Turkey has so much to offer travelers – fascinating history, breathtaking landscapes, delicious local food, amazing architecture and a unique blend of cultures. While I will be doing an SAI Guide specifically on Istanbul and a review of the Travel Talk Tour I did to travel around Turkey, I thought I would first do a general article on my highlights of Turkey to give you a quick idea of what not to miss during your time in this amazing country!
Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish and refers to the white terraces of carbonate minerals left behind by the flowing water of the natural hot springs and travertines of the region.
Pamukkale is a major Turkish tourist attraction and together with Hierapolis (the remains of the ancient city behind it) was made a World Heritage Site in 1988.
The water is a gorgeous shade of light blue and the mountain range in the background make the site absolutely picturesque. I really recommend going as late in the day as possible, this way a lot of the tourist day trip groups have already left. The sun setting over the white terrain is stunning!
The Gallipoli peninsula is located 4 hours from Istanbul and holds immense significance to Australians, New Zealanders and Turkish persons due to the battles that occurred in the region during World War 1. While these nations have a historic connection to the area, the stories of survival and strength from either side are of interest to people from all around the world.
The Gallipoli campaign was one of the greatest Ottoman victories of the war and consequently is regarded as a defining moment in Turkish history. In Australia and New Zealand, Gallipoli is remembered as a testament to the courage of troops from such young nations. Their tenacity in the face of adversity and stories of mateship majorly contribute to Aussie and New Zealand culture. As an Australian I can attest to the fact that Gallipoli is something we are taught about from a very young age and commemorate every year on ANZAC Day.
This was a solemn visit but is something I am incredibly grateful for. The Gallipoli peninsula is beautiful and peaceful, the scattered memorials of Turkish, Australian and New Zealand soldiers are all that remain as a reminder of its violent past.
Cappadocia is probably my favourite place outside of Istanbul . The landscape is unlike anything I had ever seen before.
While hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is very expensive (approximately 140 euros), for me it was an absolute must. I had never been hot air ballooning before so this in itself was really exciting. The weather was not ideal but I absolutely adored the experience, it was unforgettable. In the peak of summer 150 balloons all rise at dawn (there was still around 70 in winter!) and you rise to about 700 meters above the valleys. The trip takes about an hour in total and you get to see a vast range of the area from above.
Cappadocia is also home to several underground cities, largely used by early Christians as hiding places before Christianity became an accepted religion. Taking in the size of these underground cities it was hard to imagine how long it would have taken to carve out the tunnels out with the simplistic tools of that period. Interestingly, the underground cities had vast defence networks throughout their many levels. For example, holes in the ceiling where the defenders could drop spears.
2. Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)
While there are many amazing mosques around the world (notable mention to Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo), the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is particularly stunning due to the intricacy of the handmade ceramic tiles that line its interior.
I spent a good half an hour just sitting on the floor taking it all in and observing those in prayer. Despite it being busy, it was relaxing and reflective. If you do not have a scarf to cover your hair do not fret, they provide them at the tourist entrance. Make sure you are also wearing respectful clothing (sleeves and knees covered).
The outside of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is just as impressive and is a hallmark of the iconic Istanbul skyline.
1. Istanbul Sunrise/Sunset
Istanbul is the cultural epicentre of Turkey and is without a doubt one of my favourite cities in the world. The SAI Guide to Istanbul (coming soon) will look at where to eat, where to stay and what to do during your time in Istanbul, but in terms of “experiences” it was the sunrises and sunsets over the city that I remember most. Istanbul has an amazing blend of western and eastern culture and is just bustling with things to do and see. So taking a step back and just looking over the city from a distance under such magnificent lighting was really memorable.
The photo’s above and below were taken at sunrise! Visit my article How To Get To Istanbul’s Secret Rooftop for all the information and directions on how to get to this local gem!
The photo below was taken at sunset at Galata Bridge. This was the last night of my trip before I headed back to Australia (after over a year!) so it is one of my favourite sunsets ever – both because it was ridiculously beautiful and for its sentimental value 🙂 I kid you not, I have not edited the colours of this photo whatsoever, it was absolutely unreal!
Having a blog that’s demographic has a significant proportion of solo travelers I do feel like I need to address the current concerns about visiting Turkey in this post. Because I rave about this destination I am used to it being met by concerns about safety. Firstly, in terms of general safety, I visited Istanbul independently and then used Travel Talk Tours to travel around the country and at no time did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable (which was not always the case in some popular destinations in Western Europe!). Secondly, I visited Turkey one week after the tragic terrorist incident that occurred in Sultanahmet Square. Upon hearing of this attack I checked the Australian Smart Traveler safety warnings and tried to put things into perspective. An attack on tourists in Istanbul is almost unheard of and the security measures they put in place as a result of the incident (that I observed) were stringent and vigilant. Attacks like these attempt to divide and create fear and I was not going to let myself fall into this trap and deprive myself of the chance to learn about Turkish culture, religion and way of life.
To end on a more exciting and positive note – as previously mentioned, I recommend visiting Turkey to everyone I chat to about travel. It is one of those destinations I learnt so much from and will definitely go back to in the future.
If you have any questions or queries feel free to comment below 🙂
Suitcase And I was not commissioned to write this article and as always, the opinions in this review are my own.