Turkey Travel Info

Turkey

A lynchpin that connects Western Europe and the Balkans to Central Asia and the Middle East,Turkey has had a pivotal role in Eurasian history. Coupled with this historical context are a wealth of strong images including glorious beaches, both Aegean and Mediterranean, exotic bazaars, striking architecture, distinctive cuisine, Greek and Roman ruins and unique landscapes. Cosmopolitan Istanbul rubs up against remote rural villages yet the atmosphere and attitude are universal, meaning travellers always wax lyrical about the country.

 

What to see

Istanbul

Unique city straddling two continents, cultures and eras. The city has a wealth of history and extraordinary monuments including the great Aya Sofya cathedral-cum mosque and the

Topkapi Palace

The former palace of the sultans and their harem. Exploring and haggling in The Spice Bazaar or The Grand Bazaar, an enticing, confusing maze of streets with some 4000 shops as well as mosques and eateries is a wonderful alternative.

Cappadocia

Capped pinnacles, fairy chimneys and jutting ravines define this unusual, spectacular landscape that’s also the historic home of a race of cave dwelling troglodytes.

Bursa

The first capital of the Ottoman Empire and home to one of the country’s finest mosques as well as markets and monumental tombs.

Divrigi

An 800 year old mosque stands amidst a spectacular series of mountains.

Sumela

A monastery clings to a cliff face here, and there’s excellent access to the nearby Kackar Mountains for walking.

Ani

The former capital of Armenia and the site of a thousand churches is now a series of beautiful abandoned ruins rife with history but free from visitors.

Top experiences / sites of particular interest

The Turquoise Coast

A stunning stretch of coast known for its clear waters and intriguing archipelago of islets offshore. Explore on a traditional gullet, dropping anchor to trek the dusty slopes, explore scenic sites or snorkel.

East Anatolia

An intoxicating region with a surprisingly diverse landscape that includes the permanently snow-cappedMountAgri.

 

Lycian Way

Superb trekking alongside theTurquoiseCoast through some stunning, remote countryside.

Ephesus

Splendid Roman city, the extensive ruins of which are the best preserved on the Mediterranean coast, includes a vast 25,000 seat theatre and a two-storey library.

Pergamum

The staggering remains of the once-great Anatolian kingdom include an acropolis and Ascelpion, an ancient medical centre.

Dogubayazit

Close to the snowcapped Mount Ararat stands the dramatically locatedIshakPasaPalace.

Nemrut Dagi

Watch the sun dawn over two thousand year old stone heads and fallen monuments of mythological figures from this mountain top perch.

When to go

The country has a balmy Mediterranean climate along its south and west coasts, which are warm and sunny from May until September. Inland, temperatures are lower and the weather generally cooler, especially in winter. The east of the country can also be significantly colder. If your trip is centred on the beach aim to travel mid-May to September, otherwise visit in spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) for the best combination of climate and visitor numbers at the main sites. Turkey doesn’t really have a winter tourism season, except in Istanbul

There are a number of festivals and holidays based around the Islamic calendar, dates for which change year-on-year. Ramadan , when people fast during daylight, is the most significant month. Visit Istanbul in June-July to catch the International Music Festival .

Getting there / around

There are sizeable international airports close to Istanbul (IST) and Ankara (ESB) as well as others in Adana, Antalya, Dalaman and Izmir. There is a good internal network of domestic flights.

The road and rail networks are also substantial and in decent working order, making getting round the country easy.

Potential itineraries

There’s so much to see and do in Turkey it’s best to tackle a section of the country. Starting in Istanbul you can head southwest to Ephesus in a week, taking in the Golden Horn, Gallipoli Peninsula and battlefields and the ruins at Troy and Behramkale alongside the Aegean.

Add on another two weeks and you can then push on towards the Mediterranean via Fethiye and Kas. Dally on the Lycian Way before heading east along the Turquoise Coast to Olympos and Antalya before heading inland towards Cappadocia and the kooky landscape here.

To escape the crowds you’ll need to head to the eastern end of the country; three or four weeks exploring this area, starting in Trabzon and heading to Ani and Dogubayazit before curving west via Lake Van to explore the Kurdish heartland around Diyarbakir and the site of Nemrut Dagi will give you a very different impression of the country.

Our Recommendations

Guides

Overall Country Guides: There are good country guidebooks for Turkey from Lonely Planet , Rough Guides and Frommers . Look out too for more illustrated versions of Turkey guidebooks from Eyewitness and Insight Guides .

Turkish Coast: Sunflower Books have guides to the Turkish Coast including Kas to Dalyan , Bodrum to Marmaris and Antalya to Demre . Thomas Cook also produces compact guides to the Lycian Coast and Aegean Coast .

City Guides: There are Istanbul city guides available from  Lonely Planet , as well as pocket-sized titles from Time Out , Eyewitness , Lonely Planet and Insight .

Walking Guides: Cicerone publishes a guide to climbs and walks in The Ala Dag . More popular though are the trekking guides to The Lycian Way the St Paul Trail and The Kackar route through Turkey’s Black Sea Mountains. Climbers should pack a copy of the Rock Climbing Guide to Antalya from Cordee.

Maps

Country Maps: There are whole country maps of Turkey available at reasonable scales from Insight and Turkish cartographer Mepmedya .

Other Regions: Reise Know-How publishes a map of the Turkey Mediterranean Coast . Mepmedya also produce a full range of sectional maps for parts of the country including Cappadocia and Izmir , at improved scales.

Street Maps: They also have street plans available for Ankara , Antalya , Bursa , Edirne , Izmir and Kadikoy as well as two plans for Istanbul: European Side . and Istanbul: Anatolian Side . OtherIstanbul street plans include those from Borch , Freytag & Berndt and Insight .

Read More

Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire by Jason Goodwin is a loosely chronological history of the Ottoman Empire from its swift expansion to protracted decline, from an author also responsible for a series of cleverly crafted, humourous novels about a crime-solving eunuch in 1840s Istanbul.

Istanbul: Memories of a City is Orhan Pamuk’s poignant lyrical childhood memoir and brings the monuments, dilapidated Ottoman villas, backstreets and waterways of the anarchic, unusual city of his birth brilliantly to life. His earlier novel, Black Book , is a fictional evocation ofIstanbul in the repressive mid-1980s, a twisted detective novel that tackles the question ofTurkey’s complex cultural identity. A Fez of the Heart by Jeremy Seal is a wry, lively quest for the heart of the country by way of the history of a hat that symbolisesTurkey’s cultural fault line. Not so much a book about headgear as an entertaining portrait of a contradictory country culturally and spiritually at odds with itself. Rebel Land: Among Turkey's Forgotten People by Christopher de Bellaigue is an acclaimed account of a journey toTurkey’s inhospitable east to examine the legacy of the conflict between Turks, Kurds and Armenians.

William Dalrymple makes stops inIstanbul and Anatolia in From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium as he retraces the journey of a sixth century monk throughEastern Byzantium. Nicolas Bouvier’s wonderful The Way of the World also has a short section onTurkey. Turkish Coast Through Writers' Eyes is an excellent anthology of classical and contemporary writings that examine the stretch of the coast fromIzmir toAntalya.

Other Turkish writers to try include Elif Shafak, one ofTurkey’s most out-spoken novelists. Her best known book, The Bastard of Istanbul is a cross-generational saga full of subtle humour and pathos. Her story, The Flea Palace is an ensemble story based on the structure of A Thousand and One Nights, which looks at the lives of the inhabitants of a dilapidated stately residence now inhabited by a cast of zany flat-dwellers, whilst The Gaze , centred on a freak show organised in Istanbul in the 1880s plays with ideas of beauty and ugliness

Local Dishes

Turkey is home to the traditional kebab – try lamb shish or doner as it really ought to taste. Fish is popular and often served with dolma , stuffed vine leaves full of currants and nuts.

Drink sweet tea, Efes beer and raki , an aniseedy spirit.

Pre-Trip Practicalities

Language

Turkish

Pick up Lonely Planet’s Turkish Phrasebook or Berlitz’s Turkish Phrase Book or Turkish Pocket Dictionary to help you get by when haggling, ordering a meal or just making conversation.

Currency

New Turkish Lira (YTL) made up of 100 New Kuru (Ykr).

Visas

UK and US visitors do not require a visa if staying for less than three months.

Health issues

Hep A, Hep B, Rabies and Typhoid vaccinations are recommended.

Malaria also present in parts of the country.

Safety, FO travel advice

Generally safe, with visitors to the south east urged to take a degree more caution when exploring Kurdish areas as there are occasional skirmishes between guerrillas and the military.

Useful Telephone Numbers

Turkish country representatives can be found

in the UK at

Rutland Lodge, Rutland Gardens, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1BW. Tel 020 7591 6900

and in the US at

2525 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008. Tel 202 612 6700.

There are tourist boards

in the UK at

170-173 Piccadilly, First floor, London, W1J 9EJ. Tel 020 7629 7771

and in the US at

821 UN Plaza, New York, NY, 10017. Tel 212 687 2194.

For more information visit www.alllabouturkey.com , www.tourismturkey.org , www.turkishembassy.org , www.turkishculture.org or www.istanbulcityguide.com .