Post by Sam Jones
Only 4 hours away from the UK is the sun kissed country of Turkey. With coastlines on the Aegean and the Mediterranean, a great exchange rate and an outstanding choice of resorts, it is little wonder that so many Brits now flock there every year. Whether or not you have been to Turkey before the following guide should see you in good stead if you are considering a Turkish holiday in 2014. If you were not considering this great destination, well, maybe after reading this you will be looking for a great value Turkish holiday.
Some view Turkey as a virtual bridge between the continents of Asia and Europe as whichever way you look at it Turkey enjoys a unique location geographically. Being the point where the Christian West meets the Muslim East, the country gains extra frisson when you compare it with its Mediterranean competitors such as Greece and Italy. While you are quite likely to roused at dawn by the call to prayer for the predominantly Muslim population, it is every much a secular state and when you hear the calling for dusk prayers emanating from the closest mosque’s minaret you will probably be sitting enjoying a beer or a glass of wine with a delicious evening meal.
Origins and culture
Giving a partial nod to the Islamic heritage of the county, and another to their origins as nomadic herdsmen going about their business on Central Asia’s steppes, you will find that the Turks are incredibly open, friendly and hospitable. Being served a glass of tea in an unusual, tulip shaped glass and then being joined by the shopkeeper from a local bazaar will not usually be a ploy for him to use you as a captive audience for his sales spiel, it is merely part of the Turkish culture and should be welcomed.
The thrill of taking a holiday somewhere with such a different culture to our own, and being surrounded by some of the friendliest people in the world, does not go very far in explaining why 35m visitors choose to holiday in Turkey every year. A major player in its appeal is its coastline, and 1700 miles of Aegean coast and 1000 miles on the Mediterranean will satisfy even the most discerning of beach lovers.
In Turkey’s Aegean region are the mountains belonging to the Anatolian interior. Anatolia itself is a vast and tilting tableland of mountain and ‘steps’ which run for nearly 1000 miles up to the border with Iran. The mountains are at right angles to the coast, thus giving this area a beautiful, indented coastline consisting of coves, bays, peninsulas and promontories, and this coastline is at its most dramatic around the hugely popular resorts of Marmaris and Bodrum.
In some areas of the mountainous south west of the country you will see the mountains actually plunging into the sea, and this is also the area where the Aegean and the Mediterranean merge. Head east past Antalya and you will find a broad plain, with a backdrop of the stunning Taurus mountains, that is fringed by an endless run of glorious sandy beaches.
Despite the fact that the Turkish authorities vowed long ago not to go in the same direction as Spain when it came to development, it has had a huge impact on the landscape. This is particularly noticeable around the Antalya area where golf courses and all-inclusive resorts have irrevocably altered the whole outlook of the area.
The rockier shores around the southern Aegean and south west Mediterranean have been much more reluctant to make such changes however. And resorts such as Kalkan, Kas, Dalyan, Bodrum and Gelemis (Patara) have managed to retain a lot of their original charm. Even though most visitors to these resorts are more than content to swim, soak up the rays and take the odd tour, those who like to keep active have ample opportunities to go diving, kayaking and windsurfing.
This rocky coastline lends itself perfectly to the ‘gulet’ tours. These ancient, wooden yachts are a major tourist attraction and if you want to go one step further you can charter your own. There are many that are so luxurious they are akin to a floating villa and perfect for a spot of self-indulgence.
Exploring the ancient sites of Turkey is hugely enjoyable, whether you are a history buff or not. The Mediterranean and Aegean littoral is generously strewn with some outstanding Greco-Roman ruins from such historical heavyweights as Ephesus and Troy but there are also many lesser known wonders to be discovered such as Sagalassos and Arykanda. Most of the sites are easily accessible by either a hire car or on an organised tour, but there are some who are best visited by boat.
Easily accessible from a large number of main coastal resorts are such geological wonders as the hot springs and amazing travertine basins at Pammukale, and if you fancy taking a trip from Antalya an absolute must is the stunning Turkish lake-land around Egirdir. This gives a lush, cooling respite away from the extreme summer heat. The Carian, St Pauls and Lycian marked trails have effectively opened up the mountains behind the coast so walkers can enjoy their splendour and those who choose to visit in the winter will enjoy the ski resorts at Davraz and Saklikent.
A bit more info
Few realise just how big Turkey actually is, and with the country enjoying so many return visitors it is hardly surprising that they, after several forays to the coast, find the lure of Anatolia’s austere landscape too hard to resist.
The strange formations of volcanic rock cut for the Byzantine churches at Cappadocia are hugely popular and this is the most appealing region to visit inland, not least because of its “cave” boutique hotels, of which there are hundreds.
Those who have penchant for an altogether wilder vista and/or lesser known civilisations should head to the Hittite heartlands which are to the east of Ankara. Armenian churches as Urartian fortresses encircle the ridiculously blue waters of Lake Van whilst to the south east are the basins of Euphrates and Tigris, known as the “cradle of civilisation”. These areas are an awful long way, and in more than just distance, from the overcrowded coastal hotspots, and are both beautiful and fascinating.
Wherever you stay in Turkey, be it in a budget priced apartment from providers such as Icelolly.com or a posh private villa, make the effort to take either an organised tour or hire a car and criss-cross the country. You are guaranteed a warm welcome anywhere you decide visit and will come away knowing about a country that is not east or west, but it unique in its own right.
This article was contributed by Sam Jones