An economic powerhouse that is religiously inspired and a busy university city that's as conservative as they come: Konya treads a delicate path between its historical significance as the home town of the whirling dervish orders and a bastion of Seljuk culture, and its modern importance as an economic boom town.
Amasya is a tale of two shores. On the north of the Yeşilırmak River, rows of half-timbered Ottoman houses sit squeezed together like chocolate cakes in a patisserie window. To the south, the newer, more modern Turkey tries to get on with things in an outward-looking ode to the succession of empires that reigned in this narrow, rocky valley.
With a colourful, sometimes tragic history and some of the finest Seljuk buildings ever erected, Sivas is a good stopover en route to the wild east. The city lies at the heart of Turkey politically as well as geographically, thanks to its role in the run-up to the War of Independence.
Boğazkale, Hattuşa & Yazılıkaya
Out in the centre of the Anatolian plains, two Unesco World Heritage sites evoke a vital historical moment at the height of Hittite civilisation. Hattuşa was the Hittite capital, while Yazılıkaya was a religious sanctuary with fine rock carvings. The best base for visiting the sites around here is Boğazkale, a farming village 200km east of Ankara.
The mountainous, isolated site of Hattuşa was once the capital of the Hittite kingdom, which stretched from Syria to Europe. At its zenith this was a busy and impressive city of 15,000 inhabitants with defensive walls over 6km in length, some of the thickest in the ancient world, studded with watchtowers and secret tunnels.
The village of Boğazkale has ducks, cows and wheelbarrow-racing children wandering its cobbled streets; farmyards with Hittite and Byzantine gates; and a constant sense that a once-great city is just over the brow. Most visitors come solely to visit Hattuşa and Yazılıkaya, which can be accessed on foot if it's not too hot, but there is more to explore.
Along the Kastamonu road, 15km east of Safranbolu, Yörük Köyü (Nomad Village) is a beautiful settlement of crumbling old houses once inhabited by the dervish Bektaşı sect. The government forced the nomads to settle here so it could tax them, and once they'd put down roots these new villagers grew rich from their baking prowess.
Set on an alluvial plain on a branch of the Çorum River, Çorum is a prosperous, but unremarkable provincial capital, resting on its modest fame as the chickpea capital of Turkey. The town is full of leblebiciler (chickpea roasters) and sacks upon sacks of the chalky little pulses, sorted according to fine distinctions obvious only to a chickpea dealer.