Straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey provides a bridge between cultures and continents. Secular and Westernised, it's still possible to get a flavour of traditional Turkey by stopping for tea at a street market or being scrubbed and massaged in a hamam steam bath. [See Turkey itinerary ideas]
Istanbul is the exotic hub where East meets West and ancient collides with modern. Formerly called Constantinople, this vibrant, evolving city straddles the Bosphorus and is Turkey's modern face. Yet it is also home to architectural wonders such as Aya Sofia, a cathedral built by the Romans and converted into a mosque by the conquering Ottomans. It features an enormous dome and some stunning Byzantine mosaics. Make sure to also see the Topkapi Palace, admire the minarets of the Blue Mosque and browse the intoxicating Grand Bazaar.
Go in search of archaeological sites and ruins at Ephesus, the best-preserved ancient city in the region, travel to Pergamum to see the Acropolis and Asclepion or watch sunrise over the enormous sculpted heads lying on the mountain top at Nemrut Dagi. Tour the Gallipoli Peninsula to see the poignant Anzac battlefields, trek into the Kackar Mountains to see Sumela monastery clinging to a rockface or explore the ruins of the Ishak Pasa Palace as the sunsets over Mt Ararat.
Elsewhere, Cappadocia has an unusual landscape of surreal rock formations. Capped pinnacles and jutting ravines hide dwellings hewn from the rock and are the remains of a semi-troglodyte population, which can best be appreciated from a hot air balloon. Elsewhere, in East Anatolia, the landscape is a mixture of red ochre plateaux, forests, waterfalls and green pastures whilst the peak of Mount Agri is permanently snow-capped.
The Turquoise Coast is a beautiful stretch of shore; drift along it and explore the archipelago of islands that lie close by on board a gullet or traditional sailing craft. Weigh anchor in secluded bays to explore historic sites or snorkel in clear waters. Ports such as Fethiye are perfect places to pick up a boat. Alternatively, walk sections of the Lycian Way to appreciate the rugged beauty of this region.
When to go
The climate in Turkey depends on the proximity to the coast. The coastal regions experience mild winters and warm, dry summers, whereas inland temperatures vary wildly, especially towards the eastern end of the country, where winters see heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures and summers bring oven-like conditions, with temperatures reaching the mid-40s.
The pleasant summer temperatures along the coast attract big holiday crowds. Spring and autumn can be the best seasons for visiting Turkey, when temperatures don't make sightseeing quite so exhausting (or, during periods of heavy snowfall and intense cold, near-impossible) and coastal resorts are a little quieter.
Capital - Ankara
Size - 783,562 sq km
Language - Turkish (official), Kurdish, other minority languages
Population - 80 million
Religion - Muslim (>99%)
Currency - Turkish lira
Time zone - GMT +2
Flight time from the UK - 4hrs
January - Camel wrestling festival, Selçuk
April - Istanbul film festival
June - Aspendos international opera and ballet festival
June - Kirkpinar, annual Turkish oil-wrestling tournament, held since the 1300s.
July - Istanbul international music festival
August - Taskopru culture and garlic festival
October - Büyükçekmece international culture and art festival
December - Mevlâna festival, festival of whirling dervishes in Konya
Please note that entry requirements and visa regulations can change often and at short notice. We can provide general information about the passport and visa requirements for your trip and this information may be included after the itinerary section of your quotation. Your specific passport and visa requirements and other immigration requirements are your responsibility and you should confirm these with the relevant Embassies and/or Consulates. Neither we nor the principal(s) or supplier(s) accept any responsibility if you cannot travel because you have not complied with any passport, visa or immigration requirements. Please call your WEXAS specialist if you wish to discuss entry requirements.
Passports must be valid for a minimum of six months and have at least three months validity from the date you leave Turkey.
The Turkish lira is the official currency of Turkey. Coins come in denominations of 5kr (kurus), 10kr, 25kr, 50kr and 1-lira; notes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200-lira.
The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa and Mastercard. A surcharge is sometimes added to the cost of a purchase. This can be 5% or 10% of the overall price. There are ATMs throughout Turkey, many with instructions in English. There's likely to be a small charge for foreign transactions, though exchange rates at ATMs are generally as good as you'll find anywhere else.
Be sure to notify your bank of your travels to avoid them from blocking your card when an international transaction is made.