Some tips before you go to TURKEY
Best tourism, holiday and vacation (vacations) place is in the whole world. Turkey has exoticism to spare, with its covered bazaars, whirling dervishes, sultans' treasures and Byzantine mosaics. It also has natural beauty in abundance, with great stretches of sandy beaches and romantic rocky coves.
Nevertheless, Turkey is constantly improving the infrastructure that serves tourists—though increasing prices, sprawling new development and growing crowds, particularly along the southwest coast of the country, may dismay those hoping to find an unspoiled retreat.
With borders on seven different nations, Turkey has been repeatedly washed over by diverse influences, creating an energy and tension that make it a fascinating destination. Don't rush a trip through Turkey. It's best seen in leisurely drives along the coast, past places of remarkable history and beauty.
Turkey is as varied geographically as it is culturally: It contains rolling steppe (Marmara), fertile plains (Aegean), volcanic peaks capped with snow (Central Anatolia) and more than 5,000 mi/8,000 km of coastline (along the Black Sea and the Mediterranean).
Beaches, historical sites, museums, shopping, palaces, mosques, architecture, snow skiing, good food, spas, beautiful and varied scenery and excellent water sports are Turkey's foremost attractions.
Turkey will appeal to adventurous, well-traveled people who enjoy the combination of exotic cities, beautiful beaches and historical attractions. Standards in accommodations have increased dramatically in the past few years, although travelers who seek every Western comfort and a high degree of predictability and organization will get nearer their goal if they confine their trips to major cities and tourist resorts.
With increased standards in hotels, telecommunications and security have come higher prices. You'll particularly notice the pinch in areas along the southern coast. Overall, Turkey remains one of the most affordable countries in Europe.
Official Name: Republic of Turkey.
Passport/Visa Requirements: Passports, visas and proof of onward passage needed by citizens of Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. Tourist visas are available at borders and other points of entry. Reconfirm travel document requirements with carrier before departure.
Health Certificates: None required. Contact health authorities for latest information.
Area: 301,380 sq mi/780,574 sq km.
Languages: Turkish (official), Kurdish, Arabic.
Weather: Mediterranean in coastal areas, harsher temperatures inland.
Economy: Agriculture, industry, mining, tourism.
Predominant Religions: Predominately Islamic (Sunni), though many other sects and religions are represented.
Currency: Turkish lira (TL). 100 kurus = 1 TL.
Time Zone: 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+2 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed March-October.
Telephone Codes: 90, country code; 212, Istanbul (European side); 216, Istanbul (Asian side).
Voltage Requirements: 220 volts.
Airport Departure Tax: None.
What To Do There
Adana, Turkey's fourth-largest city (pop. 1,250,000), is sometimes called the City of Gold because of its numerous jewelry shops. (Then again, nearly every city in Turkey has large gold and silver districts). While mostly a prosperous modern city, Adana has a few sights in its old town. To enter the city, cross an ancient bridge—in continuous use since Roman legionnaires built it in the 2nd century! Once in Adana, head first to the mosques. We think Akca Mescit's pulpit and Eski Cami's restored minaret are especially interesting. Be sure to allow time to see the 19th-century clock towers, the archaeological museum and the Kapali Carsi, or covered market. The ancient Hittite city of Karatepe can be seen on a day trip from Adana. 240 mi/385 km southeast of Ankara.
This small, rarely visited town was the site of one of the original Seven Churches of Asia Minor. Founded by the Greeks in 280 BC, Akhisar is a possible place to overnight if you're making a two-day tour of Alasehir, Pergamon, Sardes and Denizli. Alternately, Akhisar can be seen on a very long day trip from Izmir. About 300 mi/485 km west of Ankara.
Home of the Hittite Sphinx Gate ruin, Alacahoyuk was a center of civilization during the Bronze Age—it's considered one of the most important ancient Hittite sites. Though most of the gold and bronze objects found in the area are now in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, there is a small but interesting museum at the site of Alacahoyuk's Royal Tombs. 100 mi/160 km east of Ankara.
Alanya once was given as a present to Cleopatra by Marc Antony. While it might have been a nice gift back then, we don't know how thankful she would be today. Alanya does have ancient ruins and a fantastic citadel, along with some delightful beaches. But in high season the beaches are crammed with vacationers. Concrete hotels dominate the coastline in every direction, and though the nightlife is fun, you'll find better versions of Alanya's attractions elsewhere. 250 mi/400 km south of Ankara.
Site of one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, this town was founded by Philadelphus of Pergamon, a Greek, in 150 BC. (Much later, Greece was again to play a role in the city's history: In 1922, Alasehir was leveled by Greek forces.) Only portions of an early church and the city wall remain standing. Because there's so little to see, Alasehir is usually combined with Denizli on a day trip from Izmir. 75 mi/120 km east of Izmir.
According to the ancient historian Strabo, Amasya was founded by an Amazon Queen, Amasis, but it probably began as a Hittite settlement before being conquered by Alexander the Great. In the 3rd century BC it was the capital of the Pontic Kingdom ruled by Mithridates. The city reached its pinnacle under the Ottoman Empire, when it was center of culture and learning. Today Amasya attracts relatively few tourists, although its dramatic setting in Yesilirmak Valley, surrounded by 2,000-year-old rock tombs that are lit up at night, make it well worth a 24-hour stop. The town has many medieval mosques and Ottoman houses, some of which have been converted to stylish pensions. 210 mi/335 km northeast of Ankara.
Ankara (pop. 3,000,000), founded in 1,200 BC, was a small provincial city known mostly for its production of Angora (extremely soft goat's wool). It gained its modern prominence after it replaced Istanbul as the capital in 1923. Consequently, it has distinct old and new sections. The old part of the city, Ulus, is located on two steep hills and is characterized by narrow winding streets and neglected buildings. The new section's hallmark is characterless modern buildings—and the city continues its rapid expansion. Inside this tangle of old and new lurks Turkey's main center of cultural life: The city has three symphony orchestras, and five state-operated theaters (featuring opera, ballet and drama) offer regular performances. There's also a fine modern-art museum in the city.
One of the most impressive sights is the Hisar (Citadel), built of an incredible assortment of columns and blocks taken from other ancient buildings. Other sites in the old town include the well-preserved Temple of Augustus, the 3rd-century Roman Baths of Caracalla (which were equipped with central heating) and the 15th-century Haci Bayram Mosque (named after the revered dervish who is buried there). There is also the Grand National Assembly Museum (the assembly that founded modern Turkey first met in Ankara) and the 4th-century Julian's Column (built by the Roman emperor who tried to revive paganism).
No visit to Ankara would be complete, however, without a visit to the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey. The mausoleum, which overlooks the city, includes an interesting museum detailing Ataturk's life. (Be aware that any action or word showing disrespect for Ataturk is illegal and punishable.) Another must-see is the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which has a selection of the country's best archaeological artifacts. There is also an ethnographic museum, with displays on the many cultures that make up Turkey. Ankara can easily be seen in a two-night stay. 220 mi/355 km southeast of Istanbul.
This ancient Syrian capital (pop. 109,000) was once the third-largest city in the Roman empire, after Rome and Constantinople, and was home to one of the world's first Christian communities. (In the Bible, the first use of the word "Christians" refers to residents of Antakya.) Much of the ancient heritage of Old Antioch, however, was destroyed by wars and earthquakes. What is left is the atmosphere of a French colonial city (the French held Antioch in the 1920s), with wide boulevards and traffic circles. Drive to the top of the mountain to see the ruins of the Byzantine fortress (though the view is more impressive than the ruins), and visit some of the city mosques. A special treat for Biblical scholars and history buffs is St. Peter's Church, a cave where Peter preached (mass is still said there every other Sunday). We also recommend the Hatay Archaeological Museum, which houses one of the finest collections of Roman mosaics in the world—don't miss the mosaic of Oceanus.
Excursions can be made to the Crusader castle, built atop the foundations of a Hellenistic fortress in the nearby town of Bagras, and to Yakacik, a restored 16th-century town.
Also worth a day's outing is a visit to the Roman Harbor of Seleucia ad Peira, where St. Paul set forth on his first journey to Cyprus. There are interesting ruins, including the Titus Vespasiyanus Tunnel, a remarkable example of Roman engineering. 325 mi/525 km southeast of Ankara.
All the right elements come together to make this Mediterranean town (pop. 500,000) on the Turkish Riviera one of the country's top attractions. Not only is it on a beautiful crescent bay, but dramatic cliffs and the Toros Mountains contribute to one of the most beautiful backdrops on the Mediterranean. And Antalya offers variety: Visitors can take a break from the sea and sand to visit Hittite, Greek and Roman ruins right in town, or take day trips to enjoy both natural and historic attractions. The beaches near town are pebbly; the ones farther out are much better.
Start your tour of the town's historical sights with a few hours in the archaeological museum. Then take a walk through the old quarter of Antalya, including the restored Roman Harbor (now used by yachts), Hadrian's Gate (the marble structure is also known as the Three Arches) and the Roman Hidirlik Kulesi tower. Newer structures include the impressive six-domed Yivli Minare Mosque and Kesik Minare Mosque (built from an old Roman temple). Allow at least three nights in Antalya to see it and its vicinity.
Several sites outside of town can be visited on day trips. Natural attractions include the Manavgat Waterfalls, the Upper and Lower Duden Waterfalls and Kadinyari Cliff.
Other draws around Antalya include the Lycian ruins of Phaselis, Patara, where St. Nicholas, the "real" Santa Claus, was born, and, if you're up for a stiff hike, the eternal flame of the Bey Mountains (Chimaera) near the ruins of Olympos. Perge, Side and Termessos also merit visits. Antalya is 240 mi/385 km southwest of Ankara.
This remarkable, ancient Roman city was dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Located near the village of Geyre, the ruins merit at least half a day of exploration. See the old walls, theater and stadium (it once held upward of 30,000 people) and be sure to visit the museum, which contains several interesting sculptures found at the site. 100 mi/160 km southwest of Adana.
Part of the Georgian borderlands, the Artvin valley looks nothing like central Anatolia. It is lush, green and European in appearance, with monasteries, castles and ancient Russian-style houses. The town of Artvin is dominated by a medieval castle, and though it's small and provincial, with few comforts for the sea-and-sunshine tourist, it makes a wonderful base for mountain trekking and monastery visits. The most-visited Georgian church is the 10th-century Dolishane in the village of Hamalikoy. 160 mi/255 km east of Trabzon.
This ancient Greek village was settled by colonists from the nearby island of Lesbos and is now becoming something of an artists community for the Istanbul elite. Chilly in winter, it has never become a popular destination for travelers—hence, the old houses haven't all been razed to make way for concrete-block hotels. Aristotle lived there 347-344 BC. A 6th-century Temple of Athena is being restored. 100 mi/160 km northwest of Izmir.
Spread out on two crescent-shaped bays, this resort has an artsy feel. Recently, however, it has become a magnet for the jet set, and it's being overrun with development. (Well-intentioned planning laws forbid construction of houses more than two stories tall, with the result that today's Bodrum has thousands of little identical sugar-cube houses—empty for all but two weeks out of the year—spreading out like Legoland in every direction.) Nightclubs, cafes and restaurants stay open all night to accommodate Bodrum's party-hearty types. The city has a modern marina (it's a popular yacht-chartering center), an old waterfront and winding streets.
Bodrum is a good spot to stay while visiting the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and the Castle of St. Peter, a Crusader fortification housing the excellent Museum of Underwater Archaeology. The highlights of the museum include artifacts from the oldest shipwreck ever discovered and the Hall of the Carian Princess, whose tomb was found, gold intact, in 1989 when workers were digging the foundations of a new building. A facial reconstruction has brought Princess Ada and her era alive again.
Be sure to prebook far in advance if you're planning to visit Bodrum during September—crowds are heavy for the annual Arts and Culture Festival. We also recommend seeing some of the surrounding villages: Our favorites are Gumusluk, Kadikalesi and Akyar. Bodrum is 160 mi/260 km south of Izmir.
Bogazkoy, the capital of the Hittite empire from 2,000 to 1,180 BC, is interesting because double walls circle its ruins. Be sure to see the Royal Gate, the Yer Kapi (underground tunnel), the Lion Gate and the Great Temple of the Storm God of Hattusas. Archaeology buffs should plan a half-day visit. 90 mi/145 km east of Ankara.
At the foot of Mt. Uludag (also called Mt. Olympus) is Bursa (pop. 1,000,000), the first capital of the Ottoman empire. The city, justly famed for its tiled architecture, has several nice attractions, including gardens, the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque), archaeology and ethnography museums, the Green Mosque (Yesil Cami) and its adjoining tomb (Yesil Turbe—wonderful tile work). The Muradiye Mosque is surrounded by 11 red-brick mausoleums that hold the tombs of an Ottoman sultan and members of his nobility. We also liked relaxing in its Turkish baths, shopping in the covered market and silk shops (there are silk-cocoon markets in June and September) and just seeing the town's old oak trees. The suburb of Cekirge is Turkey's best-known mineral spa. Most of the best hotels are located there, and many of them have their own thermal baths. Plan two nights. Bursa is 60 mi/100 km south of Istanbul.
This area is the last outpost before reaching the dramatic Kackar Mountains, a wild range beloved by Turkish trekkers and mountaineers and increasingly popular with outdoor tourists from all over the world. The region is distinctive in dialect and dress: Settlers are thought to have come from ancient Georgian tribes. Men drink heavily and play the bagpipes. Women seem fiercely independent and wear beautiful silk headdresses unlike anything else in Turkey. Ayder, a tiny village 11 mi/17 km above Camlihemsin, is the last place you'll find pensions, and very basic ones at that. You'll find an extremely hot thermal bath there that's popular with Turks. Climbers use Ayder as their base for treks into the mountain pastures and peaks, but be warned: Mountain people can be rough—a number of rapes have taken place in the forest. Go with a local guide. 35 mi/60 km east of Rize.
This ancient Christian kingdom, in central Turkey, sits within an eerie, surrealistic landscape of pinnacles, ravines and carved-rock dwellings. It's one of the most fascinating places in Turkey. Caves in the region were used as shelters and still contain marvelous frescoes. Cappadocia encompasses the area bordered by the towns of Avanos on the north, Kayseri on the east, Nevsehir on the west and Nigde on the south.
About 15 mi/22 km south of Nevsehir are the underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. Spiraling downward for seven stories, these cities housed tens of thousands of people. Essential elements of aboveground civilization, such as the ability to make wine, were retained by the ingenious underground inhabitants. The Goreme Valley, east of Nevsehir, has churches that were carved out of the rock and decorated with magnificent frescoes. (Even though many of the frescoes have been severely defaced by vandals, it's still one of the major sights of Turkey.) The fascinating Zelve Valley (north of Goreme Valley) has a multilevel monastery and churches carved inside columns of rock (called tufa) that was formed by volcanic ash.
If you're traveling independently, we suggest staying in the centrally located town of Urgup. Allow several days to see the area (be sure to take good walking shoes). Also nearby is the less visited, but very scenic Ihlara Valley (28 mi/45 km southeast of Aksaray), which has yet more churches with frescoes. Cappadocia is approximately 100 mi/160 km southeast of Ankara.
This 9,000-year-old city was once more interesting to read about than to see. Recently, though, scholars from Cambridge University have begun a high-tech excavation—expected to take several decades to complete—that may prove that urban life had its origins at Catalhoyuk. The houses at the site, which resemble 2,000-year-old Indian settlements in the southwestern U.S., often doubled as shrines, and the dead were buried beneath clay sleeping platforms. Until excavation is complete, you can watch the team at work and see the artifacts on display in the site's museum. 30 mi/50 km south of Konya.
While this small village has its share of beach houses and hotels, its old town still retains an attractive and relaxing atmosphere. There are several beaches, some with warm springs (the word Cesme means "fountain"), a nice castle and a waterfront lined with restaurants. Cesme is a good place to visit if you want to take a break from traveling. 53 mi/85 km west of Izmir, 360 mi/590 km west of Ankara.
Chimerea, named after the legendary fire-breathing beasts that were said to terrorize ancient Lycia, is a hill flickering with perpetual flames. The fires, which are no larger than a candle flame, are produced by methane gas, and are not extinguishable by water. In fact, if a flame is covered with sand, it resurfaces nearby within a few minutes. Spend some time "playing with fire." Then, after dark, take a boat cruise to view the twinkling spectacle from the sea. 65 mi/105 km west of Antalya.
One of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Dalyan has been saved from coastal overdevelopment by a group of environmentalists, Turkish and foreign, who battled successfully to have the nesting grounds of the Caretta sea turtle left in peace. You now reach the beach by boat or car (it's 4 mi/6 km away from town), and it is strictly forbidden to remain there after sundown. However, like other environmental paradises, Dalyan is becoming a victim of its own success, as flocks of coach tourists arrive daily to "see the turtles," and concrete hotels threaten to take over the steamy, almost tropical little inland village.
Still, Dalyan is unique in a number of ways. Boats drifting through the reedy everglades to the sea pass by the ancient city of Caunos and a number of stunning 4th-century rock tombs. Wild birds, including flamingos and herons, flourish in the swampy atmosphere, but so do mosquitoes. Take along your repellent! 105 mi/170 km southeast of Izmir.
If you think Santa Claus comes from the North Pole, think again: The original St. Nicholas was bishop of Demre in the 4th century. He was buried under the beautiful mosaic floor of the Church of St. Nicholas (most of his bones were smuggled to Italy centuries ago; a few remain in the Antalya Archaeological Museum). Near Demre are a Roman theater and some rock tombs of the Lycians. We suggest seeing Demre as an excursion from either Kas or Kalkan, two pretty resort towns. Demre lies 80 mi/130 km southwest of Antalya.
Although not a major site, this Aegean port town is the landing site of cruise ships whose itineraries include the ruins of the ancient city of Pergamon. 35 mi/55 km north of Izmir.
This ancient city along the Tigris River is at least 5,000 years old and has been variously overrun by Hurrians, Urartians, Assyrians and Persians. Today, however, it is predominately Kurdish and a constant site of political tension, so check conditions before you go. Nonetheless, it has a special, at times eerie, atmosphere and a number of beautiful mosques and churches. The first thing you'll notice, however, are the gigantic black basalt walls, built by the Byzantines, that enclose the city and were clearly meant to intimidate. Ulu Cami, built in 1091, was one of the first major Selcuk mosques. Those interested in Christian history will be moved by what's left of the Armenian church near Kasim Padishah Mosque and the Syrian Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary. 350 mi/560 km southeast of Ankara.
Located in the shadow of Mt. Ararat, this town has a rustic frontier atmosphere. Nearby is the spectacular and isolated Isak Pasa Sarayi (palace), set atop a high mountain. Though dry and barren, the area is impressive. One night there is adequate unless you're hiking up Mt. Ararat to seek the remains of Noah's Ark. (Permission from the Turkish government is required to climb the mountain; check with the Ministry of Tourism in Ankara before you go.) 650 mi/1,045 km east of Ankara.
Rich in historical significance, Edirne saw the best and the worst times of the Roman Empire. Named after founding emperor Hadrian, under whose reign the empire reached the farthest, the city was also the scene of the empire's worst military disaster when the Emperor Valens and all his troops were slaughtered by barbarian invaders. Its past has left the city with a heritage of cobblestone streets, outdoor shops, wooden houses and an Eastern European feel. Among the city's sights are the Museum of Islamic Art and the covered bazaar.
The main reason to visit Edirne, however, is to see the Selimiye, a mosque that represents the best work of the finest Ottoman Turkish architect, Sinan—it's a true masterpiece. The Uc Serefeli Mosque and the Eski Mosque are also worth seeing. The 600-year-old Kirkpinar Wrestling Festival takes place in early July. Plan one night there. 145 mi/235 km west of Istanbul (near the border with Bulgaria and Greece).
Of all the ruins in Turkey, the grandest and best restored are at Ephesus. This prominent ancient capital was founded in the 10th century BC by the Ionian Greeks and flourished between 600 BC and AD 500 (it once had a population of 300,000). Biblical scholars may know the town as the inspiration for St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, and it was the site of one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.
Archaeologists still digging at the site have reconstructed much of it, including the beautiful two-story Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian and the 24,000-seat Great Amphitheater (which until recently was still used for open-air concerts). The Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), once stood about halfway between Ephesus and the nearby town of Selcuk. Although at one point the temple had 129 columns and was the size of a football field, a single column, topped by a stork's nest, is all that remains of the ancient wonder. Ephesus is usually seen while in Selcuk or on a day trip from Izmir. 35 mi/55 km southeast of Izmir.
This city (pop. 292,000) in eastern Turkey is surrounded by beautiful, gently eroded mountains. Though we wouldn't make a special trip to see Erzurum, it has several interesting sights for those passing through. If you have time to see only one attraction, stop at the Cifte Minareli Medrese (Koranic school), which dates from 1253. (During the early part of this century, it was used to store ammunition.) Other sights include the 12th-century Ulu Mosque (Great Mosque), the Yakutiye Medresesi (built by the Mongols in 1308) and Uc Kumbetler (Seljuk tombs). There's a citadel in town that was formerly used as a military installation, but can now be visited by the general public. Plan one night. 475 mi/765 km east of Ankara.
Set in a pretty harbor sheltered by 12 small islands, Fethiye is a modern town that still retains its charm. While most of the buildings were constructed after a 1957 earthquake, the city has a number of ancient tombs scattered throughout town (the best being the Lycian Sarcophagus, carved from a single block of stone). The harbor is filled with traditional wooden sailing ships and makes a good spot for a pleasant evening stroll. Beaches can be found at Calis (2 mi/3 km around the bay) or at Olu Deniz, one of the most beautiful beaches in the country (6 mi/10 km west). Also nearby are the ruins of Xanthus (the ancient capital of Lycia) and Letoon (the Lycian's religious center). 155 mi/250 km southwest of Antalya.
Across the Dardanelles from Canakkale lies the Gallipoli Peninsula. Its historic significance can't be overestimated—World War I would have been considerably shorter (and the course of history changed) had the British Empire's troops succeeded in taking the heights of the peninsula. (As it was, Turkish machine-gun nests kept the Allies pinned along the beaches, cutting them to shreds, effectively delaying any further Allied movement on the Eastern Front.) The overwhelming majority of the Allied forces on the beaches at Gallipoli came from the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps (the ANZACs), and the place is something of a pilgrimage for visitors from Down Under.
Given the horrific bloodshed that occurred there, the site is appropriately low key: Take a walk along the heights and look down on the sea to get a clear understanding of why the Australians and New Zealanders below had hardly a prayer. Some of the trenches are still intact. Turkey's founder, Ataturk, first gained his reputation and fame for his defense of Conkbayiri Hill in 1915. He later erected a touching memorial to the forces he helped defeat; don't miss it.
There are many other war cemeteries and monuments on the peninsula, but you'll need a car or a guided tour (our choice) to see most of them. 125 mi/200 km southwest of Istanbul.
In southeastern Turkey, this town is believed to be the city of Haran, home of Biblical Abraham. In 53 BC, the Roman general Crassus and his legionnaires were defeated by the Parthians at the Battle of Carrae. There are gates, ruins, a citadel and the remains of the Umayyad Mosque. Look for the villagers' "beehive" houses made of mud. Plan a few hours there. 425 mi/685 km southeast of Ankara.
A port city founded by Alexander the Great, Iskenderun has a long, rich history. Stroll its cobblestone streets, poke about the quaint shops and visit the Theater of Masks (a well-preserved Greek structure). Of the various mosques, the chief ones are the lovely blue-tiled Mosque of Al Kahira (built by Sinan) and the Mausoleum of Muktar IV (be sure to see the courtyard). A short distance away lie the ruins of a great library at Fodasi, as well as the mud baths of Albahomos. 300 mi/485 km southeast of Ankara.
Set on the Golden Horn inlet off the Sea of Marmara and sprawled across both sides of the Bosporus Strait (which separates Europe from Asia), Istanbul is one of the world's great travel destinations. It's very old (founded in 600 BC) and very large (the greater metropolitan area has a population exceeding 10 million). Istanbul was the capital city for nearly 1,600 years and has an incredible wealth of historical sights. Most of the population and attractions are in the European section, primarily in the Old Town. The Asian portion can be reached by ferry or bridge. Both sides have colorful markets, wild traffic, beautiful architecture and fantastic museums. Plan to stay at least three nights.
In this city of spectacular attractions, a few stand out as absolute must-sees. One is the symbol of Istanbul, the lovely Blue Mosque, a massive and rounded structure contrasting beautifully with the airy, vertical spires of its minarets. The nearby Hagia Sophia was the world's largest church before St. Peter's in Rome was built—its interior mosaics and spaces are stunning. (After the Muslim conquest of Constantinople, the cathedral was turned into a mosque, but it is now a museum.) Another unique attraction is the 19th-century baroque Dolmabahce Palace, which runs along the Bosporus Strait, and ranks among the world's most ostentatious and overdone palaces. Marble, gold, carpets and crystal are all laid on thick. Other highlights are the Cistern Basilica (with 336 columns dating to AD 527), the Museum of Ancient Oriental Art, the Archaeology Museum and the Military Museum, which has daily performances of the Ottoman Janissary Band (the Ottomans were the first military to use music—they thought it would lift the spirits of their soldiers). The Kapali Carsi (the city's famed covered bazaar) is so big that it even has its own post office! It also has its own muezzin, whose haunting voice issues possibly the only unamplified call to prayer in Istanbul. Even if you don't want to buy anything, you should get lost for a while in the Grand Bazaar—it's a classic Turkish experience. Avid bazaar-goers should also check out the Egyptian spice market, a sensual treat for the eyes, nose and mouth.
Istanbul abounds in attractions that would be the standout anywhere else. For instance, Topkapi Palace, home of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire, sits on a hill overlooking the city and the Bosporus. Its spectacular treasury includes the sultan's dagger (featured in the movie Topkapi ). Its harem—far less spectacular—is a dingy maze of staircases, corridors and bedrooms where women lived for the sole purpose of producing a male child. Each summer, Mozart's Abduction From the Seraglio is performed at the palace.
Other sights include the 6th-century Roman Hippodrome, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Beylerbeyi Palace (summer residence of the Sultan, on the Asian shore), the Mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and the Kariye Cami (Church of St. Saviour in Chora, which holds some of the finest Byzantine art in the world). If time permits, take in the view from the Hill of Camlica, across the Bosporus Bridge (at one time the only suspension bridge connecting two continents).
Istanbul is a city that's fun for sitting at sidewalk cafes or walking around, though it's best to be cautious in some areas (ask at your hotel which neighborhoods to avoid, and don't walk around alone at night beyond the major thoroughfares). For a delicious fish supper, head to the district of Kumkapi to choose from among some two dozen fish restaurants.
Day trips may be taken by ferry or hydrofoil to the Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara (the boat passes numerous old forts and castles). Buyukada Island is one of our favorites; wooden Victorian houses dot this pine-covered island. Stop at the fishing village of Sariyer for an inexpensive fish lunch and a visit to the Sadberk Hanim Museum (an amazing collection of Ottoman art and artifacts). 220 mi/355 km northwest of Ankara.
Izmir (pop. 1,900,000) is the unofficial capital of the Turkish Aegean area. This busy port is claimed to be the birthplace of Homer, and it also has one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor (this one was rebuilt after a 1922 fire). Visit the bazaar, the Kemeralti, Sadirvan and Hisar mosques, the 17th-century caravansary, the archaeological museum (ancient sculptures and other displays), the Agora (marketplace) and Kadifekale (the "Velvet Castle" atop Mt. Pagus—spectacular view). The Culture Park is a fairground. Day trips from Izmir include historical sites at Didyma, Asklepion and Priene. Izmir is also a good base for visiting the historic towns of Alasehir, Akhisar, Pergamon, Denizli, Ephesus, Kusadasi, Sardes and Selcuk. 210 mi/340 km southwest of Istanbul.
Most people stop for an hour in this pleasant lakeside town when traveling between Istanbul and Bursa. The site of the first Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church (in AD 325), it was also where the Nicene Creed ("I believe in one God...") was developed. Iznik's major claim to fame is that it was the center of Turkish tile making in the 16th and 17th centuries (they supplied the tiles that gave Istanbul's Blue Mosque its name). Colored Iznik tiles are among the finest works of art in the world. 60 mi/100 km southeast of Istanbul.
Karatepe is an ancient Hittite city with a castle that's now an open-air museum. Allow several hours to see it all. While in the area, also visit the fortress of Kozan and Kadirli Castle (the Istanbul Museum's statue of Hadrian came from the castle). It's possible to spend several days in this area, but most people see it on a long day trip from Adana. 50 mi/80 km northeast of Adana.
Once the Greek port of Andifli, Kas is now one of Turkey's more bohemian resorts, as there's little to attract families or day-trippers. The rocky coast is for serious swimmers only and the village itself is tiny. However, Kas boasts a surprisingly fine collection of design and antique shops, and the carpet dealers are well educated—a delight for hassle-free shopping. English is the dominant language, and the restaurants are excellent. Sixteen mi/26 km up the coast, Kalkan (formerly the Greek village of Kalamaki) is even more upmarket. In recent years, a number of sophisticated English people have settled in the town, and its international cuisine is renowned throughout Turkey. Both towns are well worth a day's diversion. Kas is 85 mi/135 km southwest of Antalya.
Lying in the shadow of Mt. Aergius, Kayseri was once the principal city of ancient Cappadocia. Today, this city of 450,000 is noted for its many carpet merchants. If you're going to shop for carpets, prepare yourself for a hard sell—take your time and don't allow yourself to be pressured. The small archaeological museum has interesting artifacts from Kanesh. Unusual buildings include the Huant Hatun Mosque and the Sahibiye Medresesi (with an especially fine portal). There are also several interesting Islamic buildings in town. An excursion may be made to see the site of Kanesh (4,000-year-old silver mines—now just holes in the ground) on the way to Sultan Han, a restored 13th-century caravansary, which is well worth seeing. A visit to Karatay Han (an Assyrian burial complex) could be made on the same excursion. 165 mi/265 km southeast of Ankara.
Built from scratch with World Bank funds, Kemer is pure resort—nothing but modern accommodations near a pretty beach. You will find it either relaxing or boring, depending on how you feel about resorts. 30 mi/50 km south of Antalya.
Konya, one of the world's oldest cities (dating from 7000 BC), is the spiritual center of Turkey—this is where the Whirling Dervishes sect began (a weeklong Dervish Festival, which includes dancing, is held in December). Plan a day there. This city of 691,000 has several attractions: the tiled Theological School of Karatay, the Ince Minaret, Aladdin Mosque, Mausoleum of Mevlana (founder of the Dervishes) and a museum displaying beautiful ancient rugs and copies of the Koran. Some 30 mi/48 km south of Konya is Catal Hoyuk, site of another very old settlement. There is little to see there today; most of the artifacts are housed at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. 150 mi/240 km south of Ankara.
Connected to the mainland by a causeway, this tiny island barely has room to hold a former fort (now a restaurant) and an even smaller park. The mainland town of the same name is where most of the activity is. Once a pleasant fishing village, it has become rather raucous and overdeveloped in recent years and doesn't hold much of interest. Many people stay there, however, when visiting Ephesus or Izmir. The best places to stay are near the Gulf of Kusadasi. The town is also the port where Aegean cruise liners tie up for their day visits to Ephesus.
Day trips can be made to nearby Didyma to see the Temple of Apollo and to the Ionian port city of Priene to see its theater and Bouleuterion (town hall). Another excursion can be made to Miletus, an important ancient Greek town where a superb Greco-Roman theater still stands. Nearby is the town of Altinkum, a plain but peaceful beach resort and a good alternative to Kusadasi. 40 mi/65 km south of Izmir.
One of the most developed Aegean resorts, Marmaris is mostly noted for its yacht harbors and the jet-setters they bring in. The 6-mi/10-km coast is solid with fancy, high-rise hotels and the local bazaar contains a lot of expensive, high-fashion merchandise. Historically, however, there's not much to see, so unless you specifically need to go there to meet your yacht, it's better avoided. 175 mi/280 km south of Izmir.
The 16,945-ft/5,165-m peak of Mt. Ararat is alleged to be the land first spotted by Noah after the flood. The peak is in eastern Turkey, near the town of Dogubeyazit. Because the mountain is near the borders with Iran and Armenia, it's only possible to climb the mountain with a group that has official permission. Recent terrorist activities have made this area unsafe for travelers, but even in good times the region is interesting only for Noah's Ark fans and mountain climbers. Climbs are recommended only for the physically fit and experienced trekkers. 650 mi/1,045 km east of Ankara.
NEMRUT DAGI (Kahta, Adiyaman)
These Commagene (pre-Roman) temple ruins were built 2,000 years ago for King Antiochus I (Antiochos Commagene). Besides their location at an elevation of 7,054 ft/2,150 m, they are remarkable for the giant stone heads found there. The heads, called the Gods of Nemrut Dagi, were lopped off some huge statues long ago. At the base of the mountain is a relief of Hercules greeting a king. The trip up and down the mountain takes a day: The view is best at sunrise. Tours are available from Kahta. The mountain can be visited in winter, but you have to prepared . Take a jacket—even in summer—if you're going to visit the top. 350 mi/565 km southeast of Ankara.
Water streaming down walls of white stalactites into hot travertine mineral pools has made this a popular spa since before Roman times. Those with an interest in ecology were distressed, however, in recent years, to learn that the growing popularity of the travertine pools was destroying them. Until the government forbid swimming in the pools, thousands of visitors covered in suntan oil and sweat were turning Pamukkale's travertines a nasty shade of gray. Go for the day, if you like, for the well-preserved ruins of Heiropolis nearby—but keep your feet out of the travertine pools.
Most travelers stay in Denizli, a fairly bland town, which has the not particularly impressive ruins of Laodicea (including one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor) but we recommend spending the night in the village proper below the travertines (Pamukkalekoyu). All the hotels in the area have pools filled with warm, calcium-rich water. If you're visiting on a day trip from Izmir, try to combine your visit with a trip to Aphrodisias. 250 mi/400 km southwest of Ankara.
Patara has an exquisite 12-mi/20-km beach. (Like Dalyan, the area is under environmental protection and cannot be entered at night.) There are no buildings anywhere near the beach—the cluster of hotels and pensions are in the village of Gelemis 2 mi/3 km inland. However, most hotels run a regular minibus to the beach so you won't have to walk to it in hot weather. The ruins of Patara, the main port of ancient Lycia, are also worth a half-day visit and offer spectacular opportunities for photography. Because the site has never been properly excavated, it's not easy to know what you're seeing—but it's quite romantic for the same reason. 120 mi/180 km east of Antalya.
Usually seen on a two-day tour of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor or on an Aegean sea cruise, Pergamon (pop. 40,000) is the site of the ancient cultural city of the same name. Pergamon merits a visit because of its impressive ruins. The ruins include an acropolis with an Altar of Zeus, palaces, gymnasiums, temples, the world's steepest amphitheater, an Aesculapium (ancient medical center) and a now-empty library (it once held 200,000 volumes). Note the familiar symbol of medicine on the base of the Serpent Altar; Pergamon was the home of early medical theoretician Galen, whose teachings held sway for 1,500 years. Unfortunately, the most spectacular treasures from Pergamon can't be seen there—they're at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany. Allow a few hours to tour the ruins. 50 mi/80 km north of Izmir.
Founded 3,000 years ago, Perge was the major trade city of ancient Pamphylia. It was intentionally sited inland to foil pirates who constantly plundered the coasts. The ruins are impressive—the theater once held 15,000 and is one of the largest in Asia Minor. Close by is another stadium that held 12,000 and is almost completely intact. The Roman baths have been excavated to reveal their wonderfully tiled floors, and there is a 980-ft/300-m, well-preserved colonnaded street along which the ruins of shops can still be seen. Ideally, combine a half day at Perge with a half day at Aspendos. 10 mi/16 km east of Antalya.
If Ottoman houses interest you, Safranbolu is a must-see. Most of the town is under historic preservation and gives a glimpse of domestic life 200 years ago. Safranbolu hasn't been artificially renovated to suit tourists—it's genuine, and the houses are in everyday use. We recommend the Cinci Hamami (Turkish bath), which has been fully restored for modern use, and the Kaymakamlar Evi (Governor's House), which has been turned into a museum. You'll want a full day to soak up the rare pleasures of this pretty town. Try to spend the night in one of the few restored mansions in use as hotels. 155 mi/250 km north of Ankara.
Situated near the Syrian border, Urfa, as it's most commonly known, is Turkey's most Arabic city. It's extremely atmospheric. However, it's become a place of religious pilgrimage for Muslims and is extremely conservative—visitors should be aware that it is almost impossible to find alcohol. Sacred sites include the Cave of Abraham (where the prophet was said to have been born and hidden for 10 years) and numerous pools, full of red carp, that may possibly have functioned as a type of oracle. Around the carp pools are a number of ancient mosques. Also worth seeing is the Archeological Museum, which contains artifacts rescued from the Euphrates floodplain during the building of a massive irrigation project that is once more turning Mesopotamia into the fertile lands described in the Bible. Urfa is a good place to stay if you want to visit Harran. 215 mi/350 km east from Adana.
The ancient Lydian capital, Sardes is where the process for minting coins was developed. It's also the site of one of the original Seven Churches of Asia Minor (it's usually seen as a half-day tour from Izmir). Attractions include the Ionic Temple of Artemis, a restored Roman gymnasium and a 4th-century-BC synagogue that is said to be the ancient world's largest. 50 mi/80 km east of Izmir.
This charming town is a great base for tours of the ruins of Ephesus. It also has a number of sites of its own. Just outside of town is the brick house believed to be the home of the Virgin Mary, who lived there in the middle of the 1st century (the site was discovered by a German visionary in the 18th century who had never visited the region). Another New Testament notable buried in town is gospel author St. John, who did most of his writing while he lived there. His grave is located in the ruined Basilica of St. John, which is in the town's acropolis. The town's archaeological museum is also worth a visit (be sure to see the two elaborate statues of Artemis). There's also a decent beach nearby. In the hills east of Selcuk is the pleasant village of Sirince, known for its lacemakers and good wine. 35 mi/55 km south of Izmir.
Side (pronounced SEE-day) is a town with fascinating Byzantine, Greek and Roman ruins, some dating from the 7th century BC. The town's ruins seem to pop up everywhere—scattered between the buildings or even emerging from the sand of the outlying dunes. Don't miss the towers and walls (fairly well preserved), theater, Roman baths (now a museum—allow two hours to see it), various temple ruins and a beautiful fountain. Unfortunately for antiquity lovers, however, Side is a resort town and, therefore, overdeveloped and expensive. The coast is packed wall-to-wall with "holiday villages." Allow a minimum of half a day to see the ruins (a full day is better), either from Antalya or while driving to Adana. During peak summer months, Side is uncomfortably crowded with tourists. To see the town at a less hectic time, try visiting in spring or autumn. 50 mi/80 km southeast of Antalya.
Sinop is best seen by walking. Located on the coast of the Black Sea, it's a town of charming stores, small mosques, hidden tombs, parks and historical sites. Visit the ruined Hellenistic temple and the site where Diogenes, the seeker of honest men, was born. Also see the Aladdin Keykubat Mosque, ruins of the Serapis Greek temple and a Hittite citadel. Sinop merits at least a half-day visit. 190 mi/305 km northeast of Ankara.
This ancient town is mentioned in the Iliad, in the story of Bellerophon. Termessos is locally famous as being the only town in the area that Alexander the Great didn't conquer. The ruins, located high in the mountains on a dead-end road and surrounded by stone walls, are a long half-day excursion from Antalya, but we think it's worth the effort to visit. Ruins of agoras (markets) and theaters abound, but what interests us most is the vast necropolis of stone sarcophagi. The trip isn't for the out-of-shape—visitors must walk almost 2 mi/3 km up a steep valley along a rocky path to reach the necropolis. While the walk can be tiring, the scenery is beautiful. 22 mi/35 km north of Antalya.
On the Black Sea, this historic ancient city (pop. 189,000) has one of the best-preserved Byzantine monuments in the country: the 13th-century Aya Sophia Church (now a museum). Other sights include the 16th-century Gulbahar Hatun Cami (mosque) and the citadel. About 30 mi/48 km southwest is an impressive Byzantine Virgin built into a cliff at Sumela Monastery at an elevation of 3,900 ft/1,189 m. While in the area, take a day drive south through the stunning Zigana Gecidi Pass to see the varied scenery—we enjoyed passing shepherds with their flocks in the fields. 400 mi/645 km northeast of Ankara.
The celebrated city of the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer and the Aeneid of Virgil was long believed to be fictional until eccentric archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered its ruins near the modern city of Hissarlik. The site actually holds nine settlements, dating from the Stone Age to the Roman Empire (plus a not-too-convincing replica of the Trojan Horse—you'd think they would have seen the soldiers through the windows). Despite being rebuilt nine times, there's very little left of Troy. Plan a few hours to walk through the archaeological site, but hire a guide—otherwise, you'll have a hard time imagining what the city once looked like. Overnight in Canakkale, a charmless town with a strong military presence on the Dardanelles Strait, located 20 mi/32 km north of Troy. Troy is 170 mi/275 km southwest of Istanbul.
This town (pop. 121,000) lies in a beautiful, stark setting near the eastern shore of huge (2,000-sq-mi/6,000-sq-km) saltwater Lake Van. Though it's remote, transportation links are good: Van can be reached by air, rail or bus. The primary reason to go is to shop for kilims (rugs) and other Kurdish weavings and to visit the beautiful 10th-century Armenian church of Akdamar on an island in the lake. Other interesting excursions from Van are to the Hittite city of Cavustepe and the Kurdish castle of Hosap. The town of Hakkari, high in the mountains near the border with Iran, is the base for mountain-climbing expeditions. Two nights should be adequate for the region. 625 mi/1,005 km southeast of Ankara.
Close to the border with Syria in southern Turkey, this well-preserved 16th-century Turkish town has a mosque, a covered market, a caravansary and the Cinkulesi (castle). Most people visit it as a side trip from Antakya. 300 mi/480 km southeast of Ankara.
Shop for handwoven rugs and kilims, leather and suede items, ceramics, silk, jewelry, alabaster, onyx, embroidery, brass samovars, meerschaum pipes and copperware and brassware. Some vendors in the markets employ quite aggressive selling techniques, so brace yourself. You'll be offered many "antiques," but most likely they're fakes. If you do want to buy an antique or any item that may be deemed a cultural artifact, make sure you can get an official permit to export it before you purchase it. Those who don't have a permit sometimes end up in jail (this is increasingly rare), but are most likely to have their treasures confiscated at customs, even when the treasures are of no real antiquity. This even applies to new pine furniture, so always get a certificate—Turkish officials have a great respect for stamped and signed pieces of paper.
Monday-Saturday 9 am-1 pm and 2-7 pm.
Monday-Friday 8:30 am-noon and 1:30-5 pm.
Turkish food is well seasoned and delicious—reminiscent of what many people think of as Greek food (but don't ever make that comparison out loud!). Menus in smaller restaurants or lokantas (taverns that serve food) are often written in Turkish only, so look around at what others are eating and point at what looks good. Rice, mutton, fish (along the coast), pinenuts, eggplant, onions and other vegetables are common ingredients. Fried, grilled and smoked foods are also common. Be sure to try hunkar begendi (eggplant with beef or lamb), izgaralar (grilled lamb or beef), pide (kind of a Turkish pizza—lahmacun was our favorite variety), the many different kinds of kebabs (especially Iskender), kofte (meatballs), ic pilav (fried rice and raisins) and kuzu dolmasi (lamb and rice). You can often make a meal from the numerous appetizers offered, such as yaprak dolmasi (stuffed grape leaves), spicy midye (mussels), peynirli borek (cheese rolled up in flaky pastry) and stuffed vegetables.
Many desserts are excellent: some are milk based, while others are baklava-type pastries. Even if you think you don't like Turkish Delight, try some—very sweet and crammed with nuts, it's a real treat. (Some of the names of dishes have colorful translations: Lady's thigh is a meat croquette, and nightingale's nest is a sherbet-filled pastry.) The produce is great; sample fresh giant cherries and figs, in particular. Excellent yogurt, used in desserts or salads, is also available.
Maden Suyu is the name for mineral water. Elma cayi (pronounced alma CHA-hy) is the ubiquitous apple tea. Bira means "beer" (Efes was our favorite brand). Turkey also produces good wine, the best being yakut, a full-bodied dry red. The local spirit is the aniseed-flavored raki (similar to Greece's ouzo), which is usually mixed with water.
Each of the following itineraries is fairly rushed—your trip will be more relaxing and interesting if you add three nights of padding to be used whenever you feel a destination merits extra time. For first-time visitors, escorted or hosted tours are the best ways to see the country.
Day 1—Arrive Istanbul.
Days 2 and 3—Istanbul.
Day 4—Fly or drive to Izmir.
Day 5—Drive to Pergamon. Overnight in Kusadasi or Selcuk.
Day 6—Return to Izmir. Day trip to Ephesus.
Day 7—Fly from Izmir to Ankara.
Day 8—Afternoon drive to the Cappadocia area. Overnight in the area, possibly in Urgup.
Day 9—Cappadocia area.
Day 10—Morning drive back to Ankara and depart Turkey.
For those with more time, add the following, beginning with Day 6:
Day 6—Ephesus and overnight in Bodrum or Marmaris.
Day 7—Drive to Denizli, then to Pamukkale. (The ruins of Hierapolis surround the Pamukkale area.) Overnight Pamukkale.
Day 8—Morning at Pamukkale; in the afternoon, continue to Antalya.
Day 9—Day trip to Perge, Aspendos and Side. Overnight Antalya.
Day 10—Fly to Ankara and resume with itinerary above, commencing with Day 8.
An interesting 11-day itinerary concentrating on history and scenery (no beach time) would include the following:
Day 1—Arrive Istanbul.
Days 2 and 3—Istanbul.
Day 4—Fly to Izmir.
Day 5—Drive via Ephesus to Kusadasi.
Day 6—Drive to Pamukkale.
Day 7—Drive via Konya to Cappadocia.
Days 8 and 9—Cappadocia.
Day 10—Drive to Ankara.
Day 11—Morning tour of Ankara. Depart Turkey in afternoon.
If time allows (or on subsequent visits), plan to spend some time at these destinations (in descending order of importance): western Mediterranean coast from Bodrum to Antalya; Bursa; Sardes; Nemrut Dagi; eastern Mediterranean coast from Alanya to Antakya; southeastern cities (Sanliurfa, Van); Black Sea coast; Erzurum to Kars and Artvin.
The best time for touring is April-May and September-October, when the day temperatures are most comfortable and the least amount of rain falls. For the beach worshipper, June-September is best. There are seven basic climatic areas: Marmara—temperate, warm and fairly humid summer days, cool nights, chilly and rainy winters; Aegean—hotter and drier than Marmara, but can be almost as cold in winter; Mediterranean—hot and humid in summer, especially the eastern coast, mild but rainy and coolish in winter; Central Anatolia—hot, dry summers, cold, rainy winters with snow; Black Sea—high rainfall, most days overcast, mild and humid in summer, damp and chilly in winter; Southeast Anatolia—very dry and very hot (100+ F/38+ C) in summer, mild and dry in winter; and Eastern Anatolia—mild, short, dry summers, long and bitterly cold winters with lots of snow. Do take a sweater for evenings year round.
Turkish Airlines, Delta, British Airways, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Sabena, Swissair and Olympic Airways serve Ataturk International Airport (IST), which is located 15 mi/24 km southwest of Istanbul (allow plenty of time to get to the airport during rush hour). Turkish Airlines, Austrian, Lufthansa and Sabena serve Ankara's Esenboga Airport (ESB), which is located 22 mi/35 km northeast of the capital's center. Turkish Airlines offers frequent domestic flights to major cities within Turkey.
Various cruise lines include Turkish ports on their Mediterranean itineraries. Turkish Maritime Lines connects major ports along the Aegean, Black Sea and Mediterranean coasts—it takes about six days to go from Istanbul along the Black Sea to Trabzon via Sinop—very enjoyable.
There is rail service connecting most European countries to Istanbul, and there's also rail service within Turkey (it's usually slower than bus service). Express bus service connects many European capitals and large cities with Istanbul on a regular (and fairly inexpensive) basis. Inexpensive buses and minibuses connect most points within the country (the former are quite comfortable, and the latter provide an opportunity to meet the local people—if you're willing to sacrifice comfort for that opportunity).
Self- and chauffeur-driven cars are also available (an excellent way to visit the country). Major highways are in good shape, but beware of slow-moving vehicles, animals and especially Turkish drivers, who don't seem to follow traffic rules. Snow and ice require extra caution. Driving is on the right—though sometimes drivers ignore this rule! City streets are often narrow and congested with traffic. Parking in Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara is a hassle: Don't rent a car in these cities.
Taxis (shared and metered) are the best way to travel within most cities and towns. However, visitors to Ankara and Istanbul should be aware that some taxi drivers may try to cheat tourists by "forgetting" to turn on the meter (and then demanding an outrageous sum) or putting the night meter on during the day. Between 7 am and midnight always check to see that the meter reads gunduz (days). Shared taxis (dolmuses) travel on fixed routes for fixed fares. Tipping is not expected in shared taxis. Some city buses are adequate, but others are overcrowded.
Where to Stay
Accommodations range from deluxe international properties, beachfront resorts, holiday villages and pensions to campgrounds and local hotels to absolute dives (which are increasingly rare in developed areas). Accommodation standards have shot up dramatically in the past five years—and so have prices. Stay in as deluxe an accommodation as possible, particularly in rural areas (where the best lodging may be in a palas, a small hotel where conditions can be horrible beyond description). In Istanbul, the Sultanahmet District has some lovely old Ottoman mansions that have been converted into bed-and-breakfasts. Accommodations along the southeast Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts are less luxurious than those found in the rest of Turkey.
You'll find adequate health care and English-speaking Turkish physicians in larger cities. Turkish law requires that a pharmacy remain open in every neighborhood 24 hours a day. It's claimed that the local water is safe in Istanbul, but we stick with prepackaged or boiled drinks everywhere. Avoid ice as well.
Sanitary conditions in restaurants in central and eastern Turkey may pose problems for some travelers. Don't hesitate to have a look at the kitchen of a restaurant before you dine—it's a common custom. Most hot, freshly cooked food should be safe (especially if it's included on a package tour), but peel fresh fruit and raw vegetables before eating, make sure meat is cooked thoroughly and avoid local dairy products.
Cholera is an annual problem, especially around Istanbul. Air pollution in Ankara in the winter will aggravate respiratory problems. Malaria has been reported in southeastern Anatolia, from the Mediterranean city of Mersin to the Iraqi border—ask your doctor about antimalarial precautions. You should also consider vaccinations against typhoid and hepatitis. The sun can be very strong, so use sunscreen liberally and wear a hat. Don't forget to take along plenty of insect repellent and a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
For more information, contact the Australian chapter of Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA ), phone 1-300-655-565 (toll-free in Australia); the U.S. CDC International Travel Information Service, phone 877-394-8747; Health Canada, phone 613-957-8739; or the U.K.'s Traveler's Health Line, phone 09-068-224-100.
Dos and Don'ts
Do see the movie Gallipoli, starring Australian Mel Gibson, for background on the terrible battle on Turkish soil...Do be prepared for the hard-sell tactics of touts and commission boys, who will employ any ruse to get you into a carpet shop/restaurant/pension, etc. Women may find themselves constantly hassled by would-be gigolos who comb resort towns looking for likely prospects. We've found that the simplest way to get rid of pestering salesmen and coastal Romeos requires no language skills at all—just tilt your head back quickly, close your eyes and lift your eyebrows. It isn't rude—it just means "not interested" and works like a charm...Do dress very conservatively (cover shoulders, arms and legs) if you're a woman traveling alone in Turkey...Do take showers in the evening if you're staying in smaller hotels and want warm water: Solar-heated water is considerably cooler first thing in the morning...Don't be fooled into thinking every shop sporting the tourist office logo is reputable. Many are not...Do not back away from a price you've offered when bargaining—its considered extremely rude not to buy something after stating or accepting a price. Do bargain hard. If you are trying to buy a rug, you should offer 50%-60% of the asking price. If a tout or guide accompanies you, he usually gets 10% of the price (which means you pay 10% more). If you are paying by credit card and you are not asked to pay the credit card fee, you probably didn't bargain hard enough...Do take along a supply of toilet paper, but if you get caught without, the little tap at the back of the toilet is for personal hygiene the Turkish way. You turn the water on with the knob at the left of the toilet...Don't enter conversations about politics lightly, especially if you are a Greek partisan. Turkey's feud with the Hellenes is bitter and deep...Do take more film than you think you'll need. It's often difficult to find...Do check the arithmetic on restaurant and hotel bills—mistakes often occur. Be aware however, that runaway inflation sometimes renders it practically impossible for a vendor to give you exact change. In most cases, the dispute amounts to a negligible amount of money...Do be very careful to stay within the law while in Turkey (i.e., avoid drugs, even if it seems safe to use them). However, if you are the victim of a crime (even being cheated in a shop), the police can be quite helpful. The sad exception is a complaint of rape or sexual attack—there is a general assumption that foreign women are promiscuous...Do be on time for appointments...Do remove shoes before entering mosques and observe a respectful silence. Wear clothing that covers your legs and upper arms (which means no shorts or sleeveless shirts). Women should carry scarves to cover their heads...Do take a flashlight, especially to Cappadocia...Do keep in mind that if you take a ferry to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, your passport will bear a stamp that will bar you from entry into the (southern, "Greek") Republic of Cyprus and also into Greece itself. To avoid this problem, have the TRNC official stamp a separate paper instead....
Do tip about 10% in expensive restaurants, even if a service charge has already been added.
The people originally known as the "Turks" are thought to have migrated from an area in the eastern part of Siberia…The origin of the word meander is from the Meander River, the ancient name of Turkey's Menderes River, which twists and turns its way to the Aegean Sea…In 1826, Sultan Mahmud II banned the wearing of turbans and ordered his subjects to wear fezes instead. He felt that the cylindrical hats represented modernity better than the ancient turban did. But in 1925, Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, banned fezes: He felt that they were old fashioned…Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411 of the Pera Palas, Istanbul's landmark hotel. It is also where she experienced her mysterious "lost" days—11 days that neither she nor anyone else could account for…Surprisingly enough, tulips come from Turkey. The blooms were exported to the Netherlands only in the 17th century…Tesekkur means "thank you," nasilsiniz means "how do you do?" and ne kadar means "how much?"…Pergamon is the birthplace of parchment, which was developed after the ancient Egyptians stopped exporting papyrus (the word parchment is a corruption of the Latin word pergamina, or "paper of Pergamon")…A novel treatment for psoriasis can be obtained in the town of Kangal. Sufferers sit in warm spring waters where fish nibble at affected areas. Amazing results have been reported…Florence Nightingale invented modern nursing in Istanbul during the Crimean War in 1854. Her hospital barracks can still be visited…Hannibal, the invader of Italy, is buried in Gebze (on the Sea of Marmara, southeast of Istanbul)…St. Paul and Barnabus sailed from Antalya to Antioch to begin their first missionary voyage…The game bridge might have been invented in Russia, but Europeans learned about it in Turkey. Now many people consider Turkey its birthplace. Backgammon, called tavla, is also played nationwide…Legend holds that the founders of Istanbul (ancient Byzantium) had been told by a seer to settle across the water from the "city of the blind men." On one side of the Golden Horn, the adventurers found a perfect site for a city: It had a good water supply, excellent harbor and cooling breezes, but no one lived there. However, just across the straits was a town built on marshy ground that had no natural advantages. Rightly deeming the others to be figuratively blind, the newcomers established Byzantium…The Seven Churches of Asia Minor were in Ephesus, Laodicea, Pergamon, Philadelphia, Sardes, Smyrna and Thyatira…There are more than 500 mosques in Istanbul…The clearest water for snorkeling is found around Antalya…Turkish bathhouses, called hamam, are not coed although some foreigners seem to think so—which can cause a lot of misunderstanding (not to mention sexual harassment). Generally, men and women alternate times or have separate houses… Good winter skiing is found near Bursa on Mt. Uludag… Most museums are closed on Mondays…The word bey (for men) and hanim (for women) follow a person's first name to show respect…Tea, called cay (pronounced chy), is commonly served to customers in shops…Although the croissant is generally considered to be a product of French bakeries, its origin is in Turkey (it's said to be the shape of the Islamic crescent). Another item Turkey introduced to the rest of Europe was coffee. It is said that Europeans first learned of coffee and croissants during the siege of Vienna in 1683. When the Ottoman army retreated, they left both behind…In the popular Turkish version of wrestling, participants put olive oil on their bodies to make it more difficult to grab hold…Even though veils for women are rare (and officially discouraged), many women in rural areas will cover their faces as a man walks by…Do try to attend the Istanbul Tulip Festival in late April or try to be in Ephesus on 15 Aug (Assumption) to attend a special mass in the House of the Virgin Mary…To see camel wrestling matches (lots of snorting and head butting), travel to the provinces of Aydin, Denizli, Ismir or Mugla on a Sunday in December-February…Some 98% of the population of Turkey is Islamic. The call to prayer, or ezan, is an amplified and often prerecorded intonation, issued from the minaret of every mosque five times a day….
For More Information
Tourist Offices or Embassies (Abroad)
Canada: Turkish Tourism Office, 360 Albert St., Suite 801, Ottawa, ON K1R 7X7, phone 613-230-8654, fax 613-230-3683.
U.K.: Turkish Tourism Office, 170-173 Piccadilly, 1st Floor, London W1V 9DD, England, phone 171-734-8681, fax 171-491-0773.
U.S.: Turkish Tourism Office, 821 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, phone 212-687-2194, fax 212-599-7568.
Turkey does not maintain a tourist office in Australia.
Australia: Embassy of the Republic of Turkey, 60 Mugga Way, Red Hill, ACT 2603, phone 2-6295-0227, fax 2-6239-6592.
Canada: Embassy of the Republic of Turkey, 197 Wurtemburg St., Ottawa, ON K1N 8L9, phone 613-789-4044, fax 613-789-3442.
U.K.: Embassy of the Republic of Turkey, 43 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PA, England, phone 171-393-0202, fax 171-393-0066.
U.S.: Embassy of the Republic of Turkey, 1714 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20036, phone 202-659-8200, fax 202-659-0744. There are consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and New York.
Foreign Embassies in Turkey
Australian Embassy, Nenehatun Caddesi 83, Gaziosmanpasa 06700, Ankara (mail address: P.O. Box 32, Cankaya 06552, Ankara, Turkey), phone 446-1180, fax 446-1188.
Canadian Embassy, Nenehatun Caddesi 75, Gaziosmanpasa 06700, Ankara, phone 436-1275, fax 446-4437. There is a consulate in Istanbul.
British Embassy, Sehit Ersan Caddesi 46/A, Cankaya, Ankara, phone 468-6230, fax 468-6643. There are consulates in Antalya, Bodrum, Iskenderun, Istanbul, Izmir and Marmaris.
U.S. Embassy, 110 Ataturk Blvd., Kavaklidere, Ankara, phone 468-6110, fax 467-0019. There are consulates in Istanbul, Adana and Izmir.
Western Turkey: Istanbul, the Mediterranean and Aegean Coasts (Cadogan Guides) by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls (Globe Pequot Press). Probably the most accessible guide to this part of the country.
Blue Guide: Istanbul (Norton).
Turkey by Tom Brosnahan and Pat Yale (Lonely Planet).
Rough Guide: Turkey (Rough Guides/Penguin).
Ancient Ruins of Turkey by Ekrem Akurgal (available in Turkey).
Insight Guides: Turkey by Brian Bell (APA Publications). Beautiful pictorial of the country.
Aegean Turkey and Turkey's Southern Shore by George Bean. Two classic but out-of-print guides to the country's Greek and Roman sites.
A Fez of the Heart: Travels Around Turkey in Search of a Hat by Jeremy Seal (Harvest Books/Harcourt Brace) is an eccentric account of a journey around Turkey in search of a vanished tradition.
The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross (William Morrow). A classic by Turkey's most accessible historian.
Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (Signet Classics) contains Twain's insightful account of his visit to Istanbul on a tour of the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean.
Protected to the north, west and south by sea, guarded to the east and southeast by impenetrable mountain ranges, Turkey has the varied landscape of a continent complete in itself. Arable plains change over long distances into areas of steppe and pasture suitable only for livestock, surrounded by barren rocky regions or dense swathes of virgin forest. Throughout the course of history, the landscape has played a key role in determining the settlement of civilizations, migrations, invasions and the spread of numerous religions.
While it is Spring in Istanbul, it will be summer along the Aegean and Mediterranean coast. The sun will shine continuously from April until well into November in Southern Turkey with a mean temperature around 90 degress F (32 C). Occasional showers will be experienced in Istanbul and all central areas during this time. Winter normally begins towards the end of November and continues into March. Winter temperatures in Istanbul hover around 46 F (8 C) while those along the Aegean and Mediterranean coastline never drop below 50 F (10 C).
WHAT TO WEAR
Turkey is a warm country for most of the year, and casual wear including shorts, pants, T-shirts and sunglassed are preferred during the Spring and Summer months. A good sturdy pair of walking shoes are essential, including a sweater for the occasional chilly evening after a suntan. Winter travellers will definitely need warm waterproof clothing, including hats, gloves and thick sweaters.
Turkish is the common spoken language, but most shopkeepers can speak rudimentary English, German and even Italian. All directions, apart from tourist signs, are written in Turkish.
The Turkish currency is the Turkish 'Lira' (TL) and bank notes are available in denominations of 5.000.000 TL, 1.000.000 TL, 500.000 TL, 250.000 TL, 100.000 TL and 50.000 TL. Although there are Bureau de Change in most major cities, exchanges are best made at banks and hotels who will provide a receipt, which is necessary in case you wish to convert your remaining TL back to your own currency at the end of your holiday.
Tipping is customary and 10-15% is considered to be the norm in most hotels and restaurants. There is no need to tip a taxi as your driver will usually round up the total fair to the next one thousand Liras.
The Turks have been making yoghurt for nearly two thousand years and it still remains a staple of Turkish food. It can be consumed as a beverage, applied as a sauce or eaten from small containers sold everywhere. A Turkish entree« normally consists of the 'Meze', a mouth watering array of dishes that contain everything from cold beans, fried or mashed eggplant, boiled shrimps, rice wrapped in vine leaves, white cheeses, chilled cucumbers, chillies or salty fish. All this will be served with Turkey's most delicious bread, cold, hot or flat like a pancake and covered in melted butter. If you still have room after the 'Meze', then choose from a wide selection of lamb, beef or chicken kebabs. Deserts consist of fresh fruit or very rich pastries full of nuts, sugar and honey. Turkish cuisine is not demanding on the palate, but is very fattening. So weight-watchers beware!
BUSINESS AND SHOPPING HOURS
shares with Europe the Saturday and Sunday weekend.
The Turkish population is 99% Muslim. Turkey is a secular state which grants complete freedom to worship for non-Muslims, including Christians, Armenians, Greeks and Jews.
The Turkish Republic is a nationalist, democratic and secular state. Turkey belongs to NATO, OECD,the Council of Europe and is an associate member of the EEC.
220 volts and 50 cycles for domestic use. American and Japanese appliances will need a transformer to convert from 110 volt.
are a number of excellent hospitals run to international standards:
The big cities, especially Istanbul, cater for a wide variety of tastes, including cinemas, where most films are shown in their original language with Turkish subtitles; nightclubs, ranging from the exclusive with restaurants, bars and discos in the 5-star hotels or along the Bosphorus, to the more traditional variety featuring live shows, Turkish music and belly dancers. At various times throughout the year, Istanbul hosts cultural festivals including music, dance, and theatre. The International Istanbul Festival takes place annually between June and July and features some of the world's top artists in Jazz, Pop and Classical music. Check with your tour guide or the information desk in your hotel for more details.
|People don't travel to Turkey to shop in western department stores, although very good examples of these do exist. The real excitement of Turkish shopping is the experience of getting lost in historic bazaars which date back five hundred years; of bargaining with shop-keepers whose great-great-grand fathers kept the same trade and sold the same wares; to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle and shouts and cries of the hawkers, merchants and traveling salesmen who seem to occupy every street corner. Once you have experienced bargaining with a Turkish stall keeper, shopping back at home will never be quite the same again!
Every big city around the world experiences crime to some degree, but Turkey is a secular Islamic state and crime is looked upon by most Turks as the most shameful behavior a Muslim can commit. A money belt is the most convenient way of carrying your personal items while on tour, leaving your hands free to take photographs
required except for holders of;
The current restriction on the import of personal goods is 400 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, seven bottles of liquor, five bottles of perfume and one kilogram (2.2lb) of coffee or tea. Customs officials seldom bother to open tourists' luggage on your entry, but they may show more interest on your departure. There is a strict prohibition on the export of antiquities and you may be required to show a proof of purchase slip and currency exchange slip if you have bought a Turkish carpet. Older carpets may also require a document from the shop-keeper or from a local museum certifying that the carpet is not an antiquity.
MEETING THE TURKS,
As a merchant navyman I have seen a bit of the world. The Turkish people
are the most friendly people I have ever met.
Turks are very hospitable people and, in general, very polite, a good conversation or a friendly offered glass of tea is not something to be refused without good reasons.
When you're invited for a meal or a visit refuse politely, after that, accept, unless you really can't. Explain why you can't, be sure to have a good reason.
When you're invited to stay a night or a day, the same as above, refuse first. However, never stay longer than one night, unless you know the people very well and be sure they can afford it. A Turk will sooner ruin himself with his hospitality than to show you the door.
In case you give someone a present make sure the recipient can do the same back, so don't give someone a US$100 gift when his wages are just US$200 a month.
In non tourist places people sometimes will stare at you with honest curiosity. If one of them speaks a foreign language or if you speak Turkish, you're bound for a glass of tea and an invitation.
Most Turks are well dressed, if they can afford it, so take a good advice dress yourselves decently. With decently I mean don't wear shorts or miniskirts outside the tourists resorts. We would not even do it within it......, but we never (except for some parts of Istanbul) go to tourist's resorts.
LEARNING MORE ABOUT TURKEY, BOOKS AND INTERNET,
A FEW BOOKS I might advise are,
'The Ottoman Centuries' by Kinross (in English).
Still the standard work, about the Ottoman Empire. Without losing sight of the historical facts, the book reads as a storry, portraying characters, policy and perspective of times.
'Ataturk, The rebirth of a nation' by Kinross (in English).
An outstanding biography about the life and times of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the creation of the Republic of Turkey. Ataturk is portrayed as a man of genius, a driving force, with his bright and dark sides.
'Turkey unveiled, Ataturk and after' by Nicole and Hugh Pope (in English).
An excellent written book covering history, (parts of) society and geopolitics. The book gives a good insight in Turkish politics from the times of Ataturk till 1997.
'A modern history of the Kurds' by David McDowall (in English).
David McDowall's camera swings to and from the Ottomans, the Arabs, Persians and the Turks. However, the Kurds remain in focus. An unbiased book written by an eminent historian.
'Muhammad, A Western Attempt to Understand Islam', by Karen Armstrong (in English).
The understanding of Islam starts with understanding the Prophet and his times. An accurate and understandable picture of the founding of one of the world's major religions.
'The word of Islam' by John Aldan Williams (in English).
Highly recommended for everyone who wishes to understand Islam.
Islam explains itself in this fine book. Amongst the covered topics are the Koran, Hadith, Laws, the mainstreams and schools of Islam, Sufism and theology.
'Das Osmanische Reich' by Majoros and Rill (in German).
This is a fine book and together with 'The Ottoman Centuries' (by Kinross), it gives a complete picture of Ottoman society. 'Das Osmanische Reich' covers subjects in the depht as the army, government, and diplomacy.
'Land und Leute, Turkei' by Karl Heinz Scheffler (in German), also in a Dutch translation as,'Reizen door Turkije'.
The big pity of this book is that it's only available in German and in a Dutch translation (please correct me if I am wrong).
Karl Heinz Scheffler covers virtually every aspect of Turkish society today.
INTERNET LINKS in English and Turkish,
**Some browsers and OS will not work with Turkish characters.
Windows NT4.0 is no problem with Netscape 4.0 or higher, for English Windows95 or 3.1 (for the last also an English DOS is necessary) Turkish fonts are available at the site of the Republic of Turkey.
All About Turkey's name is an understatement for what this site has to offer on Turkey related information. Subjects as different as architecture, nature, arts, news and everything in between are served in a nice interface.
Anadolu News Agency, Turkey's official news agency, in English and Turkish.
'A Glimpse of Turkey' is the modest title of this site. This is paradise for lovers of black and white photography while learning about Turkey.
A site with a very special touch.
Nevit's Award Winning Photographs show you Turkey and Istanbul in, yes, award winning photographs.
Have a look at the work of a prime photographer, in English.
Search Turkey Com is what the name says, 'searching Turkey'. Searching Turkey is made very easy, you can search by town. Once at one of the covered towns, information is just a click away. Hotels, travel information, travel agencies, government offices, transport, to much to mention it. Further information about the Turkish cuisine (recipes), literature etc. (in English with some links in Turkish).
The Republic of Turkey (Government Server), all kinds of information, weather, statistics, news, tourist and so on, in English and Turkish.
The Turkish American Association of Arizona may look like a 'stranger' in learning more about Turkey, however this site provides insight information about Turks in the USA and offers a fine collection of links, in English and Turkish.
The Turkish Ministry of Culture presents all cultural things you might be looking for, just to name a few, music and musical instruments, handicrafts, cuisine, visual arts, an agenda of cultural events, in English and Turkish.
Turkish News list and Turkish Radio Hour, for subscription to the Turkish News List and other Turkey related information, in English and Turkish,
Turkey Web carries its name with good reason about everything you can think of in Turkey is covered. The site is divided in main categories that vary from arts and humanities to recreation and sports. Categories are divided in sub-categories where almost everything can be found, in English and lots of links in Turkish.
The Turkish World (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan etc.), about the other Turkish peoples, in English and Turkish.
THE TURKISH LANGUAGE,
Turkey - Turkish belongs to the Altaic family of languages. Turkish is a
branch in this group (others are Mongol, Tunguz and Korean). Nearest to Turkey -
Turkish are Azeri and Turkmen. Distinct in Turkish is that there's vowel harmony
Personally, because of the vowel harmony, I love the sound of Turkish. It really sounds as harmonious as a song.
To give some examples 'Sokaktakiler', sokak = street, ta = in, ki = that (taki can also be translated as 'that are'), ler = plural, so 'the ones (people) in the street'.
Here's another example in which 'ta' changes to da, the reason here is that a vowel is in front of the suffix. 'Buradakiler', bura = here, da = in, ki = that (daki can also be translated as 'that are'), ler = plural, so 'the ones that are here'.
The verb 'to be' is a suffix in Turkish, an example 'Askerim', Asker = soldier, im = me, I, 'so I am a soldier'.
Till 1928 the Arab alphabet was used but since than Turkish is written in a Latin based alphabet with 29 letters. Turkish is a rather logical language but the above properties (vowel harmony and agglutination) makes it not easy to learn in the beginning. The difficulty is that it has nothing to do with any Indo European Language (English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Russian, Persian or Hindi, just to name a few). It may be a comfort that it's as far from the Hamito-Semitic languages (Arab and Hebrew).
Once you have the 'taste of Turkish' it's getting much easier.
An excellent web site about the Turkish language is Learning Practical Turkish.
The best way to learn a language is of course in the country itself.
METU (Middle East Technical University) in Ankara holds a six-weeks International Summer School each year that enables you to learn enough basic conversational and written Turkish for daily activities. During this course you obtain a solid basis for further study in Turkish language and culture.
Other courses available as, History, Islamic Architectural Works, Central Asia in Modern Ages and Sociology of Social and Cultural Transformation in the Middle East.
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