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Turkey Travel Guide

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Turkey Travel Guide

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Diverse landscapes, from crystal clear waters, tall mountains, the ruins of ancient empires, small idyllic villages and huge cosmopolitan cities allow for enough enjoyment to suit every temperament. Witnessing many empires and civilizations, Turkey has a remarkable amount of archaeological sites spread out all over the country. The country’s most magical scenery is to be found in Asian Anatolia, where beautiful vistas are provided by the vertiginous Mediterranean coastline and Cappadocia’s otherworldly ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations and wavy valleys. Every region in Turkey has its own kitchen culture, including distinct ingredients and their resulting recipes. As such, Turkish cuisine is much more than tasty kebab and baklava, including fresh seafood and meze, a whole world of desserts, huge breakfast spreads, Ottoman classics, vegetable dishes, and much more

Fast Facts

  • Capital : Ankara
  • Religion : Muslim
  • Language : Turkish
  • Local Currency : Turkish lira
  • 1 USD = 7.40 Turkish lira (approx.)
  • Time Difference : GMT + 3 hrs

When to go

The best time to visit Turkey is between April - May and September - October, as the weather is warm and there are fewer crowds pretty much all around the country

Spring  (March to mid June)

Spring is ideal for a trip to Turkey in terms of moderate weather and loner daylight. Although April may be a bit rainy during this season, it is still a good time to travel. The downside though is that hotels and resorts would be highly booked at this time

Autumn (Mid September to October)

With mild weather, this is also a good time to travel though days will be shorter, and  October may bring some rain. High season for Istanbul and Cappadocia. This period will certainly have boutique hotels heavily booked and at their highest prices. At beach resorts, the water is still warm and crowds are lesser. There is very limited rain during this period, making it perfect for outdoor explorations.

Summer (Mid June to mid September)

Summer means hot weather in five of Turkey's seven distinct climatic regions. The benefit is that this is a rainless period with coolers temperatures in the evenings. Seaside resorts are crowded and prices are at their peak, but the cities are less crowded. Cappadocia will be cheaper as well

Winter (November to February)

November to March is low season in Turkey because of the winter.  Though winter can be chilly and rainy, with occasional cold but sunny days, it ensures lower prices and fewer tourists. There is a chance of snow in most places, including Cappadocia, especially in January and February

Where to go @Istanbul

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, locally known as Ayasofya and also called Church of the Holy Wisdom is an important Byzantine structure and one of the world’s great monuments. It was built as a Christian church in a remarkably short time of six years, in the 6th century CE (532–537) under the direction of a Byzantine emperor. In subsequent centuries it became a mosque, a museum, and a mosque again. The building reflects the religious changes that have played out in the region over the centuries, with the minarets and inscriptions of Islam as well as the lavish mosaics of Christianity. The Hagia Sophia combines a longitudinal basilica and a centralized building in a wholly original manner, with a huge 32-metre main dome. Beneath the dome are 40 windows with sunlight coming through. The sunlight emanating from the windows seems to dissolve the solidity of the walls and creates an ambience of ineffable mystery

Grand Bazaar

Travelers who love to shop shouldn’t miss out on a visit to the Grand Bazaar, with 5,000 shops making it one of the largest indoor marketplaces in the world. Receiving more than a quarter-million visitors a day, the bazaar features such items as jewelry, carpets that may or may not fly, spices, antiques and hand-painted ceramics. The bazaar dates back to 1461 and today is home to two mosques, four fountains and the Cevahir Bedesten, where the rarest and most valuable items have been found traditionally

Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque, built in the early 17th century, remains an active house of worship today. This means visitors need to time their visits carefully, as the mosque is closed to sightseers during the five daily prayer times for Muslims. All visitors must remove their shoes and women must cover their hair. This is a small price to pay for seeing its priceless treasures that include 20,000 ceramic tiles in various tulip designs and 200 stained glass windows, all with intricate designs. The mosque, built by Sultan Ahmet, takes its name from the blue tiles on the dome and the upper levels of the interior

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace is one of the must-see attractions in Istanbul that combines history and stunning scenery in an experience that is not to be rushed. Rich in the history of the Ottoman Empire, the Topkapi Palace is surrounded by five kilometers of stone wall with 27 towers. Topkapi, which dates back to the 15th century, is situated on a hill overlooking the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern has been providing Istanbul residents with water since the sixth century when it was ordered built by the Roman Emperor Justinian I. A visit leaves travelers raving about the technology the ancient Romans used to build this architectural wonder that was very advanced for its day. The underground cistern, just a few steps away from the Blue Mosque, was built on the site of a basilica that was constructed in the third century

centralized building in a wholly original manner, with a huge 32-metre main dome. Beneath the dome are 40 windows with sunlight coming through. The sunlight emanating from the windows seems to dissolve the solidity of the walls and creates an ambience of ineffable mystery

 

Where to go @Cappadocia

Hot Air Ballooning in Goreme

Cappadocia is known around the world as one of the best places to enjoy hot air balloons. The spectacular surrealistic landscapes combined with excellent flying conditions allow the balloons to gently drift over and between fairy chimneys, pigeon houses hewn into the unique rock formations, orchards and vineyards – through impressive valleys, each with distinctive rock formations, colours and features and then float up over rippled ravines for breath-taking views over the region<

Goreme Open Air Museum

Just outside Göreme village is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Göreme Open-Air Museum, a monastery cluster of rock-cut churches and monk-cells that hold fabulous frescoes. The complex dates from the 10th to 12th centuries, when Cappadocia was an important Byzantine religious center. This museum resembles a vast monastic complex composed of refectory monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own church

Fairy Chimneys

Cappadocia’s famous ‘fairy chimneys’ are a surreal landscape of carved-out towering rock formations that change color with every sunset. The rock formations that have made Cappadocia one of the most popular destinations in Turkey emerged due to a geological process that began millions of years ago. Ancient volcanic eruptions blanketed the region in thick ash, which later solidified into a soft rock called ‘tuff’

Kaymakli Underground City

Cappadocia has a number of stunning underground cities built around 2000 BCE to protect the local population from invading armies, but the Kaymaklı Underground City dwarfs them all with its sprawling layout. While not Turkey's deepest underground city, this subterranean is the largest. The multi-chambered city contains areas for storage, living quarters, wine-making and stables like many of its sister cities in the region. While Kaymaklı may not have the innovative defenses of the Özkonak underground city, or the staggering depths of the Derinkuyu underground city, it has the largest floor space and is wider than any of the other cities. Also unlike the other underground fortresses, many of the chambers and tunnels of the ancient fortification are still used by inhabitants in the region as storage and living space as they were some of the first people to find the historical city beneath their feet.  Although in its heyday, the Kaymaklı Underground City contained eight floors of subterranean defense, but currently only four of the floors are open to the public

Where to go @Pammukkale

Travertine White Terraces

The dazzling white calcite cliff of Pamukkale was created by calcium deposits from the area's hot springs. In the same way that stalactites form within limestone caves, the deposits grow on the steep slopes, gradually fanning out to form natural terraces. Pamukkale means "cotton castle," and the blinding white color of these travertines do look like a bizarre natural fortress of sorts. The best way to do your sightseeing here is to walk (barefoot only) from the base of the calcite mountain up the entire cliff ridge. The terraces at the upper levels hold pools of water, which you can sit in

The ancient city of Ephesus

The Ancient City of Ephesus is an outstanding example of a Roman port city. This vast and beautiful Greco-Roman city was once home to 250,000 people, and the glorious monuments that remain point to it being a vibrant and rich metropolis. It is an exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions of the Hellenistic, Roman Imperial and early Christian periods as reflected in the monuments in the centre of the Ancient City and Ayasuluk. A succession of empires from Neolithic to Roman to Ottoman have ruled over Ephesus and the well-preserved ruins are one of the most incredible sights in Turkey. The cultural traditions of the Roman Imperial period are reflected in the outstanding representative buildings of the city centre including the Celsus Library, Hadrian’s Temple, the Serapeion and Terrace House 2, with its wall paintings, mosaics and marble panelling showing the style of living of the upper levels of society at that time.

House of Mary, Meryemana

The house of the Virgin Mary is a pilgrimage site close to the ancient ruins of Ephesus and is considered to be the place where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, lived and died after being taken there by Saint John. The site first came to prominence when a German nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich, had a vision and described the house in detail despite having never visited this place. Her visions were published in a book and in 1891, on the basis of this account, a French priest discovered the ruins of a small church, which had evidently belonged to a monastery  but matched the descriptions in the book and this is now revered as the Virgin's house

Where to go @Antalya

Perge

The historical site of Perge, 18 kilometers east of Turkey, holds the vast remains of what was once the most prosperous city of the ancient world. Dating as far back as the Bronze Age, Perge was originally settled by the Hittites around 1500 BC and under Roman occupation grew to become one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world. It was also an important city for Christians during the Byzantine period. Excavations began on the site in 1946 and have since uncovered a large Greco-Roman theater with fine marble reliefs, a stadium that could seat over 12,000 people, a Hellenistic-Roman city gate flanked by ruined towers, a long colonnaded street, a large agora, public baths and a gymnasium. Of these ancient remains, the theater and the stadium are Perge’s best-preserved sites

Antalya Museum

The Antalya region is packed full of history and with an abundance of ancient sites and cities along Turkey's breathtaking Mediterranean Coastline. Behind the museums of Istanbul and Ankara, this museum ranks 3rd among Turkey's archaeological and historical collections and one of the best in the world for its display Roman artefacts. The extensive museum boasts everything from pottery to Roman sculptures to Ottoman weapons, Byzantine, Seljuk Turk, Lycian and Greek objects, some items even date back to the Stone and Bronze Ages