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.
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.
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.
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.
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.