Showcasing the best of east and west, Turkey is plentiful as it is majestic. Full of ancient ruins, historical temples, activities galore, spice-laden delicacies and blissful beaches – this is traditional Turkey at its finest.
That said, the country often faces a lot of backlash – is it safe to visit Turkey or is it not? So, let’s set the record straight. In the past year, 3 million Brits travelled to Turkey, so there’s no reason to be worried. But you can find more Turkey travel advice here.
With all that said and done, we wanted to set the tone for this beautiful country with an in-depth introduction. From things to do, regions to visit, food affairs and insider knowledge, here’s everything you need to know about Turkey.
Things to do in Turkey
- A Turkish bath is an absolute must, so why not start your holiday as you mean to go on? Start by lying in a warm marble chamber which aids to soften your skin. Followed by a scrub down with a ‘kese’ which is a coarse exfoliating mitt, that semi resembles an old pillowcase. It sounds a little off, but you’ll soon feel like the poster girl for the Gilette Venus advert. Afterwards, you’ll be wrapped in a ‘peshtemal’, a large cotton towel fringed at both ends. The whole thing is utterly relaxing from start to finish.
- Visit a local market. Traditional markets will have a vast selection of fruit and veg, cheese, herbs and spices. Look out for the smaller stalls as they’ll often offer fresh eggs and homemade bread among their wares. And of course, we can’t fail to mention the handmade souvenirs which the Turks are known for. Mosaic lamps, vibrant carpets and colourful china are just some of the gems you can pick up.
- See the ancient sites. Ephesus, Aphrodisias and Patara just to name a few. Whilst Ephesus is the largest and most renowned of the three, often the smaller sites can offer up good insight to the far-gone times, just minus the crowds.
- Unearth a local village. A short drive from the coast are villages with people living much the same way their ancestors did a hundred years ago – living on small holdings with a few chickens and goats tending the land. You will often see the flour mill where the wheat is ground for flour, so there’s definitely a chance to capture some images for Instagram.
- Drink Turkish tea. Served in a tulip tea glass, choose your tea of choice. The regular kind is known to be a little too strong, even for us Brits. But you can also try apple tea, sage or rosehip. Just know that one glass is never enough.
- Eat in a traditional ‘lokanta’. Every town has a simple kitchen serving ‘sulu yemek,’ which literally translates food in liquid. But in reality, it’s so much more. You can go to the kitchen and look through the pots of traditional fare. Find beans in tomato sauce, aubergine moussaka, pilav rice and lentil soup. The restaurant won’t look the most inviting and don’t expect the best china but the food will by far make up for it.
- For the men, a trip to the Turkish barber. This is not just a replacement for your electric shaver. As well as a cut-throat shave, hair wash and cut, the experience will most probably include having the hairs of your nose and ears singed along with a shoulder and arm massage too.
The best places to visit in Turkey
Bodrum. Trust us, this place has it all. Great beaches on the Aegean, moreish restaurants, fashionable marinas and the town centre that boasts Bodrum Castle. With the breeze hitting the south of the peninsula, the resorts in the north have become a haven for sun-seekers.
Antalya. Often referred to as the Turkish Riviera, nature supplies Antalya with a bag of beautiful beaches, yachts as far as the eye can see and a verdant interior. With a canvas as good as this one, you can’t go far wrong.
Istanbul. The flourishing capital is best described as the city of the past, present and future. Connecting Asia and Europe, it comes as no surprise that Istanbul has become one of the most visited places in the world. Must-see attractions include the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar – one of the largest and oldest markets in the world.
Akyaka, Marmaris & the Bozburun Peninsula. The countryside has the greenest of vegetation, which aesthetically contradicts the blue of the sea ahead. Spend the morning on a wooden gulet, an afternoon snorkelling along the rocky coastline and an evening eating fresh calamari by the waterside – heaven.
Dalyan, Kayakoy & Fethiye. There are centuries of history plotted along this coastline. From the ancient city of Kaunos to the relatively modern stone houses of Kayakoy, there’s no escaping this blend of old and new. You can also take the time to discover the 12 islands of Gocek, where the scenery will make you feel a million miles away.
Kalkan, Islamlar & Kas. Home to cobbled streets, inviting shops and gourmet restaurants, wherever you are you won’t be far from the sea. By day enjoy exploring Patara’s sandy beach and its Lycian ruins. And by night devour a delicious trout meal at one of Islamlar’s village restaurants. It doesn’t get more authentic than this.
Turkish food – culture & cuisine
OK, let’s kick things off with this – Turks are passionate to the core about their food. So much so, they deem it a sin to throw out stale bread. Visit anyone in Turkey, and you will be asked to drink tea or share a meal. Refusal can offend, so even if you think you’re full – keep going. Food is as much about social interaction as it is sustenance.
In villages, meals are created from vegetables grown in the family holding. All accompanied by a sharing salad, bread and washed down with glasses of dark sweet tea. Okra, aubergines, courgettes and potatoes are taken to new flavour heights, with just a few additions of herbs, olive oil and tomato puree.
Now onto restaurants. Any that display their meze in a chilled cabinet is worth the visit. Especially if it sits along the waterside. The selection will generally include yoghurt and aubergine dishes, stuffed veggies, spicy chilli dip, courgette patties and fried liver. Served with heaps of fresh crusty bread. Believe me, you’ll be hard pressed to order a main course. Wash it all down with Raki. This aniseed liquor magically turns white on the addition of water, giving it the apt nickname of ‘Lion’s Milk’.
As for desserts, some will seem unusual, but in no time you’ll get behind chicken pudding or the candied pumpkin. But if you can’t, sugary baklavas and doughnut balls are always a good choice, accompanied by a thick coffee.
Meals begin with the wish ‘afiyet olsun’ (enjoy your meal) to which you should reply to the cook ‘eliniz saġlık’ (health to your hand).
Turkey Travel – holiday tips and tricks with our Product Manager, Jo
We nabbed our Product Manager, Jo, to have a cuppa and a chinwag about all things Turkey. After first visiting in 1988 and several holidays later, she decided to work as a rep for a boutique travel company for a season. A season which turned out to be the beginning of a 17-year run in Turkey. Not only did she fall in love with the country, but the people were the magnetic force that made her become a Turkish citizen. So basically, what we’re trying to say is that Jo’s word is gospel. Take it or leave it, she knows what she’s talking about. So, without babbling too much, here are some of Jo’s top recommendations…
You arrive in Turkey, what’s the first thing you should do? “That’s easy, drop your bags, get your ‘kini’ on and take a dip in the sea. Then wash it down with an ice cold Efes.”
What’s your favourite restaurant and why? “Akyaka’s fish restaurants on the edge of the Azmak take some beating. They serve great breakfasts until midday and amazing fish and meze the rest of the day.”
Is there an activity that really encapsulates the area? “Yes! Take a boat trip on a traditional wooden gulet – you won’t regret it.”
What’s there free to do – perhaps that people can’t do anywhere else! “Drink Turkish çay (tea). Everywhere you go they offer you çay, served in tulip-shaped glasses.”
What are the best activities and things to do for families? “Canoeing, scuba diving and other related watersports for sure! And a bit more on the educational front is to visit the ancient sites that are scattered along the coastal areas.”
Your best-kept secret? “Going to Patara beach for sunset. En route, you can stop off at the ancient site, just behind the beach.”
What would your perfect day in the area comprise of? “A boat trip followed by a trout meal accompanied by a few glasses of Raki, in one of the restaurants in the mountains.”
What’s the one experience that really captures the essence of Turkey for you? “A trip to a local market where you see all the local produce for sale. There will be a Gozleme stall, where they make the traditional pancakes, rolled out from a simple dough. My favourite filling is yellow cheese, spring onion and potato. You just have to try it.”
** If you’d like to get in touch with Jo for more info, please use the details below**
T: +44 (0)800 133 7904 ext:235 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re pleased to announce that we’ve launched our holiday villas in Turkey! We simply cannot wait to see what adventures await you, so if you’re keen to visit one of our new regions, get in touch with our concierge team asap!
If you’ve already been to Turkey, let us know your holiday highlights in the comments below.