With so many ancient ruins to see and natural wonders to explore it can be hard to know where to start in Turkey. In this week’s photo showcase we have highlighted our top ten pick of the best things to do and see in this fascinating country. In Western Turkey you’ll find the rich Ottoman legacy of Istanbul, the remarkable Roman ruins of Pergamum and remnants of World War One in Gallipoli. The region’s landscapes are just as awe-inspiring, from the travertine calcium pools of Pamukkale to the surreal landscapes and underground villages of Cappadocia.
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1. Wander around Istanbul
Encompassing a natural harbour and lying along the Bosphorus, the strait of water that divides the continents of Europe and Asia, Istanbul enjoys a rich legacy of churches, mosques, palaces and museums, complemented by the behemoth Grand Bazaar with over 6,000 shops and the aromatic Egyptian Spice Market. Present-day Istanbul is a thriving, eclectic city with vibrant nightlife, excellent cuisine options and a fascinating mix of ancient cultures.
2. Pay your respects at Gallipoli
The picturesque peninsula of Gallipoli is best-known for the Gallipoli Campaign, an eight-month campaign that began on the 15th April 1915 during World War I. Now the date annually attracts droves of people from around the world wanting to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the ANZAC landing. The region is dotted with numerous memorials, battlefields and trenches, standing as silent reminders of the lives lost, that can be visited at any time of the year.
3. Marvel at ancient ruins in Pergamum
Enjoying a stunning location on top of a hill, the laid-back market town of Pergamum has enough excellent attractions to rival the more-often visited classical city of Ephesus. Famous for its awesome hillside amphitheatre, one of the steepest in the classical world, Pergamum also offers an acropolis, an archaeology museum, the 2nd century-built Red Basilica and the Asclepion, an ancient medical centre that is reached along a Roman bazaar street.
4. Relax by the coast in Fethiye
The charming Mediterranean coastal port of Fethiye features a breathtaking outer bay strewn with islands of beautiful beaches and plentiful diving options. Located in the ancient city of Telmessos, as Fethiye was known in 400BC, stands the ruins of the Hellenistic theatre. For the energetic, on the hill behind Fethiye is an ancient castle rebuilt during the 15th century by the Knights of Rhodes with stunning views from the top.
5. Stroll down ancient streets in Ephesus
Founded between 1500 and 1000 BC, Ephesus was once a vast city under Roman rule with a population nearing 250,000. Today it is the best-preserved city of its kind in the Mediterranean and among the best places in the world to fully appreciate life in Roman times. Carefully restored, top sights within the huge archaeological area include the Great Theatre, the Temple of Serapis and the spectacular Library of Celsus.
6. Take a dip in Pamukkale
The remarkable calcium terraces and travertine pools of Pamukkale are a natural wonder. Formed over thousands of years, these shelf-like pools were the result of calcium-rich mineral water cascading over the cliff edge, cooling and then depositing in the process. Today this natural phenomenon draws travellers in their throngs who are keen to take a dip in the warm waters of Pamukkale Thermal, a pool at the top of the site that is brimming with therapeutic properties.
7. Witness the whirling dervishes in Konya
Located in the heart of the Anatolian plateau, Konya is one of Turkey’s oldest continuously inhabited sites. Today Konya is a city of booming economy and historical significance, serving as the home of the whirling dervishes, a religious order founded by the great Sufi poet and philosopher Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi. Sufis seek to achieve ecstasy and unity with God through controlled trance-like spinning, an act that was declared an UNESCO Masterpiece of Human Heritage in 2005.
8. Uncover surreal landscapes in Cappadocia
The lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia is perhaps the jewel in Turkey’s crown. Consisting of whole troglodyte villages with subterranean churches and fortresses wrought into the rock found in the area, these underground cities reach down to eight levels deep and would have once housed thousands of people. The World Heritage listed Goreme is probably the biggest attraction, with over 30 magnificently frescoed Byzantine rock churches open to the public.
9. Climb to the summit of Mt Nemrut
UNESCO-listed Mount Nemrut is the site of an incredible ancient necropolis and shrine set atop one of the highest peaks in south eastern Turkey. Upon reaching the summit one can discover a mysterious ensemble of large statues which are believed to mark the burial place of a pre-Roman local king and three of his family members. Mount Nemrut is best seen in the glow of sunrise, when the dawning light brings the area to life.
10. Venture to Akdamar Island
Situated off the southern shore of Lake Van, Akdamar Island is home to a beautifully restored 10th century Armenian Church of the Holy Cross. Dating back to 915 AD the church was built as part of a palace and religious complex and enjoys a stunning mountain setting on the island. The exterior of the church is decorated with pretty relief carvings while the once damaged frescoes inside have been restored to their former beauty.