Looking for a destination that combines rich history, delicious cuisine and white sand beaches? Then Turkey holidays should be high on your list as all this and so much more is combined in one perfect trip. Expect fascinating archaeological sites, a wide variety of activities and leisure pursuits coupled with fantastic weather.
Turkey is surrounded by three different seas (Mediterranean Sea, Aegean Sea and the Black Sea) offering the opportunity to try sailing, swimming and scuba diving. There are also pristine waterfalls, lush mountains and clear rivers making Turkey ideal for mountain climbing, trekking and hiking. The official tourism portal describes Turkey as ‘A country for all tastes’ and these seven locations are just a small selection of the outstanding sights on offer;
Sultan Ahmed Mosque aka The Blue Mosque
This landmark is located in the capital city Istanbul. It was built in 1609 and magnificent blue tiles cover the walls of the interior hence the nickname ‘The Blue Mosque’. Six gorgeously intricate minarets surround the majestic building and the complex also contains a tomb of the founder and ruler Ahmed I. The architecture has been influenced by Ottoman Turkish architecture and Byzantine elements over the last two centuries. The 20,000 ceramic tiles with tulip designs will take your breath away. The prayer area has a high domed ceiling with intricately designed decor and bright lights. The lamps were once covered with gold and gems. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a working mosque and as such visitors are requested to dress and behave respectably.
Now a museum, Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world for about a thousand years in the former Constantinople. Called Ayasofya in Turkish, it is a perfect example of Byzantine and Islamic architecture. The regal structure dates from the year 532 has a huge dome and forty windows are part of the massive monument that is shaped like a shell. You can visit the church and the museum and ancient handcrafted mosaics line the whole building, such as the one in the image above. There is also a lovely fountain and a lush garden area around the entrance. Hagia Sophia was a basilica, then a mosque and has served as a museum since 1931. The museum has undergone extensive restoration in order to protect the marble floor, copper roof, fragile frescoes and ancient mosaics.
The Grand Bazaar Istanbul
The market located inside the walled city of Istanbul is one of the oldest and largest covered bazaars in the world. Construction began in 1455 and today there are some 61 covered streets and over 3,000 diverse shops to choose from. Between 250,000 and 400,000 people visit there every day! You can purchase Asian and European goods. The sellers are willing to negotiate prices with you. It is a buyer’s market.
The Turkish celebrate the annual Anzac day at the Gallipoli Peninsula on the European part of Turkey on April 25th every year. The purpose is to recognize the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops that landed at the cove. Thousands of allies died there during the World War I mission at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire as they struggled for power over Constantinople.
The name ‘Pamukkale’ means cotton castle in Turkish (pictured below) and the ancient city which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the Denizli Province of Turkey. The 17 hot springs and the travertines are therapeutic and the sound of the flowing water is soothing. The waters are saturated with calcium carbonate which makes the area look like it is covered with cotton, hence the name! The site of Pamukkale also features a museum and the area is a popular tourist attraction. There are historical artifacts from Hierapolis and Bronze Age craft on display.
Cappadocia and Goreme National Park
The region of Cappadocia located in Central Anatolia is a real jewel. There are subterranean churches and fortresses and scenic villages that are constructed from volcanic rock. The Goreme area has 30 frescoed Byzantine rock churches that tourists can visit. They are amazing sights. The remains of the Zelve monastery complex and other structures resemble Swiss cheese with holes everywhere. The underground cities are up to 8 levels deep! They made excellent hiding places during the 1st century. Some of them are currently occupied by locals.
Goreme is the most photographed destination in Cappadocia thanks to the bizarre rock formations and visitors can try trekking and hot air balloon rides over the site whilst staying in a cave house. The Goreme National Park area has been a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985. The rock formations have been likened to teeth or fairy chimneys1
The ancient city of Ephesus is located near the Aegean Sea and has served as both and ancient Greek city and also a large Roman city. The ruins are spectacular in what was once the largest city in the Mediterranean. Two notable sites are the Cave of the Seven Sleepers and the Temple of Artemis. Ephesus was also home to a two floor brothel with an atrium, cubicles and stone beds! Guided tours are recommended because the religious history is long, complicated and fairly intense but well worth the effort.
Turkey in a nutshell
Turkey is a Eurasian country located near the Mediterranean Sea. The culture is a unique blend of Oguz Turkic, Anatolian, Ottoman and Western traditions and influences. The majority of Turkish people are Muslim. The government is a democratic and secular constitutional republic. The Anatolian peninsula is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the entire world. The varied landscapes of Turkey are the result of earthquakes over thousands of years. There are many landmarks and interesting tourist attractions in Turkey.
Turkey is an amazing country that is distinctive because it is located in Europe and Asia. Many different cultures have blended into one. There are historical landmarks, religious monuments, market places and ancient ruins that are great tourist destinations. The European part of Turkey borders Greece and Bulgaria. The Asian part consists of a central plateau with coastal plains. The official language is Turkish, but quite a few Turkish people speak English. They are friendly and welcoming. The architectural elements are a unique mix of a variety of traditions. The Byzantine and Ottoman elements are apparent. Plan to stay in a quality hotel or make Turkey one of the ports of call when you go on a cruise.
By Julie Bowman