Turkiye Is The Number One Leisure Destination In The Middle East – Here’s Why Travelers Love It


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Turkiye is becoming trendier by the minute now that international travel has resumed and its borders are open restriction-free, so much so that it’s been now named the number one leisure destination in the Middle East, surpassing tourism hotspots like the UAE and Qatar.

Galata Tower Overlooking The Golden Horn And The Historical Peninsula In Istanbul, Turkiye, Eastern Europe, Western Asia

According to India-based travel technology firm Rategain, international arrivals in the Middle East will be 15 percent higher during summer 2023 than the peak year of 2019. Surprisingly, Turkiye is the driving force behind this recovery, not the Persian Gulf with its futuristic skyscrapers.

But how did Turkiye get here, and why is a growing number of travelers choosing to spend their vacations there? We may have the answer:

Turkiye Has A Vast Cultural Wealth

Aerial View Of Hagia Sophia, A Byzantine Cathedral Turned Mosque In Sultanahmet Square, In The Historical Peninsula Of Istanbul, Eastern Europe, Western Asia

A cross-continental giant straddling both Europe and the Anatolian Peninsula, the Westernmost portion of Asia, enriched by millennia upon millennia of History, and at the meeting point of civilizations, Turkiye is a one-of-a-kind nation.

It is home to some of the most exciting city breaks out there, including Istanbul, where world-renowned sights, such as the Hagia Sophia, an Ancient Roman cathedral-turned-mosque, the Basilica Cistern, the Galata Tower, and Suleymaniye Mosque are all located.

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Basilica Cistern In Istanbul, Eastern Europe, Western Asia

On the Aegean Coast of Turkiye, tourists will find fast-growing resort zones, from the bustling metropolis that is Izmir, best known for its landmark Ottoman-era clock, to the smaller, more exclusive beach destination of Bodrum, where a medieval castle and a picturesque Old Town await them.

All along the coast, from the upper Aegean to the East Mediterranean, where the trendy Antalya sits, there are numerous historical ruins, areas of outstanding natural beauty, and virgin-sand beaches to be explored.

The Facade Of The Library Of Celsus In The Ancient City Of Ephesus, Near The Town Of Selcuk In Turkiye, Eastern Europe, Western Asia

Whether it’s the ruins of a biblical Ephesus, where the Gospel of John was reportedly written, the flowing thermal springs that cascade down the calcium steps of Pamukkale, or the turquoise waters of Fethiye, the Turkish coast is a mix of Ancient World and outstanding natural beauty.

The Black Sea region is also not to be overlooked, boasting an overdevelopment-free coast dotted with quaint cobblestone villages and lesser-known swimming spots, like the scenic Sinop, a rich Greco-Roman heritage, and even mountain retreats and alpine peaks (think Trabzon).

Uzungol Village In Trabzon, Black Sea Region Of Turkey, Western Asia

Inland, the fairy chimneys, a swarm of hot air balloons, and underground cities of Cappadocia dominate the landscape, while Eastern Turkiye, close to the borders with Georgia and Armenia, is known for its traditionalism and indigenous Anatolian culture.

As you can see, there is a lot to do and see in Turkiye to inspire not only one, but several visits, but its vast cultural wealth is not the only reason why tourists love it.

Turkiye Remains Affordable Compared To Most Of The Middle East

Boats Lining The Marina In A Small Seaside Town On The Aegean Coast Of Turkey, Eastern Europe, Western Asia

Despite the soaring inflation and rising prices of recent years, Turkiye is still incredibly affordable by both Western and Middle Eastern standards.

The already-cited Bodrum has been named the third cheapest Mediterranean destination this year, while the financial hub that is Ankara, Turkiye’s seriously underrated capital city, has been crowned the most affordable city for digital nomads worldwide.

As the country’s cultural capital and leading destination, Istanbul is easily one of Turkiye’s most expensive cities.

Hierapolis ancient city Pamukkale Turkey, young woman with hat watching sunset by the ruins Unesco copy

Even then, it may be 57.1% less expensive than New York, if data shared by Numbeo is to be considered, with meals at inexpensive restaurants averaging only USD $7.17, according to Numbeo contributors.

Turkiye is a bargain, and it doesn’t surprise us it’s on track to become one of the busiest summer destinations in the post-pandemic scene.

Turkiye Outpaces All Middle Eastern Destinations In Recovery Trends

Clock Tower In Antalya, Turkiye, East Mediterranean

As confirmed by Rategain, the Middle East (led by Turkiye) is outpacing all travel markets in recovery rates for the April-June quarter, indicating a strong summer season ahead. More specifically, the firm attributes Turkiye’s success to its friendliness and open border policy.

Unlike the Western World, it has not enacted barriers for Russian visitors, and this year, the number of arrivals from Russia jumped by more than 100 percent compared to 2022. They are not the only ones favoring budget-friendly Turkey over an overpriced Europe:

Hot air balloons in Cappadocia Turkey

Americans and Brits are flying to the country in droves, with American arrivals up a whopping 61% in the post-crisis era. Thanks to the wider availability of transcontinental flights linking the U.S. and Turkiye, those numbers are set to climb even further.

Currently, there are three daily nonstop flights on average connecting New York’s JFK, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. to Istanbul, while at least four flights depart weekly from Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston – and more keep getting added.

istanbul airport

Turkiye’s figures for the current quarter sit 40 to 50 percent above last year’s, as it is set to surpass the already historical year of 2022 when up to 44.5 million tourists were registered. Rategain reiterates the surge in demand for leisure travel is driven by travelers from the U.S. and Europe.

20 to 30 percent of searches for overnight stays in the broader Middle East are conducted by U.S. travelers, as confirmed by the report.

Other than Turkey, other Middle Eastern destinations* trending right now are Egypt, on the Maghreb subdivision of North Africa, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

*As defined by the report. It is worth noting Middle East is not a continent but a geopolitical term often used in reference to countries located in the Westernmost part of Asia, which would then include the State of Israel, or in some instances, the Turkic-Arab World.

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