A fascinating country with diverse cultural influences from the ancient and modern worlds, Turkey straddles two continents. This gateway between East and West has a rich history, encompassing Roman architecture, Byzantine art and Ottoman palaces, and it also boasts astounding natural beauty, such as Bodrum’s idyllic coastline.
When to visit
The climate varies from region to region, and from coast to coast. On the whole, spring (April to May) and autumn (September to mid-November) are the best times to visit when temperatures are more pleasant and the skies are clear.
Turkey is a cultural treasure trove and full of awe-inspiring landscapes, from the ancient archaeological site of Ephesus to Bodrum’s idyllic coastline.
- Visit Cappadocia’s lunar landscape of awe-inspiring rock formations, rock cones, fairy chimneys and cave entrances that reveal subterranean cities.
- From Bodrum, embark on a relaxing cruise along the rugged coastline of the Aegean and Mediterranean in a traditional sail boat, or gulet.
- The archaeological site of Ephesus, dating back to the 11th century BC, reveals the remains of this once-wealthy city.
- The epic Lycian Way is a 540-kilometre 29-day trek. Less serious walkers can opt to do shorter hikes along the trail, which runs parallel to the Turquoise Coast.
Areas of Turkey
Turks first lived in Central Asia around 2000BC. By the early 11th century, they started to settle in Anatolia eventually establishing the Anatolian Seljuk State (1080-1308), or Konya Sultanate. The Ottoman Empire (1299–1923) rose to prominence, ruling over a vast territory on three continents. But from the 16th century, the superiority of the Ottomans was overtaken by Europe, which had developed rapidly with the conquest of new territories and the Industrial Revolution. The Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, forced to sign the Mondros Armistice in October, 1918 whereby its former territories were occupied by Britain, France, Russia, and Greece. A national resistance and liberation movement emerged under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), who mobilized Anatolia in a quest for independence. The Turkish National Liberation War lasted 1919-1922, with the Turks’ victory sealed with the signing of the Lausanne Peace Treaty in 1923 and The Republic of Turkey proclaimed on October 29 the same year.
Attractions of Turkey
The archaeological site of ancient Ephesus, dating back to the 11th century BC, is the remains of a once-wealthy city, filled with terraced houses, fountains and decorative mosaic floors that are testament to its former glory. The Temple of Artemis, which used to house numerous art works, dates back to 550 BC and is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ephesus is located near the historical city of Selcuk, near Kusadasi, in Izmir district.
A cruise on the Bosphorus is one of the best ways to appreciate Istanbul’s magnificent skyline. Landmarks, like the Dolmabahce and Ciragan palaces and Ortakoy Mosque, are perched right on the water’s edge along with waterfront mansions, called yalis – the summer homes of the Ottoman elite. Boats on the Bosphorus pass beneath two suspension bridges, both of which connect Asia and Europe.
Cappadocia in Central Anatolia is a fairytale landscape of incredible volcanic rock formations and valleys shaped and eroded by the elements, known as the ‘fairy chimneys’. There are also ancient cave churches and monasteries, and entire underground cities to explore. At sunrise, a hot-air balloon ride is the best way to appreciate this unusual, lunar-like landscape from above.
Turkey is famous for its whirling dervishes, a sect of Sufi mystics who believe that ritual spinning in circles is a form of active meditation that will bring them closer to God. Their trance-like spinning or whirling is an integral part of sema, a symbolic religious ceremony that includes recitation from the Koran and music. Southwest of Cappadocia is Konya, home to the tomb of Rumi – the 13th-century founder of the whirling dervishes – and to a fascinating museum dedicated to him. The whirling dervishes are the main attraction at a festival commemorating Rumi in Konya each December.
The hammam, or public bathhouse or steam room, was central to traditional Turkish life before the advent of modern plumbing. Centuries-old marble hammams are still in use all over Turkey, where you can choose to relax in the steam room or be attended to by a hammam assistant who scrubs the body before administering a vigorous massage.
Nothing beats a ‘blue cruise’ aboard a gulet, a traditional wooden fishing boat, along Turkey’s glittering Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. The pleasures of such a holiday are simple, such as eating delicious freshly caught seafood on board, swimming in remote coves, visiting deserted beaches, and stopping off in tiny villages to visit historical ruins or the local market. The coast is also littered with hidden underwater ruins dating as far back as 2000BC.
Take Turkish tea or coffee
Wherever you go in Turkey, a glass of cay, or tea, will be offered before you’ve even had a chance to sit down. Turks are one of the highest consumers of tea per capita in the world. Turkish coffee is enjoyed more as a digestive after meals or on special occasions. Thick, cloudy and strong, the unfiltered coffee is made with finely ground coffee beans and is not for the faint hearted.