Over the centuries the landmass of Asia Minor, the heart of the tremendous multicultural Ottoman Empire and now the modern Republic of Turkey, experienced waves of migrations in which one civilization displaced another, leaving a unique and glorious cultural heritage. Here you’ll find ancient bazaars, magnificent ruins, sandy beaches, and majestic mountains. The diversity between the Aegean beaches and eastern mountains has to be seen to be believed, and while foreigners can easily find themselves in nightclubs and markets, Turkey offers plenty of chances to explore the less-visited eastern quarters.
Romans, medieval Armenians, Byzantine Christians, Lycians, and Ottoman sultans have all had a part in making Turkey what it is today, and the caves of Cappadocia, ruins of Ephesus, and infinity pools of Pamukkale astound and impress even the most seasoned traveler.
As a bridge between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is often described as a symbol of Turkey as a whole, a meeting place of conflicting ideas and forces. Many argue that this is the city where East meets West; where traditional values clash with modernization; where secularism vies for power against political Islam. The sheer history of Istanbul can be almost overwhelming, and this mix of Asian and European culture has hugely impacted the food scene. Be sure to try the authentic Ottoman food, the meat and fish typical of Turkish cuisine, and one of the famous Turkish desserts. Famous for its vibrant nightlife, the city offers many bars and nightclubs for party animals.
Those who like to shop will also have plenty to do, as the modern shopping centers, combined with the Grand Bazaar and excellent local designers, offer some of the best shopping you’ll find anywhere. With palaces, mosques, bazaars, and towers, Istanbul boasts both incredible architecture and breathtaking views. The best way to discover the true essence Istanbul is on foot, enjoying the smells of rich spices, the sounds of many different languages, and the ever-constant call to prayer. A Bosphorus Cruise is an excellent way to see an overview of the city and explore both the Asian and European shores of the waterway, with mansions and century old palaces on display.
Cappadocia is 750kms from Istanbul in the Anatolian region of Turkey and features a remarkably barren landscape which some have called Martian or lunar-like. This is the place which inspired the backdrop of Star Wars. Nature has carved out rock pedestals which humans then used to build underground cities and cave homes.
The impressive rock formations are a sight to see, and the region is also famous for its excellent artisans which include rug makers, pottery craftsmen, and winemakers. The soaring rock formations and deep valleys are dotted with chapels, tombs, temples, and homes. Byzantine monks excavated many of the dwellings and monasteries, each beautifully decorated and painted, which are still well-preserved today.
One of the best ways to see the area is from a hot air balloon. Take a sunrise ride, and you’ll get an idea of just how incredible the rock formations are. Bring a camera, as seeing the hundreds of hot air balloons with brightly colored canopies combined with the barren landscape is genuinely a bucket-list experience.
Pamukkale, known as “Cotton Castle,” is famous for not only its unique geological formations but also the lesser-known historical remains. This UNESCO World Heritage Site gets its nickname from the waters which are full of calcium-oxide, and flow down the slope of Caldag, located north of the ruins. This has caused the deposits to build upon the plateau over thousands of years, forming travertines and hot springs.
But also spare a few days to visit the ruins surrounding the pools as well. The hot springs are still believed to have healing properties, and many people traveled to the site over the centuries to cure their various sicknesses.
The capital of Turkey, Ankara is also the second largest city in the country (after Istanbul). The city is a huge student town, along with being the center of the government. Sure, you won’t find many Ottoman palaces here, but the youthful, vivacious atmosphere, booming restaurant scene, sidewalk cafes, and dynamic street-life mean that anyone traveling to Turkey should take the time to visit. Located on a rocky hill, and in one of the driest parts of the country, Ankara is still one of the greenest, with large areas of lush spaces for residents and visitors to take advantage of.
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