History is carried in the dust in Turkey, from Homer and Herodotus to Constantine the Great and Suleiman the Magnificent. At the centre of it all, Istanbul has long been a bridge to the riches of the East. Straddling two continents, its Ottoman mosques, Byzantine churches and covered bazaars provide endless fascination.
Begin your exploration at Emperor Justinian’s great church the Haghia Sophia, the most impressive church in Christendom until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Continue on to the iconic Blue Mosque, built to rival the Haghia Sophia in the 17th century. Or take a tour of the Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman Sultans for around 400 years, before ending at the ultimate bargain-hunter’s paradise, the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world.
Outside of the city the call of history is just as strong. Visit the Gallipoli Peninsula, scene of one of the Allied forces’ most disastrous campaigns of the First World War. Or tour the ancient sites of Troy, Pergamum and Ephesus, the best-preserved ancient city in the eastern Mediterranean.
Away to the east lie the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia, where wind-sculpted spires of conical rocks known as ‘fairy chimneys’ erupt from the desert, and boutique hotels are hewn into the rockface.
Or simply relax by the Mediterranean on Turkey’s ‘Turquoise Coast’, so named by early visitors who were left dumbstruck by the colour of the water. Hire a traditional wooden gulet (yacht) and explore coves and beaches from Fethiye to Marmaris. Or soak up the glitz and glamour of Bodrum, the St Tropez of Turkey, famed for its marina and high-end shops and restaurants.
When to go
Hot summers and cold winters make Spring or Autumn the best time to visit.