Acting as both the largest city in Turkey and the cafe where Europe and Asia meet up, Istanbul is frequently named as one of the ten most visited cities in the world. However, as a country which has acted as the meeting point for many of the world's ancient empires and seen the mark of every religion, there is much more to be seen in the giant archaeological site that is the country of Turkey. From endless Mediterranean beaches, beautiful countrysides steeped in geological wonders and more archaeological sites than a historian could dream of, a road trip around Turkey promises an engaging and enchanted vacation no matter your travel style and motive. The first time I visited Turkey back in 2013, I made the mistake of restricting my Turkish travels to Istanbul and Gallipoli; leaving me thirsting to return long after I left. The second time I visited Turkey in late June 2015, I dedicated two full weeks to seeing as much of the country as I could. What follows is the 5 most amazing places that I visited in Turkey that I beg you to visit too if you want to have no regrets.
Despite only 18% of the buried city being unearthed to date, the ancient city of Ephesus today stands tall as Europe's most complete classical metropolis and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Although you'll meet endless ruins on the roads of Europe, few places truly make you feel as though you've been transported back in time. Ephesus however, deceives your internal calendar so strongly that you'll start looking out for Marty McFly and his DeLorean. Daily tours of Ephesus are run from most resort towns along the Aegean, with the closest city to the ruins being Kusadasi.
Literally translating to 'cotton castles', Pammukale is as magical a place as it sounds. The natural wonder is the result of thousands of years of hot, mineral-saturated spring water flowing down the mountainside and hollowing pool-sized basins into the earth. As the calcium and hydrogen carbonate in the water reacted, it formed calcium carbonate. The result is endless surreal, brilliant white travertine terraces of warm, limpid pools than hang like the petrified cascade of a mighty waterfall. Although the geological phenomenon of Pamukkale is reason enough to jump on a plane to Turkey right now, the site is also home to the remarkably well-preserved ruins of the Greek-Roman city of Hierapolis. With such a unique combination of natural and man-made wonders, it is little wonder that the site is Turkey's single most visited attraction.
Alike for Ephesus, daily tours of Pamukkale are run from most resort towns along the Aegean, with the closest city being Kusadasi. If you're short on time I definitely recommend booking the 3-day Turkey tour package offered by Fez Travel which includes round-trip transportation from Izmir airport to Kusadasi, 2 nights accommodation at a boutique hotel in Kusadasi, a guided tour and transport to Ephesus AND a guided tour and transport to Pammukale - what more could you ask for?
As you wander among the geological wonders of Cappadocia, you get the sense that you have fallen asleep watching a Star Wars film. The otherworldly landscapes, that actually inspired Steven Spielberg's extraterrestrial locations in the earlier Star Wars episodes, are said to have been formed by the deposition of soft rock, containing volcanic ash purged out of three active volcanoes. Over the many centuries that followed, Mother Nature got out her chisel and axe made of wind and water and carved out rock pedestals that are today referred to as fairy chimneys. Later, mankind began to do some carving of their own, burrowing their way through the fairy chimneys in an effort to build hidden cave homes and underground cities complete with kitchens, toilets, ventilation shafts, dining areas and churches. Nowadays tourists from all over the world flock to Cappadocia to admire the craftsmanship of both Mother Nature and mankind. One can even get a first-hand feel of cave life by checking into one of the many cave hotels in the area - I personally recommend the Aydinli Cave House in Goreme. The easiest way to reach Cappadocia is by taking one of the many direct flights that depart Istanbul each and every day of the calendar year.
As the magical meeting point of Asia and Europe, Istanbul is the food critics enemy. As the capital of four ancient empires - the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire - Istanbul is the historians wonderland. As the cultural and historical capital of Turkey, Istanbul is the tourists dream with more must-see sights than minarets (and trust me there are A LOT of minarets). Atop the list of must-sees are the architectural beauty and historical monument that is the Hagia Sophia, the Ottoman palace of Topkapi which is in itself a worthy pilgrimage site, the Renaissance-styled Dolmabahçe palace, the Grand Bazaar which spans 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops, and the mosaic-heaven of the Blue Mosque that will make you want to mosaic your own home.
On the 25th of April 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) landed on what would soon become known as Anzac Cove. Over the following 8 months, a seemingly endless battle ensued between the ANZACs who attempted to break through the Turkish lines and the Turks who tried to drive the allied troops off the peninsula. This battle, which is said to have had little to no impact on the outcome of the World War 1, resulted in 26,111 Australian casualties, including 8,141 deaths. Today, more than 15,000 travelers from Australia and New Zealander make the pilgrimage to the site each and every year in an effort to honour those who fought and died during that fateful period. From wandering through the preserved trenches of the Turkish soldiers, viewing Anzac Cove and it's sphinx just as the ANZAC troops did when they arrived over a century ago, or standing in one of the cemeteries commemorating the thousands of people who died, there is no replacement for the unique insight offered by touring the memorial site with your own two feet. Daily tours of Gallipoli are run every day of the year from Istanbul.