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Uncover Turkey’s delights
Straddling eastern Europe and western Asia, the Republic of Turkey is a vast and varied country boasting natural wonders galore, a rich history and forward-facing cities. Nowhere more is this deep-rooted history and mix of cultural influences seen than in its largest metropolis, Istanbul. As the only city in the world that sits between two continents, it’s an intoxicating blend of cultures and traditions. Age-old mosques, Ottoman palaces and maze-like bazaars sit alongside achingly trendy boutiques and cutting-edge restaurants.
Wherever you go, food is integral to Turkey’s culture and its diversity is a highlight for anyone who visits. The country’s sweeping coastline is varied too, peppered with family-friendly hotspots, peaceful villages and hidden gems. Turkey is bordered by four different seas: the inland Sea of Marmara (separating the country’s European and Asian sides), the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean to the south, and the Aegean to the west. The latter two are the stuff of postcards – white sands, dazzling turquoise waters, pine-clad mountains and time-worn ancient ruins.
Turkey is great for
EXPLORE OUR RESORTS IN TURKEY
turkey fast facts
Official Language – Turkish is the most widely spoken language.
Time – Turkey is three hours ahead of GMT and observes European daylight savings hours.
Tourist Info – Visit gototurkey.co.uk for more information.
Capital – Ankara is the capital city of Turkey.
Currency – The currency used in Turkey is the Turkish Lira (₺).
Getting there – There is a wide range of flights to Turkey from the UK with flights taking between three-and-a-half and five hours. You can fly direct from the UK to İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Bodrum, Dalaman and Antalya.
when to go?
Turkey is a large country with varied landscapes and climates. Generally, April and May along with September and October are warm and sunny with temperatures ranging between 20°C and 30°C. June to August is the hottest part of year, although it is often cooler by the coast. From mid- to late October through to March, the weather is cooler, making it a lovely time to explore some of the country’s cities, heritage sites and hiking trails.
The Islamic holy month of Ramazan (called Ramadan elsewhere) is the most sacred month of the year in Turkey. The dates vary as it is based on the Islamic calendar which is lunar. It’s a month of spiritual reflection, praying and fasting between sunrise and sunset, but pretty much business as usual for tourists. The last day, Ramazan Bayramı (Eid al-Fitr) or the Feast of the Sweets, is an official national holiday. The other major religious celebration is Kurban Bayramı or Feast of the Sacrifice, again dates vary year to year.
May brings an ancient celebration of spring, known as Hıdırellez, which is marked throughout Turkey with music, dancing and bonfire jumping. In summer there is a host of festivals like the Bodrum Music Festival while traditional olive and grape harvest celebrations take place in rural locations in early autumn. Other notable events include Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı) on October 29, when the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 is marked with parades.
the food & drink
Turkish cuisine has a great richness and complexity, due to its multifaceted history, varied climates and geography. Wherever you go, you’ll find the food is plentiful, full of flavour and meant to be shared.
Meze, a selection of many small dishes, typically start a meal. These vary between regions, making the most of seasonal ingredients grown in the area. Fresh vegetables and herbs are a given – think flaky pastries, zingy dips and fragrant salads with plump aubergines, juicy tomatoes, fresh cucumbers and jewel-like pomegranate seeds.
You can’t leave the country without tucking into a kebap (kebab) or two, available in a dazzling array of shapes, sizes and varieties. Köfta (Turkish meatball) is another meaty must-try. The country is full of low-key, humble eateries that specialise in traditional Turkish ocakbaşı (charcoal grilled meat). Lamb is the most popular meat, often slow cooked with herbs and garlic until meltingly tender.
Breads are an integral part of Turkish culture and cuisine with endless varieties. The sesame seed-topped simit is ubiquitous as are assorted flatbreads including lahmacun, lavaş, pillowy pita and oblong-shaped pide, a type of Turkish pizza with various toppings. Another popular snack is gözleme, a thin dough stuffed with herbs, cheese or potatoes.
The range and depth of Turkish food goes way beyond dips, breads and the humble kebab, though. There are soups and fragrant stews, full of seasonal veggies and legumes, and spiced rice or bulgur wheat pilav. You’ll find local cheeses, yoghurts, sausages, juicy olives, fragrant figs and, on the coast, simply grilled fish, freshly plucked from the sea. While syrupy pistachio-stuffed baklava and cubes of halva with a strong Turkish coffee are the best way to end any feast. Better still, take it with a nip of aniseed spirit rakı.
Wherever you go, you’ll be served plenty of çay, a sweet Turkish tea served without milk. Despite being a Muslim country, Turkey has a flourishing wine industry with some wonderful (and wonderfully cheap) drops to try.
The History and culture
Neolithic settlements, ancient Greek temples, crumbling Roman cities, grand and ornate mosques, Ottoman castles and labyrinthine old towns, Turkey is rich in ancient sites and steeped in history. Istanbul is one of the best places to uncover it with its magnificent monuments, bustling bazaars and world-class museums.
Settled by the Greeks and later Romans, Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coasts have a wealth of classical ruins to explore. Ephesus is one of the most well-preserved ancient cities in Turkey and its most renowned historical attraction. The façade of the Library of Celsus is its best-known structure. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is located here although little remains. The ancient city of Aphrodisias in the Aegean province of Aydın is another. While the temple of Athena in Priene and the Temple of Apollo in Didim are other archaeological sites well worth seeking out on the Aegean.
Also on the western coast, Kusadasi’s Ottoman-era island fortress and bijou old town ooze atmosphere while pretty Bodrum boasts a 15th-century castle on its palm-lined bay, fourth-century amphitheatre and the remains of another ancient wonder, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Getting under the skin of Turkish culture is one of the joys of holiday here – from drinking tea with locals in a teahouse to chatting to people in smart beachside cafés, you’ll receive warm and generous hospitality. No visit to the country is compete without a trip to the Turkish baths, locally known as hammam, or bartering for handwoven rugs, glass lamps and ceramics in a bazaar.
The Natural Wonders
Turkey has it all: towering peaks, wooded valleys, fertile vineyards, vast dry steppes and utterly bizarre geological phenomenon. Translating as “Cotton Castle”, the surreal white travertine terraces and warm pools of Pamukkale sit next to the ruins of the Hierapolis. Together they are one of the country’s most spectacular Unesco-listed sites. Cappadocia is another magical landscape with its bizarre rock pinnacles known as “fairy chimneys”.
The beaches are one of the most beautiful natural features of Turkey, especially along its Aegean and the Mediterranean coasts. As well as sandy stretches, there are vast swathes of pine forests tumbling down to secluded bays with sparkling turquoise seas. The Aegean coast and its outlying islands are best explored by boat. Gliding along the water on a traditional wooden Turkish gulet is the best way to do it, stopping to swim when the mood takes you. There are thrilling activities too from kitesurfing and paragliding to canyoning while some parts of the coastline are wonderful for snorkelling and diving with myriad fish, undersea caves and canyons to explore.
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