Linking Europe and the Middle East, suspended between the old and the new, Turkey retains a balance of both East and West, representing a cultural mix with many discrepancies and contradictions.
This is the land where Alexander the Great slashed the Gordian Knot, where Achilles battled the Trojans in Homer’s lliad and where the Ottoman Empire fought battles that would shape the world. Such a rich history has left an indelible mark and Turkey abounds with historic sites and archaeological wonders set in a varied and beautiful landscape.
Istanbul has one of the most stunning natural settings of any major city in the world, divided by the Golden Horn, then cleaved again by the bluey-green waters of the Bosphorus. It is a dynamic melting pot of tradition and modernity, wealth and poverty, East and West. This city evokes enormous pride amongst its inhabitants and makes a habit of seducing visitors with its chaotic, enigmatic charm.
One of its most iconic sights is the fabled Blue Mosque, known to locals as “Sultan Ahmet Mosque”. The interior is renowned for the 20,000 blue Itznik tiles that decorate its high interior ceiling. But what makes the mosque so striking and such an instantly recognisable landmark are its six minarets. These, combined with the beautifully arranged cascade of domes, have created a building that is truly unique.
Some believe however that the Hagia Sophia (The Church of Divine Wisdom) is like no other building in Turkey. You are struck by its sheer scale and the immense passage of time since it was built by the Byzantines fourteen centuries ago. Here you will find classic examples of 6th century basilica amongst its columns, galleries and mosaics.
Istanbul’s imperial mosque of Sultan Ahmet I provides the opportunity to marvel at sleek architectural lines and intricate tile decoration with the added distinction of stunning views of the city. The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum across from the mosque reveals the best religious art of the Ottoman Empire with its Turkish carpets, illuminated Kur’ans, calligraphy, glass and porcelain stone.
The Grand Bazaar is Turkey’s largest covered market where you can put your haggling skills to the test. On sale here is fantastic leather, cotton and wool goods, copper, brassware and of course the obligatory Turkish carpets. Locals also shop in this market adding to its authenticity.
Home of the Ottoman Sultans for nearly 400 years is Topkapi which was the heart and soul of the Ottoman Empire, where the emperor lived with his hundreds of concubines, children and servants. Its incredible gems, gold, works of art and intricate mosaics make this a must visit.
Turkey offers the visitor a plethora of choices including skiing in the North-East of the country, playing the championship golf courses of Antalya, visiting the National Park of Mount Olympus and trying to ascertain if Noah’s Ark is in the Mount Ararat region. Variety is certainly the spice of life in Turkey.
The Bosphorus Cruise permits you to escape the bustling city of Istanbul and take to the calm, majestic waters where you can see beautiful 19th century palaces, Sultan Mehmed II’s European Fortress and the old, restored Yali’s. Dolmabache Palace and the Ciragan Palace (now a hotel) are also picturesque sites on which to feast your eyes. Lunch can be had at the fabulously stylish A’jia Hotel where you can wallow in the history, mystery and passion of this unique place.
Cappadocia is a fascinating region with a landscape of astonishing beauty, shaped by wind and water. This area was a refuge for early Christians who carved hundreds of glorious frescoed churches into the soft rock of the surrounding hills.
The heart of the region is the Goreme Valley which is now a national park containing an open museum. A fine example of humans and nature in harmony with “fairy chimneys” and several fine churches. The Zelve Valley houses a magnificent troglodyte monastery where religious communities thrived from the 9th to the 12th centuries.
Nature has worked its magic in the foothills of the River Menderes where a large waterfall tumbles over reflective limestone and is visible far across the surrounding countryside. Its stalactites and shallow pools shimmer in the sunlight with their fringes shining like cut diamond. The Turks have named this rare geological feature Pamukkale because it resembles a “cotton castle.”
Stretching from Marmaris in the West and skirting around high mountains to Antalya, the Turquoise Coast is the most dramatic, varied and natural area in the country. Hemmed in by vertiginous peaks and blanketed by virgin pine forest, limestone cliffs and clear azure water, this is truly an awe-inspiring area. You can stop off at Istuzu Beach to visit the therapeutic mud baths and swim in the freshwater lake. The main town of the Turquoise Coast is Fethiye which is blessed with a picturesque bazaar and quaint outdoor restaurants. Cruising this rather special area allows both a healthy dose of culture and outdoor experiences.
Paragliding from Mount Baba to the beach at Olundeniz is perfect for adrenaline junkies affording them a panoramic view and a soft sand landing. Alternatively, a crewed gulet (Turkish schooner) relieves you of the hard work when negotiating this serene and inspirational area.
Turkey offers the visitor a plethora of choices including skiing in the North-East of the country, playing golf on the championship golf courses of Antalya, visiting the National Park of Mount Olympus and trying to ascertain if Noah’s Ark is in the Mount Ararat region. Variety is certainly the spice of life in Turkey.