Turkey is geographically situated both in Asia and Europe. As a legitimate bridge to both continents, it served as an important conduit for the historic Silk Road. Its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites offer extraordinarily rich history and tourism to visitors.
Even if their touristic image is still recuperating after suffering a massive blow from the terrorist incidents in the last few years, this Euro-Asian country is definitely regaining its confidence. There is always danger in every city you visit but I can attest that neither of us felt in danger at any point of the trip. Number one WTVN travel trip: Always take extra care wherever you go.
Here are four of the most recommended cities to visit in Turkey:
City 001: CAPPADOCIA
Cappadocia is the region of hot air balloons and fairy chimneys. Fairy chimneys are products of millions of years of geological process from hardened volcanic ash that turned into tuff rock with hard and soft layers. The hard top layer of basalt erodes slower which leaves a mushroom-shaped cap on top of a pillar. Magically enough, these bizarre rocks create figures of all sorts through wind and water erosion (be it a bunny, bird, family or even a phallus).
The homes carved out of the soft tuff are naturally warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Many of those cave homes have now been transformed into boutique hotels. Cities have been built underground or carved from the rocks.
City 002: HEIRAPOLIS-PAMUKKALE
The antique significance of the sacred site of Heirapolis (city named after Heira) dates back to as early as 4th century BC. You can see archaeologists uncover classical ruins in the vicinity.
Cotton Castle/Pamukkale Travertine Terraces – An over-hyped and disappointing slope of white calcium dioxide deposits. WTVN Rating: 4 out of 10. Advert photos fool you with gorgeous spherical terraces of ocean blue water overflowing to all sides. What you actually see on visit is an entire flock of tourists swarming in a minimal section of the whole mountain that has patches of water while the rest of the area is left dry. The view was no way near to what you see on images released for promotions. Free-flowing spring water supply has been regulated by the management causing the dry appearance of the supposed to be refreshing attraction. Few hot air balloons float close by in the morning which gives consolation to this frustrating experience.
Other activities you can do in Pamukkale: Hot Air Balloon and Tandem Paragliding
Fun fact: Apparently, this scenery isn’t so unique at all because Philippines has its own version – the Kaparkan Falls, Tineg, Abra. There’s far less tourists and more water.
The Antique Pool – mineral thermal spa with submerged Roman columns that were destroyed by an earthquake in 60 AD.
There also lies a well-preserved Heirapolis Ancient Theatre, Colonnaded street, Archeological museum, and Necropolis on the east.
City 003: BODRUM
Best described as a Greek city in Turkey. The city in the Aegean coast creates a Greek feel from all the architectural resemblances. Greece’s Kos island is visibly few miles away. Interesting fact: Herodotus, the Father of History, was born here (ancient city name: Halicarnassus).
Bar Street – Have a great night out with pals at the popular Cokertme Road. The street greets you with a series of vibrant bars and clubs. Some may require you to queue up and pay entrance fee for organized parties, even on weekdays! Nightlife is alive and kicking strong in Bodrum.
Bodrum Peninsula – Go on a relaxing boat trip on some of the loveliest blue-water beaches in the Aegean sea.
Bodrum Castle – The medieval castle can easily be spotted when walking around Bodrum bay where Aegean and Mediterranean seas meet. The compound likewise houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Bodrum fits my ideal holiday location - a city close to the beach, an adventurous day life, and bustling night scene all living in perfect harmony.
4x4 Off-road Safari Adventure – well, sort of. Made up just so they could say they have a version of it. The water fight was somewhat enjoyable but I found the experience very deceitful because you don’t see any real “Safari” animals. They will only bring you to a make-shift pond of turtles or do some bird watching on the road. If you are up to see some exotic animals, I won’t recommend this but if you would like a joy ride with friends on the back streets of Bodrum, have a go.
City 004: ISTANBUL
While Ankara is Turkey’s present-day capital, Istanbul has already created its status among the world’s top cities since the ancient rule of Byzantine period and Ottoman empire.
Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque – These mosques are not merely tourist attractions but also working religious places, so treat them with respect. Cloth covers are provided for tourists wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts to maintain the dignity of these places of worship. Most parts are under refurbishments as of post time while tourist influx is not as high as it used to be. Observe mosque etiquettes.
Hagia Sophia – Both a mosque and a church! Now, classified as a museum under the order of Mustafa Ataturk. Turks claim it as the Eighth Wonder of the World. This beauty has so much history behind its pink blush exterior.
Try your luck at the “bronze wishing column”. Place thumb in the hole and try to make a complete circle as you wish. It is also believed to possess healing powers because Byzantine Emperor Justinian leaned his head against it and his headache disappeared.
Topkapi Palace – Stride through the quaint courtyards that adorn the once official residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
Bosphorus Ferry Cruise – WTVN Rating: 5 out of 10. You get on a river ferry, it navigates down the Bosphorus strait (where the east meets the west) taking you to Europe and Asia interchangeably every 10 minutes. You get to choose which side you’d want to get off.
Grand Bazaar – This 500-year-old enormous indoor shopping centre has earned its reputation in the international retail industry. Inside is an organized chaos. One needs a map and an entire day if you’d like to check out every shop. There’s a lot of room for bargaining when you buy.
Whirling Dervish show – a UNESCO-listed ceremonial dance for worship. Seats easily sell out.
Turkish Bath (Hamam) – Take a steam bath, get scrubbed and massaged while lying down on a hot marble.
OTHER GREAT CITIES TO VISIT
Turkey is backpacker-friendly. For those seeking spontaneous adventures, there is so much flexibility as you go from city to city. Going with a big group, on the other hand, would be beneficial in racking discounts on group package tours. I traveled with 11 of my mates, hence exclusively hiring a large van easily resolved our transportation woes. Tour operators offer sleek and comfortable vans. You will need a level of comfort while on the move as it can get scorching hot and exhausting especially on bright summer days. You would appreciate some decent rest in between attractions.
Best time to visit
Spring or End of summer – High chances of sunny days and clear skies. Peak of summer in Turkey would be almost unbearable as trips require plenty of walking outdoor. Apply sunscreen lotion daily and always rehydrate. Frequent travelers know that this is the best time to escape herds of tourists.
I have always thought that Turks know how to cook well since Turkish restaurants serve really tasty food in massive servings. Then came Turkish clay pot stew, a common Cappadocian dish, which is the one to beat. Succulent flavours come from all the slow-cooking in a sealed clay pot with fire or charcoal.
Other Turkish dishes generally use lots of vegetables, aubergine in particular. The hyped traditional bread (Simit) being sold by vendors on the streets around Istanbul was not enjoyable but for the sake of trying, you can buy one and just share it amongst your friends.
For desserts, Turkish delights or lokum (all colours, all flavours) would first come to mind. Second most popular is baklava. I always find baklava very sweet and sinful so look after those blood sugar levels. If you’re up for a funny Instagram story, why don’t you test your hand-eye coordination skills and reaction speed against Turkish ice cream sellers?
Turkish tea is a staple complimentary beverage in establishments.
What currency to use
Euro or Lira – For small purchases on the streets or souvenir shops, paying with lira is advisable. Due to Turkey getting heaps of visitors from the European Union, shop prices actually indicate both euro and lira so they would accept either. However, retailers do usually round up the price in euro so you end up paying a bit extra. Tourists who has dollars or pounds can have their money converted in several shops once they get to Turkey. Looking for money exchange stalls isn’t a concern.
How to get visa
Residents or valid visa holders of UK, USA, Ireland, and Schengen states can apply E-Visa at www.evisa.gov.tr.
Turkish visa, which costs $20, is the easiest and fastest visa application I have ever had from any country. Five minutes of online application and you’re good to go. Non-visa holders of the countries mentioned have to apply in the Turkish embassy or through a visa centre.
Most Turkish people can’t speak English. You will find yourself struggling in making transactions or asking for directions. So keep your statements short and simple. Haggling is okay when purchasing.
Teshekur ederim– Thank you
Merhaba – Hello
Evet – Yes
Hayir (Hah-yur) - No