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The Republic of Turkey is a fascinating jumble of cultures in a country that has a population of over 75 million people. The lifestyle, customs and traditions of this complex country is often reduced to a tourism brochure-friendly cliché of ‘East meets West’ but the reality of travelling through Turkey reveals a far more fascinating and nuanced picture.
Turkey is three times the size of the United Kingdom and has borders with Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest. The Aegean Sea is to the west, with Greek Islands such as Rhodes and Kos off the coast. To the south are the Gulf of Antalya and the island of Cyprus, which Turkey shares in a historically uncomfortable arrangement with Greece.
To the southeast Turkey borders Syria and further east, Iraq, then Iran and Armenia, with the former Soviet Union member of Georgia to the northeast. Travellers to these areas will feel the influence of this disparate set of neighbours who make their cultural flavours felt. Having said that, the Turkish language is the mother tongue for around 85% of the population and ethnic Turks comprise 75%, with the vast majority of the population being of the Muslim faith.
Along with a diverse set of neighbours is a climate and geography that lends itself to myriad kinds of tourism, while those looking to unlock the eras of history so identifiable by the awe-inspiring ancient ruins that abound in the country can see sites such as the Greek and Roman ruins of Ephesus (Efes). Natural wonders such as the ‘cotton castle’ and hot springs of Pamukkale are unique, as are the ‘fairy chimneys’ dotting the landscape of Cappadocia. While the packed beaches and all-night party scene has Bodrum buzzing during summer, the quieter seaside harbour towns of Kas, Kalkan and Fethiye attract visitors who purely want to unwind.
Regardless of the reason to travel to Turkey a stop in Istanbul is obligatory. While it’s not the capital of the Republic – that honour belongs to the comparatively staid city of Ankara – it’s the city that embodies the soul of the country. Besides taking in the world-class sights, it’s the best place to experience the breadth of Turkish food – one of the most delicious and distinctive cuisines in the world. With its mix of Middle Eastern, Balkan and Central Asian cuisine, aided by the love of fine food of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire, it’s a cuisine that begs to be shared family-style. If you stay any length of time in Turkey, one of the most hospitable countries to visit, it won’t be long before you’re considered family too.
Places of interest in Turkey
This historic region in Central Anatolia is known for its collection of ethereal rock formations and interesting...
Turkey’s largest city is by far it’s most mesmerising. With a population of 13.5 million, its city centre is one...
The peninsula that the pretty harbour town of Kas sits on has been occupied since the Stone Age. The town is thought...
One of Turkey’s major tourist attractions, Pamukkale – meaning ‘cotton castle’ – was a popular therapeutic...
Activities in Turkey
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