The Mediterranean Region
The Aegean Region
The Black Sea Region
Eastern and Southeastern
Whether you are an art and history buff, an archaeology nut or a nature lover, enjoy browsing through markets or going diving, the different regions of Turkey offer endless possibilities all year round. Each area has its own personality, history, landscape and even cuisine, and with so much on offer to visitors it is not surprising that one trip to Turkey is never enough.
Surrounded by four different seas, Turkey is a beach paradise with over 8000 km of sunny strips of sand. It also has an abundance of plant and wildlife species that can be enjoyed while camping or trekking in the many national parks which are dotted around the country.
Home to more than 20 different fascinating civilisations, Turkey has a 10,000 year-old heritage, much of which is still being uncovered. Its rich history is very much part of the present, with temples, ancient theatres, churches, mosques, tombs, statues of gods, palaces and fortresses, and of course the many detailed and fascination museums which bring the past to life.
And of course in cities like İstanbul , there is a modern, lively ambience of contemporary society living alongside tradition, where art and music can be enjoyed whether it belongs to today or yesteryear.
The Mediterranean Region
South of the majestic Taurus Mountains lie on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea with its beaches of fine sand, vistas of rare and rugged beauty, many ancient ruins, hidden coves and alluring vacation getaways. The region is bathed in sunshine 300 days ayear, and is a paradise for swimming, sunbathing and watersports. You can also explore important historical sites dating back thousands of years, set in a landscape of pine forests and citrus groves and learn about the mythology that is intertwinedwith the area.The Mediterranean coast is as full of antique artefacts as the Aegean. In the ancient Lycian region, west of Antalya, you can experience the beauty of the mountain cities of Termessos and Arikand, as well as the coastal towns such as Olimpos, Kale,Kekova and Kas. The ancient cities of Perge, Aspendos and Side are located on the coastal plane east of Antalya, originally called Pamphylia.
Antalya is one of the Mediterranean’s most important cities and is Turkey’s hottest vacation spot, with the beaches of Konyaalti to the west and Lara to the east, lying at the foot of Antalya’s massive mountain range. It is an attractive holidaygetaway with palm-lined streets, beautiful parks, an abundance of accommodation, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and a picturesque marina. The symbol of this city, founded in the 2nd century BC, is the Yivli Minaret, which dates back to the Seljukera. The Asagi Duden Waterfall to the east flows over huge boulders into the sea. West of Antalya is the attractive little holiday town of Kemer, famous for its sandy beaches surrounded by pine forests and mountains.The next big town east of Antalya is Alanya, a panoramic port city on the southern slopes of the majestic Taurus Mountains surrounded by orange, lemon and banana groves. Used by the Seljuk Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat as a winter residence, Alanya’sshipyard dates back to the same era and was one of the most advanced in the world at that time. It is also famous for its 9th century castle and its popular beaches.Near Anamur is a castle from the Middle Ages, situated between two beaches and one of the most spectacular castles along the coast. The road from Anamur to Silifke, with its endless curves and bends, follows a route studded with breathtaking coastalvistas.The dilapidated caves near Narlikuyu are called Heaven, which has a small church inside, heaven and Hell (Cennet ve Cehennem). The castle of Kizkalesi, which is situated in the water across from the medieval castle of Korykos, seems to rise out of the seaitself.
Two surprises on the road to Mersin, are the ancient Roman cities of Kanlidivane and Viransehir. With its charming parks, beach promenades, commercial port and free trade zone, Mersin is one of the most modern cities on the Mediterranean.East of Tosos, the Cukurova plane is a fertile agricultural region known especially for its cotton fields. In the middle is the city of Adana with its rich textile industry, and to the east is the Dortyol (Issos) Plane, where Alexander the Greatdefeated the Persian king Darius. As a result of his victory, a port city bearing his name was established which is now the modern day Iskenderun.The road leaves Iskenderun on the southeast and goes through the Belen Pass to Antakya (Antioch). This first Christian community founded by Saint Peter has given Antakya a special religious significance, and the first sermons were preached in nearbycave. It is considered a place of pilgrimage, and the city also boasts a mosaic exhibition of rare beauty in its museum.Kahramanmaras is a relatively undiscovered province of the Mediterranean. One of its best-loved features is the cuisine, which has its own specialities like its special orchid drink (salep) and its world famous ice-cream made from goat and cows’ milk.The historical legacy of Kahramanmaras in the Ottoman Empire is still relevant today with its gilded silver, leather and copper works.
The Aegean Region
Many would agree that the coastal region of the Aegean has some of the most stunning views in the country and, in the words of Heredotus, « have the most beautiful sky and the best climate in the world. » The bays peninsulas, and golden beaches stretchthe length of coastline and this region was also the venue of countless mythological events. There are remains of ancient cities including Troy, immortalised by Homer, and Pergamum, the art and cultural centre and capital of one of the most powerfulkingdoms at the time.
The provinces in the Aegean region are Afyon, Aydin, Denizli, Izmir, Kutahya, Manisa, Mugla and Usak. Situated in Edremit bay is Ayvalik, the meeting point of the sea, the theraputic springs of Akcay, and pine forests, which has been dubbed the olive-grove Riviera. To the south are countless resorts, then further south is Foca, famous for the heroicTurkish sailors who were based here. Sardis, the capital of the wealthy Lydian king Croesus, is a small detour inland. Located in a narrow bay, Izmir is a modern city and the third largest in Turkey, as well as the major part on the Aegean. It brims with life and is a busy commercial centre, with broad boulevards and modern architecture, combined with the traditionalred-tiled roofs of the old houses in the bazaar area. The peninsula of Çesme with its brilliant waters, superb beaches and thermal springs, lies to the west of Izmir. Among the most famous cities of the ancient world, Ephesus was one of the biggest during the Roman era. A treasury of all the riches of Ionian culture, Ephesus had a reputation for philosophy and critical thinking. The Temple of Artemis, one of theseven wonders of the ancient world, as well as countless statues, theatres, libraries, markets and smaller temples were all architectural symbols of the city’s fame. Further to the south is the ancient city of Priene, built according to a geometricplan designed by the great architect of Milet, Hippodamos.
Milet was a great centre of commerce and thought in the ancient world, and was the venue of many significant developments, scientific and intellectual. The nearby Didim, though not one of theancient cities, is still famous for its magnificent temple dedicated to Apollo. On the Izmir-Antalya road, Aphrodisias (Geyre) was an important centre for culture and art famous for its training in sculpture. On the same road is the world-famous Pamukkale, with its calcium-rich thermal waters flowing out of the mountain whichhave, over centuries, created an extraordinary geographical phenomenon of white marble terraces. The ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis lie behind this. The best known holiday resorts in this area are Bodrum, Marmaris, Datca, Koycegiz and Fethiye, and private boats can be chartered to explore the bays of the south Aegean, immortalised in the book Mavi Yolculuk (Blue Voayge). Bodrum (ancient Halikarnas)is the birthplace of the great historian Heredotus. The mausoleum of King Mausolos was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Marmaris is a lively resort with a modern marina surrounded by lush mountains and crystal-clear waters, and further south is the bay of Oludeniz, famous for watersports and paragliding, and the coastal town of Fethiye.
The Black Sea Region
Lush and green throughout the year, rocky mountains, the cool waters of the coast and plantations of tea, hazelnuts, tobacco and corn, the Black Sea is a unique part of the country. The main industry is farming, thanks mainly to the high rainfall, andin the summer the roadsides are lined with hazelnuts drying in the sun. The culture, cuisine, climate and even dialect is different to the rest of Turkey, and the coastal road stretches from east of Istanbul to the border with Georgia.
The cities in this region are Amasya, Artvin, Bolu, Corum, Duzce, Giresun, Gumushane, Kastamonu, Ordu, Rize, Samsun, Sinop, Tokat, Trabzon Zonguldak, Bartin and Karabuk. Akcakoca is on the far western side of the coast, with endless hazelnutorchards. Inland to the east is Safranbolu, with a wonderful collection of old Ottoman houses, and Devek, famous for its intricately carved walking canes. Further along the coast are Inkum, Amasra and Cakraz, and then Sinop which has been a port for 1000 years and is still one of the biggest in the Black Sea. The town takes its name from the Amazon queen Sinope and local mythology suggests that femalewarriors, called Amazons, lived in this region. It is now an important industrial and commercial centre. Unye and Fatsa, east of Samsun, are popular holiday resorts with natural scenic beauty, beaches, accommodation, campsites and restaurants.
Ordu is a charming city with hazelnut orchards stretching out for miles in all directions and 46km east isGiresun, with its castle perched on a steep rocky slope, crowning the city and overlooking the beach. This is where the Roman General Lucullus saw cherries for the first time, and liked them so much he introduced them into Europe. Trabzon is another important commercial port on the Black Sea, and it connects with ports in other Black Sea countries. Trabzon Castle was founded on an area shaped like a table, and the architecture that developed around the castle reflects Byzantine, Commagene and Ottoman styles. The city’s most important building is the Ayasofya Museum, the interior of which is decorated with frescoes, and the exterior with reliefs. From Boztepe Park and the Ataturk Museum there are stunning panoramic views ofthe city.
Inside the Altindere National Park near Macka, the Sumela Monastery is perched on high cliffs overlooking the Altindere valley, and was founded in the 14th century by Alexius III. Inside the monastery is a church, a library, various other rooms and asacred spring. The area around Rize is the wettest in the country with wonderful shades of green, and is the centre of Turkey’s tea production with plantations on the high terraces. Hopa is the last Turkish port before reaching the Georgian border, and to the southis Artvin. The city was established on the terraced hills overlooking the Coruh River, which is well known for rafting, and within the province are old Georgian houses and churches.
This central region is now the heart of modern Turkey’s political life, and has been the centre of many significant societies and civilisations throughout history. The main cities in this region are Ankara, Cankiri, Eskisehir, Kayseri, Kirsehir, Konya, Nevsehir, Nigde, Sivas, Yozgat, Aksaray, Karaman and Kirikkale.
Ankara, the modern-day capital, is located squarely in the middle of Central Anatolia and has been planned and developed for a contemporary society. The most visually impressive structure here is the Anitkabir mausoleum built for Ataturk, who foundedthe modern Republic of Turkey by winning the War for Independence and then made Ankara its capital.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilisations is among the best museums in the country, and has exhibits from Anatolian dating from 50,000 BC to the 2nd century AD.In the surrounding areas, there are important settlements from early Anatolian civilisations. The Hittites migrated to the Anatolian plateau from the Caucus Mountains and set up the first kingdom in history to encompass the whole of Anatolia, from theBlack Sea to the Mediterranean and from the Aegean Sea stretching east. The capital of the Hittite Empire Hattushash, with massive walls and full of temples, (now Bogazkale) and the second largest city Shapinuva are both located northeast of Ankara in the province of Corum. Reliefs of all of the Hittite gods and goddessescan be seen in the open air temple in nearby Yazilikaya, which was an important pantheon of the Hittites.
Alacahoyuk is another important settlement, and is known for the sphinxes which can be seen at the city gates. Around the time of 1200 BC, the Phrygians came to the Anatolian Plateau from Europe and established their capital, Gordion, near Polatli west of Ankara. Alexander the Great was supposed to have become the ruler of Asia by virtue of ‘undoing’ Gordion’sknot with his sword. The tomb of the Phrygian king Midas, who according to legend turned everything he touched into gold, is located near Gordion. Near Eskisehir and Afyon there are a number of Phrygian cities and places of worship.South of the vast fertile Konya plane on the northern slopes of the Toros Mountains, Catalhoyuk is one of the world’s oldest cities. Dating back to the Neolithic Era, it was an important cultural centre with many temples decorated with frescoes bycity artisans.
Konya and the surrounding regions would later be ruled during the Chalcolithic, Bronze, Hittite, Phrygian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. It became the capital city of the Seljuk Empire in the 12th century andconsequently experienced the most important Renaissance period of its long history. In the 13th century, Konya was completely transformed with Selcuk architecture. The great Turkish philosopher Mevlana, who believed in human love and said that mystical unity with God could be reached by the Sema, a whirling dance to music performed by the dervishes, lived in Konya and established a following here. Every year in December, Konya holds a Mevlana Week which includes performances of the Sema. Mevlana is buried with his father Bahaeddin Veled in the Green Tomb (Yesil Turbe), which has become the symbol of the city. The Dervish Lodge and MevlanaMuseum adjacent to the tomb are open to the public.
Southwest of Konya is Beysehir Lake, a relatively undiscovered paradise full of natural beauty, and nearby Kubad Abad has the summer home of the Seljuk rulers, and a castle on Kizkalesi Island. The Esrefoglu Mosque and Tomb, in Beysehir, are importantexamples of the wooden architecture of the Selcuk. Northwest towards Aksehir is the home of Nasreddin Hoca, the famous 13th century folk philosopher whose brilliant wit, quick retorts and stories with subtle meanings is renowned far beyond the borders of Turkey. This much-loved icon died in 1284 andhis tomb in Aksehir is the symbol of the city.
In the Eskisehir region, the great poet Yunus Emre is buried in the village named after him. He was considered to be an eminent pioneer of Turkish poetry, who used language, idioms and concepts of the ordinary man in an unpretentious fashion to conveydivine justice, love and friendship. Many people pay respects to his work by visiting his grave.
Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia
With its high mountain ranges, remote plateaus, lakes and river beds splashed with colour, plus some of the best Turkish architecture anywhere, this region of Anatolia brings history to life. Sivas, Divriği, Erzurum, Battalgazi, Harput, and Ahlat, allcities in this region, were important centres of Seljuk art. In Eastern Anatolia are the cities of Ağrı, Bingöl, Bitlis, Elazığ, Erzincan, Erzurum, Hakkâri, Kars, Malatya, Muş, Tunceli, Van, Ardahan and Iğdır, while in the southeast are the largercities of Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Mardin, Siirt, Şanlıurfa, Batman, Şırnak and Kilis. Travelling around the east is more challenging, with huge distances between towns, extremes of climate and fewer facilities, but this is amply compensated bythe remote beauty, relatively unspoilt scenery and of course hospitality of the people.
The city of Erzurum is located on a large plane at an altitude of 1950 metres, and contains many religious schools, tombs and mosques from both the Seljuk and Ottoman period. Kars, in the far northeast, is famous for its castle, and nearby Ocaklı (Ani)is a historical city with rich architecture from the 10th and 11th centuries. Mount Ararat (Agri Dagi), whose peak soars up to 5165 metres, is significant to different religions. It is believed that after the Flood, in which all humanity was destroyed, Noah’s ark came to rest on Mount Ararat and as the waters receded, Noah andhis family settled on the nearby plane of Igdir. As their numbers increased, they eventually spread along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to other parts of Anatolia.
Accordingly, Igdir is seen as the centre from which the second generation of humanitymultiplied and again spread over the world. The magnificent palace complex of İshak Paşa, which looks down onto Dogubeyazit, was built in the late 17th century by the Ottoman governor Ishak Pasa. The location and appearance of the castle is stunning, and is made up of a kitchen unit, a mosqueand separate womens and mens quarters. Lake Van is one of the highlights of the country and a tour of the entire lake should be made in order to experience the full range of beauty, including beautiful mountain silhouettes, bays, beaches, islands and important centres of Turkish culture andart. The city of Van, on the southeast of the lake, was the capital city of the Urartu empire and Van Castle, built around 1000 BC, is a marvellous example of that age.
South of Van, the city of Edremit is a poplar vacation spot famous for its beaches, campsites and restaurants. On the island of Akdamar is a museum which was originally a 10th century church. As the Tigris and Euphrates flow towards the planesof Mesopotamia, they pass through an important region of Anatolia which contains the cities of Diyarbakir, Mardin, Adıyaman, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep, which is the oldest cultural settlement centre in Anatolia. North of Diyarbakır is Çayonu, the mostimportant neolithic settlement of the area. The basalt walls of Diyarbakır, which are more than 5km long, are the longest city walls in the country. Mardin is one of the few cities in the country that has preserved its traditional aesthetic architecture, and is unique also because of its unusual location on top of a hill.
The prophet Abraham, who is the father of three different religions,is believed to have lived in Şanlıurfa and Harran and so are considered to be sacred places.The Atatürk Dam, built in Bozova near Şanlıurfa, is the biggest in Turkey and the fourth largest in the world, and the area around Harran will be the most productive agricultural region of the country. Gaziantep is the most important industrial andagricultural area in southeastern Anatolia, and best known for its special varieties of kebap, lahmacun and baklava, and its Antep pistachios. Northeast of Adıyaman, on top of Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dag) is the mausoleum made for the Commagene King, Antiochus I. On the east and west of the memorial grave site are the terraces where rituals were carried out, and of course the world famous hugestatues of the gods, which are best experienced at sunrise or sunset. Malatya is an important industrial and agricultural region on the lower Euphrates, famous for its apricots and the 13th century Ulu Cami mosque in Battalgazi with its beautiful glazed tiles.
Thrace and Marmara
The Roman province of Trakya (Thrace) is separated from the rest of Turkey by the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and the Dardenelle Straits. Edirne, lying close to the borders of Greece and Bulgaria, is best known for the masterpieces of local architectMimar Sinan, with wonderful examples from the Ottoman Empire. The area is also famous for the lush rolling fields, filled with vineyards and sunflowers grown for their seeds and oil. The cities in this region are Balikesir, Bilecik, Bursa, Canakkale,Edirne, Istanbul, Kirklareli, Kocaeli, Sakarya,Tekirdag and Yalova.
The Marmara region has a turbulent past. In 481 BC the second Persian War, the Persian King Xerxes made a bridge of boats over the Dardanelle Straits between Abydos and Sestos. In the same location is the infamous love affair of Leander and Hera, whowere buried in the waters of the strait. And it was here that Mustafa Kemal won the first big victory against enemy forces in World War I, and the war graves and battlegrounds of Gelibolu are visited by thousands of tourists every year.
The lively city of Izmit with its fruit orchards and vegetable gardens is now an industrial centre, and nearby Hereke is famous for its carpets. To the south is Iznik, renowned during Ottoman times for its glazed tiles which adorned the mosques andtombs, and its great Byzantine city walls. Bursa, the land of silk, was the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire and birthplace of modern Turkish culture. The mosques, like Yesil Came and Ulu Cami, are some of the most important and beautiful inthe country. The country’s first ski resort was built on the mountain of Uludag, lying to the south of the city.
Tekirdag, with beautiful examples of Ottoman architecture and broad beaches, is known for its vineyards and wine festivals. To the north is Gonen with its famous thermal springs, and the commercial port of Bandirma which is the biggest in theMarmara sea after Istanbul. Near the city and by Lake Manyas is Kuscenneti (Bird Heaven) National Park with 239 species of birds, many of which migrate from Europe and Asia during the summer, and fly south before the winter.
One the shores of the Marmara Sea are a whole host of beautiful beaches and holiday resorts, including Cinarcik, Armutlu, Gemlik, Mudanya, Erdek, the Marmara and Avsa Islands, Denizkent, Sarkoy and Silivri. To the west is Yalova, a site famous for itsthermal springs.