Plan the Perfect Family Holiday in Turkey

Turkey has something for everyone. Whether you and your family are interested in a beach holiday, exploring historical sites and museums, getting out into nature, soaking up the buzz of Istanbul or eating a lot of great food, a family holiday in Turkey is a great choice.

How to plan a Turkey family holiday - text over picture of Istanbul Mosque

There is no shortage of places to visit in Turkey and it’s recommended to consider beforehand what your Turkey family holiday should look like.

During the planning stages it’s important to ask yourself what kind of activities your family wants to do; Do you prefer slower travel to get to know a certain city or one, maybe two places? Do you want to visit multiple beaches and historical sites? Do you want to lay on a beach in a family resort in Turkey where the kids have amenities and you do not need to think about much else? There are many options!

Turkey is also huge, which means it’s important to take travel time into account if you want to visit multiple destinations during your stay or if you have limited time for your trip. You don’t want to lose a lot of time to transit by packing too much into your holiday.

Just try not to get overwhelmed. We are here to help.

When is the best time to visit Turkey?

From a tourist perspective, Turkey has three “seasons”:

  • the high season (May – September),
  • the low season (mid-November – March);
  • and the shoulder season (April and October – mid-November)

Ideally, the best times to visit Turkey are during the late spring or in the fall (during the beginning and end of the high season and the early part of the autumn shoulder season), when the weather is the most pleasant.

However, if you want to spend most of your time on the beach, high season is a good idea. Keep in mind that Turkey can get extremely hot during July and August, which is especially challenging if you want to dedicate some time to visiting ruins or outdoor historic sites as many of them lack shade and the heat can be oppressive for such activities.

If you want to really load up on museums and tourist attractions in Istanbul or shop your heart out at the Grand Bazaar, for example, but you want to escape the crowds and long lines, think about planning your trip during the low season (either in early November or March to avoid rain or snow). If you like tulips, consider going to Istanbul during its Tulip Festival in the spring.

Places like Cappadocia are also equally fascinating in both winter and summer, depending on what kind of trip you’re looking to have.

Read more about when is the best time to go to Turkey.

Turkey Family Holiday - Cappadocia in winter
Cappadocia in winter can still be a beautiful sight

How long do you need in Turkey?

It all depends on what you want to do and how much you want to see. It’s also important to take transportation time into account when traveling between cities.

At least two weeks would allow you to experience three or four different places without being too rushed. This would also be possible for a 10-day trip, but you would have a more compact itinerary.

If you’d like to visit three places, you could also combine Istanbul and Cappadocia with a stay on the coast.

One week could allow you to get a feel for two different locations. Alternatively, you could easily spend a full week exploring Istanbul with a day trip or two outside the city. In any case, we recommend no less than three days in Istanbul to at least get a feel for the city.

If you have a very limited amount of time in Turkey, like three or four days, stay in one place and explore it thoroughly.

Where are the best places in Turkey for a holiday?

As we’ve said, Turkey is a large country, and looking at all the options can get overwhelming. The bulk of Turkey’s tourist spots are located in the west of the country as are the best places in Turkey with kids, which is where we mainly focus.

It’s safe to say that many visits to Turkey include Istanbul combined with a trip to the coast, and/or Cappadocia. Istanbul is a must-see for first-time visitors and keep in mind that it is very different from the rest of the country.

For beach lovers, places like Bodrum and Antalya are great Turkey holiday destinations for families as they offer many activities, good restaurants, pretty seaside towns to explore, and often have some nearby historical sites, which can be fun and educational. It’s also easy to find some all-inclusive options in these places for peak relaxation and maximum ease.

Let’s break it down a little more. …

First, Istanbul

This beautiful city, which straddles two continents, is a great place to wander, shop, and, yes, eat. A lot. (You might want to think about taking a food tour.) Most of the city’s well-known sites, like the Aya Sofia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cisterns, and the Grand Bazar, are in the touristy quarter of Sultanahmet.

Turkey Family Holiday - Istanbul

However, we urge you to venture out of this neighborhood to visit places like the spice market, and make your way across the river to see the Galata Tower, the Dolmabahçe Palace, and to take a ride on the Taksim tram. (You will also find much more quality dining options outside of Sultanahmet.)

Taking a cruise on the Bosporus is also a nice way to explore the vista of Istanbul and learn some more about the city’s important monuments and bridges.

We have a complete guide to visiting Istanbul with kids here.

Cappadocia

Located on the eastern Anatolian plateau, Cappadocia’s dynamic and unique landscape is its primary draw. This is a place in Turkey that can be interesting to see year-round. It’s a crowd-pleaser in the sense that it appeals to nature lovers, history buffs, and adventurists.

Kids will most likely love the idea of sleeping in a cave and exploring all ancient hideaways and underground cities. While exceptionally hot, dry, and often overcrowded during the summer months, spring and fall are beautiful times for hiking and exploring the caves.

Turkey Family Holiday - Hot Air Balloons over Cappadocia

Taking the famous hot air balloon ride above Cappadocia is a must and it’s best to do so between May and June or during September and October. This is all weather dependent, of course. And if this activity is really not for you it’s still quite a sight to see all the balloons floating over the horizon in the early morning.

During winter Cappadocia’s landscape is enchanting and beautiful when it’s covered in snow. It is still possible to visit the cave monasteries and underground cave cities during this time. Erciyes Ski Resort in Kayseri is also nearby. Plus, you can also cosy by the fire in your cave hotel.

The Coasts

Turkey has beautiful beaches along both its Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Many of these popular locations also have charming seaside towns to explore, good restaurants, and nearby historic sights to visit. Bigger tourist spots also have all-inclusive options.  

Here’s a little bit of an introduction to some of the major ones:

The Aegean Coast

Bodrum

A population destination, Bodrum is a great place for a Turkey holiday for families. Here, there are high-end resorts and local hotels in the surrounding villages. Centred around the castle of St. Peter, Bodrum is compiled of pretty blue and white houses along the sea.

Turkey Family Holiday - Bodrum

It makes for a charming, relaxing place to visit. The city boasts quality restaurants, open-air vegetable markets, watersports (yes, for kids, too), and day cruises. You can even do a day trip from here to the Greek island of Kos.

Izmir & Çeşme

Izmir is a larger coastal city known for its openness and laid-back student vibe. Çeşme is about an hour from Izmir and it’s a place for those who wish to get a closer look at daily life along the coast and have a more low-key holiday.

It boasts beautiful beaches, many of which are shallow and good for little ones. Ayayorgi Bay has some private beach clubs that cater to children. There’s also the Çeşme Castle which is fun to explore and often hosts festivals. 

Izmir is also about a one-hour drive, and Çeşme is about a two-hour drive from the ruins at Ephesus, a fantastic city of extensive and impressive site of Greek and Roman ruins well worth visiting.

Turkey Family Holiday - Epheus

The Mediterranean Coast

Fethiye

Farther south along the coast, Fethiye is a beach holiday option for those who love nature and outdoor adventure. Here you will find yoga, paragliding, and hiking, in addition to swimming and watersports.

Places like Ölüdeniz, the “blue lagoon” beach, is a reserve that is shallow on one side, making it good for small children. Families can also take a day trip along the coves and beaches on the Dragon Boat, which looks like an old pirate ship.

Turkey Family Holiday - Kayakoy Village

Nearby, you can take excursions to the frozen-in-time Kayaköy Village, also known as Rock Village, of stone houses that were abandoned during the population exchange in 1923 following the Greco-Turkish war. It offers some great views as well.

Or visit Saklikent National Park, where you can spend a day doing a tour of Saklikent Canyon and the ancient Lycian city of Tlos, which features a large stadium for 3,500 people, and Roman baths, temples, tombs, and a 19th-century Ottoman citadel.

Antalya

Antalya is one of the most popular destinations on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, aka the “Turquoise Riviera,” and one of the best places to visit in Turkey for families. Its extensive and historical Roman old city of Kaleiçi along the harbour is fun to explore.

Turkey Family Holiday - Kusunlu Waterfalls Anatalya

There are also many options for all-inclusive resorts, nice beaches with watersport options, and good restaurants to choose from. For nature lovers, the Kurşunlu Waterfall National Park is nearby, and for history, you could see Hadrian’s Gate for a close look at Roman architecture.

Black Sea Coast

To venture east for something a bit off of the tourist trail, Turkey’s Black Sea coast is a nice place to explore, especially if you’re looking for a quieter holiday. The coast has a nice stretch of beaches, as well as seaside harbour towns and villages such as Amasra.

Turkey Family Holiday - Kackar Mountains

Toward the east, there are options for hiking and camping in the Kaçkar Mountains. The village of Uzungöl sits along a lake in the middle of the mountains and is a good jumping-off point for hiking the lush green mountains and forests. There are also many historical points of interest here, such as the Sumela Monastery, which is built into a cliff face.

Kartalkaya – A ski resort located in the Koroglu Mountains.

Pamukkale – Located in southwest Turkey, Pamukkale is famous for its unique mineral-rich thermal pools. The ancient ruins of Hierapolis are adjacent.

Bursa – A city near the Sea of Marmara with lots of green space and many historical Ottoman sites. It can be a day trip from Istanbul.

Kaş – A Mediterranean seaside town great for scuba diving and snorkelling, with a nearby ancient city that is half-sunken under the sea.

Alanya – Another Mediterranean seaside town with some historical sites, including a castle from the Third Century BC.

Marmaris – A pretty seaside resort town on the Aegean.

Ankara – The capital of the country and a place to learn all about the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Turkey Family Holiday - Ankara

How to travel around Turkey

Turkey is big and if you want to visit more than one place, especially in a short amount of time, you will most likely want to fly between locations.

The good news is that flights within Turkey can be inexpensive and thus an expedient way to get around the country. Turkish Airlines has a domestic subsidiary called Anadolou Jet, and Pegasus and Atlas Air are some low-cost domestic carriers.

It’s important to remember that Istanbul, which is a major transport hub, has two airports, Istanbul Airport (IST) on the European side of the city, which replaced the Istanbul Atatürk Airport (also IST) in 2018, and Sabhia Gokcen Airport (SAW) on the Asian side of the city.

Airports other than Istanbul’s tend to be a bit far from cities and there may not always be public transport to get to the centre of town so you will most likely have to plan on taking taxis or arranging airport transfers.

Coach buses are also a very common and relatively comfortable form of transport in Turkey as they are widely available in nearly every major city and between different towns. They can be a good, inexpensive travel option. Turkey also has its own rail system.

Driving in Turkey is also possible, especially if you and your family want to explore some of the less touristy places like the Black Sea coastline and have some more autonomy.

Just remember that when it comes to travelling in and around Turkey, prepare yourself that it might take longer to get around the country than you’d expect due to traffic, etc., so remember to be flexible and have some patience.

Taking a package holiday to Turkey vs self-guided?

Turkey is a place where you can easily plan your own self-guided, independent holiday with the added day trip tours based on what you’re interested in doing. (Get Your Guide is a good resource for planning day tours.)

If you are looking for some serious downtime on the coast, you’ll find lots of all-inclusive resort options, too.

Turkey Family Holiday - Turkish rivieria resort coastline for package holidays

As mentioned above, it’s also a country that is relatively affordable and easy to travel around considering its size. That said, you can definitely arrange a tour of several spots around the country through a travel advisor or tour company and do something more organized.

Türkiye – Know Before You Go

Visa and entry information for Turkey

Check if you need a visa to enter Turkey before you travel. The good news is that for many countries, you can easily apply for a three-month e-Visa online before you go, which has single and multiple entries, depending on the visitor’s nationality.

It can take 24 hours to process and, once approved, is emailed to you directly.

Visa can also be purchased at the airport in Istanbul, but for a higher fee.

Turkey Family Holiday -Passport and turkish lira

Safety in Turkey

Over the past decade, there have been a few incidents that have cast global attention on the security environment of Turkey and which have limited travel and entry into the county—an attack on an Istanbul nightclub in 2017 and a suicide bombing near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul in 2016, both perpetrated by IS/Daesh, for example.

Also, as a result of the conflict in neighbouring Syria and tensions between the government and separatist groups like PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), it’s generally advisable to steer clear of the east and southeast regions of the country, including the vicinity of the Syrian border and surrounding provinces, including  Sirnak, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Kilis, Hatay and Diyarbakir.

Despite this, Turkey remains a generally safe place to visit. It’s best to avoid demonstrations and crowds, keep abreast of the advisories issued by your home country, and use your street smarts. Keep aware of your surroundings and protect your valuables, especially if you’re wandering around Istanbul or in crowded markets, for example.

Also, while most visitors drink bottled water, tap water is generally safe for brushing your teeth and cooking. 

Women may still attract some unwanted attention from men in certain places like Istanbul, both verbal and, at times, even physical. Just be firm and don’t be afraid to say “No!” to be left alone.

You can keep abreast of current government warnings about visiting Türkiye here:

What to wear in Turkey

While Turkey is officially a secular country (despite recent steps by the government that may seem counter to this), Turkey’s population is majority Muslim. Therefore in most major cities and tourist sites, you may see people wearing anything from Western-style dress to more conservative dress where women are fully covered.

When visiting mosques, women will need to cover their shoulders and arms, legs, and their hair. It is NOT a requirement for female tourists in Turkey to be covered elsewhere. You’ll find it a little more conservative in dress style than in Europe.

Read more about what to wear in Turkey.

Language

Turkish is the official language in Türkiye (pronounced tur-key-YAY).

Many people speak English in Istanbul, and in touristy places like Antalya you shouldn’t have a problem, but you might find fewer people speak English in other parts of the country.

In all travel practice, it’s good to try and learn at least a few basic Turkish phrases before travelling.

Pick up the Lonely Planet Turkish phrase book here before you go!

Turkish Currency

Turkish currency is the lira. It’s a good idea to carry extra cash with you as ATMs have been known to have issues. Credit Cards are widely accepted.

What to pack for Turkey

While you can usually find all the basics in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, the following are some items that we’d recommend you bring with you:

  • Any prescription medications you may need.
  • Ibuprofen, if needed, as it is usually difficult to find in pharmacies
  • A scarf or pashmina for visiting any mosques or religious sites
  • An umbrella, which, in addition to being used for rainy weather, can be helpful if you’re visiting any historic sites where they may be little shade.
  • Sturdy walking shoes
  • Guidebook

If you’re visiting in winter, be sure to pack clothes for cold weather and rain. And even if you’re travelling to Turkey during spring or fall, it’s a good idea to bring a pullover or an extra layer in case it gets cool.

You may encounter squat toilets while travelling around. It’s a good idea to carry toilet paper with you as some public facilities may not have it.

You can find our complete packing printable list for families visiting Turkey here.


More on Visiting Turkey with Kids

We have a great selection of articles to help you plan your dream trip to Turkey with your family.

We’d recommend starting with our Guide to Turkiye with kids then for diving into more of the detail, things to do, and how to plan your days we also recommend you check out:

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