Packed to the brim with ancient monuments leftover from a parade of conquerors and endowed with showcase scenery that never fails to impress, Turkey is a dazzling destination that straddles Asia and Europe. Its vibrant culture, famed cuisine and vast history wow all who venture here while its glorious landscapes - from the sun soaked Mediterranean to the mighty mountains and arid steppe - are a highlight in themselves. Whether you want to lap up the Byzantine and Ottoman glories of Istanbul on a city break, laze on the beach, delve into history wandering through ruins such as Ephesus or see some of the world's most surreal panoramas in Pamukkale and Cappadocia, this country has attractions galore.
Turkey’s capital city, Ankara, is a sprawling, modern city home to government buildings, commercial businesses, universities and foreign embassies. Located right in the center of the country and the Anatolia region, Ankara is an important transportation hub, linking travelers to other major destinations in Turkey. The city itself offers a lively arts and culture scene with a large concentration of museums, including the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
Once serving as the capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, Istanbul today is the largest city in Turkey and one of the largest in the world. Istanbul stretches across a narrow strait that connects Asia and Europe, making it the only city in the world spanning two continents. Impressive architecture, historic sites, dining, shopping, nightlife and exotic atmosphere all make Istanbul one of the best places to visit in Turkey. The Old City is where most of the city’s impressive historic sites are found, which include the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.
Situated in Central Anatolia, Cappadocia is best known for its fairytale landscape of unusual formations resembling chimneys, cones and pinnacles. Natural processes such as ancient volcanic eruptions and erosion have all sculpted these odd formations over the ages. Thousands of years ago, mankind added remarkable touches to the landscape by carving out houses, churches and underground cities from the soft rock. The Hittites were the first to chisel out underground tunnel complexes, seeking safety from invading Persians and Greeks. Much later Christians sought refuge in Cappadocia’s tunnels and caves. Today, some of the caves in the region are actually hotels and cater to tourists.
Rüstem PaÅŸa Camii:
Designed by the renowned architect Sinan in 1561, the Rüstem PaÅŸa Camii is perhaps one of the most striking mosques in the city. The interior is covered with gorgeous Ä°znik tiles featuring floral and geometric blue designs on a white background, some enlivened by vivid red details. This is also one of the smaller and more welcoming mosques in Ä°stanbul, located just back from the Eminönü waterfront where you can grab a fish sandwich and watch the anglers on Galata Bridge.
The instantly recognizable minarets, imposing bulk and prominent position on the Ä°stanbul Skyline combine to make the incredible Sultanahmet Camii one of the most famous and visited monuments in the city. The biggest draw is its interior, adorned with more than twenty thousand, predominantly blue-hued Ïznik tiles, from which its more common Western name of the “Blue Mosque” is derived.
Renowned as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the spellbinding Byzantine glory of the Aya Sofya Museum (Hagia Sophia) is not only Istanbul's top sightseeing attraction, but also one of the top sites in Turkey. The staggering bulk of its exterior is rimmed by the delicate minarets added after the Ottoman conquest while the sumptuous and cavernous frescoed interior is a grand reminder of old Constantinople's might and power.
A visit to TopkapÄ± Palace leads you into the fantastical, opulent world of the sultans. It was from here that the leaders of the Ottoman Era carved out an empire that would extend up into Europe and down through the Middle East and into Africa. The interiors with their decadently exuberant tiling and lavish jeweled decor are an unforgettable peek into the Ottoman's powerbase.
Istanbul Archaeology Museums:
This superb museum showcases archaeological and artistic treasures from the TopkapÄ± collections. Housed in three buildings, its exhibits include ancient artifacts, classical statuary and an exhibition tracing Istanbul’s history. There are many highlights, but the sarcophagi from the Royal Necropolis of Sidon are particularly striking.
The complex has three main parts: the Museum of the Ancient Orient which has a collection of pre-Islamic items gathered from the expanse of the Ottoman Empire, the Archaeology Museum which houses an extensive collection of classical statuary and sarcophagi plus a sprawling exhibit of documenting Istanbul’s history and the Tiled Pavilion, where one can find a display of Seljuk, Anatolian and Ottoman tiles and ceramics dating from the end of the 12th century to the beginning of the 20th century.
Göreme Open-Air Museum:
One of Turkey's Unesco World Heritage Sites, the Göreme Open-Air Museum is an essential stop on any Cappadocian itinerary and deserves a two-hour visit. First an important Byzantine monastic settlement that housed some 20 monks, then a pilgrimage site from the 17th century, this splendid cluster of monastic Byzantine artistry with its rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries is 1km uphill from Göreme's centre.
Turkey’s first and most-established long-distance footpath, the Lycian Way follows the coast for 500km, from Ovacik, near Fethiye, to Antalya. Views over an impossibly blue sea are mesmerizing, while the path itself undulates through peaceful olive groves and scented pine forests, past impressive remains of ancient amphitheatres and tombs, and over trickling streams, with the occasional stop off for a well-earned swim.