Turkey is a country where many worlds and eras combine, where East meets West, and where you have Turkish coffee on the one hand and Rize tea on the other. A place of mystery for many.
Whilst Istanbul is a stop on any traveller’s bucket list, and many have heard of the ancient city of Ephesus, there’s plenty of hidden gems out there to explore. Here I take a look at some of the country’s lesser-known highlights after spending 10 days on our Turkey Unplugged group tour.
Offering a glimpse into a way of life that contributed to the formation of modern Turkey, Caravanserai are ancient ‘hotels’ that used to accommodate travelling merchants as they sold their wares along the Silk Roads. Sultanhani caravanserai is one of the most beautiful examples and can be found in central Turkey. Here, traders from east and west would have refreshed themselves on their long journeys and exchanged news, ideas and languages. A real melting pot of cultures.
Set on the ‘Turkish Riviera’, this town offers gorgeous ocean views and a beach resort vibe. And it’s the coastal gateway to more than the ancient ruins of Ephesus. It’s where you can recharge your batteries, take a dip in the pool overlooking the marina, or just kick back with a cold drink in hand.
Turkish Ice Cream
Turkey knows how to do dessert, whether it’s baklava, Turkish delight or traditional Turkish ice cream. You might think that ice cream is the same wherever you go, but in Turkey it’s a different thing altogether. Known as ‘dondurma’, it can be chewy and sticky – so may even be eaten with a knife and fork!
Getting massaged the traditional way in a Turkish bathhouse is not to be missed. Most of the Hammam’s include a scrub down and bath ending with a rejuvenating oil massage, all for around $50USD. The perfect way to unwind after a day of sightseeing.
The Grand Bazaar
Whilst many are drawn to Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque, the city’s Grand Bazaar is a spectacle in itself. Some say it’s the largest market in the world, with over 4,000 stalls snaking and weaving through downtown Istanbul. Whether you’re a local buying saffron or a tourist checking out the latest fashion, the Grand Bazaar really has it all. Grab a tea or a kebab, sit back and spend your afternoon people watching.
An interesting highlight on any trip to Turkey is seeing how traditional Turkish carpets are made. It’s incredible how the colours of the carpet change when they spin. And after watching the demonstration, you have the opportunity to buy one for yourself to take home.
Everyone explores the Colosseum’s amphitheatre in Rome, thronged with tourists and ringed by traffic congested roads. But here in Pergamum is one of the largest of all the Roman amphitheatres and you can have it all to yourself. The views are pretty incredible as well.
Upwards of 15,000 people lived and died underground for hundreds of years when local tribes in Turkey were fighting. 36 underground cities can be found across Cappadocia and these awe-inspiring ‘museums’ do not disappoint. Left perfectly intact, they make you feel like you’re stepping back in time and give you a true taste of what life in these underground dwellings was once like.
Following in the footsteps of Brad Pitt and visiting the Lost City of Troy is an incredible experience. You see a mockup of the Trojan Horse and hear stories about one of the greatest and most powerful cities in the history of the world.
A highlight of visiting Cappadocia is exploring one of the world’s most striking and largest cave-dwelling complexes. This incredible landscape, sculpted by erosion, provided shelter for humans from the 4th century right up until the 1950s. Very ‘Flintstonesque’!
You can experience these sights and more on our Turkey group tours. Why not take a look?