In the country where Europe meets Asia, pristine beaches span across three seas, rolling hills rise to snowcapped peaks, impressive mosques sit alongside churches, ancient cities are built underground, and archaeological sites are scattered across the country. Turkey really is a hub of diversity! There are many tour packages starting from Istanbul so after you’ve visited Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia and you’ve finished shopping in the Grand Bazaar why not visit some of these stunning locations.
THE TURQUOISE COAST
Turkey’s southern coastline is something spectacular, here the Taurus mountains meet pebble beaches and clear turquoise bays. Home to two of Turkey’s long-distance treks, a variety of extreme sports and many archaeological sites.
A busy, modern city with a wide sandy beach, bars, restaurants and lively nightlife around the harbour. Düden Falls is a natural gem hidden inside a park just a few kilometers from the city centre and fresh produce market every Sunday. Antalya is also great for the shopaholics, Marca Antalya is a large centrally located mall or you could shop handicrafts and souvenirs at the Kaleici (old town).
As the capital of the region there are good transport links and a strong tourist infrastructure, many day-trips can be made from Antalya; the ancient Lycian ruins of Termessos set on a rugged hilltop north of Antalya, roast marshmallows at the naturally ever-burning flames of Chimaera, take a cable car to the peak of Tahtali mountain or visit the smaller towns such as Kemer, Tekirova and Alanya.
Smaller than Antalya, Fethiye is a seaside town with a pretty boardwalk along the harbour and a central market selling anything from dried fruit and nuts to decorative rugs is open until late in the summer season. Lycian cave-tombs and a ruined castle are an easy walk from the centre and a short bus ride will take you the ghost town of Kayakoy or the nearby beach at Oludeniz where you could hop on a boat to Butterfly Valley. This region is famous for paragliding and tours are run daily, also close to Fethiye is the starting point of Turkey’s first long distance trail, The Lycian Way. Fethiye is a popular starting point for multi-day gulet cruises along the Turquoise coast to Olympos.
Populated by the Greek merchants until 1923, Kas is a modern town built upon ancient Antiphellos, the town boasts a well preserved amphitheater as well as a lively harbour with good restaurants and bars, it is a main stopping point on ‘blue cruise’ itineraries and is a good base for sea activities. Scattered around the area are rock-cut tombs and small beaches, many accessible only by foot or boat. From Kas you could visit the ruined castle at Simena, visit the sunken islands and swim in secluded bays
A small village popular with a trendy bohemian vibe, most accommodation is offered in tree houses and wooden bungalows it’s a popular weekend destination for the young Turkish crowd. Walk through ancient stone walls along the river to a 4-kilometre-wide pebble beach. There are many day hikes in the area, water sports and climbing activities, or you can relax on the beach and enjoy fresh fish in the local restaurants.
Occupying the central plateau is Central Anatolia, within this region lies Turkey’s capital city, Ankara. It has also been a home for the Hittites, early Christians, Rumi, Seljuk Turks and the Whirling Dervishes. Spend a night in Konya for a demonstration of their spinning ritual or visit Sivas for Seljuk architecture and spas.
The Cappadocia region is an absolute must see while in Turkey. The famous lunar landscape is made up of geological anomalies formed by volcanic eruptions, erosion, wind, water and settlements of ancient civilisations. Rock-hewn churches, Bronze age caves, ‘fairy chimneys’ and underground cities lay nestled between mountains, valleys and gorges. The region is rich with history and culture, with a remarkable ancestry line and traditional villages. The best way to see the region is from above, standing in the basket of a hot air balloon as the sun rises over the surrounding hills.
The Black Sea Coast
The varied landscape of the Black Sea region stretches from Bosporus to the Georgian border, from rugged hills to the Kackar mountain range, this less well-known region offers quiet beaches and towns. The region is scattered across with mosques, churches and monasteries left behind by ancient civilisations.
Built in Byzantine times Sumela Monastery is the most important in the area, cut into the cliffside above Altindere Valley a narrow stone staircase leads the entrance, a combination of the impressive location and typically misty weather make a Sumela a surreal sight. At only an hour from Trabzon, the region’s capital, Sumela Monastery is a pleasant day trip, the valley below can also be explored by woodland trails and local restaurants border the river.
THE AEGEAN COAST
Turkey’s west coast spans from Istanbul the borders of Marmaris, an agriculturally rich, multicultural region, saturated with history, along the Aegean coast sit two of Turkey’s most famous ancient sites, book your Pamukkale and Ephesus tour and explore this beautiful region.
Turkey’s third largest city is rich with cultural history and hosts the ancient site of Smyrna. Surrounded by mountain and bordering the sea Izmir is a modern and proudly liberal city. While there are no city beaches in Izmir itself the Cesme peninsula extends west of the city, with lush green hills, pristine beaches and the small hippie town of Alacati.
Rich mineral thermal waters of Pamukkale, meaning ‘Cotton Castle’ in Turkish, fall dramatically over white travertine terraces on the side of a steep valley. This UNESCO world heritage site is also home to the remarkably well-preserved ruins of the ancient Greek spa city, Hierapolis.
Built by the Ancient Greeks in the 10th century BC, Ephesus was the second largest ancient city in the world and one of the capitals of Roman Asia. The Ephesus ruins are remarkably well preserved and a visit to the archaeological site will give you a feel for life over 2,000 years ago. The site is located just 3 kilometres from Selcuk village which is famous for its weekly market. Other sites in the area also include the Ephesus museum, Virgin Mary’s house, where the maiden legendary spent her last days, the great Temple of Artemis or the Byzantine-Ottoman fortress atop Ayasoluk Hill.