From Culture Lovers to Outdoor Adventurers, This Is Turkey for Every Type of TravelerBy Sevil Delin
Turkey is a sprawling nation that not only straddles continents, but also geographies, histories and cultures. Whatever your area of interest, Turkey can cater to it thanks to the wide variety of experiences on offer — from skiing and scuba diving to exploring ancient, underground cities.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
As the historic epicenter of diverse civilizations and empires, Turkey is deservedly known for a melting pot of cuisines. Start your Turkish food journey in Istanbul. A huge metropolis that attracts Turks of all backgrounds from across the country, the city is the best place to experience the full panoply of palate pleasers on offer.
Begin your day with a tulip-shaped glass of Turkish tea or a jolting cup of pungent Turkish coffee accompanied by a sesame-covered simit (circular bread), feta cheese, olives and tomatoes.
For lunch, head to an ocakbaşı (a restaurant with an open grill) to watch your kebabs be made right in front of you. And for dinner, enjoy imperial Ottoman cuisine with a spread of meze cooked in olive oil, followed by grilled fish with a touch of lemon.
For Culture Lovers
From sporting events like the Kırkpınar oil wrestling tournament held in Edirne for more than 600 years to the Sufi dervishes’ ritual spinning in the Galata Mevlevihane, Turkey has a wide range of unique cultural experiences.
Simply sitting in a café, sipping a traditional coffee while smoking a nargile (water pipe) and playing tavla ( backgammon) is a singularly Turkish joy.
If you’re looking for something more rarified, Turkey hosts a range of art, music, dance and theater festivals. The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts organizes world-class events in stunning local settings.
For History Buffs
Turkey is steeped in history. The best way to experience Turkey’s ancient Greek influence is immersing yourself in the beautifully preserved ruins of the city of Ephesus, which includes the sublime Library of Celsus and some surprisingly advanced public latrines.
In Istanbul, the aptly named Historic Peninsula features the famed Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Yerebatan Sarnıç — a spooky, colonnaded underground cistern featuring an upside-down Medusa head.
For Outdoors Enthusiasts
Turkey’s most famous terrain lies in Cappadocia, where you can explore underground cities and churches, meander on foot or horseback through its “fairy chimney” rock formations, or — even better — soar above them in a hot air balloon at dawn.
Skiers will delight in the slopes at Uludağ or Kartalkaya. There are also many national parks, and Kuş Cenneti (Bird Paradise) near Izmir is aptly named due to the migrating birds that use it as a stopover.
Dating from 1460, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar could be described as the world’s first shopping center. More than 4,000 shops and stalls sell traditional items such as Turkish carpets, kilims, gold jewelry, antiques, ceramic tiles, leather and blue glass amulets to protect you from the evil eye.
The Egyptian (or Spice) Market is a great place to pick up the ingredients you need to reproduce Turkey’s flavors back home, from saffron to coffee.
For Wellness Fanatics
One of the most ancient therapies in the world is still part of daily life for many Turks: the Turkish bath, or hammam. Thermal springs provide the healing waters at the famed Kaplıca hammams in Bursa.
For Beach Lovers
With more than 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) of shoreline lapped by four different seas, Turkey has more than 400 Blue Flag beaches.
Near İzmir, Çeşme is home to white sand Ilıca Beach, while Alaçatı’s shallow waters and reliable winds make it an ideal stretch of coast for learning to windsurf.
The Bodrum Peninsula offers a wealth of options in its myriad coves, from the charming town of Gümüşlük with its double bay to upmarket Türkbükü with its private beach clubs.
Taking what’s known as a Blue Cruise along the southwest coast of Turkey gives you the freedom to explore the bays between Gökova and Datça on your own boat.
If you like to head off the beaten path, make your way to Safranbolu, an evocative Ottoman town with imposing white houses sporting red-shingle roofs.
The village of Şirince has a similar vibe but is more compact and humble. İznik is also worth a detour: Talk a walk around the lake and visit the workshop at the Iznik Foundation to see tiles produced using a centuries-old technique.