Planning to enjoy a well-earned vacation in Europe? Make it a point to include Turkey into your itinerary. Coming in by air will most probably bring you to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport located northwest from central Turkey. Two other major airports are Adana Airport, near the Syrian border in the south and Ferit Melen Airport to the east.
Turkey is located in the southeastern part of Europe and bordered by Georgia in the northeast, Bulgaria in the northwest, Greece to the west, Iran and Armenia to the east and Syria and Iraq to the south. Turkey is a historic and ancient country that served as the heart of the great Byzantine Empire. Modern day Turkey boasts of spectacular highlights like the magnificent landscape of Cappadocia, amazing beaches and mountains, and the great city of Istanbul.
When to go
Turkey has a temperate Mediterranean climate which is made up of hot and dry summers to mild, cool and wet winters. The areas in the north bordering the Black Sea have a temperate Oceanic climate with warm and wet summers and cool to cold and wet winters. The coastal areas, which include Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara have a moderately damp Balkan climate which is usually warm and humid during the summer and fairly cold and rainy and at times, snowy during the winter. These areas can get easily crowded around the last week of June and early September.
Culture and History
History: The Turks’ history goes back over 4,000 years ago. In 2000 BC, the first group of Turks settled in Central Asia. Many of the Turks spread into neighbouring regions and established many independent empires and states over large parts of Europe and Asia, which included the Empire of the Great Hun in Europe. By the early 11th century, the Turks began settling in Anatolia through continupus migrations. The Malazgrit Victory that occurred in 1071 versus the Byzantines delivered Anatolia to the hands of the Turks and led to the final conquest of the entire Anatolia soon after.
Culture: The culture of Turkey is quite unique, it is diverse and rich, deeply rooted in Middle Eastern traditions, as well as the traditions of the Balkans and Anatolia, and had been shaped by more than 12 millennia. With is abundant flora and fauna, Turkish cuisine is famous all over for its gentle and subtle mix of Chinese and the Mediterranean, interspersed with exotic and fragrant spices. Turkish cuisine is popular for its desserts, grilled meats, meze dishes and breads. Not to forget their coffees and well as the special tea. Touring the country you will find its rich cultural history among its architecture, its literature, dances, music and paintings. Tour the country’s icons such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Egyptian Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar, among others. While Halay is the national dance, the world outside Turkey is fascinated by belly dancing. Not to be outdone, one thing to experience in Turkey is having a Turkish bath in an authentic hamman.
Things to do in Turkey
Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia: One of the top things to do when you are in Turkey is to ride a hot air balloon over the “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia. An experience more often described as surreal, just imagine floating above the majestic earthen towers over the semi-arid landscape of Goreme, gently drifting through valleys dotted with pigeon houses and across orchards and vineyards. The mixture of vibrant colors emanating from the landscape will surely leave you speechless.
Shopping at Grand Bazaar: The Kapalıçarşı or Grand Bazaar in Istanbul stands as one of the world’s biggest covered markets. It has more than 4,000 shops throughout 60 streets and draws in around 250,000 to 400,000 people daily. Several of the stalls are arranged by the goods they sell and are popular for its jewelry, hand-painted ceramics, spices, antique shops and embroideries. Within the bazaar you’ll find hammans, mosques two mosques, several cafés and restaurants and even fountains. The centre of the bazaar is the high domed hall of Cevahir Bedesten, where the most valuable antiques can be found.
The Church of the Divine Wisdom: Ayasofya or Hagia Sophia in Greek, is one the world’s most impressive and important buildings ever built as it was the greatest church in Christendom. It was built in 537 AD on the place where the Byzantium Acropolis once stood. The Hagia Sophia was the largest ever built until St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was constructed after a thousand years. In 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror converted the church into a mosque after conquering the city from the Byzantines. It became Istanbul’s most honoured mosque until 1935 when Ataturk recognized its significance in world history and proclaimed the church as a museum, as it stands now.
Trekking on the Kaçkar Daglari: Between the north-eastern Anatolian plateau and the Black Sea lies the Kaçkar Daglari – the high end of the Pontic coastal ranges and Turkey’s most popular trekking destination. The Kaçkar extends from Rize-Ispir road to the Hopa-Artvin highway over a roughly rectangular area around 70km by 20km. It places 4th among the highest summits in Turkey at 3,932m above sea level. Sometimes the Kaçkar Daglari is referred to as the “Pontic Alps” or “Little Caucasus.” Expect to see seasonal village called Yaylas, grazing animals, forests and tea plantations as well. Without a doubt you will be treated to great sceneries and spectacular views. There are some areas that require more strenuous efforts but the paths are generally pleasurable to follow.
Travel Safety and Tips
When you’re planning to come to Turkey in the summertime, don’t forget to bring a hat and drink plenty of water. You can easily find bottled water as it is sold almost everywhere. Be friendly and polite, take some time to talk with the locals to learn a few phrases and learn more about the country and the culture.
Be careful of people offering to take you to places with such as pubs, discos and other venues with drinks and ladies. If you find yourself in an awkward or uncomfortable situation, just leave. Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and keep your head levelled. Also, avoid places where there is no menu or prices that are clearly posted.
Always tell the hotel staff where you are going. Keep note of important numbers like the Tourist Police and the Consular Office of your country just in case you need some assistance. Keep your personal belongings secure and don’t leave your money in backpacks or suitcases. Be careful when withdrawing cash from ATMs as well.
For the ladies, avoid wearing skimpy outfits when travelling outside of the beach areas. There have been cases where female tourists have been harassed. Keep in mind that Turkey is a Muslim country and it is good for tourists to understand the religion and culture of the country. Wear long sleeve tops, long skirts or pants and cover your head with a scarf or a hat when visiting religious sites.
Overall, have fun and learn while touring Turkey.