Turkey is both eastern and western but not exactly east, nor exactly west. Lying partly in Asia and partly in Europe, throughout history Turkey has acted as both a barrier and a bridge between the two continents. Bordered by eight countries and with cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Turkey is a fascinating country. Ankara is the modern capital but the cosmopolitan Istanbul is a more popular destination for travelers and home to the iconic Hagia Sophia, the huge 17th-century Blue Mosque and the Topkapı Palace. Turkey is not just another country to tick off the bucket list, a trip here is an experience to be savored like a perfect pink cube of Turkish Delight.
TURKEY TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Ayasofya (also commonly known by its Greek name, Hagia Sophia) is a great architectural beauty and an important monument both for Byzantine and for Ottoman Empires. Built in AD 537 before the Middle Ages, it was the world’s largest building and an engineering marvel of its time. Hagia Sophia served as a center of religious, political, and artistic life for the Byzantine world. It was also an important site of Muslim worship after Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453 and designated the structure a mosque.
One of the most popular places to visit in Istanbul, the Topkapı Palace or the Seraglio, is a large museum in the east of the Fatih district of Istanbul in Turkey. This enormous palace was the Imperial residence of Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. Topkapı is the subject of more colorful stories than most of the world’s museums put together and well worth touring.
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops it attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily! One of the most visited tourist attractions in Istanbul cannot be missed especially if you plan on bringing some Turkish souvenirs home. Browse the Turkish coffee sets, leather goods, copperware, kilim bags, evil eyes and Turkish handicrafts here, hone your haggling skills and don’t get lost in the narrow streets.
Kekova Island Sunken Ruins
Discover Kekova Island Sunken Ruins in Kaleüçağız Köyü. Hidden just under the waters around this Turkish island are the ruins of a once great city. In 2000 BCE a peaceful federation was built by the Lycian which surrounded Simena, a sea trading city. In the 2nd century CE, the area got hit by violent earthquakes and as a result, sank under the water. Currently, you can book boat tours, Kayaks or private charters to Kevoka Island Sunken Ruins which are now only a few meters under the clear Mediterranean waters. You will be able to spot shipyards, houses and public buildings and other awesome structures.
Hierapolis, the “Sacred City,” is in Pamukkale in south central Turkey. Founded as a curative center by Eumenes II of Pergamum in 190 BC. The city thrived under the Roman as well as the Byzantine empires when large Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities populated it. The recurring earthquakes destroyed it, and after 1334 AD the town was finally abandoned. The ruins of Hierapolis are well preserved to this day and the sacred Hierapolis of Phrygia, one of the ancient cities of the Aegean, was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988. If you pay a visit, make sure you see the Agora, the Roman Theatre, and visit the on-site museum.
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TURKEY TOP 3 FESTIVALS
The Selcuk Camel wrestling festival dates back over 2400 years and originated among the nomadic Turkic Tribes. This sport involves two male Tülü camels wrestling in response to a female camel in heat being led before them. The annual Selcuk Camel Wrestling Festival is a top draw for travelers to the country’s southern Aegean coast.
Istanbul Music Festival
The Istanbul International Music Festival is a cultural event held every June and July and the longest running festival in Istanbul. It offers a selection of European classical music, ballet, opera and traditional music performances and famous artists attend from all over the world.
Sarigerme Kite Festival
Great for those with young families, this summer festival is filled with brightly colored kites. Held at the public beach of Sarigerme Village, hundreds of kites adorn the sky while festival goers enjoy delicious street food sold by local vendors. There is a contest for the best kite at the beach and so this festival attracts kite loving contestants from far and wide. This is a great day out for everybody, young and old, so bring a picnic and enjoy the colorful sky view!
Language: Turkish is the official language of Turkey but many people here speak Kurdish also. The locals speak basic conversational English in most popular tourist destinations, but in smaller towns and villages expect to need to pull out your Turkish phrase book.
Currency: Turkish Lira.
Visa: You can apply for a visa at the Turkish Embassy or Consulate in your city or apply for an e-visa online. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Turkey is required (which will depend on the country you are from) and if so, how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: In Turkey the standard voltage is 220 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in Turkey, if the standard voltage in your country is between 220 – 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). Buy a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Turkey: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN TURKEY
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in Turkey are listed below. Don’t drool!
Turkish Delight: Turkish delight or lokum is a family of confections based on a gel of starch and sugar. This sweet pink treat which is a combination of chopped dates, walnuts or hazelnuts and pistachios dusted in icing sugar. Traditional varieties are often flavored with rosewater, mastic, Bergamot orange, or lemon. Turkish delight that’s made in Turkey is the real deal.
Iskender Kebab: Also known as İskender kebap is one of the most popular dishes in northwestern Turkey. It takes its name from its inventor, İskender Efendi, who lived in Bursa in the late 19th century Ottoman Empire. The recipe consists of thinly sliced lamb, tomato sauce, pita bread, melted sheep butter and yogurt.
Mezze: Turkish meals are usually a social event that can last for several hours. In Turkish cuisine, mini-courses called meze (pronounced mehzeh) are usually brought out and presented on a huge tray for diners to choose from. This is a spectacular experience and the chosen meze are then brought out and served one by one resulting in quite a feast.
Baklava: Baklava is a rich, very sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and held together with syrup or honey. You’ll find this classic dessert on every street corner in Turkey. It is popular among the cuisines of the Levant, the Caucasus, Balkans and central and west Asia too.
Shish Kebab: This traditional dish adorns the menu of most of Turkish restaurants. It is traditionally made of lamb but there are also versions with beef or veal, swordfish and chicken. In Turkey, shish kebab and the vegetables served with it are grilled separately, normally not on the same skewer.
WHERE TO STAY IN TURKEY
Turkey is a generally affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Turkey is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Turkey affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Turkey will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Turkey can cost less than 100 euros.
If you’re looking for accommodation that includes luxury amenities and comforts then there will be endless options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya or Izmir.
Whatever month you choose to visit Turkey, it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have been snapped up already. Turkey is a very popular year-round destination with business travelers and sight-seeing tourists alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Turkey. However, if you are backpacking in Turkey or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Turkey very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies where ever you go.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
BEST TIME TO VISIT TURKEY
The best time to visit Turkey is in May and June or September and October when the weather is reliably sunny. It is also less crowded at these times than the summer months of July and August which are high season and can be very hot, more expensive and extremely crowded, especially during the afternoons.
TURKEY TRAVEL BUDGET
Turkey is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Turkey really depends on the level of comfort you want. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 50 to 100 euros per day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 100 to 200 euros per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget at least 200 to 500+ euros per day.
IS TURKEY SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Safety does not need to be a huge concern for women travelers in Turkey which is considered a reasonably safe country to visit. As with any country you visit, always be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Some areas of Turkey aren’t as safe as others so do your research before you go and avoid these places. Theft, bag snatching and scams are prevalent in all big cities so be mindful of this. Based on many years of travel in Europe I would never leave home without insurance. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re accident prone! Check out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Turkey trip.
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TURKEY FLIGHT DEALS
TURKEY TOURS & ACTIVITIES
TURKEY PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Turkey, like most other places in Europe, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Turkey.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our awesome finds with you.
If you’re visiting Turkey during the warmer months it will be much easier to travel light. Pack mainly lightweight and breathable clothing but still be prepared for cold mornings and evenings depending on the month you visit. You’ll need to wrap up warm between November and February. So pack a warm sweater, waterproof coat, gloves, scarves and a wooly hat if you’re traveling during winter.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Turkey include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
So if you’ve found your travel inspiration, figured out the practicalities and got the travel gear it’s time to stuff it all in a bag and go right? Well, no, hold your horses, you see there’s an art to packing which we have (almost) perfected. Hop to our Travel Packing Tips for all of the latest on this topic.