The Ultimate Guidebook Buyers Guide
While there are hundreds of guidebooks to choose from here are our top picks for all things Turkey. Some of these are general while others are pretty niche so take a look through the list and see what fits with your interests, style, previous experience, and travel plans.
Below each review is the title of the book and its ISBN which you can copy and paste into any online book seller to make finding these particular books easier.
Lonely Planet Turkey
The Lonely Planet guides, while certainly not the only guides available, seem to be the gold standard and are the ones that I’ve used the most in Turkey and around the world. Lonely Planet guides are great for loads of general information about everything a first or second time visitor could want. If you’re looking to explore Turkey a bit deeper then these books can fall a bit short. However, the phrasebook, explanations of Turkish History, cultural explanations, travel itineraries, maps, and countless other tips still make this a great travel companion for anyone.
While new editions come out constantly, most of the information stays accurate enough for quite some time so don’t feel like you have to buy the latest version. The information that changes quickly can change so fast that by the time the updated edition is published the information has changed again. Hotels open and close, restaurants change menus, prices change constantly, but after 3000 years, a historical site doesn’t need too many regular updates.
Lonely Planet Turkey 9781786572356
Lonely Planet Turkish Phrasebook & Dictionary
This phrasebook is a good tool but, like all phrasebooks, it has some major limitations. The first is that a book cannot teach you to read what the Turkish says. The book is an English-based guide so it’s using the English alphabet and cannot represent all the Turkish sounds properly. Some of the pronunciation guides are WAY off. Though, to be fair, there’s really no way around this without audio recordings to go with it. The second problem with any phrasebook is that you being able to ask a question isn’t that helpful if you can’t understand the answer.
That being said, it’s a whole lot better than having no language at all. If your attempt at reciting a phrase is met with blank stares you can always just point at the Turkish in the book.
Along with being a phrasebook this little guide also explains aspects of Turkish life and culture.
Lonely Planet Turkish Phrasebook & Dictionary 978-1-74321-195-3
Istanbul Travel Guides
Istanbul is a massive city with endless depths of history, culture, art, and food waiting to be experienced. If you’re only visiting Istanbul I would recommend you get an Istanbul specific guidebook.
While I don’t own any of the books below I’ve leafed through them and read a number of reviews. While the Lonely Planet guidebooks seem to be pretty much disliked across the board, it appears to be a close race between Rick Steves’ Istanbul and DK Eyewitness for most popular Istanbul Guidebook. As I don’t own anyone of these (yet) I’m not going to be overly partial and I’ll leave the info for all three below.
DK Eyewitness Travel Istanbul 9781465440631
Rick Steves’ Istanbul 9781631213052
Lonely Planet Istanbul City Travel Guide 9781741794021
This is one book that really blew me away. Even though I have been researching places to visit in Turkey for a long time now, almost everything I read in this book was new to me. This is for the traveller to Istanbul who has already seen the Top 10 and some of the other main sights and wants to dig really deep into some history-soaked back alleys, a few mysterious towers, and the meaning-filled details that are hidden all over the amazing city that is Istanbul. From legends of flying coffins, a practical joke that turned into a tomb to a non-existent saint, to a tomb holding a headless body that could be the remains of Vlad the Impaler (aka Count Dracula), this is one book that we’ve personally enjoyed a lot!
Secret Istanbul 978-2-36195-102-3
Ankara City Guide
Ankara doesn’t generally receive a lot of love. But this guide helps make up for the poor treatment that Ankara normally receives. Ankara is really a great city to explore Turkey from and, as this book shows, is worth visiting for its own sake. This book may just be the only resource that can make a trip to Ankara properly interesting. If you’re going to be travelling to or through Ankara then this is a great tool to make sure you get the most out of your stay.
Ankara City Guide 978-605-5069-31-5
Lycian Way (and other trail guides for Turkey)
The Lycian Way is an amazing trail. The natural beauty of the Mediterranean, pine forests, and mountains, combined with endless ruins and even a hillside where fire has been seeping out of the rocks for thousands of years makes it one of a kind. The best way to enjoy this trail is by having read the guidebook first. The maps, the detailed information about every stage of the route, and the invaluable tips about how to hike and camp in Turkey really make this book a must-have.
Apart from this one guidebook there are guides for a number of other trails in the country that we really recommend you buy before hiking any of these other amazing trails.
The Lycian Way 9789757638872
The Evliya Çelebi Trail 9780953921898
The St. Paul Trail 9780957154711
The Kaçkar: Hiking in Turkey’s Black Sea Mountains 9780957154704
Hittite Trekking Routes 9789757638728
Boyut produces a wide variety of materials but what I especially love from them are their regional and themed guidebooks. Unfortunately they can be very difficult to find from outside of the country. While Boyut still makes guidebooks very few of the new ones are in English. If you’re into a particular part of Turkey and want to get a better idea of what there is to see there than what a general guidebook like Lonely Planet will give you, I would definitely recommend trying to find a copy of the following titles, all of which are in Turkish and English in the same volume:
East of Turkey (Türkiye’nin Doğusu) 978-975-521-802-1
Black Sea: A Travellers Handbook for Northern Turkey (Karadeniz: Meraklısıs için Gezi Rehberi) 957-521-378-3
The Undiscovered Places of Turkey (Herkesin Bilmediğin Olağanüstü Yerler) 975521377-5
Homer Kitabevi Archeological Guides
This series of in-depth guidebooks is written by actual archaeologists and approaches the sites with incredibly detailed information that will be helpful for academic and enthusiast alike. These guides give background to the details, their meaning, and often, even how archaeologists came to their conclusions. If you’re not into archaeology in the slightest then this probably isn’t for you, but if you are, then these books will really bring a place to life and allow you to feel the excitement of discovery!
If you’re planning on visiting Adıyaman or Mount Nemrut, the Commagene book from this series is an absolute must-have!
Here’s a few of the many titles in this series:
Commagene: The Land of Gods Between the Taurus and the Euphrates 978-9944-483-35-3
Arykanda: A Place Near the High Rocks 975-8293-92-3
Assos: Living in the Rocks 9789944483308
Christian Origins in Ephesus and Asia Minor
For many Christians Turkey’s main claim to fame is that it is the home of the first Christians. It’s where many of the first churches were established and even where the word “Christian” was first used. If the history of the early Church interests you at all then this is a good place to start. While this book only covers early Church history in western Turkey it is quite in-depth and does a thorough job at connecting the various cities that were mentioned in the Bible to their place in the country itself, as well as a general outline of their histories.
Christian Origins in Ephesus and Asia Minor 978-605-396-333-2
Hattusha Guide: A Day in the Hittite Capital
This guide to Hattusha is an incredibly valuable tool that will make your visit so much more rewarding. Without it one set of foundations looks much like the next and it’s really easy to miss the amazing details that could be hiding just around the corner. The Hattusha ruins are also truly massive so it’s quite helpful to know where to go next rather than wandering all day and still missing some of the best sights. This guidebook is also fairly in-depth and takes a more archaeological approach showing a great deal of the finds from different parts around the city as well as reconstructions of various buildings and ornate gateways. Translation is given for some of the various hieroglyph and cuneiform inscriptions and theories about the numerous carved figures are also explained.
Hattusha Guide: A Day in the Hittite Capital 978-605-5607-58-6
Turabdin: Living Cultural Heritage
This isn’t really a guide book in the normal sense. It’s huge, heavy, and in three languages (German, English, and Turkish). However, it is a fantastic overview of the homeland of the Syriac Orthodox community and their many churches and monasteries along the Western side of the Tigris river. The Syriac Orthodox community has been living here practicing their traditions and worshipping in churches built in the 3rd century. A visit to this area is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to see ancient traditions living on, often in the rubble of the past. This book lists and describes all the main sights, namely the churches, villages, monasteries, and ruins in the area. While you probably won’t want to take this massive book with you on your travels it’s a fantastic resource for planning a trip.
If you don’t want to use it to plan your trip but would still like to purchase it, you can find it for sale at some of the larger monasteries such as Mor Gabriel or Deyrulzafaran. Also, when you search this book to buy online it will usually come up with a German title, but don’t worry, it’s three languages in one volume.
Turabdin: Living Cultural Heritage: 3-9501039-0-2
Have any other suggestions? Make sure to let us know what you think!