12 Famous Provinces of Turkey
When learning about the provinces of Turkey, get ready for a whirlwind adventure into the culture, geography, history, and food. Each unique province earns international fame for specific reasons. Turkey, the world’s 37th largest country, covers thousands of square miles and is flanked by the Aegean, Marmara, Black and Mediterranean seas. The staggering diversity shines through from the Northeast Kackar mountain plains to the southern coasts’ sandy beaches. Before we start, it helps to know that the 81 provinces belong to seven different geographical regions.
Three regions; the central, eastern, and south-eastern Anatolian regions all sit inland and include prominent provinces like Van, Elazig, Erzurum, Ankara, Konya, Kayseri, Gaziantep, Mardin and Sanliurfa. The Black Sea covers the entire northern coast and includes famous provinces like Trabzon, Rize and Amasya.
The North East Marmara region includes famous Bursa and Istanbul, the hub of Turkey’s business and financial worlds. Last, the Aegean and Mediterranean are where most beach tourism occurs and includes prominent provinces like Antalya, Mugla, Aydin and Izmir. To write about every single province would take an entire book, so for this article, we look at the most prominent, and why they earn global fame.
12 Famous Provinces of Turkey
Covering most of the eastern Mediterranean coast, Antalya earns fame for many reasons. It is Turkey’s second most popular destination for tourism and house sales to foreigners. Also nicknamed the citrus capital, because of large fruit farms, its prominent position on the Turkish riviera, makes it a significant sailing hub.
As Turkey’s golfing capital, it has held many grand championships and includes many of Turkey’s best beaches including Cleopatra, Lara, Konyaalti and Kaputas. The Antalya province breaks down into further prominent towns and villages including Alanya, Side, Belek, Kemer, Kalkan, Kas, and the city centre. It is also the starting point for the famous 500 kilometres Lycian way that includes many UNESCO World Heritage historical sites. Read more about the Antalya province.
The Mugla province includes the Fethiye area, Marmaris, and Bodrum peninsula, which are all top tourism spots. Serviced by Dalaman and Bodrum Mugla award-winning airports, millions of people descend on it every year to enjoy beautiful beaches, historic ruins and notable landmarks. These include Butterfly Valley, Saklikent gorge and the Blue Lagoon, Turkey’s most photographed beach.
Like Antalya, all are sailing hotspots and part of what we know as the Turquoise Coast. Three-night boat trips known as gulet cruises or blue cruise routes bring in lovers of the sea from everywhere. Many foreigners who want to live in Turkey all year round buy property in Mugla; hence it has a sizeable expat population and a cosmopolitan ambience to it. In recent years, Akcinpinar beach and Akyaka have earned fame as a windsurfing hotspot.
Aydin: The Aegean Gem of Turkey
The Aydin province covers the western coastline from Kusadasi to Didim and then spreads inland. As home to one of Turkey’s top attractions; Pamukkale and the ruins of Hierapolis, it is likewise a prime holiday spot. Many foreigners buy a property, for either summer holidays or to live here all year round. Such is the foreign ambience, Turks nickname Didim “little Britain” because of English influences seen in bars, restaurants, and hotels.
Notable historical sites include Miletus, Priene, and Didim’s Apollo Templet hat, had construction finished, would have rivalled the Delphi in Greece. Meanwhile, Kusadasi serves as a major cruise ship port, bringing in thousands of people to see Ephesus and Selcuk in the neighbouring Izmir province.
Izmir City and Province
Still covering the western coast, Izmir province includes Turkey’s third-largest city with the same name. In decades gone by, Izmir’s reputation was of the leader of western trends. While places like Istanbul have now stolen part of this crown, expect a westernised atmosphere revolving around rest, relaxation, and pleasure.
Part of Izmir province’s fame is 6 out of 7 churches as mentioned in the Bible’s New testament sit within it. As home to Ephesus, where the famous Artemis riots happened, Saint John’s Basilica, and the Virgin Mary’s house, its Christian history makes it a prominent place. Alongside the city sit smaller coastal resorts like Foca and Alacati, Turkey’s windsurfing capital, which brings in fans from around the world. (Izmir Area Guide.)
Istanbul: King of Turkey
Despite not being Turkey’s capital, everything and anything happens in Istanbul, the hub of the country. Whether it is business, economy, finance, education, tourism, or trade, culture, arts, food, and fashion, it sets trends and competes with other major world cities like Paris, Milan, and New York. Despite being the king of everything new, do not neglect its historical importance.
Both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires ruled from here and top tourist attractions include the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in the Sultanahmet district. Istanbul has a sizeable expat population, but unlike the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, many work in teaching, or professional trades to further their career. Find out more about the Asian and European sides of Istanbul.
Bursa: Urban Landscapes and Skiing
Despite its quiet reputation in western holiday trends, Middle-Eastern nationalities and Turks adore Bursa. They often holiday and buy property there because of many similarities in the culture, and traditions, and for Turks, its fame stems from its time as the Ottoman’s empire first ruling capital before they invaded Constantinople. They built many historical landmarks that still stand today and belong to the UNESCO World Heritage collection.
As well as the famous city centre, Bursa’s nickname is green Bursa, a resemblance of many parks, gardens and natural landscapes including Uludag. In mythology, the gods watched the Trojan war from Uludag, which is a top skiing spot of Turkey. During summer, outdoor enthusiasts flock to enjoy the rolling green pastures and activities like camping and trekking—more about Bursa’s historical importance.
Mardin: South-eastern Turkey
Until now, we have talked about the Aegean, Mediterranean and Marmara regions, but the south eastern region shows an entirely unfamiliar face to Turkey. The Mardin province is one such example. Head to new Mardin, and you will find nothing extraordinary, but on a large hill nearby, old Mardin and Artuqud architecture stun everyone. Narrow, stone cobbled streets feature old houses with profound insight into thousands of years of history. It also sits on the edge of fantastic landscape views of the ancient Mesopotamian plains. Its vibrant cuisine, encompasses Ottoman, Arabic and Kurdish influences, of which the local must-try dish is stuffed lambs’ ribs.
Sanliurfa Province: Home of Abraham
While the Izmir region garners attention for its Christian history, Sanliurfa, sometimes shortened to Urfa, is known as the birthplace of Abraham, which the Quran calls Ibrahim. Many people visit the cave which is said to be where he was born, but the major attraction is Balikgol, where legends say is where king Nimrud threw Abraham into the fire. These days, most visitors buy fish food to feed the hundreds of carps swimming around and head up to the castle for a fantastic view of the city’s old part.
Sanliurfa is another destination encompassing Kurdish, Arabic and Turkish influences hence for people who seek to understand the diversity of Turkey’s cultural and ethnic groups is a must-visit. Sanliurfa province is home to Gobeklitepe, the world’s oldest temple, and the famous Harran beehive houses.
Gaziantep: Baklava and Pistachios
If you were to visit the southeast, a perfect trip would be the above two cities and then end your trip in Gaziantep. Throughout Turkey, Gaziantep’s reputation as the king of baklava and pistachio nuts stands proud and tall. Baklava is Turkey’s most famous sweet and dessert, while pistachio trees thrive in the dry, humid climate.
Informally called Antep, forget about the city’s new part. The old part is where all historical gems are, including the copper bazaar and castle. The Zeugma mosaic museum, covering 90,000 square meters is also of high importance thanks to its ancient mosaics dating from the time of Alexander the Great.
Trabzon: Northeast Turkey
Heading up to the northeast, once again, the culture, traditions and regional cuisine differ vastly from the other regions. Trabzon is another hot holiday and property buying spot for middle eastern nationalities and offers attractions like Uzungol lake and Ayder plateau’s hot springs. The other vastly different aspect is the weather climate. Summers are more refreshing, especially if you head into the Kackar mountain range and snow makes a frequent appearance in winter. Hazelnuts production is what Trabzon does well. Next time you eat Nutella, check the ingredients to see where the nuts come from.
Rize: Tea Capital of Turkey
Newcomers to Turkey often assume coffee is the national drink, but tea is, and the Rize province’s ideal soil conditions and climate provide the perfect environment for its growth. Don’t underestimate the importance of tea in Turkish culture. The province includes the Camlihemsin region, one of Turkey’s greenest spaces, full of old Ottoman stone bridges, and a delight for anyone who loves the great outdoors. Anyone interested in learning about the diversity of Turkey’s culture should investigate the Laz and Hemsin communities.
Nevsehir: Home to Cappadocia
Last on our list of provinces of Turkey that everyone should know about is the central Anatolian region, home to Cappadocia, one of Turkey’s top visited tourist destinations. Every year, millions descend on the area to partake in a hot air balloon ride and explore the ancient cave churches and underground cities. Urgup, Avanos, Ortahisar, and Uchisar are all prominent towns within the Cappadocia region and Nevsehir province. It also includes Hacibektas, a famous destination for Turkey’s Alevi Islam branch.
Also of Interest
Famous Cities in Turkey: While some people prefer the beach resorts of Turkey, many others love to explore city landscapes to discover what life is like for the ordinary Turk away from the touristic holiday resorts. This article talks about eight famous cities in Turkey, what to expect when you go, and what attractions you should visit.