A perfect trip to Turkey

In this ancient country where Europe meets Asia, the sun shines down on a unique fusion of history and scenery, combining classical ruins, curious rock formations, golden beaches and tumbledown towns with memorable views. In this short extract from an article by James Bainbridge, first published in Lonely Planet Magazine, we explore the very best of Turkey.

Istanbul: best for Ottoman splendour

Istanbul displays all the signs of bullish development you’d expect in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with shiny skyscrapers growing ever upward, shops as far as the eye can see and tankers queueing in the Bosphorus river. And yet, among the organised chaos of this great modern city, ancient mosques and palaces rise sphinx-like from the jumble of roofs.

The vast dome of the Aya Sofya in Istanbul. Photograph by Mark Read

Ayvalik: best for coastal life

In the restaurants lining Ayvalık’s seafront, mellow evenings are spent washing meze and balık (fish) down with the anise spirit raki. There’s even an Aegean saying about the time-honoured activity: ‘Raki, balık, Ayvalık’ - which tells us something about the pace of life in this classic small town.

This traditional fishing town on the Aegean has a sleepy pace of life. Photograph by Mark Read

Ephesus: best for classical ruins

At the end of a hot Aegean day, the sun sets on the marble remains of a once-great city. At its peak two millennia ago, Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and the empire’s largest metropolis after Rome. Toga-clad hordes once streamed along these thoroughfares, but today the roads are abandoned, with wildflowers popping up between the flagstones and sprawling headless statues.

Make it happen: Ephesus is open daily from 8am. The Ephesus Museum is in Selcuk (muze.gov.tr/ephesus).

Ruined library of Celsus, a reminder of Rome's imperial rule in Turkey. Photograph by Mark Read

Lycian Way: best for walking

Of all the ancient civilisations that rose and fell on the Anatolian plateau, the Lycians were the most enigmatic. Their kingdom was the Tekke Peninsula, where cliff tombs and sarcophagi still litter the hills above the Mediterranean. Meandering past these ruins is one of the world’s most beautiful walks, a 15-mile-long path known as the Lycian Way.

Make it happen: The Lycian Way runs between Ovacık, three miles north of Oludeniz, and Antalya (trekkinginturkey.com).

A stretch of the Lycian Way between Kale and Kas. Photograph by Mark Read

Cappadocia: best for horse riding

Otherworldly columns of rock with mushroom-like overhangs loom above the track against a backdrop of labyrinthine valleys and curvy cliff faces. They were formed by volcanic ash being compressed and eroded into fantastic shapes and chiselled into troglodyte dwellings. When Turkey was part of the Persian Empire (547-333 BC), Cappadocia was famous for its beautiful horses, and they have retained an enviable reputation.

Make it happen: The Dalton Brothers, based at the stables behind Anatolian Balloons in Goreme, offers rides lasting from one hour to full-day treks.

Riding through the valleys of Cappadocia. Photograph by Mark Read