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Turkey Tourism And Travel Guide
9.5° C / 49° F
April to September
7 to 10 Days
Ataturk Airport (Istanbul)
The land of Ottoman Empire, Seljuk Turks and the Byzantine rulers, Turkey is today a modern country of great progress steeped in rich history. From the mosques and ancient palaces of Istanbul to chic luxury brands and shopping streets, the ruins of Cappadocia and hot-air balloon rides to Pamukkale’s white terraces that offer thermal water springs, there is so much rich tourism in Turkey. To know more about what to do here, how to reach and when to visit, read this travel guide to Turkey.
How to Reach
Turkey fell on the Silk Route at one point in time, but today you need not travel on mules and camels through rugged plains and mighty mountains to reach Turkey.
Atatürk Airport of Istanbul is the major international airport here. Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore etc have direct and stop-over flights to Istanbul, with airlines like Ukraine International Airlines, Aeroflot, Oman Air, Turkish Airlines etc. Taxis are available outside the airport to take you to your destination.
Turkey boasts of great rail connectivity, even though it is not the most preferred mode of transport. Domestic travel by train is still better here than trains coming in from Europe or Asia as you need a lot of haggling and sizing across seas to reach Turkey. However, you need to book in advance for festive and holiday seasons.
Road travel to Turkey from India is possible but not recommended as it takes around 11 to 12 days and a route through many countries whose visas and permits are not always easy to get. The road to Turkey travels from India to Pakistan to Quetta, then Zahedan onwards to Tehran and ahead, mapping a journey of almost 8000 km.
The waterways in Turkey are pretty well developed and hence there are quite a few domestic travel options, like the ferry services between the two parts of Istanbul across Bosphorus strait. The country is also a docking ground for many cruises in the Mediterranean, like Bodrum, Izmir, Antalya and Istanbul.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Turkey sees all four seasons, each in its full intensity and glory. Spring, summer and autumn though make the best times to visit.
Spring (March - June):
Spring from March to June, brings the onset of warmth, blooming of trees and flowers, and celebration everywhere. This time is a great time to visit Turkey, almost perfect for outdoor activities, sightseeing and a little adventure. The average temperature hovers between 11-19°C in most towns and cities.
Summer (July - September):
Summers are pretty hot hear, especially scorching in Istanbul (40°C) and on the Aegean shore (48°C). But this is also the best time to see Turkish monuments and museums and enjoy the beaches with the perfect water temperature. You can beat the heat with Turkish foods and drinks like the chaas-like ayran drink made of yogurt and chilled water. This is an expensive time with loads of tourist crowd.
Autumn (October - November):
Autumn here lasts from October to November and signifies a chilling of the heated summer land. The landscape is stunning with golden, fiery red trees and dry grasses. Crowds start thinning and by the end of October you get great discounts on accommodation and travelling. Cappadocia and Mardin are particularly stunning at this time.
Winter (December - February):
Most people wouldn’t consider a winter holiday viable in Turkey, mainly because it is freezing and also because the locals also retreat to live a slow, mellow life. The sights are not as clear and bright so touring is not the best. The beaches are not as warm, nor is the water worth jumping into. Temperatures drop to minus in places like Ankara and Erzurum, while Istanbul faces an average of 9°C.
Things to Do
Enjoy Turkish Baths and Turkish delicacies:
In Istanbul, do not miss the amazing hamams (Turkish public baths) and special spas that are the heritage of the Ottoman dynasty. Separate chambers are dedicated for men and women, with fragrant steams and Bath salted water. Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam and Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam are great in Istanbul for the same. Turkish food is just as good, maybe even better than its baths, from borek pastries to dolma (stuffed vine leaves), ayran (fermented buttermilk) to pilaf. You are in for a treat after your spa.
Take a Cruise:
Cruises and boat rides through the rivers and seas in Turkey make for a delightful adventure as well as sightseeing. Ferries across the Bosphorus Strait are a common way to commute for people in Istanbul, while special tourist boats also ply down the river to take you through places of interest like Rumeli Ruins, Dolmabahçe Palace, Maiden’s Tower, mansion houses, gardens and mosques. The special Blue Cruise in the town of Bodrum is also one of the most coveted tourist activities as it takes you through stunning bay cities like Kaputas Cove and Patara beach.
Float above Ruins:
Hot-air balloon rides over the conical shaped spikes and volcanic eruptions of Cappadocia make for one of the best things to do in Turkey. The experience is surreal, as if you are in a fairytale land. The same applies to Pamukkale’s white travertines that are best used for relaxation and thermal spring baths to cure ailments.
Mosque and Palace Tour:
Turkey is home to some of the most stunning architecture dating back to the Ottoman Empire. Explore Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque in Istanbul, check out the Sultan Isa Medresesi in Mardin along with Deyrü’z-Zafaran Monastery, and Rumi’s mausoleum, Seljuk Palace ruins and Aladdin Mosque in Konya.
Unwind by the Beaches:
Beaches in cities like Izmir, Bodrum and promenades of Istanbul are famous unwinding spots. You have the options of swimming, surfing, kitesurfing, strolling or just lying down and chilling by the sea. Fishing and picnicking is famous on Istanbul piers, while bonfires are lit on cool nights by the Aegean Sea in Izmir. Bodrum boasts of seaside cafes and caves to bring a whole new experience to life.
Turkish staples are not necessarily part of one type of cuisine but an evolution of many different time periods and cultures that have sustained in this land. And what is also peculiar about food here is that eating is a communal affair, so much so that setting the table is given just as much credence as cooking a meal. Some of the most sought after items in breakfast menu here are menemen (a spiced omelette), olives-cheese-fresh bread, ekmek or sandwich with kofte balls and salad filling, as well as freshly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and chillies. Other Turkish delights for main course you must try are pilaf (pulav without vegetables, sautéed in butter, chicken and chickpeas), dolma (stuffed vine leaves) and shorba or soup. The red tea and dark, thick coffee brews are also famous on the go, as is Simit, a type of pretzel with sesame seeds on top, usually bought from roadside sellers.
Turkish shopping is both, exotic as well as luxurious, from malls and posh corner garages to haggling from the open air street market vendors. Head to the Grand Bazar of Istanbul to shop for glassware, ceramics, wooden carpets and rugs, artefacts and other decor items. While the Egypt Spice Bazar is renowned for its exotic spices, spice mixes, coffees, nuts, dry fruits and chocolates. Antalya is a great place to shop for woven linen towels made only in this region, while souvenirs can be picked up from almost anywhere. Other items of interest are silver ware and jewellery, kilims, silk scarves, honey, flower teas and textiles.