Cappadocia, rock café, Turkey
Why Turkey travel?
This huge country scattered with stunning ancient artefacts and natural wonders is populated by friendly folk and – in season – the sun shines endlessly, flowers burst from every crevice, and transport systems work well.
Scenery ranges from dull to mind-boggling, beaches are pretty good, prices are low and shopping is superb, especially leather goods and silks. Accommodation options range right across the board from backpacker dorms through to luxury resorts.
Driving around Turkey is surprisingly safe and pleasant, apart from Istanbul and night driving, both of which should be avoided.
Turkey Main Attractions
Sultanahmet peninsula and Eminonu ferry port, Istanbul, Turkey
***Istanbul. A relaxed, interesting and comfortable city bounded by water with spectacular sights, mostly in the core of old Constantinople known as Sultanahmet. See Istanbul Travel, Istanbul Pictures.
***Cappadocia. A seriously weird and wonderful area of fairy chimneys. Calm, pastoral, inexpensive and spectacular, but some distance from anywhere.
Nemrut Dagi in Turkey’s far east. Photo Christian Koehn
**Nemrut Dagi. Mt Nemrut (aka Nimrod) is a spectacular mountain top scattered with huge decapitated heads (in stone, need we say? ), but it’s a long way east of Cappadocia, high altitude and cold so best visited during mid summer.
**Bursa. A 2, 000 year old city still in use, housing many fine Ottoman buildings, both mosques and houses and famous natural mineral hot springs.
*Pergamon. Also over 2, 000 years old, but only ruins now, in the usual Greco-Roman style. Nice and less crowded than Ephesus, but missable unless you’re that way inclined. The same goes for Aphrodisias, Didyma and Priene.
Pamukkale’s terraced pools, Turkey
*Pamukkale is a bit of a hike from anywhere, and is a shadow of its former glory but being improved. Don’t believe the fantastic tour operator pictures or postcards in Istanbul.
Instead of heading off to large and beautiful Turtle Beach beach tourists sometimes indulge in Mud Baths in Dalyan.
*Dalyan, by the river, is small, relaxed and quiet, with great views over the water to some Lycian tombs and pleasant boat trips to Turtle beach or the nearby mud baths. Too many bugs but the birdlife is terrific.
***Olu Deniz. Great (shingle) beach, lively town, beautiful setting but far, far too many parasols bagging the beach.
**Patara. Small town, superb sandy beach, dunes, some old ruins.
*Kalkan. Hill/harbour town, quaint but unfocussed, unlike Kas, further down the road. Small beach and marina.
**Kas. Uncrowded, pretty and tranquil, with nice little beaches nearby. The coastal road there is gorgeous and it’s also a good base for boat trips.
***Bodrum is on the coast but mainly a yachting destination with a small beach and big discos. It’s popular but still attractive, especially the Kumbahce Bay side, with many pedestrian streets lined with interesting bars and restaurants. It’s an excellent base for boat trips.
**Antalya. On the central Mediterranean coast, Antalya is large, historic, beautifully located and lined by large beaches even if they are a bit stony. It’s not far from the dedicated beach towns of Side and Alanya.
*Fethiye. Good access to surrounding beaches and ancient sites but the town is very short of character.
*Marmaris, Kusadasi. Beach resorts of the package kind that are mainly good for bad tattoos, good chip butties and cafés showing soccer replays, but if that’s your scene then this will do you fine.
Kurban Bayrami: a four day religious festival during which many facilities will be closed and resorts crowded. Sometime between February and April.
Kirkpinar Oiled Wrestling, mid-June, Edirne.
Istanbul International Festival of Arts, late June – mid July, world class music, dance++
Republic Day, October, speeches and parades
Don’t forget that Turkey is a Muslim country.
During Ramadan many Muslims will neither eat nor drink during the daytime and consequently many cafes, restaurants and even shops may open only after sunset; public eating, drinking and smoking by tourists may upset the locals.
Furthermore service personnel may be missing, careless or irritable during the daytime.
Ramadan starts 6 May 2019 and runs to 4 June. 2020 from 24 April to 23 May.
Dates depend on the full moon rising in your location so they may differ by one day depending on where you plan to be.