Turkey, the culture section of our blog explores traditions, beliefs and lifestyle trends shaping the country’s young and old generations.