Top Attractions in Turkey
Turkey is a rapidly developing secular democracy with a population of nearly 70 million and is a candidate for membership of the European Union. It is the only country to straddle Europe and Asia, a fact that is reflected in its complex cultural make up. Asiatic Turkey, or Anatolia, constitutes the bulk of the country. It consists of a vast peninsula framed by four seas, the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean and the Mediterranean, each of which has its own distinctive character. Both in human and geographical terms, Turkey is a country of immense diversity. There are crowded cosmopolitan cities, such as Istanbul and Izmir, high plateau, forested mountains and Mediterranean beaches. The climate and ecology are equally varied, ranging from temperate rain forests on the eastern Black Sea Coast to semi-desert in the Southeast.
Turkey has more Classical ruins than any other country, but also boasts some of the world’s finest Islamic art and architecture. Whether your interests or those of your guests, extend to exploring archaeological sites, trekking, rafting, nightclubbing, or simply lazing on a beach, Turkey is for you. And you are assured of a warm welcome. Turkish hospitality is second to none and grows out of a long tradition. Much the same could be said of Turkish cuisine, to which Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans have all contributed. The results are as varied and enticing as the country itself. According to most experts, Turkish cuisine is the third most extensive cuisine in the world after Chinese and French. With so much on offer, there is no doubt that you will find something to suit your tastes and tempt your palate.
Turkey is 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean-Time.
are required for US and UK citizens, but can be easily purchased on arrival.
No special vaccinations necessary.
varies considerably from region to region. Istanbul has a temperate climate with summer temperatures in the low 80s (26-28 degrees Celsius) and in the mid-40s (4-6 degrees Celsius). The west and south coasts share a typical Mediterranean climate with summer temperatures in the high 80s (26-28 degrees Celsius) to low 90s (32-34 degrees Celsius) and winter temperatures averaging in the mid-50s (12-15 degrees Celsius). The high, central plateau is a little cooler, and humidity is low.
is the New Turkish lira (YTL). Recently reformed and stabilized, it is fully convertible, and can be obtained on arrival.
WEIGHTS & MEASURES
Turkey uses the metric system
is not a problem, since most of the people you are likely to encounter will speak English. Turkish is written in the Latin alphabet.
Electric power in Turkey is 220 volt, 50 cycle, but most four and five star hotel rooms have at least one 110-volt socket.
is generally excellent combining elements of Mediterranean & Near-Eastern cuisine. Vegetarian dishes are readily available.
There is no need to change your style of dress when visiting Turkey, but it is advisable to dress modestly in mosques.
Explore our Destinations in Turkey
Istanbul – Place to fall in love
For millennia, Istanbul represented the gateway to the East, a land coveted by would-be conquerors and kings. In the 21st century, the city’s charisma endures, sustained by the remnants of Greek and Roman palaces, opulent Byzantine cathedrals and undulating Ottoman domes, by the spectacularly scenic Bosphorus Straits and by world-class shopping and dining.
If there are two icons that symbolize the city, they are the Blue Mosque, named for its 20,000 richly hued Iznik tiles hand crafted by the empire’s best artisans, and the awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia, Justinian’s palatial ode to the Almighty. The juxtaposition of these two monuments at the epicenter of the Historic Peninsulais a living hallmark to the city’s collective inheritance, that introduces visitors to a city steeped in monumental Byzantine history and enduring Ottoman lore.
Vestiges of an empire lasting nearly 1,500 years form the foundations of the city. Grand churches like the Hagia Sophia and St. Savior in Chora safeguard remarkable gold-tiled mosaics depicting stories of saints and saviors and of Emperors and Empresses. Ancient ruins such as the Hippodrome, built by Septimus Severus and later enlarged by Constantine, stand proudly in public spaces around the city. Remnants can even be found beneath the city’s streets, with the Yerebatan Cistern, the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns underground, built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Indeed, at nearly every stride, one can stumble upon ancient fortress walls, Byzantine basilicas, celebrated shrines, Christian relics and peristyle courtyards.
The unparalleled might of the Ottoman Sultans rises in silhouette along the Tarihi Yarimada (Historic Peninsula), revealing a legacy of masterpieces fit for the capital of their sultandom. The iconic Topkapi Palace offers a window into the mystique of the Sultans and their harems in a vast complex of pavilions, gardens, towers, monumental gates and spectacular vistas, harboring treasures of gold and silver, of precious porcelain and gems including the notorious 85-karat Spoon-maker’s Diamond. The lavish, European-inspired palaces built in the latter centuries of the empire along the shores of the Bosphorus include the opulent Dolmabahçe Palace.
The empire’s fidelity to faith was honored through the construction of dozens of charitable works, from monumental mosques to hospitals, schools and soup kitchens. The richly adorned hamams of Çemberlitas, Süleymaniye and Haseki Hürrem Sultan stand as marble temples to personal hygiene, surpassed today solely by their quintessentially modern approach to self-indulgent spa treatments.
Ottoman commerce focused around a warren of 80 streets and craftsmen’s hans in the sprawling and spectacular Kapali Çarsi (Grand Bazaar), which today houses 4,000 merchants selling silken carpets, dazzling gemstones, lush fabrics and glittering treasures and trinkets to appeal to every desire. This rich past is preserved not only in the city’s buildings and cultural traditions, but also in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, The Museum of the Ancient Orient, and Museum of Islamic Art, which together house over one million pieces representing almost all the eras and civilizations in world history.
But while Istanbul’s heart lies in its past, the soul of Istanbul is aimed squarely in the future, propelling a renaissance that pervades nearly every corner of city life. Formerly derelict neighborhoods are now delightful and atmospheric places to visit. The cobbled Sogukçesme Street is lined with 19th century Ottoman row houses and sandwiched between the Hagia Sophia and the exterior courtyard walls of Topkapi Palace. Balat, formerly the home of Jewish, Greek and Armenian immigrants, is now a chic residential neighborhood with art galleries, churches and synagogues. And there’s Galata, a fashionably bohemian zone where the Medieval Galata Tower mingles with trendy boutiques. In preserved Roman cisterns, converted hamams and in renovated palaces, Istanbul has seized upon the trend of featuring its grand historic spaces as dramatic settings for performances of all kinds.
Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two continents, and this meeting point between Asia and Europe is joined by the city’s iconic Bosphorus Bridge. While the physical bridge was completed in 1973, Istanbul itself has been bridging the cultures of East and West for centuries. On both sides of the Bosphorus Strait are a growing number of cutting edge art galleries and cultural centers that look to the future through Turkish artists’ unique lens on the past. View establish artists at the Istanbul Modern, absorb the artistry of 18th and 19th century Ottoman portraiture, screen an independent film at the Pera Museum or be inspired by Istanbul’s world-class exhibition spaces doubling as incubators of contemporary art.
Yet it’s not only the art scene that is undergoing a revival of sorts. The lilting sound of the Turkish heartland can be heard in the back streets of Taksim, while the spiritual dance of the Whirling Dervishes or the fearsome percussion of the Ottoman Mehter Band seduce the general public in venues all over town. Arched cells of cloistered medreses now echo with the sound of artisans reviving the Islamic arts of calligraphy, ebru and painting in miniature. And in the past few years, celebrity chefs have descended upon Istanbul to lead the way in establishing the city as a uniquely Turkish culinary capital featuring traditional and creative delicacies rivaling those found in other culinary capitals. With dining rooms fronting the twinkling lights of the Bosphorus, a holiday meal couldn’t get any more romantic.
If shopping is the main event, you need look no further than the posh thoroughfares of Nisantasi, and Bagdat Avenue, the exclusive boutiques of Kanyon, Istinye Park, and Trump Tower, the purveyors of Turkish delicacies at the Misir Çarsisi (Egyptian Spice Bazaar) and the trinkets, baubles and souvenirs found all over the city.
If you’re looking for something completely different yet utterly familiar, a placed that is exotic yet inviting, Istanbul both maintains a veil of mystery and projects a life force that together, comprises a unique, 21st century cornucopia of ancient, modern, vibrant, serene, intimate, cosmopolitan and delicious treasures.
Cappadocia – A natural wonderland
To venture into Cappadocia is to find oneself suspended in time, surrounded by the enduring artifacts of geography and history. It is this vast and captivating expanse of cliffs, valleys and flatlands where wind, rain and the scalpels of millions of cave dwellers – from prehistory to the present day – carved their stories into the soft volcanic tufa.
Visitors are increasingly enticed by the poetic landscape of Cappadocia, by its fascinating fairy chimneys, its romantic cave hotels, its rose-hued valleys and by the enduring, hearty and hospitable spirit of the region’s inhabitants.
Hollowed out fairy chimneys and cliffs feature as monastic dwellings in Pasabag, inspiration for the imagination in Devrent Valley, a UNESCO Heritage open air museum in Göreme and captivating hotel suites in the region. The larger chimneys, castles actually, in the villages of Ürgüp, Üçhisar and Ortahisar, invite the physically sound to scale the steep stones up to places where the ancients stood sentinel against outside attacks.
In the valleys of Göreme, Mustafapasa and Ihlara, visitors meander through rose hued valleys to see ancient chapels adorned with colorful frescoes depicting Christ, the Virgin Mary and saints.
Vast multi-layered, underground fortress-cities complete with kitchens, stables, wine presses and arched chapels tell the story of survival by communities under siege over the centuies, hidden beneath the present-day villages of Kaymakli, Derinkuyu and Maziköy.
The region is also known for its superb artisans including pottery craftsmen in Avanos, rugmakers in Ürgüp and Avanos, and wines have been made in the region for thousands of years.
Visitors who enjoy active, outdoor vacations will also enjoy the natural wonders and fun of Cappadocia. Glide over captivating landscapes in a fleet of hot air balloons. Take a mountain bike through the gravelly trails of the valleys. Try your hand at earthenware pottery in the manner of the ancient Hittites. Scale tufa valleys to find isolated pigeon houses, forgotten chapels and abandoned homes. Enjoy a ride on horseback into the verdant plains, partaking in the ritual of the Sema in a Selçuk caravansaray. Sample local wines from the terrace of a luxury cave resort.
Yet the soul of Cappadocia is as much a product of its residents as in the whisper of the wind through age-old valleys. Children still frolic along the stone alleyways of the area’s villages, farmers still haul their product to market on the back of a donkey, and hearty old women still prepare the day’s meal in ancient ovens hollowed into the floor of the family cave. To venture into Cappadocia is an experience of nature, outdoors, history and an utterly unique lifestyle.
Perched on a striking limestone promontory at the base of the Taurus Mountains, the region of Antalya is a place where the mountains meet the sea, where vast and verdant canyons, sweeping stretches of golden sand and gushing waterfalls provide the canvas upon which the ancients chronicled their stories. A more contemporary picture of Antalya employs this very same landscape as a backdrop for increasingly modern, trend-setting and even practical sensibilities.
The entire coastline overflows with alluring spas, state-of-the art wellness, leisure and restorative facilities designed to rejuvenate the mind and body. World-class greenways designed by award-winning golfers attest to Antalya’s standing as the golf capital of Turkey. And endowed with top convention facilities capable of accommodating more than 50,000 attendees at any given time, the city is also a much sought-after congress center. For Antalya is a place where the ancient meets the modern, where the sun meets the sea, and where business and pleasure can easily go hand in hand.
The heart of Antalya’s capital of the same name beats in and around the city’s historic quarter of Kaleiçi, a charismatic neighborhood of meandering cobblestone lanes and traditional Ottoman mansions. Wrapped in a fortification of sandstone hued ramparts, the citadel and its storied harbor welcomed Sts. Paul and Barnabas in the 1st century, and later, Emperor Hadrian, whose name graces the triumphal marble entryway into the city. Today the castle fortress is occupied by faithfully restored stone and timber mansions built around the inner sanctum of the garden courtyard that in the past decade have been converted, one by one, to charming little inns, wonderful galleries and boutiques. All along the length of these narrow lanes are exterior walls draped in bougainvillea, precious handicrafts and irresistible hand-knotted carpets.
Bodrum – St. Tropez of Turkey
With its spectacularly serene azure bays, alleyways garlanded in bougainvillea and landscape fragrant with the odor of citrus, wild herbs and jasmine, one might actually forget that Bodrum offers significantly more than just brilliant sun, sand and sea. Bodrum is unique in its blending of a vast and impressive archaeological heritage with all of the requisite ingredients for a fabulously relaxing holiday.
Visiting historophiles will be fascinated to find the remains of the Mausoleum of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, in the center of Bodrum town, or the late Bronze-Age shipwreck, the Uluburun, preserved within the Castle of St. Peter, a Crusader stronghold. Indeed the entire peninsula recalls the ancients. Bodrum itself rises atop the foundations of Halicarnassus, birthplace of Herodotus, while the sunken ruins of Myndos and a restored Greek Orthodox chapel draw the curious to the western tip of the peninsula.
If the ancients found Hallicarnassus to be an indispensably strategic port city, unquestionably it’s the beauty of Bodrum and its treasured waters that encourage visitors to return again and again. The seaside village ports of Torba, Türkbükü, Yalikavak, Yaliçiftlik, Gümüslük, Bitez and Türgüt Reis together comprise what has become known as the St. Tropez of Turkey. For it is here that the Blue Voyage began its journey through the years to become one of the more unforgettable experiences of a lifetime. In Türkbükü you can sunbathe adjacent to the stars; in Gümüslük you can partake in a meal caught earlier that same day off the shores of ancient Myndos, and in the lovely village of Ortakent, you can explore the typical stone tower homes of an earlier civilization.
Yet if Bodrum is renowned for any one thing, it’s the nightlife, alternatively pulsating, romantic, vibrant and soothing. Nightclubs attract the young and fabulous, candlelit waterside restaurants feed the senses and concerts are staged in evocative locales such as the Antique Theater, the ancient city walls, or within the castle’s ramparts. In the summertime, Turkish art and culture, be it ancient or modern, traditional or contemporary, will be on display in this most extraordinary of seaside retreats.