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Top Ten Turkey Highlights

Explore Product Manager Jude Berry has travelled extensively in Turkey; here she describes her top ten places to see.

"I am lucky enough to have been to Turkey on many occasions and spend long periods of time there. This country still fascinates me and I return whenever I can. It was hard to list my ten favourite places - there are so many - but here are some of them – in no particular order!"

1 - Istanbul

So much more than the cliché of ‘east meeting west’, Istanbul is a lively and interesting city that needs to be experienced not just seen. The stunning Topkapi Palace, elaborate mosques and ancient markets sit amongst busy ferry terminals, modern shopping malls, tramlines and large adverts for films and concerts. 

Exploring the old quarter on foot is easy with a map, and when you need a rest, delicious food options are everywhere: on stalls, in pastry shops and in the many local family-run restaurants. On my last visit, as well as eating way too much baklava, I enjoyed climbing the Galata Tower for the first time, taking in views both over the ‘Old Town’ and across the waters of the Bosphoros to the Anatolian side of the city.

2 - Iztuzu Beach

Possibly my favourite beach in the world; I have spent many happy hours there. With its backdrop of pine forest covered hills, views to distant Greek islands and five kilometres of golden sand, this unspoilt beach is a perfect place to relax and unwind. Getting there is part of the fun. Small boats from Dalyan chug downriver past the ancient city of Caunus and through tall reed beds to one end of the beach, while local minibuses wind their way over the wooded hills to the other. 

Even in the height of summer most of the beach is empty and it is a great place to walk, swim and picnic with friends. For the more adventurous there are great views down over the beach from both the nearby radar station and the local fire tower

3 - Ephesus

The grandeur and scale of the ruins of this ancient city never cease to impress me. Last time I visited I went at eight o’clock, in the cool of early morning and practically had the place to myself as I walked down the main marble street to the famous ‘Library’ and amphitheatre. It was also the first time that I had been able to go into the on-site museum showcasing the newly excavated ‘Roman Houses’ and the enormous effort that is being put into restoring them. Well worth the additional entrance fee.

4 - Cappadocia

This landscape of strange conical rock formations, early churches carved out of the rock and underground cities, is truly unique. Until recently people lived in the ‘fairy chimneys’ and caves, and it’s still possible to stay in guesthouses and hotels with some ‘cave’ rooms. The area is relatively flat and is best explored by foot or bike. 

There are several great viewpoints including the top of the ‘Castle’ in Ortahisar. The early morning hot air balloon rides through the valleys also look an amazing experience, something I really must do one day soon. One of my favourite places in Cappadocia is the Old Greek House, an old house in the village of Mustafapasa, where I once ended up having dinner with the Turkish equivalent of the cast of Eastenders – but that’s a long story!

5 - Turquoise Coast

This is the name given to the amazing coastline from Bodrum to Antalya and beyond. Along vast swathes of this coast, forested hillsides meet the aqua blue sea, with the impressive Taurus Mountains as a backdrop. Traditional style wooden gulets offer cruises for up to a week along these scenic shores and this is the best way to experience the coast. 

On these cruises you can do as much or as little as you wish. Regular stops are made for snorkelling and swimming, exploring islands, and visiting ancient sites and local villages or towns. It’s totally relaxing and great fun. Whether on a boat, or walking or driving along this coastline, I never tire of the inspiring views.

6 - The Gulf of Kekova

Here the beautiful coastline is scattered with archaeological sites, the most famous of which are those of ‘the sunken city’ of Kekova Island. These can only be seen by boat, and a fun way to do this is by kayak. From the island you can then visit Kale, a pretty village that can only be accessed by boat or by foot. 

The ancient acropolis of Simena and the (partly reconstructed) ruins of a medieval castle look down over the village, and are well worth the entrance fee and the climb up, for the stunning views down over the bay. Also scattered around the area (and in the sea) are many well-preserved ancient stone sarcophagi, which add to the atmosphere. This is a lovely area to walk around, or to relax eating fresh fish in one of the small restaurants while admiring the views.

7 - Kas 

This attractive harbour town is a great base for exploring this part of the Turquoise Coast, especially for active people. There is easy access to great walking. Kayaking, diving, visits to ancient sites and snorkelling trips can all be easily arranged. Built on a hillside the town looks out to sea and the waterfront is the focus, especially in the evening. 

Amongst the narrow streets and traditional wooden houses of the harbour area there is a wide range of good restaurants and bars (some with live music) to choose from. There is also some great shopping. One of my favourite spots is the town tea garden from where you can watch the world go by while sipping a small glass of cay.

8 - Pamukkale and Hieropolis

I recently visited Pamakkale for the first time and was pleasantly surprised. Whilst it is definitely a tourist attraction, the sight of the dazzling white travertine terraces cascading down the hillside is simply stunning. What I wasn’t prepared for however was the size and scale of the ruins of the ancient city of Hieropolis at the top of the hill. Founded in the second century BC, the town rapidly expanded under the Romans. The ruins including an amphitheatre, churches, a colonnaded street with a triple archway and many tombs are definitely worth making time for.

9 - Pinara

My favourite ancient site in Turkey. Tucked away off the main road from Fethiye to Kalkan, and surrounded by spectacular scenery, this site is largely unexcavated and overgrown, and you can often have it to yourself. As you approach the site there is a huge cliff in front of you covered in holes (thought to be either tombs or food storage), and as you begin to explore the hillside below you see carved rock tombs in cliff walls, sarcophagi scattered around the site and the remains of buildings including an acropolis, a temple, an agora and a church. There is also an easily identifiable theatre on a small hill across a nearby field. Well worth a detour.

10 - Walking from Kayakoy to Oludeniz

A fabulous walk from Kayakoy, the abandoned Greek village that was the setting for Louis de Bernieres’ book ‘Bird Without Wings’, along hill paths to the resort of Oludeniz . The deserted village is a poignant reminder of the local history and it is worth spending some time exploring the houses and churches before starting out. The walk itself is a bit of a challenge, especially in the heat. The path climbs up behind the village, through scrub rich with the scent of oregano, to give great views down to the coast. The trail then descends part way down to the sea and continues through the pine trees opening out to a wonderful and unusual view of the famous beach and lagoon at Oludeniz.

Take a look at our full range of adventure Holidays in Turkey

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