If there is any other country in the world that quite so magnificently straddles the eastern and western worlds we’d like to hear about it. Most travellers make the mistake of heading to Turkey with 10 days or so marked out in their itineraries and leave wishing they’d put aside a month to delve deeply into the landscapes, history and culture.
Bustling Istanbul, divided by the Bosphorus, deserves 10 days itself. By day, you’ll be astonished by the magnificence of the Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace and Sultan Ahmed Mosque (known by most as the Blue Mosque), be stilled by the haunting call to prayer, have your body scrubbed raw at steamy bathhouses and battle against the crowds in the Grand Bazaar. At night, there are hip rooftop bars, sophisticated restaurants, and clubs and pubs to suit any occasion.
Aussies and Kiwis often set out on a sombre pilgrimage to Gallipoli, but, if you’re in the country for Anzac Day and don’t fancy the crowds, put it off till later in the trip (it’s still a haunting spot when ceremonies aren’t taking place) and instead head south. This is the beginning of the summer season, so you’ll discover the beaches near Fethiye and Oludinez blissfully deserted.
The white travertines of Pamukkale (the name means cotton castle) and the ruins of the spa city of Hierapolis are worth a visit. Take your time and check out the ancient theatre before taking a plunge in the Sacred Pool – complete with collapsed columns beneath the surface – of the Roman baths.
Another incredible landscape is Cappadocia, in the centre of the country. Everyone seems to do a balloon ride over the fairy chimneys and they all say it’s something not to miss.
There are plenty of of Roman ruins across the country, but some of the best can be found at Ephesus, a short drive from the beachside town of Kusadasi. Sure, it gets crowded, but even the hoards can’t detract from the sheer scale of the Library of Celcus, the theatre and the other monuments that survive here. The terraced houses, excavated complete with their fresco’d walls and mosaic floors, are a highlight.
Kusadasi itself is a pleasant base for exploring the western Aegean coast, although it can be slightly overrun by tourists on package holidays, who frequent its Irish bars and the cafes serving full English breakfasts. It’s pretty easy to get away from the crowds even here, though – take a boat trip to Izmir or just jump on one of the local buses and head to the beaches in Dilek National Park. Take a bottle of water and a few snacks, paddle in the water and lie in the sun.
There’s so much more to explore in this vast and diverse country. Just make sure you give yourself enough time.