Highlights of TurkeyTurkey
Turkey was a place that was sitting super high on my bucket list, and it honestly exceeded my expectations. From the busy city of Istanbul to the beauty of hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, there was no shortage of “pinch me” moments.
Turkey is an interesting country, being part of both Asia and Europe. The Bosphorus river separates the European side of Turkey from the Asian side, and with an easy drive over the Bosphorus bridge or a boat ride down the river you can literally straddle 2 continents! With a population of over 74 million people, you will have no trouble finding people to assist you on your travels. So get your Lira ready, learn a few basic Turkish phrases and you will be set to go! Many countries require a tourist visa to enter Turkey, so check out www.evisa.gov.tr to see if you need one.
Having a short time off from work while living in London, I decided to book a trip through Travel Talk. They are one of my favourite travel companions because they are so reasonably priced, but they visit all the hot spots and put you up in beautiful and comfortable hotels.
While Istanbul is not the capitol of Turkey (Ankara takes the title) it sure is the busiest! This historic city formerly known as Constantinople and Byzantium is home to close to 15 million people. It is so hard to see all the sights in Istanbul, but the highlights for me were :
Hagia Sofia: Starting as a Christian church, transforming into a mosque and now standing as a museum. This beautiful sight is a true representation of Byzantine architecture and well worth a visit.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque): Sitting next to the Hagia Sofia, this functioning Mosque is a beautiful and humbling place to visit. Out of respect, it is very important to dress appropriately otherwise you may not be able to go inside.
Bosphorus Bridge: Take a drive from Europe to Asia, or cruise down the river.
Grand Bazaar: One of the oldest and largest covered market in the world, be prepared to get lost in the streets while searching for local goodies.
As an Australian, it’s almost a rite of passage to visit Gallipoli and honour the Australian and New Zealand troops who fought for our country in WWI. In the early morning of April 25, 1915 Australian troops landed at Gallipoli, and this day is what we now remember as ANZAC Day. Being able to see Anzac Cove and Lone Pine was a very humbling experience, once I will never forget and will always be so grateful for.
This ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage Site was featured in Homer’s Iliad and of course, the movie of the same name featuring Brad Pitt! This is the site where the Greeks outsmarted the soldiers in Troy and entered hiding in a huge wooden horse. Whether this story is true or not has always been debated, but there is a huge “replica” horse for you to see too before you head in and explore this ancient city!
This once thriving and powerful city is open to the public to walk around the ruins and picture what it looked like in days past.
Ephesus is the best preserved ancient city in Turkey, and is amazing to walk through! See the incredible Library of Celsus, Temple of Artemis and the many other ruins of Ephesus.
In Turkish, Pamukkale means “cotton castle”, and when you get to see the hot springs at Paukkale you will see why! These beautiful white thermal springs are warm all year round, so wether you visit in the summer or winter you will be able to swim/walk through the water.
This was definitely a highlight of the trip for me, both above ground and below. After a VERY early wake up call, being able to take a hot air balloon ride above and through the “fairy chimneys” in Goreme was truly magical. Head underground for a tight squeeze into the Underground City. Literally a city underground, imagine how people lived in ancient times not seeing sunlight for months and even years at a time. Head to Pigeon Valley to see the amazing above ground homes built into the rock formations, they are pretty impressive! Even our hotel felt like you were staying in one of the rock formations!
Along the way on our trip we were lucky enough to see some locals doing what they do best. We enjoyed some home made Gozleme, saw how the beautiful plates and vases are intricately hand decorated, and felt dizzy seeing some Whirling Dervishes in action. All around Turkey you will find Nazars, or Evil Eye ornaments and jewellery which the locals believe helps to ward off evil and bad fortune.
My Turkey trip still remains in my top 5 trips I’ve ever done. The people were truly some of the nicest I’ve met around the world, the food was amazing, and the sights and history were some I will never forget. Please comment below with any questions or experiences you have had in beautiful Turkey!