So you’re thinking of visiting Turkey, and you have limited time? How on earth do you decide where to go to make the most of your visit and get a real feel for the country? Never fear, we are here to take the pain out of the planning process for you.
One of the most incredible things about Turkey is its diversity. It offers visitors an enchanting blend of history, architectural delights, an amazing atmosphere, lots of natural wonders and some of the most beautiful coastline and crystal-clear turquoise waters in the world. So for us, the perfect Turkish holiday combines all of these things.
Former capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, while Istanbul is no longer the capital of Turkey, it is the largest city in Turkey and one of the largest in the world. It is in a unique position in that it is the only city in the world to straddle two continents (Asia and Europe). Istanbul has something to offer everyone – breathtaking views, impressive architecture, historic sites, dining, shopping, nightlife and an exotic atmosphere all make a visit to Istanbul an unforgettable experience. The Old City (located in Sultanahmet) is where most of Istanbul’s key historic sites are located. These include the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. You should allow at least two full days for sightseeing in Istanbul and one day for shopping, strolling and generally soaking up the atmosphere before you depart. You’ll see why Istanbul invokes such strong feelings of awe in all who visit including Napoleon who said that “If the earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital“.
Located in the centre of Turkey, Cappadocia is best known for its lunar-like landscape of unusual rock formations resembling chimneys, cones and pinnacles. This is a result of erosion of the ash and soft rock formed following ancient volcanic eruptions over the ages. What is really incredible is that people living in the area thousands of years ago carved out houses and churches from the soft rock. Early Christians in the area also constructed an elaborate labyrinth of over 100 underground cities in order to seek refuge from invaders. Today, some of the caves in the region have been converted to hotels, and so visitors have the unique opportunity to stay in a cave hotel. No visit to Cappadocia is complete without a hot air balloon flight – an experience that you will never forget. We recommend staying two nights in Cappadocia if possible as there is a lot of ground to cover. Most people visit the Goreme Open Air Museum, either Derinkuyu or Kaymakli Underground city and explore some of the area’s valleys as a minimum.
With brilliant white travertine terraces and warm, thermal pools cascading down a hill and looking a bit like a frozen waterfall, a visit to Pamukkale and the opportunity to witness this geological phenomenon first-hand shouldn’t be missed. Pamukkale also offers the opportunity to wander through the ruins of the ancient Roman spa town of Hierapolis, which is co-located with the Travertines. Many people visit Pamukkale just for the day and then continue on to the Aegean coast to visit Ephesus, but we recommend making a day of it and staying overnight in either Pamukkale village itself or the nearby village of Karahayit. You’ll be better rested, and you will have the chance to take a close up look at village life. The name ‘Pamukkale” translates into “cotton castle” – after your visit you will understand why.
Now this was most difficult place to choose for this list. If time permits, we recommend spending a couple of nights somewhere on either the Aegean or Mediterranean Coasts. Take a look at Marmaris, Bodrum or Antalya as options also. In the end we chose Fethiye for the list because of the chance to either do a one day or slightly longer gulet cruise around the beautiful bays and inlets in this area. It also offers some of the world’s best, and most picturesque paragliding – an unforgettable experience not to be missed. Try and spend at least two nights here. Make sure you visit the nearby beach of Oludeniz (this is where the paragliding is done), and go for swim at the beautiful beach here. It is also relatively easy to visit the nearby ghost village of Kayakoy, abandoned after a population exchange between Turkey and Greece, and hauntingly beautiful. Kayakoy is also where some of the scenes in the Russell Crowe movie the Water Diviner were shot.
Ah Ephesus… the grand dame of ruins sites in Turkey, and one of the premier ruins in the World. Many civilizations have left their footprints here. And a who’s who of biblical and other history have walked the streets of Ephesus – Cleopatra and Antony, St John, St Paul, and more. As you walk the marble streets of Ephesus you will really feel as if you have been transported back to another era. Just to catch a glimpse of the impressive facade of the Celsus Library is alone worth the visit. People visiting Ephesus stay either in Selcuk town or the nearby town of Kusadasi, located on the Aegean Coast. While you are in the area be sure to visit the House of the Virgin Mary, where it is believed she was brought by St John to spend her last days. The former Greek village of Sirince, located approximately 8km from Selcuk is also worth a look – it’s a great place to eat some tasty home-style food and sample the many fruit wines for which the area is famous.