Turkey Expect more in this unique land
Turkey Guide 2012
Contents 2. WELCOME TO TURKEY All you need to know for getting to and around the country.
4. MARMARA REGION Visit both Europe and Asia in incredible Istanbul.
6. AEGEAN REGION Enjoy miles of picturesque coastline and stunning scenery.
8. MEDITERRANEAN REGION Discover history-rich Alanya and fabulous Antalya.
10. BLACK SEA REGION Explore this most unique of areas, which enjoys its own climate, cuisine and dialect.
12. INNER ANATOLIA Home of the countryâ€™s capital Ankara and the wonderous Cappadocia region.
Black Sea Region Inner Anatolia
East & South Anatolia
14. EAST ANATOLIA & SOUTH EAST ANATOLIA Go off the beaten track in an area peppered with World Heritage Sites.
16. RAMADAN IN TURKEY The perfect place to spend the holy month.
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Turkey Guide 2012
Welcome to Turkey
Many destinations claim to be ‘the place that has it all’, but nowhere is the phrase truer than in Turkey. In fact, the country has so many selling points it’s difficult to know where to start. First, there’s the epic scenery: in the south and west you’ll find dense pine forests blanketing mountains that descend to white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters; Cappadocia, in the centre of the country, is full of other-wordly rock formations and everrugged terrain; and the boggy plantations of the Black Sea region will make you feel like you’ve landed amid green forest. Then there’s the history: Turkey boasts ruins from just about every era as well as a vast hoarde of artifacts from prehistoric times. And complementing all of this is the country’s wonderfully forward-thinking attitude 2
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to people and cultures from all over the world. Istanbul, for example, is a fascinating blend of ancient and modern influences. Yes, Turkey really is the country that has it all. Now let’s get you there.
TRAVELLING TO TURKEY The national airline is Turkish Airlines, which provides a regular service from the Middle East. It also offers several domestic flight routes, handy for internal travel.
MOVING AROUND TURKEY Internal travel is vital if you want to get a true impression of all that Turkey has to offer. If you’re making a long-distance trip, flying will save a significant amount of time. Alternatively, car hire
Key Events July 7-19 sees the third International Istanbul Opera Festival, bringing classic musical masterpieces outdoors to some of the city’s finest venues, including Topkapi Palace. The holy month of Ramadan is predicted to run from July 20-August 19, ending with the festival of Eid Al-Fitr, in which Muslims celebrate the culmination of their month of fasting and reflection. Make sure you visit Istanbul’s Blue Mosque during Ramadan, as it will be lit with special lights.
August 30 is Victory Day, when the Turks celebrate their win over Greek attackers in 1922. Running from October 9-14, the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival is Turkish cinema’s answer to the Oscars. is widely available, as is decent public transport: a fleet of modern, air-conditioned buses operates between most of the major cities. If you’re travelling from one coastal destination to another, you could also consider going by ferry. If you can, steer clear of sleeper trains as they can be slow and uncomfortable.
MONEY The Turkish Lira is the official currency and there are 100 Kurus in a Lira. Banknotes are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 and 100, and you also get 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 Kurus coins. ATM machines are widely available throughout the country; 1 US Dollar is currently equivalent to approximately 1.8 Turkish Lira.
Dance fans will want to be in Turkey from December 10-17 for the Mevlana Festival. Otherwise known as the festival of whirling dervishes, it celebrates the life of the 13th-century Sufi saint Mevlana, who used dance as a means of communicating with Allah. Although the date has yet to be confirmed, head to Turkey in April and you’ll be greeted by the riot of colour that comes hand in hand with Istanbul’s Tulip Festival. Turkey Guide 2012
Marmara Region Marmara – named after its glittering internal sea – is a fascinating region, packed with things to do, not surprising given that it is the home of Istanbul. Perhaps one of the most life-changing cities in the world, Istanbul achieves an all-too-rare harmony between east and west, straddling Europe and Asia and embracing the best of both cultures. Its combination of mosques, bustling waterways and fabulous nightlife make it a truly unforgettable destination.
WHAT TO SEE Majestically presiding over the city skyline, the Blue Mosque is number one on most visitors’ to-see lists. Its blue exterior and remarkably intricate interior combine to make it an aweinspiring place. Topkapi Sarayi provided a home for 400 years-worth of Ottoman Sultans and now contains important Islamic relics including the cloak and sword of the Prophet Muhammad. Shopaholics will be in their element in the Grand Bazaar, a covered market incorporating some 3,500 shops offering everything from Turkish carpets and hand-crafted leather goods to alabaster ornaments and glazed pottery. You can easily get around on foot, by tram or taxi – or, if you want to see the sights in a more leisurely fashion, take a boat cruise along the Bosphorus. The public ferry is ideal if you want to explore beyond the city, as 4
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it will take you to the pleasant town of Eminonu, where you can lunch on tasty fresh fish before strolling up to the fortress. The journey back will also afford you a view of original wooden Ottoman mansions, which are today some of the city’s most desirable real estate.
WHAT TO DO Of course, Marmara offers more than the exquisite sites of Istanbul. The Princes Islands may be just a stone’s throw from the city’s coast but they provide a wholly different experience. Fairytale forests line the hills, while walking through the towns will leave you feeling as if you’re in a period movie: no cars are allowed here so travel is done via horse and carriage. For a dose of truly ancient history, head to Troy, the site of the Trojan War in Homer’s Iliad. Whether you believe the legend or not, it’s a fascinating place containing a whopping nine
archaeological layers which have so far been found to hold house foundations, theatres, and baths.
WHERE TO STAY For a healthy dose of oldfashioned opulence, make a beeline for the Bosphorus, which is lined with stunning five-star hotels. The Hotel Les Ottomans (lesottomans.com) is perhaps the most fabulous of all: the elaborate charms of its 16 suites have attracted countless celebrities in their time. However, if proximity to the city’s buzzing nightlife and finest restaurants is your priority, it’s best to stay near Taksim Square – in other words, the modern area. The Grand Hyatt (istanbul. grand.hyatt.com) is one of this district’s finest hotels. Boutique hotel fans are best served in Sultanahmet, where you can stay in a traditional Ottoman mansion like the Yesil Ev (istanbulyesilev. com) for a slice of 19th century grandeur, Turkish style.
This page from top: Hagia Sophia Basilica on the banks of the Bosphorus; The Grand Bazaar.
‘In the Grand Bazaar you’ll find everything from handcrafted leather goods to glazed pottery...’
Turkey Guide 2012
Aegean Region The Aegean Region is ideal if youâ€™re looking for that all-important combination of beautiful scenery and a wealth of things to see and do. Dramatic hills flank the Bodrum peninsulaâ€™s picture-perfect coastline; the coves and lagoons of Fethiye are what daydreams are made of; Kusadasi is ideal for people seeking shopping as well as big beaches; the bustling metropolis of Izmir has a fascinating past to discover; and the Marmaris waterways are ideal for cruising. 6
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Opening page from top: Izmir; Pamukkale ‘cotton castle’. This page: Oludeniz.
WHAT TO SEE The white terraces of Pamukkale are one of Turkey’s greatest natural wonders. With their name literally meaning ‘cotton castle’, the ledges descend from a height of 200 metres. Their ethereal white colour comes courtesy of the high mineral content of the water, and you can actually bathe in the thermal blue stuff at the neighbouring site of Hierapolis. You may recognise Oludeniz – its protected lagoon beach is one of Turkey’s most photographed sites – but you have to see it to believe it. You’ll find turquoise waters, floursoft sands and a smattering of emerald-coloured trees. The Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, is located in Izmir. Founded by the Amazons, Izmir has changed quite a bit since those legendary female warriors staked their claim on the land. A trip there nowadays yields many decadent spas and a mouth-watering selection of rich local cuisine. The ghost town of Kayakoy, deserted in the 1920s, makes for a rather eerie trip. Literature fans might recognise its name from Birds Without Wings, a novel by Louis de Bernieres. Visit on horseback for the full ‘am I dreaming?’ experience.
WHAT TO DO If you’re in or near Kusadasi, the Kalamaki National Park is well worth a visit: there you can roam mountains that still play host to the Anatolian cheetah and wild horses. Or, if you’re feeling even more adventurous, cross the wooden walkway over the mountain gorge at Saklikent – but dip into the icy waters beneath at your peril. If you do want to satisfy your inner water baby, head to Fethiye for parasailing, scubadiving and wakeboarding – or, if you’d rather see the water than sample it first-hand, book a ‘Blue Voyage’, a recreational boating tour which takes you around bays and coves only accessible by boat.
WHERE TO STAY If you’re on the Bodrum peninsula and keen on snorkelling, the secluded town of Gumusluk is ideal due to the ruins dotting its coastline, and the roomy pool at Otel Gumusluk (otelgumusluk.com) makes it ideal for families. Trendsetters have earmarked Turkbuku due to its exclusive hotels (stay at the Macakizi, macakizi.com) and idyllic wooden piers, while luxurylovers are in their element in the private villas of the Rixos Premium Bodrum (rixos.com). The traditional market town of Fethiye boasts a gorgeous harbour, and the Yacht Classic Hotel (yachtclassichotel.com) offers stunning sea views.
Turkey Guide 2012
Endless stretches of white sand, an ancient walled city high on the cliffs, and wooden Ottoman mansions lovingly-restored into stylish boutique hotels are what make Antalya fabulous. Also within the area is the picturesque village of Kalkan, renowned for its whitewashed buildings resplendent with garlands of flowers swaying beside the shuttered windows, a town as yet unspoiled by the masses. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Alanya is rich with history. Its coastline is riddled with caves, each with its own story to tell. This is a truly fascinating area imbued with intrigue. 8
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Opening page: The shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This page from left: Sipping coffee at a traditional Antalya bar; An ancient amphitheatre in Myra.
WHAT TO SEE The fluted 13th-century minaret of Yivli Minare is seen as the symbol of Antalya, and its height means that you won’t miss it. Head 50km east to Aspendos and explore the Roman theatre, built in approximately 162AD. It seats 15,000 people and has been so lovingly preserved that it is still used to host performances today. Phaselis is a good choice for families with myriad tastes to please: it has a Roman theatre, baths, aquducts and an acropolis to satisfy the culture vultures while sun-seekers will not be disappointed by its sandy beaches and clear waters. A trip to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey would be incomplete without an excursion to the caves. The Damlatas Cave is rife with stalactites and stalagmites and some believe its 90 percent humidity can help treat respiratory conditions. You can also take the three caves
boat trip, which will showcase the Phosphorus Cave, so named for its glowing rocks, the Girls Cave, where pirates used to keep their female prisoners, and the eerie Asiklar Cave.
WHAT TO DO Climb (or drive) up to the mountains surrounding Antalya and visit the breath-taking waterfalls of Duden and Kursunlu. Or, if you’re there before April, head 50km out to Saklikent and incorporate a highenergy day or two of skiing into your holiday. If you’re staying in Kalkan, descend the hillside to the quaint marina below, join a boat trip and visit one of the neighbouring bays for a lazy day by the sea. Many of Turkey’s 235 blue flag beaches are based in the Mediterranean region, which offers calmer conditions than the northern coast, making it ideal for watersports enthusiasts: scuba-diving, kitesurfing,
windsurfing and parasailing are just some of the activities on offer here.
WHERE TO STAY With beaches, pools, a yachting marina, amphitheatre, aquapark, high-end restaurants, spas and villas all in addition to the main hotel, you really don’t need to leave the Rixos Sungate (rixos. com) at all if you don’t want to. Alanya’s Saphir Resort and Spa (hotelsaphir.com) boasts exquisitely-manicured grounds and swimming pools, while the modern interiors and excellent kids’ club at Barut Lara Resort Spa and Suites (baruthotels. com) make it a great choice if you’re staying in Antalya. The obvious choice for those seeking seclusion and privacy in Kalkanis is the Likya Residence and Spa (likyakalkan.com), where room décor is heavily inspired by the surrounding natural scenery, and infinity pools melt into the horizon. Turkey Guide 2012
Black Sea Region The perfect antidote to the Middle East’s arid landscape, the Black Sea region is lush and green throughout the year. Eco tourists love it for its plantations – tea, hazelnuts and corn all lap up the region’s hearty rainfall – whilst active types can’t get enough of the rocky mountains and cool water. Visit the northern coast and you’ll see a very different side of Turkey: climate, cuisine, even dialect are all different from the rest of the country, and this is reflected in the different way of life here. It’s enchanting.
WHAT TO SEE If you’re staying in the city of Trabzon, check out Ataturk House, which was built in 1903 and is one of the best examples of art nouveau architecture in Turkey. Trabzon Castle is also of great historical interest, as is Gulbahar Hatun Tomb, which was built by the Ottoman ruler Selim I in the 10
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16th century as a homage to his aging mother. Want to embrace your inner explorer? Don your boots and ascend steep, mossy footpaths to the top of the rocky hill where Bedrama Castle lies. The castle itself is rather unassuming; this adventure is about the atmosphere: you’ll encounter boggy ground and absolute
silence amid what is stunning green forest. Sinop Archaeology Museum is overflowing with excavated earthenware, vases, ancient weaponry (including spearheads and axes), and ornate Bronze Age jewellery. There are also coins from throughout the ages and a shipwreck that was found in the nearby Black Sea.
‘The ancient site of Amasya is rich with 3,000 years of history’
Opening page: Highland houses in the Black Sea Region. This page, clockwise from left: Abant Lake, Bolu; Waterfalls at Yedigoller National Park; Trabzon; Sumela Monastery.
WHAT TO DO Visit the small park of Boztepe and take in its stunning views of Trabzon over a sour cherry juice with the locals. Spend a day exploring Yedigoller National Park, known for its seven lakes which were formed by landslides. If you’re lucky you might spot a deer, otter or even a brown bear. Both Lake Abant and Lake Golcuk in Bolu also provide epic backdrops for a contemplative stroll. Situated in a narrow valley along the Yeşilırmak River lies Amasya, rich with 3,000 years of history: rock tombs, a ruined citadel, secret underground passageways and an Ottoman Palace await visitors who venture to this scintillating area. Travel 30km south and you can also take a dip in the 37°C thermal baths at Terzikoy. A trip to the Black Sea region would be incomplete without
sampling its more unusual foodstuffs: warm yourself with a bowl of aromatic hazelnut soup before moving onto some fasulye kavurma, a punchy pickled bean dish.
WHERE TO STAY The most popular hotel in Trabzon is undoubtedly the Novotel (novotel.com), which is adjacent to the World Trade Centre and just eight minutes from the heart of the city. Check in here and you’ll feel as if you’re in a self-contained resort: tennis courts, sauna, Jacuzzi, indoor heated pool and a contemporary restaurant all vie for attention. Also in Trabzon, the magnificent star-shaped fountain in the lobby of the Zorlu Grand Hotel (zorlugrand. com) sets the scene for what’s to come, with tasteful décor, a Turkish bath, sauna and indoor pool to melt your stresses away. Turkey Guide 2012
Inner Anatolia is the home of Ankara, Turkey’s thriving capital city, and Cappadocia, one of the most fascinating geographical areas in the world. Ankara may be famous for its goats – the city’s name was formerly Angora, as in the pricey mohair wool – but nowadays it’s got a lot more to be proud of, with a thriving café culture helped by the enormous student population and a shopping scene to rival any other capital. But while Ankara is undeniably a forward-thinking city, Inner Anatolia is steeped in a rich, chequered history, and exploring the region’s Neolithic settlements and Hittite cities will leave you with no doubt as to the complexity of this diverse land. 12
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Opening page: Nevsehir cave city in Cappadocia. This page, from left: Cappadocia; Turkish hammam
WHAT TO SEE The region of Cappadocia is carpeted with other-worldly rock formations which have to be seen to be believed. Begin your trip with a stop at Uchisar where, if you climb the citadel, you will be blessed with an uninterrupted vista of the entire region. Then descend to the village of Goreme, passing through the surrounding peri bacalari, or ‘fairy chimneys’, and visit the people living in cave dwellings originally built to shelter persecuted populations. The Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, in Ankara, is one of Turkey’s finest and best-stocked museums. With artifacts dating from prehistoric times and spanning just about every era from then on, it will keep big and little kids alike engaged for a good couple of hours, all in the setting of a rather lovely 15thcentury covered market.
WHAT TO DO Explore Ankara’s impressive Roman-built castle then spend a morning drinking up the café culture Ankara is becoming renowned for. In the afternoon, ascend the hill to Anit Kabir, the imposing mausoleum of Ataturk, and marvel at the enormous respect that Turks still have for their founder. If it’s nature you’re after, head to Soguksu National Park, about 80km from Ankara. With scented pine forests segmented by pretty valleys and streams, it’s a glorious spot for walking and mountaineering, and the wildlife (flowers, deer, birds) will make you feel as if you’ve landed on the set of a Disney film. In Cappadocia, trek down the 10km-long, 80km-wide gorge of the Ihlara Valley, making time to explore the underground cities of Kaymakli, which has eight levels, and the 55m-deep
Derinkuyu along the way. Or, if wandering around Cappadocia at ground level isn’t enough, book a hot air balloon ride over the region. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
WHERE TO STAY A trip to the capital will be all the more memorable if you stay at its heart. Radisson Blu Hotel, Ankara (radissonblu.com) is here and close to all the sights. For the most authentic Cappadocian experience money can buy, on the other hand, stay in a cave – a much more luxurious experience than it sounds thanks to hotels like Esbelli Evi (esbelli.com). Book the Fantasy Cave Suite and you’ll have a claw-foot bath, ‘rabbit hole sleeping cave’ and a private terrace with panoramic views – all of which is linked via a warren-like network of cavernous stone passageways. Turkey Guide 2012
East Anatolia and South East Anatolia The southern and eastern parts of Anatolia are ideal for those who prefer their holidays to have an off-the-beaten-track feel. Hilltop palaces and ancient Islamic monuments are dotted all over the region, and many sites have gained World Heritage status. Stay in the city of Sanliurfa (renamed from Urfa to mark the bravery of its inhabitants in the fight for independence) and marvel at the majestic archways and warm yellow stone of the Middle Eastern architecture and the unerring friendliness of the locals. 14
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WHAT TO SEE A spectacular sight awaits you at the summit of Mount Nemrut – not the view, though that is quite something in its own right, but the row of enormous stone heads dominating the skyline. Eagles, lions and other sculpted characters have stood guard over the tomb of King Antiochus for more than 2,000 years and are no less intimidating today than they would have been when they were first built. Built in the 13th century, the Great Mosque and Hospital of Divrigi is crowned by an inspiring hexagonal dome and showcases some unique artistry in its 3D geometric stone carvings. Its portals depict fantastical nature scenes in which each character and creature is different from the next – the type of attention to detail that would put many modern-day designers and architects to shame… Sanliurfa has an old and a new part, and unsurprisingly it’s the former that holds most historical interest: here you will find Balikli Gol, or ‘Sacred Lake with Fish’. The site is socalled because it’s where the tyrannical King Nemrut threw the Prophet Abraham into the fire for refusing to worship idols and Allah saved him by turning the flames into water and the logs into fish. The Halilur Rahman Mosque is also of great significance, as the cave where the Prophet was born is enshrined there. Finally, if you have time, make for Sivas, one of the oldest
cities in Turkey and famous for its thermal spas, which many believe have healing properties.
Opening page: Mount Nemrut. This page from top: Sanliurfa sacred fish pool; Midyat’s Kasr-i Nehroz; Divrigi Ulu Mosque.
WHAT TO DO Meander through Sanliurfa’s labyrinthine markets, haggling over copper, prayer beads, handicrafts and handfuls of isot, the hot red pepper indigenous to Sanliurfa, before stopping for a menengic coffee made from crushed pistachios. Make time to see a folk dance too. Visit Halfeti and you could be forgiven for mistaking Anatolia for a coastal region: sitting beside the Euphrates basin, its serene prettiness is enhanced by the cobbled streets and small fish restaurants serving saput, a fish that is only found in the Tigris and Euphrates.
WHERE TO STAY With great facilities – including a large indoor pool – the Hilton Garden Inn Sanliurfa (hiltongardeninn.hilton.com) gives you everything you’d expect from the global brand. Midyat’s Kasr-i Nehroz (hotelnehroz.com) consistently receives rave reviews for the wonderful way in which its designers have taken a 1,600-year-old building and turned it into a modern hotel complete with coloured lighting systems and plasma TVs. If you’re heading to Mardin, book a stay at the Artuklu Kervansarayi (artuklu.com) for authentic Turkish hospitality that even the country’s own president has experienced. Turkey Guide 2012
Ramadan in Turkey
Ramadan is a very special time in Turkey, with jubilant celebrations and glorious iftars being shared throughout the land. Istanbul marks the holy month in a particularly glitzy manner: visit the Sultan Ahmed Mosque at night and you’ll be dazzled by the lights strung between its minarets, which delare ‘Ramadan welcome’ for the first 15 days and ‘Bye bye Ramadan’ for the second half of the month, followed by ‘Eid Mubarak’ for the three celebratory days that mark the close of this very special time. Of course, Ramadan has a serious side too. For a unique glimpse at the history of Islam, visit the Mosque of the Holy Mantle and you will be able to see relics belonging to the Prophet Muhammad. Of particular note is his Holy Mantle, which he is said to have given to the saint Veysel Karani. This experience alone makes a Ramadan trip to Istanbul a must. Because Ramadan currently falls in the height of summer (this year it looks set to run from July 20th-August 18th, though this will depend on the moon), fasters need to get up very early in order to eat before the sun rises. Don’t be surprised if you’re woken at 2.30am by people drumming in the streets: this is a tradition and actually very useful 16
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as it ensures that no one misses suhoor, the early morning meal that sets everyone up for the day. No matter what the time of day, the Turks’ smiley, hospitable nature is more evident than ever during Ramadan. Knock on a stranger’s door and you’re guaranteed to be invited in for iftar. This will invariably involve a healthy wedge of pide, a bread unique to Turkey which is only baked during the holy month. There will be countless glorious iftars to choose from no matter where you stay in Turkey, so make sure you make the most of this special time: there are few better ways to see just how generous and warm-hearted the people of this wonderful country are than taking the time to dine with them and experience first-hand their way of life. Feshane is the place to head to if you’re staying in Istanbul and want to see the community spirit of Ramadan in practice: it has a festive, marketlike atmosphere with myriad stalls selling all sorts of delicious foods and people breaking the fast together. In fact, there are numerous things going on in Istanbul during the month of Ramadan: begin proceedings by browsing the bustling street bazaar in Sultanahmet Square, move on to Beyoglu-Galata Square where you’ll be wowed by the light show, then make your way through the city and see where the night takes you. One thing’s for certain: you will not be bored.
A guide to holidays in Turkey