The Unexpected Treasures of Turkey
Around the Capital
Wowing visitors for centuries with its diverse heritage sites, settler legacies from the Romans to the Hittites and the crisp white sands of the Mediterranean, Turkey is a country full of surprises. It’s most common for travellers here to spend their holidays in Turkey touring the famous mosques of Istanbul, the equally famous ruins at Ephesus or dining on mezze near the beach in Bodrum.
However, if you’re looking for something a little more uncommon, here are a few pointers for roads less travelled in this unique land.
Istanbul is naturally a must for any first-time visitor, but once you’ve indulged in the best of the sights here, make a few day trips out into the surrounding towns and countryside. You might just find a gem, such as the former capital Edirne, at the northern border with Bulgaria. This relaxed outpost near the Tunca River has mosques of its own to share, including the glorious Selimiye, the dome of which is some 10 inches larger than Aya Sofya.
A Boat to Untouched Turkey
Strike out from the great city by boat and the island of Bozcaada is waiting out in the waters of Aegean, a 15-mile square of untouched Turkey. Walk the pebbled streets, watch the trawlers come into the picturesque harbour, nurse a coffee in the shadow of the old castle; the leisurely vibe here is a million miles from Istanbul madness.
It’s fair to say that most people concentrate their sightseeing around the western cities and southern coastline of the country, but for a completely different flavour, try turning eastwards. A little way outside of Urfa, the megalithic site of Gobëkli Tepe was not discovered until recently, but is thought to be more than 11,000 years old: the oldest building on Earth, in fact.
If this were not enough, the south-eastern portion of Turkey also boasts Mount Nemrut, a mountain and ruined tomb near Adiyaman. The giant heads of ancient gods that lie strewn across the peak are a peculiar sight to behold and made even more evocative if you take one of the sunset trips on offer from Malatya.
A Coastal Idyll
Even those seeking a peaceful holiday in the sun can find something to suit away from the crowds, by heading for the stretch of Mediterranean coastline around the ancient city of Olympos. Drive out from Antalya, and you’ll be greeted by the scenic peninsulas of Bozburun and Datca, both unblemished by modern development and forming a coastal idyll of secret coves and beautiful seaside villages.
The breadth and depth of Turkey cannot be underestimated and there are countless holiday experiences to be had here, each one distinct from the next. Though its popularity as a resort destination keeps the number of visitors climbing every year, from the mountaintop ruins of Sagalassos to the eastern waters of Lake Van, Turkey continues to keep its best-kept secrets safe for those willing to dig a little deeper.