A thousand-year history, one of the best cuisines you will ever taste and landscapes that go from white sand beaches to towering mountains, to the splendid city of Istanbul. But where to start? Let’s have a look at the 10 places that you must visit in Turkey. You can book a flight from Turkish Airlines to visit Turkey.
#1 From One Continent to Another
In Istanbul, with a simple ferry, you can go from Europe to Asia in less than an hour. Every day a flotilla of boats, to the sound of powerful sirens, transports the inhabitants of the metropolis along the Bosphorus to the Sea of Marmara. The morning ferries share the route with a myriad of small fishing boats and towering container ships, all unfailingly followed by screeching parades of seagulls. At sunset, the silhouette of the Byzantine minarets and domes of the Old City stands out against the twilight pink of the sky: it is the magic time of İstanbul.
The motionless landscape carved into the honey-colored rock looks like the work of ingenious bees. The reality – the cooling effects of a large volcanic eruption – is just a little less fascinating. Humans have also left their mark on their passage: frescoes in Byzantine rock churches and complex underground cities dug into the bowels of the earth. Today Cappadocia is a place of pleasures: good wine, excellent cuisine, overnight stays in five-star caves, horseback riding, walks in the valleys and balloon flights will keep you busy for many days.
#3 Ephesus (Efes)
Undoubtedly the most famous of the Turkish archaeological sites – and among the best preserved in the Mediterranean area – Ephesus is an impressive tribute to the mastery of Greek artists and the skill of Roman architects. A walk along the marble-paved Via dei Cureti offers photographers endless opportunities, from the Library of Celsus with its two floors of columns to the complex of terraced houses which, with the vivid frescoes and sophisticated mosaics, give an idea of the daily life of the urban elite of the time. And there is still to be excavated.
Turkish hamams typically offer a wide range of extra body and face treatments, pedicures and so on. We recommend, however, to stick to traditional treatments: a bath and a scrub, followed if desired, by an energetic massage. The world (and your body) will never seem the same to you; at the end, relax with a glass of çay. For a memorable experience, we suggest the centenary hamams of the fascinating historical district of Antalya or Sultanahmet in Istanbul.
#5 Aya Sofya
Even in a city like Istanbul, nothing beats the Aya Sofya, the church of Divine Wisdom which for centuries was the most impressive church in Christianity. Emperor Justinian had it built in the 6th century in an attempt to restore luster to the glorious Roman empire. And looking up at the huge frescoed dome that seems to float in the light it is hard to believe that he did not succeed.
Toast! With an Efes beer with the Turks in a meyhane (tavern). A noisy night of meze and rakı (aniseed liqueur) accompanied by live music is a tradition to be respected. Melon, fresh cheese and fish pair perfectly with aslan sütü (‘lion’s milk’: rakı turns white when water is added), and the soundtrack ranges from romantic ballads to gypsy fasıl music. Experience the local nightlife in the Beyoğlu district of İstanbul, where the meyhane of İstiklal Caddesi buzzes with people on weekends.
#7 Sumela Monastery
The Byzantine monastery of Sumela, perched on a steep rock face, dominates a suggestive green landscape. The roads zigzagging up towards the monastery, passing by fish restaurants on the riverside, while the journey of travelers from nearby Trabzon is often interrupted by the passage of flocks of sheep headed for new pastures. The last few kilometers offer enchanting glimpses of green pine forests and the honey-colored walls of Sumela, and in the final stretch on foot you leave the forest to reach the hermitage cut into the rock.
The beaches of Turkey are well known for the perfect combination of sun, sand and blue waters. Topping the list are Mediterranean and Aegean beauties such as Kaputaş, a tiny bay with brilliant shallow waters near Kalkan, and Patara, Turkey’s longest beach. Many of the most beautiful beaches are found along the Lycian Way. On some, various activities are practiced, such as windsurfing in Alaçatı and Akyaka, while others are pleasantly quiet, such as those on the islands of Gökçeada and Bozcaada.
#9 Nemrut Dağı
The one-man megalomania echoes through the centuries on the rugged, windswept peak of Nemrut Dağı. At dawn, the first rays begin to cast shadows on the colossal stone heads carved on the mountain top, then the sunlight floods the immense landscape below revealing it in great detail. To defend against the icy start of a new day, a glass of hot çay will be more than welcome. And when you go back down to the valley, don’t miss the beautiful Roman bridge over the Cendere river.
Explore the ruins of the Roman theater, walk through the travertine pools bathed in thermal water before descending among the dazzling circular formations to the village of Pamukkale. Otherwise, cool off in the Ancient Pool of Hierapolis, among the columns adorned with splendid marble friezes.