Turkey has many attractions – archaeological wonders, the lovely Mediterranean coastline and a vibrant culture. Istanbul, with its wonderful setting, abundant historic sites and pulsating cultural scene, offers a memorable experience to visitors. The relics of Ephesus and Pergamon, the Greco-Roman cities, are well preserved and make your visit worthwhile. The coastal resorts along the Mediterranean offer several avenues for entertainment. The adventurous among you will love the atmospheric ruins of Kayakoy, the austere charms of the Anatolian plateau and the dreamlike quality of the eroded landscape of Cappadocia.
Visitors to Turkey will hear the term “Hos Geldiniz” very often. It means “Your coming brings happiness” and epitomises the inherent warm hospitable nature of the Turks.
This Turkey destination guide will help you plan your perfect holiday, and tell you the Turkish highlights you should check out. A perfect way to do this is taking a local Turkey tour. We also have some useful travel information for your Turkish holiday.
You can check out all the local exciting things to see and do in the following destinations:
The Basilica of Hagia Sophia was a place of pride for a thousand years as it was the largest church. The Roman Emperor Justinian built this church in 537 AD. The mosaics on the church walls are excellent examples of Byzantine art.
The Sultanahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque is an important monument in the Islamic world. The mosque got its name from the 20,000 odd blue and white Iznik tiles that have been used as interior panelling to create a marvellous effect inside the huge mosque. The natural light streaming in through its 260 windows further enhances the beauty. The mosque was built in 1609 -1616 in the classic Turkish style.
The Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is an important historical site and was the administrative hub of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th to the 19th century. There are seven hills in Istanbul and the Topkapi palace is situated atop one of them. The palace consists of several buildings with courtyards and is surrounded by pavilions. Tall gates separate the pavilions, each of which has a separate purpose. Art and craft enthusiasts will be thrilled by the imperial collections of Chinese porcelain, silver and crystal, the biggest clock collection, jewellery, handmade royal costumes and priceless miniatures. The palace also proudly houses sacred relics of Islam like the swords, bow and mantle belonging to Muhammed.
The European side of the Bosphorus makes an idyllic setting for the Dolmabahce Palace, which was constructed in the mid-19th century. It extends 600 metres along the coast of the Bosphorus. The palace has endured the rigours of time and all its interiors, including the rich furnishings and parquetry floors, are still intact. All the clocks in the palace show 9:05 am to mark the time of passing of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic who breathed his last breath here in 1938.
Ankara has been Turkey’s capital since 13 October 1923. Anitkabir, a splendid example of the magnificent Turkish architecture, is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. The Ankara Castle, which once enclosed the city, is now enclosed by the city, which has grown around it. The Alaaddin Mosque, located inside the castle walls, is a classic example of wood craftsmanship and art. Several homes were built within the castle walls and now quite a few of these old Turkish homes have been restored. The area has several art galleries and fine restaurants that serve traditional Turkish food. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, set up in a skilfully restored old bazaar, is situated close to the castle gate. The museum houses priceless artefacts that date back to ancient civilizations. To get a feel of Ankara’s vibrant culture, tourists can enjoy the folk dance, opera, theatre, and ballet performances.
Troy is an ancient city located in Turkey’s Marmara region. The Trojan wars that Homer’s Illiad mentions were fought in Troy in 1200 BC. There is a symbolic wooden horse here commemorating the famous Trojan War. Several archaeological findings like the ruins of houses, temples, a theatre and city walls have proved that this site had been inhabited during nine different periods. The earliest ruins are five thousand years old and the last settlement dates back to the late Roman period.
Ephesus, 75 km south of Izmir, is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites. With more than 200,000 inhabitants, Ephesus was a densely populated city in Hellenistic times. This city went on to become an important hub for trade and commerce in Anatolia under Roman rule. The Temple of Armetis in Ephesus held pride of place in the ancient world as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Aphrodisias was a fine city built on a high plateau in the Aydin Province. It was a very famous and prosperous city in the first century BC, and an important religious centre in the ancient Hellenistic world. The city was also a cultural and intellectual hub with many visiting scholars and artists. The art of sculpting flourished here due to the ample marble available to work with. Sculpture thrived here for almost six hundred years and the local museum houses several exquisite pieces that have survived the test of time.
Pergamon, situated 100 km to the north of Izmir, is one of Turkey’s best archaeological sites. In ancient times, this city was a cultural centre. Among the interesting archaeological remains in the acropolis are the library, the Trajan and Dionysos temples, a massive theatre, a gymnasium, the Agora, the Demeter Sanctuary, and the monumental Altar of Zeus. A medical centre with the God of Health, Asclepios gracing it was situated in the southwest part of the lower city. Medicinal herbs, water baths, mud baths and massages were used to treat people here.
Cappadocia is situated in Central Anatolia next to the cities of Nigde, Nevsehir and Kayseri. Violent volcanic eruptions three million years ago left a deep layer of volcanic deposits on the surrounding plateau. Over time, natural forces moulded this soft volcanic surface, consisting of ash, lava and mud, into strange shapes. The area now resembles an outdoor museum with an amazing array of shapes in various colours and textures.
Cappadocia is famous for its underground cities, some of which are still being excavated. Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are cities that have an astonishing 8-9 floors underground. The cities were carved out of volcanic rock and provided safety to Christians during attacks. People could live in the hidden rooms for days together. Marvels of construction, such as the ventilation systems and the millstones used to bar entry to the tunnels from outside, can be seen here.
Pamukkale, a spectacularly beautiful place, is located in the inner Aegean region. Accumulated limestone sediment has over the years formed high terraces that reach over 300 feet. The source is a deep underground spring, which has been coating the hills with its hot, mineral-saturated water that cools down and solidifies into smooth white calcareous rock on exposure. The thermal pools formed by these hot springs were favoured by many Roman emperors and are still very popular.
Safranbolu, a little town located in the western Black Sea region, has several quaint old homes. These homes are outstanding examples of exquisite design and construction skills. A few of these traditional homes have been restored and turned into heritage hotels.
When to go
Istanbul and the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts are very pleasant during spring and autumn. The winters here are cool and wet and the summers are hot and quite dry.
Central Anatolia is also pleasantly cool during spring. Mid-June is the time for rains so is best avoided. July and August are very dry, and post August also it is relatively mosquito free.
April to September, when it rains a bit and is very pleasant, is the ideal time to visit the Black Sea coast.
Eastern Turkey is best visited from late June to September. It is best to avoid this region in the winter as it snows from mid-October to May. Heavy winter storms isolate villages for several days at a stretch. Summers in this region are hot and very dry.
With the exception of Istanbul, tourists generally do not visit Turkey during winter. Anzac Day, which falls on 25 April, is the official start of the tourist season when backpackers start streaming in. Early May brings the package holidaymakers. July to mid-September is the peak season when most Turks also go on holiday. It is advisable to avoid travelling during Turkey's popular public holiday, Kurban Bayrami.
Time and currency
The local time in Turkey is GMT + 2 hours, so set your watches accordingly. The currency used in Turkey is the New Turkish Lira (YTL).
1YTL = 1,000,000 TL (Turkish Lira)
What to wear
Make sure you carry light cotton clothing. You will need cardigans for the evenings, especially when you are at the higher altitudes. A lot of walking is involved in the historical and archaeological sites so ensure that you are wearing comfortable shoes. Sunglasses and sun hats will come in handy during summer and headscarves are a must for women visiting mosques.
Visiting a mosque
You will hear the "müezzin" calling the faithful to pray five times a day. If you observe the locals you will see that they have a wash and remove their footwear before entering a mosque. Tourists should also remove footwear and maintain decorum inside a mosque. It is better to avoid visiting a mosque when prayer sessions are in progress. Tourists should dress appropriately, with women avoiding short dresses and men avoiding shorts. Some famous mosques provide overalls for tourists who are not appropriately dressed.