Turkey is famous for its Turkish delights, turquoise waters and tantalising kebabs. Home to the world’s oldest city, the ancient land of Troy, and the birthplace of Santa Claus, it is a country full of surprises. You will struggle to encounter a nation with greater patriotism than the Turks and visiting will leave you with little question as to why. Below are some of the best experiences for you to begin your love affair with this magnificent and often overlooked, country.
1. Paraglide above Ölüdeniz
Ölüdeniz – officially translated to ‘Blue Lagoon’ – is one of Turkey’s most famous destinations. Considered one of the best paragliding locations in the world, admire the outstanding vibrancy of the turquoise sea from 2000m in the air. If you’re feeling brave!
2. Indulge in one of the World’s Finest Cuisines
There is so much more than Turkish delight and kebabs! Tuck into delectable desserts like baklava, künefe, tulumba, ayva, and sütlaç (a Turkish variation of rice pudding). Savoury dishes are endless, but a few honorary mentions are sigara böreği, mercimek çorbası (lentil soup), menemen (a breakfast favourite), pide, gözleme and manti.
3. Visit Ephesus
Few ancient landmarks stand quite as impressive, as the ruins of the Greek city, Ephesus. Recommended sights here include the Temple of Hadrian, the amphitheatre and the Library of Celsus. Though thousands of years have passed since Ephesus’ prime, it is impossible to not be astounded by how comprehensive the remnants are of this once bustling city.
4. Try the National Drink- Ayran
Comprised of only three simple ingredients – water, yogurt and salt – it is a mystery how this drink causes such divided opinions amongst tourists that try it. Though Turks consider it a staple refreshment, those visiting the country either love or hate it. Try it and see which side you are on.
5. Spot Sea Turtles in Dalyan
Turkey is a mecca for sea turtles – more than half the total Green sea turtle population nest on its coasts each year. Catch a boat in Dalyan to see these gentle giants swimming beside you.
6. Cruise the Mediterranean on a Traditional Turkish Gulet
Gulet’s are distinctive wooden boats that roam the Mediterranean. Cruise the same waters from which the word ‘turquoise’ was born; the first part of the word comes from ‘turc’, which means ‘Turkish’ and was named such due to the intense blue colour of the sea surrounding Turkey’s south coast. Look out for dolphins too!
7. Visit Istanbul
The only city in the world sitting on two continents, the ancient city of Istanbul – a bustling metropolis of 15 million people – is revered for its diversity, history, and food scene. Roam the Grand Bazaar – one of the oldest and largest in the world. Other impressive sites are the Blue Mosque, Topkapı palace and of course the Bosphorus River.
8. Paddle in Pamukkale
Pamukkale, translating to ‘Cotton Castle’, offers a unique landscape created by volcanic activity. Walk along the tiered terraces, and the hot calcium-rich water that tumbles from them. Visit in summer when the crystal-white landscape is even more striking against the Turkish sun.
9. Get Your Caffeine Fix
Did you know that Turkey introduced the Europeans to coffee in the 16th century? Drinking Turkish coffee (considered as some of the strongest in the world) is a ritual that goes back centuries, and has been listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. For the superstitious among you, fortune-tellers can study the remaining coffee grounds in your cup to get a glimpse into your future.
10. Drink Çay and Play Tavla
Turkey has the highest tea (çay) consumption per capita in the world (surprise England)! Accompany your çay with a game of backgammon (tavla) against a seasoned local. They tend to take this game very seriously.
11. Get Sultan- Standard Treatments at a Turkish Bath (Hamam)
It was loved by royalty for a reason.
12. Hot Air Balloon Over Cappadocia
If nothing else on this list has managed to capture your heart, Cappadocia will. Turkey is rich with beautiful sights, but Cappadocia is perhaps the most magical and enchanting of them all. Not just in Turkey but on earth. Fairy chimneys dot the horizon as far as the eyes can see, whilst hundreds of hot air balloons float above in the soft hues of the sky. Though views are mesmerising when on ground, the magnitude of it all is truly felt when viewed from 3,200 feet in the sky.
By Melissa Ozmen
Melissa is a neuroscience and psychology student with a lifelong desire to travel. She has always had an interest in learning about and exploring other cultures. Melissa is eagerly trying to mark off as much of her ‘Scratch the World’ map, whilst on a student’s budget.