If you’re reading this, then you’re probably a smart traveler who wants to make sure they stay safe (you rock!). And, while the majority of people travel to Turkey and have the most wonderful and trouble-free time, there are some dangerous places you really want to avoid.
Turkey has long been a popular tourist destination. Like other places frequented by tourists, petty crimes DO happen, but, this isn’t the most dangerous crime to worry about. Muggings and robberies are rare, but the large wealth gap and high levels of poverty mean that they can happen, even in touristy areas.
Because of the high political tension in the country, plus Turkey’s proximity to the border of Syria, there is a relatively high risk of terrorism. There are frequent attacks around the country, a lot of which have been linked to Kurdish separatists from the southeast.
We’re going to take a look at 9 dangerous places in Turkey you should definitely stay away from. In no particular order, here they are…
The Turkey-Syria Border
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all travel to areas within 10 km (6 miles) of the Turkey-Syria border. It is probably THE most dangerous place in Turkey.
Since 1978, there have been numerous clashes between Kurdish groups and Turkish security forces in the provinces that border Syria and Iraq. At least 50,000 people have died, including civilians.
The conflict is ongoing even today, causing a heightened risk of terrorism along the border from terrorist groups. These attacks include suicide bombings, kidnappings, shootings, illegal roadblocks, and car ambushes. In the past, rockets have even been fired from both Iraq and Syria into Turkish territory. Being injured (or worse) due to being caught up in an armed conflict or civil unrest is also a possibility.
Tensions remain high between the Turkish and Syrian governments. In October 2021, the Turkish Foreign Minister said that Turkey would “do what is necessary for its security” following what it says is a rise in cross-border attacks. These attacks are thought to have been carried out by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Diyarbakir City And Province
Although some travelers visit Diyarbakir City and have a good time, the FDCO advises against all but essential travel to the city and surrounding province. If you do decide to go, some travelers have recounted that travel insurance companies are unwilling to cover anything other than lost luggage or sickness (but you should double-check this with your own provider!).
The last major attack in the city was in November 2016 when a car bomb exploded killing one person and injuring 30 others. The group believed to be responsible was the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), militants who have waged a three-decade insurgency in the region.
In September 2019, there was a terror attack in Diyarbakir province that left seven civilians dead and 10 wounded. An improvised explosive had been placed on the road and exploded as a vehicle carrying local villagers was passing by. This was the latest in a series of attacks in the area that were linked to the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) which has strong ties to the PKK.
The situation remains tense, and up until last year, there was an anti-PKK sit-in protest outside the HDP offices in Diyarbakir City.
Tunceli Province is in Eastern Turkey, which remains one of the least politically stable regions in the country. Many parts of the east are effectively off-limits due to military operations and they remain some of the most dangerous places in Turkey.
Although Tunceli Province has recently become an up-and-coming tourist destination, the FDCO still advises against all but essential travel to the area.
The last major incident was in 2016 when a PKK bomb attack targeting a military vehicle killed three soldiers. No civilians were killed or injured.
Like most of eastern and southeastern Turkey, the political environment remains tense. In October 2019, government officials implemented a 30-day ban on protesting in the province fearing terrorist sympathizers, or more specifically, the PKK.
Hakkari Province in southeastern Turkey is another one where the FDCO advises against all but essential travel (don’t panic, there are a lot of amazing places in Turkey you can go!).
If you do decide to go, then we advise against wandering around Hakkari city or the countryside (no matter how interesting it may seem) as you could find yourself accidentally entering a military zone. In 2018, the Turkish government declared 30 “Special Security Zones” in Hakkari city and province. Entrance into these zones without permission is strictly prohibited.
Before this, there were several clashes between militants and military officials, the last one being in 2016. PKK rebels in the mountainous areas of Daglica detonated roadside explosives targeting a military vehicle. Two soldiers were killed and a third was wounded. At the same time in another area, 20 PKK soldiers were killed in a two-day military operation by Turkish forces.
Sirnak is a southeastern Turkish province in the Anatolia Region. A quick Google reveals the province is home to national parks and scenic mountains. BUT, this area is a big no-no for travel. The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to this region, and, being a part of southeastern Turkey, it is prone to high levels of terrorism and conflict.
Unlike the other dangerous places in Turkey we have just talked about, Sirnak Province has experienced conflict as recently as 2020.
In July 2020 the local government banned civilians from entering or leaving 22 areas of the province for three days. The ban was imposed to improve national security and promote public order and safety.
Not long after in September, the Turkish authorities announced the capture of five PKK militants who were crossing the border from Iraq. The authorities haven’t ruled out retaliatory attacks.
Kilis City And Province
Kilis Province in southern Turkey is another dangerous place to avoid. The FCDO advises against all but essential travel, but, we’re going to go a step further and say this place should be avoided at all costs.
As recently as March 2021, two rockets from Syria landed in Kilis Province. By some miracle they didn’t detonate, no one was hurt, and no property was damaged, but daaaamn, that’s some scary stuff. This isn’t the first time rocket strikes have targeted Kilis either, between January 2016 and May 2016, there were over 70 rocket strikes on the province by Islamic State.
The 2021 rockets were attributed to YPG/PKK as they came from territories held by those groups. There was immediate retaliation from Turkish forces, and tensions are still high.
Hatay Province is a southeastern province that shares a border with Syria. Once again, the FCDO advises against all but essential travel, making sure to give those areas 10km of the border a wide berth. Many roads leading to the Turkey-Syria border in Hatay can be closed without warning because of the conflict.
It is well-known that terrorist groups are trying to get a foothold in the province and there have been recent attacks. In October 2020, two PKK terrorists were caught by police due to suspicious activities. One of them detonated a bomb and the other was killed by Turkish security forces.
Only two weeks before, the PKK was responsible for setting fire to forests in the province as a way to further their agenda. What’s more, a day after the terrorist attacks, a forest in the south of the province was set on fire by suspected PKK members.
Mount Ararat is a snow-capped mountain in the extreme east of Turkey. It is actually a dormant volcano and it has two major volcanic peaks named Greater Ararat and Little Ararat. It is called a biblical mountain as it is depicted in the Book of Genesis to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark!
Sadly, since December 2020, Turkish authorities are no longer giving people permission to climb or enter the mountain due to safety and security reasons. It is now a military restricted zone. You shouldn’t make any attempt to enter this zone.
Cincin in the Turkish city of Ankara has got to make our list of the most dangerous places in Turkey. If you’re visiting Ankara, you’re going to want to make sure you steer clear of this neighborhood. It’s infamous in the city and is a well-known “no-cop zone” as even policemen want to avoid this area!
Day or night, tourists (and even locals) shouldn’t enter. It has been heavily associated with crime for over 70 years and it’s a hotbed for drug dealing, stolen goods, and some serious gang activity.
Locals are very distrusting of outsiders and will make it very clear that tourists are not welcome.