There really is something magical about Turkey. A country whose culture appears unique to it’s own traditions and customs with myriad of activities, sights, colours and smells; Turkey is a feast for the eyes.
Think domed mosques with an ever present Call to Prayer being heard over outdoor speakers. Think unspoilt coastlines of deep blue lapping onto pure white sand. Think traditional dress of men in robes and women in ankle length skirts. Think shisha and tea offered in stores or on street corners.
Turkey needn’t be a destination that falls off the radar for the associated uncertainty of where to go, what to do, or how secure you’ll be. Rather, explore with a sense of intrigue and you may find gems which are difficult to put into words.
With a well planned itinerary the traditional sanskrit alphabet and non-English speaking locals will only enhance your Turkey travel experience, and if you ever needed reminding why Turkey is worth visiting, we have 8 unbeatable places to visit in Turkey.
Pamukkale is a natural phenomenon which is an impressive sight. Noticed as white tiered pools on the face of hills in the South West region of Denizil, Pamukkale is the Turkish word for ‘cotton castle’. Not just an incredible sight to see, the pools are functional too. They are a natural source of thermal energy and make for an enjoyable place to wade or bathe.
The pools temperature ranges between 35 – 100 degrees celsius and are formed by the calcium deposits that are created as a result of the thermal activity. The calcium substance creates the wonderful white colour which could be mistaken for snow. Recognised as a World Heritage Site, Pamukkale is nothing short of a natural wonder and makes a fascinating half or full day of exploring. There is a museum in the area too which details the significance that the pools placed in Turkish history. Expect to find a sight to be admired but as one of most popular places to visit in Turkey, prepare to be in the company of many other travellers.
Where Asia meets Europe
The only city in the World where two continents intercept is Turkey’s capital city; Istanbul. This is where Europe and Asia meet with the division of the Bosphorus Strait, and connecting overtop with the famous Bosphorus Bridge.
Bosphorus Bridge is a picturesque suspension bridge of 1500metres in length, and draws architecture similarities to Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It’s not possible to walk the bridge but at nightfall the bridge is lit up colourfully and finding a spot nearby to view the bridge is a romantic affair.
There is another bridge not far from Bosphorus where an insight into local life can be observed while meandering over. The Galata Bridge is popular for local fishermen who throw their lines over the edge each day waiting beside with their colourful plastic bucket in tow. Some of the fishermen enjoy the attention of who observe their daily catch.
Perhaps the most famous mosque in Turkey is the Blue Mosque; a mega structure positioned prominently near the tourist hotspot, The Grand Bazaar. Both attractions conveniently make the top list of places to visit in Turkey.
Being an active mosque, the Blue mosque closes 5 times per day for 30minutes when the call to prayer sounds over the speakers but between those times is open for tourists to wander respectfully.
Built between 1609 and 1916, Blue Mosque has stood the test of time including political divides between Turkey and Greece and the 2016 bombing nearby which killed 13 people. The architectural prominence is clearly flanked by a physical dominance.
One of the things that makes Blue Mosque so popular for travellers is the beauty of the building itself. A particularly grand presence that stands taller than the buildings beneath it stands out from far away. Immense domes with thin pillars on each side are some of the identifying features of the exterior and inside there are more than 20,000 hand painted ceramic tiles decorating the walls. It is these tiles while lend the name ‘blue mosque’.
Outside are perfectly manicured gardens of grasses and colourful flowers from where visitors can relax while admiring the building. Inside, be sure to explore the troughs and sacred spaces for insight into how those coming for prayer incorporate the Blue Mosque into their daily ritual. Officially called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, visiting hours can be found on the helpful website.
Turkish Bath (Hamam)
Traditionally visiting Haman’s in Turkey was a privilege reserved for men. Like the Romans, wealthy Turks would historically frequent bath houses as half day affairs to clean themselves along with plenty of social banter. This occurred during a time where homes didn’t have showers or baths and communal bathing was essential. Luxurious as it was in those days to have another human clean on your behalf, nowadays hamam’s are less of a class dividing affair and more for the purpose of social entertainment; think of it like a combination of visiting a day spa and going for coffee.
Most Turkish bath houses have both male and female areas or designated times nowadays. Weather visitors are female or male, visiting an authentic Hamam while in Turkey is an experience which won’t be forgotten.
It’s not an experience solely about the cleansing effect, but the bath houses themselves are typically gorgeous buildings and interesting environments. The main bathing space generally is a large open area with heated slabs of either marble or concrete to sit or lie on. There are multi layered benches and steamed spaces which overall present a truly relaxing environment. In many cases the interior room is colourfully decorated in the trademark mosaic tile Turkey is known for, only enhancing the vibe.
Choose to either sit and relax or pay for the cleaning options but be warned that the authentic cleaning method is such that no cranny is left uncleaned, although delivered in a surprisingly non-intimate way.
The first thing to hit you when you reach Cappadocia is potentially an emotion of disbelief. In the modern era of today it can defy belief that once this was how local people lived. Cappadocia is a region famous for what is coequally known as “fairy houses”; turrets of rock complete with steeples mark ancient homes made of the land. The charming creations stand complete with bear holes where once light shone through and now offers a reminder of how soft furnishings are – for some – luxury items.
An otherwise barren land of dirt, clay and dust, coloured an orange brown shade is Cappadocia’s trademark scenery. The region now holds a UNESCO Heritage Site (Goreme National Park) and is one of the most frequented tourist destinations of Turkey, behind the nations capital; Istanbul.
Spending time observing the fairy houses, visiting the UNESCO Site and witnessing this unparalleled region is worthy of a night or two days but if you want even more, hot air ballooning over the region is a popular choice.
In Morocco they are known as souks, in England they are markets and in Turkey they are bazaars. The Grand Bazaar is the most traditional shopping experience in Istanbul – long before brick and mortar shops were popular – and a remarkable affair. Hours can easily be spent pursuing the eclectic and colour array of items that are of interest to travellers and locals alike.
The building itself is reminiscent of a grand old train station. The ceiling reaches high into the sky with stained windows and ornate decoration framing the window in a gorgeous display of Turkish architecture.
Stalls that include wonderfully laid out and colourful collections of spices – bright saffron curry powder, brown cinnamon and maroon sumac – perfectly organised in heaped piles of powder. Camel leather bags or belts, handmade quilted throws or clothing, handprinted shisha pipes and vases. Anything and everything that represents Turkish style can be found at The Grand Bazaar.
Located in Istanbul city centre the Grand Bazaar is open 6 days per week until 7pm.
This is a historic, national dance of the Turkish and one that will certainly impress. Performed by males the dance involves a concerning amount of spinning at great speed and in some cases with items like ceramic plates carried in tow. What would ordinarily make a person dizzy to a worrying degree, somehow defies the odds for the dervish. Traditional long white robes and fez hats are worn by performers in what can only be described as an upbeat and festive experience.
The best way to enjoy the whirling dervisha is during a dinner show. Visitors sit at tables, being served traditional meze style dishes while the antics of the dervishas occur alongside.
Most Kiwi’s and Aussie’s know of ANZAC Cove and Gallipoli as the destination where most of their countries men lost their lives in battle of World War 2. Known for the thousands of men who came in on boats at dawn on April 25th 1914 only to realise their position was wrong and they were in fact walking head on into the shores of a much larger army. In memory of the event, there is a day known as Anzac Day commemorated with a public holiday in New Zealand and an opportunity to pay respects to those who died in battle.
SO when visiting Gallipoli and ANZC Cove in Turkey one might expect to encounter an atmosphere of gloom. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
ANZAC Cove is now a national marine reserve that forbids anyone to swim or bathe in what is essentially a spectacular section of coastline. High on the cliff above the water is respectfully manicured lawn where monuments and grave stones of those who passed are lovingly cared for. There’s a museum which houses personal items of the fallen soldiers which have washed up on the shore over time. Worn boots, binoculars, spectacles and rusted cigarette tins among the items displayed.
The area is a calm place where visitors have the opportunity to reflect. The waters below lap quietly on the shore as if to show such horrible behaviour could not have possibly been. The landscape is truly divine; a stark contrast to the horrors which once were.