Turkey: travel books to read before you go

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This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Turkey guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

Since time immemorial travellers have written about their rambles across Turkey. Herodotus, Xenophon and Strabo have all left us accounts of Anatolia before Christ.

In the TracksThe famous march to Persia by the Greek army, immortalised in Xenophon’s Anabasis (c 400 BC), was retraced some 2400 years later by Shane Brennan in his fabulous tale In the Tracks of the Ten Thousand: A Journey on Foot Through Turkey, Syria and Iraq (2005).

TurkishMary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters (1763) details the author’s travels to İstanbul with her husband, the British ambassador to Turkey, in 1716. It’s a surprisingly nonjudgmental account of life at the heart of the Ottoman Empire.

ConstantinopleEdmondo De Amicis’ classic Constantinople (1877) beautifully details İstanbul’s bustle, atmosphere and cosmopolitan nature in the 19th century.

TurkeyTom Brosnahan worked for the Peace Corps in 1960s’ İstanbul and İzmir, and the former Lonely Planet author recounts the experience in Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea (2004).

From the HolyIn From the Holy Mountain (1997), William Dalrymple retraces the journey of a 6th-century monk through eastern Byzantium, from Mt Athos, Greece, with stops in İstanbul and Anatolia. It’s a gripping meditation on the declining Christian communities.

Magic BusRory MacLean follows idealistic folk of another kind through a harshly changed world in Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India (2006).

855Andrew Eames’ The 8.55 to Baghdad (2004) retraces the crime queen Agatha Christie’s travels on the Orient Express, with a chapter dedicated to Turkey.

The WayNicolas Bouvier’s wonderful The Way of the World (1963), which has a short section on Turkey, recounts an artist’s journey from Geneva to the Khyber Pass in a Fiat Topolino.

The CaravanAlso researched in the 1950s, Irfan Orga’s evocative The Caravan Moves On: Three Weeks Among Turkish Nomads (1958) mixes travelogue with insights into the lives and lore of the nomads.

BolkarThe disappearing Yörük, once one of Anatolia’s largest nomadic tribes, have long captivated writers; another excellent example is Bolkar: Travels with a Donkey in the Taurus Mountains (1982), Dux Schneider’s bitter-sweet account of the Yörük and Tatars today.

Turkish CoastIf you want some beach reading, Turkish Coast: Through Writers’ Eyes (2008; edited by Rupert Scott) examines the coastline from İzmir to Antalya with the help of scribes from Plutarch to Freya Stark.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.