Tantalizing Turkey!

Turkey has so much to offer visitors; breathtaking natural beauties, unique historical and archaeological sites, etc. Therefore, it is not surprising that the country has recently become one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations. Due to Turkey’s diverse geography, one can experience four different climates in any one day. The rectangular shaped country is surrounded on three sides by three different seas. Its shores are laced with beaches, bays, coves, ports, islands and peninsulas. The summers are long, lasting as long as eight months in some areas. Turkey is also blessed with majestic mountains and valleys, lakes, rivers, waterfalls perfect for winter and summer tourism and sports of all kinds.

Skiing fans, mountain climbers, trekkers, hikers and hunters can enjoy unforgettable experiences in Turkey. The huge amount of historical and archaeological wealth in Turkey seems more appropriate for an entire continent than a single country. Recently, a new field of tourism has opened up: health tourism. The country is in fact rich with hot springs, healing waters and healing muds, which come highly recommended by the medical authorities as a remedy for many diseases.

Istanbul is truly a city which everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. It is an enchanting blend of Eastern and Western culture, a vibrant, modern city, with a unique identity. Its rich past coexists alongside its youthful exuberance. Although no longer the capital of Turkey, Istanbul still remains the country’s cultural and business center.

It is a city of contrasts, bustling with the cacophony of 21st century life, and is yet achingly beautiful. It is set in a stunning location, surrounded by water, which is the narrow strait of the Bosphorus and the serene Sea of Marmara separating Europe from Asia. Istanbul has a foot in each, celebrating the best of both heritages. As Byzantium, Constantinople and finally, Istanbul, it has been the capital of three Empires, each leaving their mark in the form of stunning palaces, castles, mosques, churches and monuments.

Most visitors on short city breaks stay in the old town as the vast majority of the sites which they will be visiting are in this area. Istanbul’s most famous sites – The Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia), Topkapı Sarayı (Palace) and the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) – are all within a 30 minute walk of each other. It is easy to get around on foot or by making use of the tram, which provides a regular service on the pedestrianised main street. Although it is convenient, the disadvantage of staying in the Old Town is that, since it is not a residential area, you don’t really benefit from the ambience of the modern city of Istanbul, with its excellent restaurants, lively bars, and cosmopolitan feel. Some of Istanbul’s finest, most luxurious hotels are located on the Bosphorus with stunning views over the straits, or in the modern business districts. There are also some historic establishments in the area known as Pera, which blossomed at the turn of the last century.

Some of Istanbul’s finest vistas are to be seen from the Bosphorus. If you have time it is well worth spending at least half a day viewing the sights and savoring the atmosphere. You can take a guided tour on a small boat or a public ferry service which leaves two or three times a day and does the full round trip as far as Anadolu Kavağı, the nearest village to the Black Sea on the Asian side, and back to Eminönü. As you leave from Eminönü you can benefit from some beautiful views back towards the old town with its evocative skyline of turreted roofs and minarets. As you head towards the Black Sea you will pass the Dolmabahçe Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, etc. Also look out for the stunning wooden Ottoman mansions, many of which have been renovated and form some of the city’s most desirable residences. Even if you don’t have time for a Bosphorus trip just take one of the distinctive city ferries for a quick trip from Eminönü to the Asian shores and back just to admire the views of the old town.

Those who are staying for a little longer in Istanbul, should really set aside a day to visit The Princes Islands in the sea of Marmara, just off the coast of Istanbul. The picturesque scenery of wooded hills, charming beaches and authentic Ottoman mansions, combined with the tranquil atmosphere, make for a pleasant contrast to the city itself. Easily reached by ferry or hydrofoil, the ambience of the islands seems worlds away. Büyük Ada or “Big Island” is the most popular with visitors. No cars are allowed but you can take a trip in a horse and carriage to visit the Monastery of St. George.

Wherever you choose to stay, it doesn’t take much to make the most of the city, and even three days will give you the opportunity to see the highlights. It is such a large city, however, that even if you visit time and time again, you can still discover something new each time.