Nature, culture, history, gastronomy … the truth is that Turkey has all the ingredients to make a country the perfect destination for all kinds of travelers. Most visitors limit their stay to Istanbul or the beach resorts in the Aegean or Mediterranean coast, but it would be a pity to miss out on the natural scenery that dominates other parts of this huge country. Destinations like Cappadocia or Pamukkale are well known to most visitors, but relatively few venture into the landscapes of the Black Sea region or Eastern Turkey. If you’re already about to make your way over on flights to Turkey and ready to explore the lesser-known side of the country, read through the handpicked destinations listed below. They’re a mixture of the popular and of gems you can beat the hordes to.

Here are some of the best natural marvels in Turkey;

Cappadocia

Cappadocia balloons

The eerie landscapes of Cappadocia have fascinated travelers for centuries. This region is one of Turkey’s most visited areas, but its beauty makes it a port of call that you’d regret not making a stop at. Millions of years of exposure to the elements have shaped Cappadocia’s landscapes into something seemingly out of this world. Whether seen from a hot air balloon or from the ground, Cappadocia’s singular rock formations will make you feel as if you had just landed in a different planet.

The towns of Nevsehir and Goreme are the gateways to the region, but it pays to venture a little further and explore villages like Uchisar, Avanos, or Ibrahimpaşa. For a change of scenery, head to the beautiful Ilhara canyon, where the greenery contrasts with Cappadocia’s earthy, otherworldly tones.

Pamukkale

Pamukkale Turkey

If Mother Nature was an artist, it would have surely won many awards for creating Pamukkale. This region is covered in cotton-like white minerals that truly pay homage to its name, as Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish. Dozens of cascading hot springs form natural bathing pools, creating a surreal landscape that will make an impression on even the most seasoned travelers. Late summer is the best time to visit this area.

Yedigoller National Park

Yedigoller national park Turkey

Tucked away in the little visited Black Sea region, Yedigoller National Park is a remarkable natural paradise. Yedigoller (which means “Seven Lakes” in Turkish) is every bit as impressive as the mountain landscapes of places like Western Canada or the Alps, but to appreciate the beauty at its best you should visit during the late summer of the spring, when the leaves turn vivid red, orange, and yellow tones. The park is accessible from Bolu, an interesting city known for its hearty cuisine, cool architecture, and hot springs.

Güzelçamlı National Park

Güzelçamlı National Park

Located in Turkey’s Aegean coast and covering nearly 70,000 acres on the Dilek peninsula, Güzelçamlı National Park (also known as Milli Park) is a compulsory stop for nature lovers who want to experience the best of western Turkey. It’s hard to believe that this oasis of peace and quiet is only 15 miles away from Kusadasi, one of the busiest resorts in this part of Turkey. Güzelçamlı is the ideal spot to spend a day hiking, taking pictures, sunbathing in the beaches of the park, exploring gorges and canyons, or enjoying panoramic views over the peninsula and beyond.

To be in Turkey is to be in a captivating country. You can explore the tourist sights and also make the most of the time to see the less touristic ones before the throngs of holidaymakers discover it.

Images by brewbooks, Esther Lee, Serhan Sevim and Nikolay Georgiev used under creative commons license.