A richly historical land with some of the best cuisine you will ever taste, the scenery from beaches to mountains, and the great city of İstanbul. From the ancient port city of Ephesus (Efes) to the soaring Byzantine dome of Aya Sofya, Turkey has more than its fair share of world-famous ruins and monuments. A succession of historical figures and empires – including the Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans – have all left their mark on this former stopover along the Silk Road. Experiencing their legacy takes you from the closeted quarters of the sultan and his harem in İstanbul's sprawling Topkapı Palace to the romantic and mysterious Lycian ruins on Mediterranean beaches.

Culture & History

Modern Turkey’s cultural diversity is just as fascinating as the ancient landmarks that dot the country’s landscape. A host of foreign influences have created a dynamic blend of east and west, reflecting their unique position on both the Asian and European continents. The early Roman times, Ottoman Empirical control and steady 20th century immigration from the Balkans, Greece and other European destinations have all helped shape modern Turkey. 

There are two things that seem to unite all Turkish citizens. The first is faith, and the second is football. A majority of locals are Muslims, but variations and levels of Islam are found across the region. Football is almost as important when it comes to local culture. Turkish people follow the sport closely, and the country even boasts a very competitive professional league. 

Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting a stranger;  kissing on the cheek is reserved for meeting friends and family. Hospitality is very important and visitors should respect Islamic customs. Informal wear is acceptable, but beachwear should be conned to the beach or poolside. Smoking is widely acceptable but prohibited in cinemas, theatres, buses, coaches and dolmuş (collective taxis). 

Until recently women working in civil service or government roles, or studying in university, were banned from wearing headscarves. This ban was lifted in 2013, but the subject remains a contentious issue. However, if visiting a mosque, women are advised to take scarves to cover their hair and to wear long-sleeved tops. Both men and women should have legs covered from the knees upwards. 


The best thing about sampling Turkey's delicious specialties – ranging from meze on a Mediterranean harbor to a pension breakfast featuring ingredients fresh from the kitchen garden – is that they take you to the heart of Turkish culture. For the sociable and family-orientated Turks, gathering together and eating well is a time-honored ritual. So get stuck into olive oil–lathered Aegean vegetables, spicy Anatolian kebabs and dishes from Turkey's many other corners – and as you drink a tulip-shaped glass of çay and contemplate some baklava for dessert, remember that eating is deepening your understanding of Turkey. 

The Western and Turkish Aegean cuisine is based on the remnants of the Ottoman court and the Greek cuisine with a preference for rice over the bulgur. Fewer spices are used compared to other regional Turkish cuisines, and seafood is abundant and enjoyed in any season. The main dishes of this region are dolmas, mezes, and seafood. 

The cuisine of the Black Sea is heavily based on sea products and finds its influence in the Balkans and Slavic cuisines. The main dishes of this region are pides (Turkish pizza), fish, dry beans (kuru fasülye), and cheese. 

The cuisine of the Black Sea is heavily based on sea products and finds its influence in the Balkans and Slavic cuisines. The main dishes of this region are pides (Turkish pizza), fish, dry beans (kuru fasülye), and cheese. 

Urban Experience 

Turkey's markets range from İstanbul's famously clamorous Grand Bazaar to its colourful and fragrant Spice Bazaar; and from the traditional shadow puppets in Bursa's kapalı çarşı (vaulted bazaar) to the typical mixed sack of Ottoman tiles, nargiles (water pipes) and Spider-Man suits in Antalya's İki Kapılar Hanı. To take home the finest Turkish carpets you need a sultan's fortune, but don't be discouraged. Find something you like, drink some çay with the shopkeeper, and accept that you might not bag the world's best deal but at least you'll have honed your haggling skills.

Arnavutköy is the perfect location to get away from the touristic craziness while still experiencing a beautiful area of the city. You will love the colorful wooden waterfront houses and the ‘posh village’ vibe. Besides, it’s a very modern and multicultural scene in its own charming way. Walk along the Bosphorus to get a fantastic view of the Ottoman-style mansions and the fishermen doing their thing. Since it became a popular area for fishing, it has some outstanding seafood restaurants. Enjoy a tasty meal or Turkish tea in a tulip cup while taking in the view. 

Do you want to see where locals hang out and socialize? A great non-touristy thing to do in Istanbul is to mingle with Istanbulites at one of their nargile (hookah) cafes. Try one of the many flavors, and maybe play some backgammon, just like the people around you. 

Of course, it’s not the healthiest activity ever, but you can try it once to have a very traditional Turkish experience. There are a lot of places for smoking nargile at the Fener Kalamiş Street. This street also happens to be next to the Marmara Sea and to a yacht port. 

If you are looking for an alternative day trip, head to the Prince Islands. They are a chain of nine small islands, but only four of them are open to visits. Büyükada is the biggest and most popular of the islands, followed by Heybeliada, Kınalıada, and Burgazada. I suggest you go to Büyükada, one hour from the city by ferry (preferably not on Sunday to avoid the crowds). The first thing you will notice is that there are no motorized vehicles. For moving around the island, people walk, use carriages moved by horses, or rent a bike. 

Take an early ferry, have breakfast on one of the terraces along the Marmara Sea, and explore the streets surrounded by Victorian style houses. Check out the former residence of the famous Soviet politician Leon Trotsky, and the stunning views from the Greek Orthodox Monastery Saint George. 

Outdoors & Adventure 

Turkey offers activities to suit every temperament, from outdoor adventure to cultural enrichment. Watery fun includes diving, windsurfing, rafting, and canyoning in mountain gorges, kayaking over Kekova's sunken ruins, and traditional gület cruises on the Mediterranean and Aegean. Or take to the air with Ölüdeniz' thrilling paragliding flights or a hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia. For a fresh angle on stunning Turkish scenery, trek to highland pastures or walk part of the Lycian Way trail. In town, take a culinary course, soak in the hamam, or sign up for a culinary or cultural walking tour. 

Famed for its intricate series of travertines (calcite shelves), and crowned by the ruined Roman and Byzantine spa city of Hierapolis, the 'Cotton Castle' – a bleach-white mirage by day and alien ski slope by night – is one of Turkey's most unusual treasures. Explore ruins such as the Roman theatre and soak your feet in the thermal water filling the crystal travertines, then tiptoe down to Pamukkale village past a line of the saucer-shaped formations. An optional extra is a dunk in Hierapolis' Antique Pool amid toppled marble columns. 

Cruise to the underwater ruins fringing this Mediterranean isle or stay beneath the Crusader fortress in neighbouring Kaleköy ('Castle Village'), its pensions, fish restaurants and Lycian sarcophagus reached by boat or the Lycian Way footpath. Kekova Island itself is skirted by the remains of Lycian Simena, which was submerged following a series of severe earthquakes in the 2nd century AD. From a kayak or glass-bottomed boat, you can see shattered amphorae, building foundations, staircases and moorings disappearing into the Mediterranean depths. 

Cappadocia's hard-set honeycomb landscape looks sculpted by a swarm of genius bees. The truth – the effects of erosion on rock formed of ash from megalithic volcanic eruptions – is only slightly less cool. Humans have also left their mark here, in the Byzantine frescoes in rock-cut churches and in the bowels of complex underground cities. These days, Cappadocia is all about good times: fine wine, local dishes and five-star caves; horse riding, valley hikes and hot-air ballooning. There's enough to keep you buzzing for days.