Described by Lonely Planet as the new Greece, Turkey is the place to be if you are interested in exploring an exotic culture with turquoise seas around. Home to the Anatolians, Assyrians, Phrygians, Greeks, and finally the Turkish Ottoman empire, and to places like Troy, Babylon, and Byzantium, whose famous capital city of Constantinople was eventually renamed Istanbul, the country has a rich history and even richer blend of cultural heritage. Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, and Bosnian are among the languages spoken.
One would like to separate places to visit for natural beauty and historical significance, but that is almost impossible to do when talking about Turkey. Western and Southwestern Turkey bordering the Aegean Sea has many ancient cities, fortresses, and palaces to explore.
Istanbul is the largest city of modern Turkey. The Hagia Sophia Church Museum, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque are architectural masterpieces of Byzantium and Islamic arts. The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest marketplaces in the world, with over 4000 shops. The view of the Bosphorus, the strait that links the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, also divides Europe and Asia.
Troy, the ancient city of Homer’s Iliad, has remained a central attraction for years. With nine cities built one over the other, and a rich history, Troy has been excavated to an extent, and one can see the city walls and palaces.
Pergamum, the great city of the Roman empire, was a rival to Alexandria in terms of literary and cultural production. You can have a look at the Acropolis, the famous Altar of Zeus and a number of temples and public buildings. The ancient city lies just north of the modern city of Bergama.
Ephesus was another great Roman city with a number of temples, marble streets, and buildings. A classical city, it is surrounded by Greco-Roman architectural wonders in Priene, Aphrodisias, Didyma, and Miletus.
Do not miss the natural Turkish calcium-made mineral spa at Pamukkale that attracts tourists from all over the world. It was built by the Romans around a natural and sacred warm spring.
Bodrum boasts of one of the loudest discos in the region, and of a Museum of Underwater Archaeology. For fun and frolic, this is a good city with many yachts doing the night layovers here.
The Cappadocia region was a volcanic area with Mount Erciyes as the highest peak. The region is located off the city of Kayseri, and is made of sedimentary rocks and volcanic deposits from millions of years ago. The place is famous for its cave dwellings, with Byzantine frescoes over them, and hot-air balloon rides over the region of fairy chimneys. You will find quite a few cave hotels and resorts here with a wide variety of dishes from the exotic Turkish cuisine.
The Anatolian region covers several modern-day provinces, but historically it has been the heartland of wars and battles fought over pieces of land. You will find a number of historical buildings standing side by side from different kingdoms. It was here that the modern blend of Turkish culture emerged. With the capital city of Ankara and the modern cities of Konya, Sivas, and Tokat lying amidst it, the Anatolian region should be explored with time on your hands.
Northeastern Turkey lies next to the Black Sea coast and is a land of verdant green hills and small quaint towns. Not many tourists visit here, so the area is peaceful and silent. The towns of Amasra, Sinop, Unye, and Ordu offer something for everyone: Byzantine ruins, backwaters, and excellent beaches. You can ski at Erzurum, and visit the Sumela monastery among other churches and mosques at Trabzon (sometimes spelled as Trebizond).
This article was supplied by Nidhi Varma.