Top Holidays Of The Month
Turkey is without doubt one of the world's hottest travel destinations, welcoming more than 35 million visitors a year -- 2.5 million from the UK. This is not surprising as it has everything -- astonishing scenic splendour, amazing historical sites dating back to the Bronze Age and beyond, a supremely rich culture, a sublime coastline with gorgeous beaches -- and, of course, plenty of sunshine. Its beauty and diversity ensure it ranks regularly in the world's top ten most visited countries.
The most common cliché about Turkey is that it's a bridge between East and West, and of course this is geographically true -- while the majority of the country is in Asia, an important part, including the capital Ankara, is in Europe. This unique location has made the country a meeting point for peoples from all parts of the world since the beginning of history, meaning the country is a mix of influences from the Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Middle East -- Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Mongols, Crusaders, Ottomans and many others have all left traces of their culture here.
The quintessence of this East-West fusion is of course Turkey's largest and most famous city, Istanbul, which itself straddles both continents. It's a vibrant metropolis packed with so much to see that you need several days to get a sense of this incredible place. One fascinating clue to its history is the ancient mosques, converted from churches at the time of the Turkish conquest, and filled with beautiful Christian frescoes.
Wealth of Ancient Sites
However, not just Istanbul but the whole country is full of historical sites, and the crown jewel is Ephesus, with some of Turkey's best preserved ruins, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the gigantic amphitheatre, and the amazing Library of Celsus. A few hours from Ephesus is stunning Pamukkale, famous not only for the extensive Roman ruins of Hierapolis, and the Antique Pool with its marble columns, but also for its astonishing series of travertines, or stepped terraces of brilliant white calcium, forming infinity pools of constantly circulating blue waters. And you can even visit the walls of the legendary city of Troy, thought to exist only in myth until it was excavated in the 19th century.
If there's one sight in Turkey above all that must not be missed, it's the extraordinary and awe-inspiring landscapes of Cappadocia in the middle of the country. You can marvel at the historic painted cave churches of its monastic valleys, and explore its mysterious underground cities. Most exciting of all, you can fly in a hot-air balloon at dawn over the towering fairy chimneys, formed over millennia to create some of the world's most jaw-dropping scenery.
Turkey is of course famed for its magnificent coastline, along both the Aegean coast to the west and the Mediterranean coast to the south. The many sandy beaches are simply gorgeous, and incredibly scenic, sandwiched between the turquoise blue sea and the towering Taurus mountain ranges, which drop straight down to the shore. By far the best way to see this dramatic coast is to take a 4-7 day cruise on a gulet, a small but luxurious cruise boat that can penetrate right into the spectacular bays and inlets.
Tourism is very important to the Turkish people, and despite some recent attacks and political upheavals, there is not considered to be any threat to visitors, especially away from the capital. Turkey is a fantastic year-round destination, with March-June the most comfortable months, and June-September especially good for Istanbul and Cappadocia. Whatever the time of year, you will marvel at the warm friendliness of the people, the breathtaking beauty, and the cultural richness of this unique and very special country.