With one foot in Asia and the other in Europe, Turkey holds a unique place in history. From Achilles to Alexander the Great, empires have founded and fallen here leaving a complex and fascinating trail through time. Visit atmospheric marketplaces in Istanbul, truly unique landscapes in Cappadocia and Pamukkale, wander streets rutted by ancient chariot wheels at Ephesus and reflect on our own history at Gallipoli.
• The Grand Bazaar
Spring (April to May) and Autumn (September to October) are optimum times for sightseeing in Istanbul and along the coast. Summers can be very hot and are more suited for lying on the beach than any form of serious sightseeing.
I love history and for that reason alone Turkey is one of the greatest countries to visit. For 1000 years between the 4th and the 14th century Constantinople (Istanbul) was the most important city in the world. During that period St Sophia, one of the most beautiful buildings found anywhere was constructed and this is a great place to start your tour of Istanbul.
After admiring this glorious architecture wander through the nearby Grand Bazaar with its 1000’s of shops selling all manner of goods including some great spices. The Ottoman treasures in the Topkapi Palace and the fabulous view from there across the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, which divides both the Asian and European continents and Istanbul alike, are a must see. Four hours drive from Istanbul is situated one of the most important sites for any Kiwi, Gallipoli. Even after several visits I find myself moved as the hundreds of simple graves, each with a silver fern engraved, stretch into the distance before you. Below is ANZAC Cove and standing looking at this crescent shaped bay, the fruitlessness of war is obvious and overwhelming. For the Turks, Gallipoli was a great victory although their troops were devastated as well. It is still taught in their schools and perhaps ironically, the Turkish people throughout the entire country make New Zealanders genuinely welcome as they consider the Kiwis that fought the Gallipoli were incredibly brave. Our countries have a common bond – at least something good came from this terrible campaign.
On a more pleasant note, why not enjoy a few days on a gulet, one of the traditional sailing yachts that ply the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea. These leave from a number of ports; Fetiyhe, Marmaris and Bodrum are perhaps the most popular. Sail during the day, swim from the boat and call into small ports along the way enjoying time ashore to explore and eat in the local cafes. Brilliant! The Greeks and the Romans at various times throughout history controlled modern day Turkey and have left some marvellous ruins in their wake. One of the most impressive is the important Biblical site of Ephesus where you may walk ancient streets rutted by chariot wheels and admire the beautiful Library of Celsius along with many other impressive buildings.
A total contrast is beautiful Cappadocia in Central Turkey. Here there are amazing geological formations and also lots of history. It is great fun when visiting this region to stay in one of the traditional “cave” hotels, hewn from the rock and originally home to an earlier culture. The diversity of landscape, culture and experiences you can enjoy along with the wonderful food and genuinely friendly people make Turkey a tremendous destination. I can’t wait to get back there again! Chris
Currency Turkish Lira
Language Turkish with English widely spoken
Why we love it With the extraordinary landscapes and underground cities of Cappadocia, the unique and fascinating Cotton Castles of Pamukkale, glorious beaches, history encapsulated at Ephesus and the poignant memories of Gallipoli combined with the life and energy of Istanbul, what is not to love about Turkey?!
Weather Following the Mediterranean climate, Turkey is best visited in Spring (March – April) and Autumn (Sept – Nov). Winters can be very bitter and mid summer stifling.
Social customs & quirks When meeting shake hands firmly. Friends and relations would greet each other with either one or two kisses on the cheek. Elders are always respected by kissing their right hand then placing the forehead onto the hand. When entering a room, if you are not automatically met by someone, greet the most elderly or most senior first. At social occasions greet the person closest to you then work your way around the room or table anti-clockwise. If invited into someone’s home, a small gift of pastries or baklava is always well received.
Festivals & events There are over 100 festivals in Turkey so there is always a good chance you will come across one during your travels. Along with various food, music and cultural festivals, the most important religious festivals on the calendar are:
Seker Bayrami, or Festival of Sugar, a 3-day national festival marking the end of the Moslem holy month of Ramazan (Ramadan). Also Kurban Bayrami, the most important religious holiday, commemorating the near sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham. God spared the child, allowing a lamb to be sacrificed instead. Throughout the country, those who can afford it sacrifice an animal in memory of this event and reserve a portion of the meat for the needy.
Just a few highlights (as so many ) Ephesus, is amazing , the pure size of the structures, theatres are awesome, & there are so many to be seen.
Kemmel our tour guide, is so full of history, & his timing to keep us out of the main crowds & best views was noticed. The little villages, we got to wander around & taste local fruit wines & foods. There was still spaces to have your own experiences.
Once in a lifetime!
I am a 42 year old woman and was travelling with my 46 year old husband as well as our 77 year old dear friend. Being independent travellers, we had never been on a tour, but thought it would be a compromise, with our elderly friend, not to have to worry about travel, accommodation, or even water during the day.
Our driver Ahmed was precise, careful and kind. He went out of his way to accommodate us, supplying us with battery packs for our mobile phones and getting orange fizzy drinks for my friend.
Our Turkish guide Kemal was such a gem, keeping us in front of all of the tour groups and standing in line for us while we were busy looking at other things. He had a lovely outlook on life, was passionate about Turkish history and made our trip knowledgeable, enjoyable and fun. I loved every moment I spent with him and will never forget his gorgeous smile.
But my biggest thank you is for giving us Christie. A down to earth kiwi chick who rocked the Turkish language and related to everybody.
Christie has a beautiful knack of balancing professionalism with compassion and fun which created a safety net around our whole group.
I genuinely admire Christie. She held a group with ages ranging from 20-81 and everyone felt heard, and safe, and cared for. She spoke on our behalf, stayed up late, woke up early, ran errands, wrote emails, made phone calls, suggested new foods, taught us new words, haggled in the markets on our behalf. Christie made little comments to each of us that let us know she cared for us individually, Every question I had was answered, every item on my wish list was ticked.
All three of these people worked well together and made for a wonderful trip away. This once in a lifetime experience for me was so much more than I expected, and I have come home a better person because of the journey. Please pass on my thanks to your guides and driver. They nailed it. And whoever organised the tour. The accommodation was perfect, food was perfect, even the weather!