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Turkey: The crossroads of civilisation

Straddling the border between Europe and Asia, Turkey sits at a global crossroads, boasting an extraordinary history. It’s this long and fascinating past that has shaped the modern country, creating a unique mixture of stunning cuisine, sites of huge archaeological and religious importance, as well as one of the world’s greatest cities.

Explore are not the only organisation to recognise the importance of Turkey’s heritage. In July 2017, UNESCO added the archaeological site of Aphrodisias to their list of World Heritage Sites, which means that our very own Turkey Highlights trip now features 3 UNESCO sites – Aphrodisias, Pamukkale/Hieropolis and Ephesus - and another 4 that are on the tentative list - Kaunos, Stratonikea, Sardis and Birgi.

Byzantium to Constantinople to Istanbul

The former seat of both the Eastern Roman and Ottoman Empires, Istanbul is an extraordinary city. It’s a colossal place, traversing the Bosphorus Strait which forms the official boundary between Europe and Asia.

The city is a bustling metropolis, home to ancient market places, including the Grand Bazaar, as well as having numerous sites of huge religious importance and beauty. Just take a look at the Blue Mosque to see what we mean.

Grab a fresh fish sandwich down by the Golden Horn and check out Karakoy, the city’s hippest neighbourhood. Or simply wander for hours through the narrow and ancient streets, sampling the melting pot cuisine and haggling for bargains in one of the countless street markets.

Getting out and about

Of course, Turkey is a vast country that’s home to diverse landscapes, people and cuisines. The region of Anatolia was home to one of the first human settlements and has accumulated a huge cultural heritage ever since. The many civilisations that have come and gone in Turkey, including the Hittites, Sumerians and Seijuks, have all left their own distinct mark.

The natural world has played a similarly large role in the country’s development. Explore the varying landscapes of Cappadocia, with its eerie stone formations, and Pamukkale, the stunningly beautiful seaside resort of Kas, where you can swim in the idyllic waters of the Turquoise Coast.

Poignant Turkey

As well as ancient history, Turkey is also a modern country with a more recent past to explore. 2015 marked 100 years since the epic battle at Gallipoli, one of the bloodiest and most controversial of World War 1. This anniversary brings home not just the bravery of the men involved but also how recent this was compared to many of Turkey’s other important historical sites. Lest we forget.

A trip to remember

What any visitor to Turkey always takes away is the sheer scale and diversity of the people, landscapes, religions and history that has evolved, thrived and sometimes disappeared in Turkey. From the Romans to the Ottoman Empire, which ruled much of the world for over 500 years, to the Holy Wars and Crusades that fought fiercely for territory here – Turkey has always been a hugely important place.

Just by being in Turkey, the historic and strategic importance of this country seems to seep into your pores. It feels like a special place, largely because it is one. Book your trip now to discover why.

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