Travel to Turkey
Turkey is possibly one of the world’s best windows into ancient times.
With whirling dervishes, sultans’ treasures and Byzantine mosaics, the country’s history and culture are fascinating. But its natural beauty is equally as magical – with stretches of sandy beaches, dense forests and rocky coves.
Istanbul is no doubt a destination in itself. With views overlooking the Bosphorus Straight, it’s the only city in the world split between two continents (part in Europe and part in Asia). The religious sites, colorful markets and bazaars, exciting nightlife and array of international restaurants make this unique city one worth the trip.
The 5 star hotels and luxury resorts in Turkey showcase unbelievable settings, pristine accommodations and endless amenities – all to ensure you have a memorable getaway.
TURKEY TOURS AND ACTIVITIES
Sightseeing in Turkey – Sightseeing in Turkey seems endless, but for good reason – the country is home to some of the world’s most important ancient and religious sites. Most people start in Istanbul, which is a great place to begin (see our section on Istanbul’s sites). However, many other areas of Turkey should be high on your list. Some of our favorites include:
Ephesus – known for its spectacular antiquities and ruins. See the Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian, Gate of Hercules, Greek Theater, and other temples, baths, and colonnaded streets. View artifacts in the Selçuk Museum, one of Turkey’s best museums.
Meryemana – location of The House of the Virgin Mary, which is becoming an increasingly popular pilgrimage for Catholics. A small church was built on what had been the site of an ancient house believed by many to have been the place where St. John took the mother of Jesus after the crucifixion and from which she ascended to heaven.
Bodrum – see the remains of revered Greek sites, including one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Halicarnassus Mausolem. Visit the Castle of St. Peter and the castle’s Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Antalya – known particularly for its Antalya Archeological Museum, one of the largest in Turkey. It houses 13 exhibition halls of art and artifacts and larger than life statues of 16 gods and goddesses.
Istanbul, Turkey – Travel to Turkey would hardly be complete without visiting Istanbul. The city is split by the Bosphorus strait, giving it glorious views from throughout. You could spend days visiting amazing sites including Topkapi Palace (residence of the sultans and the seat of power for the Ottoman Empire for 400 years), the underground Basilica Cistern, the beautiful Hagia Sophia (a Byzantine masterpiece that reigned for almost 1,000 years as the largest Christian church in the world) and world reknown Blue Mosque (named for the blue tiles that adorn the interior).
The Fairy Chimneys in Turkey – Drive through the mountains to Konya and onto Cappadocia. This region is best known for its fairy chimneys – unique rock formations that rise up from the ground. Be sure to explore Kaymakli, originally an 8-story underground city that provided safety and refuge to 5,000 people from conquerors invading the area. Four of the stories are open to the public.
Whirling Dervishes in Turkey – Turkey is known for its whirling dervishes and seeing them perform should be a ‘must’ while you’re there. The whirling dance (or Sufi whirling) is best known in the West by the practices of the Mevlevi order and is part of a formal ceremony known as the Sema. (The ‘dance’ stems from the ability to revolve – everything from the smallest cell to the planets and the farthest stars in the universe revolves.) The Sema ceremony represents a spiritual journey where the seeker’s turn toward God and truth.
Shopping in Turkey – Turkey could very well be a shopper’s paradise. The Covered Bazaar in Istanbul alone has more than 4,000 stalls and shops. Even non-shoppers will enjoy the colors, smells and excitement of this spectacle. As you shop, look for handwoven rugs, leather items, ceramics, silk, jewelry, alabaster, onyx and much more. Some vendors in the markets are aggressive, but they’ll usually respond to a firm but polite refusal.
Dining in Turkey – Turkish cuisine is renowned as one of the world’s best. Its popularity stems from its use of fresh ingredients and variety of recipes. Turkish cuisine incorporates influence from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Istanbul has several options for international cuisine, but be sure to try some of the local dishes such as hunkar begendi (eggplant with beef or lamb), pide (Turkish pizza), lahmacun (a type of thin-crust flatbread, eaten rolled up with lettuce, onions and lemon), yaprak dolmasi (stuffed grape leaves), spicy midye (mussels), peynirli borek (cheese rolled up in flaky pastry) and stuffed vegetables in olive oil.
TURKEY FAST FACTS
Population of Turkey – 72+ million
Languages in Turkey – Turkish, with Kurdish and Arabic spoken in some areas.
Predominant Religions in Turkey – Islamic (Sunni), though many other sects and religions are represented.
Time Zone in Turkey – Two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+2 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
Voltage Requirements in Turkey – 220 volts
Currency in Turkey – Turkish lira (TL); one lira equals 100 kurus.
Weather in Turkey – Generally speaking, April-May and September-October are the most visitor-friendly (daytime temperatures are most comfortable and the least amount of rain falls). For the beach worshipper, June-September is best (just know prices are higher and places are more crowded). The coasts are generally temperate, warm and fairly humid in summer with chilly, rainy winters. Central Anatolia has hot, dry summers and cold, rainy winters with snow. The Black Sea gets the most rain, and southeastern Turkey is very dry and hot.
Turkey Geography – Turkey represents a rectangular-shaped peninsula that intersects Europe, Asia and Africa. Its coastline stretches nearly 5,200 miles. Dense forests occupy the land in the northern Black Sea and the southern Mediterranean regions, coastal plains are found on the western Aegean, the inland is mostly mountain pastures and deserts are found in the southeast.
Safety in Turkey – Turkey is an overall safe place to travel. Just be sure to exercise common sense and caution when you’re in the larger cities, tourist attractions or walking the bazaars. You should avoid incident if you keep valuables out of sight, don’t flash money around and keep your purse/wallet close at hand.
TURKEY FUN FACTS
- Turkey is situated on two continents. Only 3% is in Europe, while the remaining landmass lies in Asia.
- It is bordered by eight other countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria).
- Turkey is divided in 81 different provinces.
- Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents (separated by the Bosphorus strait.
- Mount Agri is the country’s highest peak at nearly 17,000 feet and is said to be the resting place of Noah’s Ark.
- The varied landscape of Turkey helps produce several crops including tea to the northeast, haselnuts to the north, olives and tobacco in the west, wheat inland and a multitude of fruit throughout, just to name a few.
- Tulips are originally from Turkey. The bulbs were exported to the Netherlands in the 17th century.
- Florence Nightngale pioneered nursing in Istanbul during the Crimean War in 1854.
- Every fit Turkish male is required to serve in the military for some time (typically ranges from thre weeks to 15 months depending on the education of the person).
TURKEY – INSIDER TIP
If you head into the countryside, do a hot air balloon ride over the “fairy chimneys” of Göreme Valley for a unique vantage point. It will be one of the most memorable experiences of your trip.