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Lonely Planet Turkey

Lonely Planet Turkey

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Lonely Planet Turkey

ratings:
4/5 (2 ratings)
Length:
1,799 pages
15 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 1, 2017
ISBN:
9781786573995
Format:
Book

Description

Lonely Planet Turkey is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Bath in a hammam; explore chaotic and colourful bazaars; or hot air balloon over Cappadocia's honeycomb landscape -all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Turkey and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Turkey:

  • Full-colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - culture/etiquette, language, religion, cuisine, sports, history, architecture, art, craft, literature, music, cinema, dance, landscapes, wildlife, environmental issues
  • Free, convenient pull-out Turkey map (included in print version), plus over 110 colour maps
  • Covers Istanbul, Thrace, Marmara, Gallipoli Peninsula, Troy, Izmir, North Aegean, Ephesus, Bodrum, South Aegean, Ankara, Cappadocia, Black Sea Coast, Antalya, Eastern Mediterranean, Northeastern Anatolia and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Turkey, our most comprehensive guide to Turkey, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves. The world awaits!

Lonely Planet guides have won the TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice Award in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves, it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

Publisher:
Released:
Feb 1, 2017
ISBN:
9781786573995
Format:
Book

About the author

Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 100 million books. The guides are printed in nine different languages; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and get to the heart of a place via guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet, an award-winning website and magazine, a range of mobile and digital travel products and a dedicated traveller community.

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Lonely Planet Turkey - Lonely Planet

Turkey

Contents

Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Turkey

Turkey's Top 19

Need to Know

First Time Turkey

What's New

If You Like

Month by Month

Itineraries

Turkey's Outdoors

Eat & Drink Like a Local

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road

Istanbul

Sights

Activities

Festivals & Events

Sleeping

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Around Istanbul

Thrace & Marmara

Thrace & Marmara Highlights

Edirne

Tekirdag

Gallipoli Peninsula

Eceabat

Canakkale

Troy (Truva)

Gokceada

Izmir & the North Aegean

Bozcaada

Behramkale & Assos

Ayvacik

Bay of Edremit

Ayvalik

Cunda (Alibey Island)

Bergama (Pergamum)

Candarli

Eski Foca

Izmir

Manisa

Cesme

Alacati

Sigacik

Akkum & Teos

Ephesus, Bodrum & the South Aegean

Ephesus & Around

Ephesus

Around Ephesus

Selcuk

Sirince

Kusadasi

Priene, Miletus, Didyma & Around

Priene

Miletus

Didyma (Didim)

Lake Bafa

Milas & Around

Bodrum Peninsula

Bodrum

Bitez

Ortakent

Turgutreis

Gumusluk

Yalikavak

Gundogan

Golturkbuku

Torba

Eastern Peninsula

Marmaris & Around

Marmaris

Datca & Bozburun Peninsulas

Akyaka

Western Anatolia

Western Anatolia Highlights

Iznik

Bursa

Mudanya

Eskisehir

Phrygian Valley

Pamukkale & Around

Pamukkale

Afrodisias

Lake District

Egirdir

Sagalassos

Antalya & the Turquoise Coast

Dalyan

Dalaman

Gocek

Fethiye

Kayakoy

Oludeniz

Butterfly Valley & Faralya

Kabak

Tlos

Saklikent Gorge

Pinara

Xanthos

Letoon

Patara

Kalkan

Islamlar

Bezirgan

Kas

Ucagiz & Kekova

Kalekoy

Demre

Olympos & Cirali

Antalya

Around Antalya

Selge & Koprulu Kanyon

Side

Eastern Mediterranean

Alanya

Around Alanya

Anamur

Tasucu

Silifke

Around Silifke

Kizkalesi

Around Kizkalesi

Mersin (Icel)

Tarsus

Adana

Around Adana

Antakya (Hatay) & Around

Ankara & Central Anatolia

Ankara

Around Ankara

Safranbolu

Bogazkale, Hattusa & Yazilikaya

Alacahoyuk

Corum

Amasya

Tokat

Sivas

Konya

Around Konya

Cappadocia

Goreme

Uchisar

Cavusin

Pasabagi

Zelve

Devrent Valley

Avanos

Around Avanos

Nevsehir

Around Nevsehir

Ortahisar

Urgup

Mustafapasa

Ayvali

Soganli

Nigde

Ala Daglar National Park

Ihlara Valley

Guzelyurt

Aksaray

Around Aksaray

Kayseri

Erciyes Dagi

Black Sea Coast

Amasra

Amasra to Sinop

Sinop

Samsun

Unye

Ordu

Trabzon

Sumela Monastery

Uzungol

Rize

Hopa

Eastern Anatolia

Eastern Anatolia Highlights

Erzurum

Kackar Mountains

Western Kackars

Eastern Kackars

Far Northeast

Georgian Valleys

Kars

Ani

Dogubayazit

Mt Ararat

Nemrut Dagi National Park

Understand

Understand Turkey

Turkey Today

History

Architecture

Arts

People

Environment

Survive

Directory A-Z

Accommodation

Customs Regulations

Discount Cards

Electricity

Embassies & Consulates

Insurance

Internet Access

Language Courses

Legal Matters

LGBTQI Travellers

Maps

Media

Money

Opening Hours

Post

Public Holidays

Safe Travel

Telephone

Time

Toilets

Tourist Information

Travellers with Disabilities

Visas

Volunteering

Women Travellers

Work

Transport

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Health

Before You Go

In Turkey

Language

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Special Features

Istanbuls Bazaars

Gallipoli Battlefields

Izmir & the North Aegean Highlights

Ruins of the South Aegean

Western Anatolia Highlights

The Blue Cruise

Antiquities of the Eastern Med

Cappadocian Frescoes 101

Historical Highlights

Welcome to Turkey

A richly historical land with some of the best cuisine you will ever taste, scenery from beaches to mountains and the great city of İstanbul.

Epic History

From the ancient port city of Ephesus (Efes) to the soaring Byzantine dome of Aya Sofya, Turkey has more than its fair share of world-famous ruins and monuments. A succession of historical figures and empires – including the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans – have all left their mark on this former stopover along the Silk Road. Experiencing their legacy takes you from the closeted quarters of the sultan and his harem in İstanbul's sprawling Topkapı Palace to the romantic and mysterious Lycian ruins on Mediterranean beaches.

Lyrical Landscapes

Turkey's diverse landscapes, from Aegean olive groves to eastern steppe, provide a lyrical setting for its many great ruins. The country's most magical scenery is to be found in Asian Anatolia, where beautiful vistas are provided by the vertiginous Mediterranean coastline, Cappadocia's otherworldly 'fairy chimney' rock formations and wavy valleys, the alpine pastures of the Kaçkar Mountains, and golden beaches such as 18km-long Patara. Whether you settle down with a çay to enjoy the view across mountain-ringed Lake Eğirdir or explore the hilly hinterland on the southwest coast's many peninsulas, Turkey's landscape will leave a lasting impression.

Activities Galore

Turkey offers activities to suit every temperament, from outdoors adventure to cultural enrichment. Watery fun includes diving, windsurfing, rafting and canyoning in mountain gorges, kayaking over Kekova's sunken ruins and traditional gület cruises on the Mediterranean and Aegean. Or take to the air with Ölüdeniz' thrilling paragliding flights or a hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia. For a fresh angle on stunning Turkish scenery, trek to highland pastures or walk part of the Lycian Way trail. In town, take a culinary course, soak in the hamam or hit İstanbul's Grand Bazaar to buy a carpet or flat-weave kilim rug.

Culinary Exploration

The best thing about sampling Turkey's delicious specialties – ranging from meze on a Mediterranean harbour to a pension breakfast featuring ingredients fresh from the kitchen garden – is that they take you to the heart of Turkish culture. For the sociable and family-orientated Turks, gathering together and eating well is a time-honoured ritual. So get stuck into olive oil–lathered Aegean vegetables, spicy Anatolian kebaps and dishes from Turkey's many other corners – and as you drink a tulip-shaped glass of çay and contemplate some baklava for dessert, remember that eating is deepening your understanding of Turkey.

Ferries on the Bosphorus, İstanbul | SEQOYA/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Why I Love Turkey

By James Bainbridge, Writer

My first visit to Turkey was 20 years ago, when I finished a European rail odyssey in İstanbul, discovering the Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet's sights. I'll never forget drinking çay on my hostel's roof terrace, scribbling in my notebook and watching the ferries cross over to Asia. Wanting to visit somewhere between the continents, I jumped on a boat to the Princes' Islands, where an old man gave me a lift in his horse-drawn fayton (carriage). It was my first taste of the Turkish friendliness and hospitality I've been experiencing ever since.

Turkey's Top 19

Crossing Between Continents

In İstanbul, you can board a commuter ferry and flit between Europe and Asia in under an hour. Every day, a flotilla takes locals up the Bosphorus and over the Sea of Marmara, sounding sonorous horns as it goes. Morning services share the waterways with diminutive fishing boats and massive container ships, all accompanied by flocks of shrieking seagulls. At sunset, the tapering minarets and Byzantine domes of the Old City are thrown into relief against a dusky pink sky – it's the city's most magical sight.

GARDEL BERTRAND/HEMIS.FR ©

Top Experiences

Cappadocia

Cappadocia's hard-set honeycomb landscape looks sculpted by a swarm of genius bees. The truth – the effects of erosion on rock formed of ash from megalithic volcanic eruptions – is only slightly less cool. Humans have also left their mark here, in the Byzantine frescoes in rock-cut churches and in the bowels of complex underground cities. These days, Cappadocia is all about good times: fine wine, local dishes and five-star caves; horse riding, valley hikes and hot-air ballooning. There's enough to keep you buzzing for days.

FATMA BARLAS ÖZKAVALCIOĞLU/500PX ©

Top Experiences

Aya Sofya

Even in mighty İstanbul, nothing beats the Aya Sofya, or Church of the Divine Wisdom, which was for centuries the greatest church in Christendom. Emperor Justinian had it built in the 6th century, as part of his mission to restore the greatness of the Roman Empire; gazing up at the floating dome, it's hard to believe this fresco-covered marvel didn't single-handedly revive Rome's fortunes. Glittering mosaics depict biblical scenes and ancient figures such as Empress Zoe, one of only three standalone Byzantine empresses.

MARK READ/LONELY PLANET ©

Top Experiences

Ephesus

Undoubtedly the most famous of Turkey's countless ancient sites, and considered the best-preserved ruins in the Mediterranean, Ephesus (Efes) is a powerful tribute to Greek artistry and Roman architectural prowess. A stroll down the marble-coated Curetes Way provides myriad photo opportunities – not least the Library of Celsus with its two storeys of columns, and the Terrace Houses, their vivid frescoes and sophisticated mosaics giving insight into the daily lives of the city's elite. Much of the ancient port is yet to be unearthed.

Library of Celsus | MURATART/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Lycian Way

Acclaimed as one of the world's top 10 long-distance walks, the Lycian Way follows signposted paths for 500km between Fethiye and Antalya. This is the Teke Peninsula, once the stamping ground of the ancient and mysterious Lycian civilisation. The route leads through pine and cedar forests in the shadow of mountains rising almost 3000m, passing villages, stunning coastal views and an embarrassment of ruins at ancient cities such as Pınara, Xanthos, Letoön and Olympos. Walk it in sections (unless you have plenty of time and stamina).

MARK READ/LONELY PLANET ©

Top Experiences

Beaches

Turkey's beaches are world famous, offering a reliable summer mix of sun, sand and azure waters.Topping the list are Mediterranean and Aegean beauties such as Kaputaş, a tiny cove with dazzling shallows near Kalkan, and Patara, Turkey's longest beach. Many of the finest Mediterranean plajlar (beaches) dot the Lycian Way footpath, while stretches of Aegean sand offer activities such as windsurfing in Alaçatı, Akyaka and Gökçeada. The Black Sea coast also has its charms, and the beaches around the historic towns of Amasra and Sinop are perennially popular with Turkish tourists.

PGFACTORY/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Kekova Island

Cruise to the underwater ruins fringing this Mediterranean isle or stay beneath the Crusader fortress in neighbouring Kaleköy ('Castle Village'), its pensions, fish restaurants and Lycian sarcophagi reached by boat or the Lycian Way footpath. Kekova Island itself is skirted by the remains of Lycian Simena, which was submerged following a series of severe earthquakes in the 2nd century AD. From a kayak or glass-bottomed boat, you can see shattered amphorae, building foundations, staircases and moorings disappearing into the Mediterranean depths.

MARK READ/LONELY PLANET ©

Top Experiences

Ani

Ani is a truly exceptional site. Historically intriguing, culturally compelling and scenically magical, this ghost city floating in a sea of grass looks like a movie set. Lying in blissful isolation right at the Armenian border, the site exudes an eerie ambience. Before its decline following a Mongol sacking in 1236, Ani was a thriving city, a Silk Road entrepôt and capital of the Armenian kingdom from 961 to 1046. The ruins include several notable churches as well as a cathedral built between 987 and 1010.

Church of the Redeemer | MARK READ/LONELY PLANET ©

Top Experiences

Hamams

At many hamams in Turkey, plenty of extras are on offer: bath treatments, facials, pedicures and so on. However, we recommend you stick with the tried and true hamam experience – a soak and a scrub followed by a good (and optional) pummelling. After this cleansing ritual and cultural experience, the world (and your body) will never feel quite the same again; do leave time to relax with a çay afterwards. For a truly memorable hamam, seek out a soak in Antalya's atmospheric old quarter or historic Sultanahmet, İstanbul.

GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Gület Cruising

Known locally as a 'blue voyage' (mavi yolculuk), a cruise lasting four days and three nights on a gület (traditional wooden sailing boat) along the western Mediterranean's Turquoise Coast is the highlight of many a trip to Turkey. The cruises offer opportunities to explore isolated beaches, watch sunsets and truly get away from it all, offshore and offline – a rare treat nowadays. The usual route is Fethiye to Olympos, stopping at Mediterranean highlights such as Butterfly Valley, though aficionados say the Fethiye to Marmaris route is even prettier.

NEIL OVERY/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Gallipoli Peninsula

The narrow stretch of land guarding the entrance to the much-contested Dardanelles is a beautiful area, where pine trees roll across hills above Eceabat's backpacker hang-outs and Kilitbahir's castle. Touring the peaceful countryside is a poignant experience for many: memorials and cemeteries mark the spots where, a century ago, young men from far away fought and died in gruelling conditions. The passionate guides do a good job of evoking the futility and tragedy of the Gallipoli campaign, one of WWI's worst episodes.

Top Experiences

Meyhanes

Say şerefe (cheers) to Efes-drinking Turks in a meyhane (tavern). A raucous night mixing meze with rakı (anise spirit) and live music is a time-honoured Turkish activity. Melon, white cheese and fish go particularly well with the aslan sütü (lion's milk; the clear rakı turns white when added to water) and the soundtrack ranges from romantic ballads to fasıl, lively local gypsy music. A great place to sample Turkish nightlife is Beyoğlu, İstanbul, where the meyhane precincts around İstiklal Caddesi heave with people on Friday and Saturday nights.

IZZET KERIBAR/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Bazaar Shopping

Turkey's markets range from İstanbul's famously clamorous Grand Bazaar to its colourful and fragrant Spice Bazaar; and from the traditional shadow puppets in Bursa's kapalı çarşı (covered market) to the typical mixed sack of Ottoman tiles, nargiles (water pipes) and Spider-Man suits in Antalya's İki Kapılar Hanı. To take home the finest Turkish carpets you need a sultan's fortune, but don't be discouraged. Find something you like, drink some çay with the shopkeeper, and accept that you might not bag the world's best deal but at least you'll have honed your haggling skills.

Grand Bazaar, İstanbul | GARY YEOWELL/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Sumela Monastery

The improbable cliff-face location of Sumela Monastery is more than matched by the Black Sea hinterland's verdant scenery. The gently winding road to the Byzantine monastery twists past riverside fish restaurants, and your journey from nearby Trabzon may be pleasantly hindered by a herd of fat-tailed sheep en route to fresh pastures. The last few kilometres afford tantalising glimpses across pine-covered valleys of Sumela's honey-coloured walls, and the final approach on foot leads up a forest path to the rock-cut retreat. Sumela is set to reopen after restoration is completed in 2017.

AYHAN ALTUN/GETTY IMAGES/MOMENT OPEN ©

Top Experiences

Nemrut Dağı (Mt Nemrut)

One man's megalomania echoes across the centuries atop Nemrut Dağı's exposed and rugged summit, home to a 1st-century BC king's monumental burial ground. A gently emerging sunrise coaxes stark shadows from the mountain's giant sculpted heads, and as dawn breaks the finer details of the immense landscape below are gradually added. As you huddle against the chill of a new morning, a warming glass of çay could not be more welcome. And when your time on the summit is complete, don't miss the graceful Roman bridge crossing the nearby Cendere River.

OKAN METIN/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Pamukkale

Famed for its intricate series of travertines (calcite shelves), and crowned by the ruined Roman and Byzantine spa city of Hierapolis, the 'Cotton Castle' – a bleach-white mirage by day and alien ski slope by night – is one of Turkey's most unusual treasures. Explore ruins such as the Roman theatre and soak your feet in the thermal water filling the crystal travertines, then tiptoe down to Pamukkale village past a line of the saucer-shaped formations. An optional extra is a dunk in Hierapolis' Antique Pool amid toppled marble columns.

AHMET ŞAHIN/500PX ©

Top Experiences

Whirling Dervishes

The sema (whirling dervish ceremony) crackles with spiritual energy as the robe-clad dervishes spin, a constellation of dancers performing this trance-like ritual. The ceremony begins and ends with chanted passages from the Koran and is rich with symbolism; the dervishes’ conical felt hats represent their tombstones, as the dance signifies relinquishing earthly life to be reborn in mystical union with God. You can see a sema in locations including İstanbul, Cappadocia, Bursa and Konya; Konya's Mevlâna Museum gives insight into the mystical Mevlevi, the original whirling dervishes.

DERIC OLSCHNER/500PX ©

Top Experiences

Datça & Bozburun Peninsulas

These mountainous peninsulas, stretching lazily from Marmaris towards the Greek island of Symi, form a scenic dividing line between the Aegean and Mediterranean. From gület-building Bozburun village to the ruins of Knidos at the tip of the Datça Peninsula, the adjoining fingers of land mix holiday charm with rustic tranquility. Eski Datça (Old Datça) has cobbled lanes and bougainvillea-draped stone houses, while Selimiye is an up-and-coming village with some good restaurants. In summer, ferries cross daily between the Datça Peninsula and Bodrum.

Knidos | DE AGOSTINI/G.SIOEN ©

Top Experiences

Safranbolu

Listed for eternal preservation by Unesco in 1994, Safranbolu is Turkey's prime example of an Ottoman town brought back to life. Domestic tourists full of nostalgia descend here to stay in half-timbered houses that seem torn from the pages of a children's storybook. And the magic doesn't end there. Sweets and saffron vendors line the cobblestone alleyways, and artisans and cobblers ply their centuries-old trades beneath medieval mosques. When the summer storms light up the night sky, the fantasy is complete.

OGUZ DIKBAKAN/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Need to Know

Currency

Türk Lirası (Turkish lira; ₺)

Language

Turkish, Kurdish

Visas

For stays of up to 90 days, most Western nationalities either don't require visas or should purchase one in advance from www.evisa.gov.tr.

Money

ATMs are widely available. Credit and debit cards are accepted by most businesses in cities and tourist areas.

Mobile Phones

Most foreign phones work on international roaming. Local SIM cards are widely available and cost from ₺65, including ₺35 credit; take your passport to activate. Data bundles cost from ₺20 for 1GB. Networks block unregistered foreign phones after 120 days.

Time

Eastern European Summer Time all year round (GMT/UTC plus three hours)

When to Go

High Season (Jun–Aug)

A Prices and temperatures highest

A Expect crowds, book ahead

A Turkish school holidays mid-June to mid-September

A İstanbul's high-season months are April, May, September and October

A Christmas–New Year and Easter also busy

Shoulder Season (May & Sep)

A Fewer crowds, apart from around Kurban Bayramı holiday (currently late August/early September)

A Warm spring and autumn temperatures, especially in the southwest

A İstanbul's shoulder season is June–August

Low Season (Oct–Apr)

A October is autumn; spring starts in April

A Accommodations in tourist areas close or offer discounts

A High season in ski resorts

A İstanbul's low season is November to March

Useful Websites

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/turkey) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Turkey Travel Planner (www.turkeytravelplanner.com) Useful travel info.

Turkish Cultural Foundation (www.turkishculture.org) Culture and heritage; useful for archaeological sites.

Go Turkey (www.goturkey.com) Official tourism portal.

Good Morning Turkey (www.goodmorningturkey.com) Turkish news in English and Turkish.

All About Turkey (www.allaboutturkey.com) Multilingual introduction.

Important Numbers

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than ₺150

A Dorm bed: €7–24

A İstanbul–Gallipoli Peninsula bus ticket: ₺45

A Balık ekmek (fish kebap): ₺8–10

A Beer: ₺7–12

Midrange: ₺150–350

A Double room ₺90–180

A Double in İstanbul and Bodrum: €90–200

A İstanbul–Cappadocia flight: from ₺50

A Fish and meze meal: ₺40

A Boat day trip: ₺35

Top end: More than ₺350

A Double room: more than ₺180

A Double in İstanbul and Bodrum: more than €200

A Four-day gület cruise: €200–300

A Hot-air balloon flight: €160–175

A Car hire per day: from €20

Opening Hours

We’ve provided summer high-season opening hours in our coverage; hours will generally decrease in the shoulder and low seasons. The following are standard opening hours.

Information 8.30am-noon and 1.30-5pm Monday to Friday

Eating 11am-10pm

Drinking 4pm-late

Nightclubs 11pm-late

Shopping 9am-6pm Monday to Friday (longer in tourist areas and big cities – including weekend opening)

Government departments, offices and banks 8.30am-noon and 1.30-5pm Monday to Friday

Arriving in Turkey

Atatürk International Airport (İstanbul) Metro and tram to Sultanahmet (₺8, 6am to midnight, one hour); Havataş bus to Taksim Meydanı (₺11, 4am to 1am, 45 minutes); taxi to Sultanahmet (₺45, 35 minutes), taxi to Beyoğlu (₺55, 45 minutes).

Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (İstanbul) Havataş bus to Taksim Meydanı (₺14, 3.30am to 1am, 1½ hours), from where a funicular (₺4) and tram (₺4) travel to Sultanahmet (30 minutes); Havataş bus to Kadıköy (₺9, 4am to 1am, one hour); taxi to Sultanahmet (₺155, 1¼ hours) and Beyoğlu (₺140, one hour).

Büyük İstanbul Otogarı (İstanbul) The metro service between Aksaray and Atatürk International Airport runs to Zeytinburnu (₺4), from where trams continue to Sultanahmet and Kabataş/Taksim (₺4, one hour total); a taxi to Sultanahmet or Taksim Meydanı costs about ₺35 (30 minutes).

Getting Around

Bus Generally efficient and good value, with frequent services between the major cities and tourist spots. Often fewer services in winter.

Air Turkey is a vast country and domestic flights are an affordable way of reducing travel time. More route choices if flying to/from İstanbul.

Train The growing network of high-speed services offers rapid routes across Anatolia, for example between İstanbul and Ankara. The bus is often quicker than normal trains.

Car A great way to explore rural areas, with rental operators in cities and airports. Drive on the right. Petrol is expensive.

Ferry Regular services cross the Sea of Marmara and link parts of the Aegean coast.

First Time Turkey

Checklist

A Check your passport will be valid for at least six months after entering Turkey.

A Check if you need a visa and purchase it at www.evisa.gov.tr .

A Inform your credit-card provider of your travel plans.

A Check travel vaccinations are up to date.

A Book flights and hire car online.

A Book accommodation for popular areas.

A Organise airport transfer.

What to Pack

A Passport

A Photocopy of passport – to take out and about

A Paper copy of e-visa

A Credit and debit cards

A Bank's contact details

A Back-up euros/dollars

A Oral rehydration salts

A Conservative clothing for mosque visits

A Toilet roll/paper

A Soap or hand sanitiser

A Chargers and adaptor

A Cell phone

A Insurer's contact details

Top Tips for Your Trip

A Turkey is like a few countries rolled into one; the east is sparsely populated and devoutly Muslim, whereas much of the Aegean, Mediterranean and İstanbul are more Westernised.

A Turkey is predominantly Muslim, but certainly tolerant and welcoming to non-Muslims.

A Tourist areas are mostly well developed and the infrastructure runs efficiently.

A Turkey is a nationalistic country: Turkish flags and portraits of founding father Atatürk abound; be respectful, as Turks are extremely proud.

A Make an effort to get off the beaten track; village hospitality and home cooking are memorable experiences.

A Turkey is no longer a bargain-basement destination; pensions and local restaurants may offer good value, but cities are generally pricey.

A Suicide bombers have brought negative publicity, but Turkey remains largely safe.

A Marches and demonstrations are a regular occurence, but best avoided as they can lead to clashes with the police.

What to Wear

İstanbul and the Aegean and Mediterranean resort towns are used to Western dress, including bikinis on the beach and short skirts in nightclubs. In eastern and central Anatolia, people are conservative; even men should stick to long trousers. In staunchly Islamic cities such as Erzurum, even T-shirts and sandals are inadvisable. Women do not need to cover their head unless they enter a mosque. To decrease the likelihood of receiving unwanted attention from local men with misconceptions about Western women's 'availability', dress on the conservative side throughout Turkey.

Sleeping

It's generally unnecessary to book accommodation in advance. However, if you are visiting a popular place such as İstanbul or Bodrum in high season, it's worth reserving well ahead.

Turkey has a range of accommodation options to suit every budget, including the following.

A Boutique Hotels Small and intimate; normally occupy a historic building.

A Pensions Authentic family-run guesthouses.

A Luxury Hotels Modern or historic buildings, offering world-class service and facilities.

A Self-catering Villas and apartments; popular in touristy coastal areas.

A Resorts Family-friendly package options on the coast.

A Hostels Backpacker options with dorms.

A Campsites Mostly on the coast and well equipped.

A Business Hotels Sometimes the only option outside tourist areas.

A Budget Hotels Often lack pensions' charm and cleanliness.

Islam & Ramazan

Turkey is predominantly Islamic, but tolerant of other religions and lifestyles. This is especially true in western Turkey, where there are as many bars as mosques and it is sometimes easy to forget you are in an Islamic country. Do bear in mind, however, that Ramazan, the holy month when Muslims fast between dawn and dusk, currently falls in May and June. Cut the locals some slack; they might be grumpy if they are fasting in hot weather. Don't eat, drink or smoke in public during the day, and if you aren't a fasting Muslim, don't go to an iftar (evening meal to break the fast) tent for cheap food.

Bargaining

Haggling is common in bazaars, as well as for out-of-season accommodation and long taxi journeys. In other instances, you’re expected to pay the stated price.

Tipping

Turkey is fairly European in its approach to tipping and you won't be pestered for baksheesh. Tipping is customary in restaurants, hotels and taxis; optional elsewhere.

Restaurants A few coins in budget eateries; 10% to 15% of the bill in midrange and top-end establishments.

Hotel porter Give 3% of the room price in midrange and top-end hotels only.

Taxis Round up metered fares to the nearest 50 kuruş.

MATT MUNRO/LONELY PLANET ©

Etiquette

A Religion Dress modestly and be quiet and respectful around mosques.

A Hospitality Generous Turks take it seriously; you may receive a few invitations to dine or drink çay together.

A Restaurants Generally, whoever extended the invitation to eat together picks up the bill.

A Alcohol Bars are common, but public drinking and inebriation are less acceptable away from tourist towns.

A Greetings Turks value respect; when meeting a group of people, shake hands with all, male and female.

A Language Learn a few Turkish phrases; immeasurably helpful and appreciated by Turks.

A Relationships Do not be overly tactile with your partner in public; beware miscommunications with locals.

A Politics Be tactful; criticising Turkish nationalism can land you in prison.

A Shopping Visiting the bazaar, be prepared to haggle and drink tea with shopkeepers.

A Queues Turks can be pushy in public situations; be assertive.

Language

English is widely spoken in İstanbul and touristy parts of western Turkey; less so in eastern and central Anatolia, where knowing a few Turkish phrases, covering relevant topics such as accommodation, is invaluable. Turkish is fun to learn as pronunciation is easy. Learning Turkish is more useful than Kurdish, as most Kurds speak Turkish (but not vice versa). Many Turks speak German.

What's New

New Museums

Set to open in 2017, the Troy Museum will be a stunning showcase of the treasures of past centuries, while Ankara’s new Erimtan Archaeology & Arts Museum houses an astounding collection of mostly Roman artefacts. The capital’s Museum of Anatolian Civilisations is now fully renovated, with its entire collection on display, and the new Bodrum Maritime Museum explores the peninsula’s maritime past through finely crafted scale models of boats.

Ephesus

Plans have been approved to dredge a canal from the ancient harbour of Ephesus (Efes) to the Aegean, allowing visitors to arrive by boat and restoring the city's original identity as a port.

Ottoman Palace Kitchens

Topkapı Palace's huge kitchens, which once prepared lavish imperial feasts, have reopened after painstaking renovations. Likewise, Dolmabahçe Palace’s kitchens now house İstanbul's Palace Collections Museum.

Museum Pass

In addition to İstanbul, discount cards now cover museums and sights in Cappadocia (including Göreme Open-Air Museum), the Aegean (including Ephesus and Pergamum), the Mediterranean, and the whole of Turkey.

Ephesus Museum

Selçuk’s museum of artefacts from Ephesus has reopened following renovations, displaying works such as the phallic effigy of Priapus and two multi-breasted marble statues of Artemis.

Activities

New offerings include a children's Grand Bazaar scavenger hunt, a hop-on, hop-off Golden Horn ferry tour, Culinary Backstreets’ İzmir walking tour, and Cappadocia’s Cappadox arts festival in May.

Transport Links

A ferry links Kuşadası and the Dilek Peninsula; Tribe Travel runs shuttles between Fethiye, Pamukkale and Selçuk; and İstanbul’s M6 metro line has made the Bosphorus suburbs more accessible.

İstanbul Regeneration

The historic Balat neighbourhood on the Golden Horn is being revitalised; Tophane has become a design precinct; and on İstanbul’s Asian side, once-dishevelled Yeldeğirmeni has gained cultural cred.

Hiking

The world’s longest cable car, Bursa's 8.2km Teleferik, whisks fresh-air fiends up Uludağ (2543m). Apollonia Lodge in Boğazcık village gives Lycian Way hikers a stop-off between Kaş and Üçağız.

Architectural Triumphs

Stunning restorations include Istanbul’s Nuruosmaniye Mosque, the Grand Synagogue of Edirne and Antakya’s Church of St Peter, while İstanbul’s tile-encrusted Hünkâr Kasrı pavilion is now open to the public.

Moved House

İstanbul’s venue Babylon Bomonti has moved to a converted beer factory, the city’s Museum of Turkish Jews to the Neve Shalom synagogue, and Antakya's Hatay Archaeology Museum to new premises.

If You Like…

Bazaars

Centuries ago, Seljuk and Ottoman traders travelled the Silk Road, stopping at caravanserais to do business. The tradition is still alive and so is haggling in Turkey’s labyrinthine bazaars.

Grand Bazaar Hone your bargaining skills in İstanbul’s original and best shopping mall.

Kapalı Çarşı Bursa's 14th-century Old Mirrored Market houses shadow-puppet shops.

Spice Bazaar Jewel-like lokum (Turkish delight) and pyramids of spices provide eye candy at İstanbul's fragrant bazaar.

Kemeraltı Market İzmir's labyrinthine bazaar features shops, eateries, artisans' workshops, mosques, coffeehouses, tea gardens and synagogues.

Hamams

Hamams are also known as Turkish baths, a name coined by Europeans introduced to their steamy pleasures by the Ottomans. Have a massage or just soak in the calming atmosphere.

Sefa Hamamı This restored 13th-century gem in Kaleiçi (Old Antalya) retains many of its Seljuk features.

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı The service matches the stunning interior of this restored 16th-century İstanbul hamam.

Yeni Kaplıca ‘New thermal bath' is actually Bursa’s oldest, founded by the 6th-century Byzantine emperor Justinian I.

Kelebek Turkish Bath Spa Cappadocia’s most luxurious hamam experience, with a full range of spa-style added extras.

Beaches

Turkey is surrounded by the Mediterranean, the Aegean, the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, offering numerous beaches for reclining by the ‘wine-dark sea’ (as Homer called the Aegean).

Kaputaş The pale sandy cove and brilliant azure waters near Kalkan look brochure-perfect.

Kabak Take a steep ride or follow the Lycian Way down to this Mediterranean beach hideaway.

Patara One of the Mediterranean’s longest beaches, with 18km of white sand, ruins and sea turtles.

Ayazma A ruined Greek Orthodox monastery overlooks Bozcaada's best beach.

Gökçeada You might have the little-visited Aegean island's beaches to yourself.

Kızkalesi Warm water invites you to swim to the 12th-century Byzantine fortress just offshore.

History

Turks are proud of their long, eventful history, and it’s easy to share their enthusiasm at the country’s mosques and palaces, ruins and museums.

Topkapı Palace İstanbul’s historic significance can be felt everywhere, but particularly in the greatest Ottoman palace.

Gallipoli Peninsula Poignant memorials and cemeteries recall the battles fought here in WWI.

Kayaköy Places like this ghost town recall the Greeks displaced by a century-old population exchange.

Zelve Open-Air Museum Turkey's many Christian sites include these rock-cut monasteries in a Cappadocian valley.

Hattuşa Explore off the beaten track to the capitals of Anatolian civilisations, including the Hittite HQ.

Food & Drink

Turkey has epicurean indulgence nailed, from street snacks to gourmet restaurants. Not only does every region offer local dishes, you can sample them in individualistic eateries and panoramic terraces.

Cappadocia Home Cooking Sample true home-style Cappadocian cooking, surrounded by the family’s organic garden in a valley village.

Limon Aile Lokantası On the Bodrum Peninsula, Limon offers an original take on the much-loved Aegean meze-and-seafood experience.

Alex's Place One of the hole-in-the-wall cocktail bars taking over in fashionable Beyoğlu, İstanbul.

Hatay Sultan Sofrası The mezes and spicy kebaps are good examples of Antakya’s Syrian and Arab culinary influences.

Zeytin Bağı Overlooking the Bay of Edremit, this foodie retreat serves what may be Turkey's best breakfast.

Activities

Turkey’s many outdoor activities make the most of its beautiful and diverse terrain, from mountain ranges to beaches – and çay and baklava, or Efes beer and meze, await afterwards.

Walking Opportunities range from half-day wanders through Cappadocia's valleys to 500km Mediterranean trails.

Saklıkent Gorge The 18km-long fissure near Fethiye is Turkey’s top spot for canyoning.

Water Sports On the Aegean and Mediterranean, diving, windsurfing, kiteboarding, canoeing and waterskiing are on offer.

Yusufeli Northeastern Anatolia's activity capital offers adrenaline-pumping white-water rafting and mountain walking.

Kekova Island Sea kayak over walls, shattered amphorae and other remains of the Lycian ‘sunken city’.

Uludağ National Park The ski resort above Bursa is one of several across the country.

Diving, Kaş | BORUT FURLAN ©

Ruins

Whether in a city centre or atop a craggy cliff, the country’s ruins bring out the historical romantic in you. Excavations continue at many, giving new glimpses of ancient history.

Ephesus (Efes) The best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean evokes daily life in Roman times.

Nemrut Dağı Atop Mt Nemrut are the toppled heads of statues built by a 1st-century-BC king.

Pergamum The Hellenistic theatre is a vertigo-inducing marvel and the Asclepion was Rome’s pre-eminent medical centre.

Ani The 10th-century Armenian capital features fascinating remnants of ancient cultures, from Georgian to Zoroastrian.

Landscape

Apart from a toe sticking into Europe, Turkey is part of Asia, so it should come as no surprise that its landscapes are varied and stunning.

Cappadocia The fairy chimneys (rock formations) and smooth valleys are best explored on foot or horseback.

Mt Ararat Turkey’s highest peak (5137m) is typical of northeastern Anatolia's rugged scenery.

Amasra to Sinop A great drive takes you past Black Sea beaches and green hills.

Behramkale The hillside village has dreamy views of the Aegean coast.

Eğirdir Gölü The mountain-ringed Anatolian lake, like those at Bafa and İznik, is among Turkey's unsung glories.

Datça & Bozburun Peninsulas Raw landscape dividing the Aegean and Mediterranean, riddled with coves and pine forests.

Nemrut Dağı Mountain-top stone heads gaze at the Anti-Taurus Range.

Ala Dağlar National Park Waterfalls crash down limestone cliffs in the Taurus Mountains.

Amasra | BORIS STROUJKO/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Architecture

Turkey’s legacy of mighty empires has left a bounty of imposing buildings: palaces, mosques, churches, monasteries and caravansaries are a few of the ancient structures evoking bygone eras.

Aya Sofya The greatest surviving Byzantine building, just one of the glorious edifices in Sultanahmet, İstanbul.

İshak Paşa Palace Perched above the steppe, this 18th-century pile mixes Seljuk, Ottoman, Georgian, Persian and Armenian styles.

Ulu Cami & Darüşşifası Stone portal carvings so intricate that locals say they prove the existence of God.

Safranbolu From this heritage town to the Aegean’s old Greek villages, boutique hotels occupy Ottoman mansions.

İstanbul Naval Museum The exhibition hall, displaying 19th-century rowboats, is among İstanbul's attractive contemporary gallery and museum buildings.

Süleymaniye Mosque, one of İstanbul’s architectural triumphs | SABINO PARENTE/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Museums

In a country marked by great dynasties, from Hittite hill men to Ottoman sultans, every self-respecting town has a museum to preserve its local history.

İstanbul Archaeology Museums İstanbul's museums range from long-standing institutions like this complex in Gülhane Park to contemporary galleries.

Göreme Open-Air Museum Only in surreal Cappadocia could a valley of rock-cut Byzantine churches be called a museum.

Museum of Anatolian Civilisations Ankara’s star attraction examines the ancient civilisations that warred and waned on the surrounding steppe.

Ephesus Museum Selçuk's fine collection contains artefacts from Ephesus, including the famous effigy of phallic god Priapus.

Museum of Underwater Archaeology Housed in Bodrum’s 15th-century Castle of St Peter, it displays bounty from ancient shipwrecks.

İzmir Museum of History & Art One of Turkey's richest repositories of artefacts, including stunning sculptures from the Aegean’s ancient sites.

Hatay Archaeology Museum Reopened in new premises that do justice to Antakya’s great collection of classical mosaics.

Cities

Turks are a regionalist bunch; they will invariably tell you their town is en çok güzel (the most beautiful) – but these are the best places to experience urban Turkey.

İstanbul The world’s only city on two continents, the megacity was once the capital of empires.

Antalya The classically beautiful and stylishly modern gateway to the Turkish Riviera.

İzmir Turkey’s third-largest city is right on the Aegean; its kordon (seafront promenade) is a joy.

Antakya (Hatay) The site of the biblical Antioch has a distinctively Arabic feel.

Konya The Anatolian boomtown is historical and mystical with its Seljuk architecture and whirling dervish heritage.

Boutique Hotels

From half-timbered Ottoman mansions to Greek stone houses, Turkey’s architectural gems are increasingly being converted into small, one-off hotels. These distinctive properties offer a local experience with a stylish twist.

Kelebek Hotel Take up residence in a fairy chimney and experience troglodyte life in luxury.

Alaçatı Scores of the Aegean village’s stone Greek houses have been converted into boutique digs.

Safranbolu Among rocky bluffs, the fairy-tale town is an idyllic setting for hotels in Ottoman piles.

White Garden Pansion A smattering of boutique hotels adds further charm to Antalya’s Roman-Ottoman old quarter.

Nişanyan Hotel A 19th-century renovated stone house in the hill village of Şirince near Ephesus.

Casa di Bava Occupying an 1880s building, one of the many world-class boutique hotels in Beyoğlu, İstanbul.

Month by Month

Top Events

İstanbul Music Festival, June

Cappadox, May

Aspendos Opera & Ballet Festival, September

Mountain Walking, July

İstanbul Tulip Festival, April

January

The dead of winter. Even İstanbul's streets are empty of crowds, local and foreign, and snow closes eastern Anatolia's mountain passes and delays buses. Accommodation in tourist areas is mostly closed.

z New Year's Day

A surrogate Christmas takes place across the Islamic country, with decorations, exchanges of gifts and greeting cards. Celebrations begin on New Year's Eve and continue through this public holiday. Over Christmas and New Year, accommodation fills up and prices rise.

March

As in the preceding months, you might have sights to yourself outside the country's top destinations, and you can get discounts at accommodation options that are open.

3 İzmir European Jazz Festival

This jazz festival fills the Aegean city with a high-profile lineup of European and local performers. Gigs, workshops, seminars and a garden party make this a lively time for jazz lovers to visit.

z Çanakkale Naval Victory

On 18 March Turks descend on the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Peninsula and Çanakkale to celebrate what they call the Çanakkale Naval Victory – and commemorate the WWI campaign's 130,000 fatalities. The area, particularly the Turkish memorials in the southern peninsula, is thronged with visitors.

5 Mesir Festival, Manisa

An altogether different way of marking the spring equinox, Manisa's Unesco-protected festival celebrates Mesir macunu (Mesir paste), a scrumptious treat made from dozens of spices that once cured Süleyman the Magnificent's mother of illness. Takes place over a week around 21 March.

April

Spring. April and May are high season in İstanbul and shoulder season elsewhere. Not a great month to get a tan in northern Turkey, but you can enjoy balmy, breezy weather in the southwest.

5 Alaçatı Herb Festival

The Alaçatı Herb Festival is a great time to visit the culinary-minded Aegean town, home to many fine restaurants and boutique hotels. The festival celebrates the unique local herbs, with many opportunities to enjoy the dishes they flavour.

z İstanbul Tulip Festival

İstanbul's parks and gardens are resplendent with tulips, which originated in Turkey before being exported to the Netherlands during the Ottoman era. Multicoloured tulips are often planted to resemble the Turks' cherished 'evil eye'. Flowers bloom from late March or early April.

3 İstanbul Film Festival

For a filmic fortnight, cinemas around town host a packed program of Turkish and international films and events. An excellent crash course in Turkish cinema, but book ahead.

z Anzac Day, Gallipoli Peninsula

On 25 April the WWI battles for the Dardanelles are commemorated h25 Apr) and the Allied soldiers remembered. Antipodean pilgrims sleep at Anzac Cove before the dawn services; a busy time on the peninsula.

May

Another good month to visit. Shoulder season continues outside İstanbul, with attendant savings, but spring is flirting with summer and the Aegean and Mediterranean beaches are heating up.

2 Windsurfing, Alaçatı

In Turkey's windsurfing centre, Alaçatı, the season begins in mid-May. The protected Aegean bay hosts the Windsurf World Cup in August and the season winds down in early November, when many of the eight resident schools close.

1 Ruins, Mosques, Palaces & Museums

This is your last chance until September to see the main attractions at famous Aegean and Mediterranean sights such as Ephesus without major crowds, which can become almost unbearable at the height of summer.

2 Dedegöl Mountaineering Festival, Eğirdir

Dedegöl Mountaineering Festival sees Eğirdir's mountaineering club scramble up Mt Dedegöl (2998m), now spring is thawing the Taurus Mountains. Register to join the free two-day event (19 May), which includes a night at the base camp.

3 International Bursa Festival

The International Bursa Festival, the city's 2½-week music and dance jamboree, features diverse regional and world music, plus an international headliner or two. Free performances are offered and tickets for top acts are around ₺40. Begins in mid-May.

z Cappadox Festival, Uçhisar

Cappadocia's three-day arts festival merges music, nature walks, art exhibitions, yoga and gastronomy into an extravaganza of Turkish contemporary culture, highlighting the area's natural beauty.

June

Summer. Shoulder season in İstanbul and high season elsewhere until the end of August. Expect sizzling temperatures, inflexible hotel prices and crowds at sights – often avoided by visiting early, late or at lunchtime.

z Çamlıhemşin Ayder Festival, Ayder

Held over the first or second weekend in June, this popular early-summer festival highlights Hemşin culture with folk dance and music. It also features northeast Turkey's bloodless form of bullfighting, boğa güreşleri, in which two bulls push at each other until one backs off.

3 İstanbul Music Festival

Probably Turkey's most important arts festival, featuring performances of opera, dance, orchestral concerts and chamber recitals. Acts are often internationally renowned and the action takes place at atmosphere-laden venues such as Aya İrini, the Byzantine church in the Topkapı Palace grounds.

z Historic Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival, Edirne

In a sport dating back over 650 years, brawny pehlivan (wrestlers) from across Turkey rub themselves from head to foot with olive oil and grapple. Late June or early July.

Competitors in the Historic Kırkpınar Oil-Wrestling Festival, Edirne | ORLOK/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

July

This month and August turn the Aegean and Mediterranean tourist heartlands into sun-and-fun machines, and temperatures peak across the country. The blue skies bring out the best in the hot-blooded Turkish personality.

2 Mountain Walking

Between the Black Sea coast and the Anatolian steppe, the snow clears from the passes in the Kaçkar Mountains (Kaçkar Dağları), allowing multiday treks and sublime yaylalar (highland pastures) views in July and August. www.cultureroutesinturkey.com.

3 Music Festivals

Turkey enjoys a string of summer music jamborees, including highbrow festivals in İstanbul, Bursa and İzmir. The cities host multiple pop, rock, jazz and dance music events, while summer playgrounds such as Alaçatı and the Bodrum Peninsula turn into mini-Ibizas. June to August.

Kaçkar Mountains | GUNERKAYA/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

August

Even at night, the weather is hot and humid; pack sun cream and anti-mosquito spray. Walking and activities are best tackled early in the morning or at sunset.

z Cappadocian Festivals

Two festivals take place in the land of fairy chimneys (rock formations). A summer series of chamber music concerts are held in the valleys and, from 16 to 18 August, sleepy Hacıbektaş comes alive with the annual pilgrimage of Bektaşı dervishes.

September

İstanbul's second high season begins; elsewhere, it's shoulder season – temperatures, crowds and prices lessen. Accommodation and activities, such as boat trips, begin winding down for the winter.

3 Aspendos Opera & Ballet Festival

The internationally acclaimed Aspendos Opera & Ballet Festival takes place in this atmospheric Roman theatre near Antalya (June or late August and September).

2 Diving

The water is warmest from May to October and you can expect water temperatures of 25°C in September. Turkey's scuba-diving centre is Kaş on the Mediterranean, with operators also found in Marmaris, Bodrum, Kuşadası and Ayvalık on the Aegean.

z İstanbul Biennial

The city's major visual-arts shindig, considered to be one of the world's most prestigious biennials, takes place from mid-September to mid-November in odd-numbered years. Venues around town host the internationally curated event.

3 Sunsplash Festival, Bodrum

Held on Xuma Beach, Yalıkavak, at the tip of the Bodrum Peninsula, this popular mid-September music festival toasts the end of Bodrum's busy summer season with an eclectic mix of electronic, world and jazz DJs and musicians.

October

Autumn is truly here; outside İstanbul, many accommodation options have shut for the winter. Good weather is unlikely up north, but the Mediterranean and Aegean experience fresh, sunny days.

3 Akbank Jazz Festival

Every October, İstanbul celebrates its love of jazz with this eclectic lineup of local and international performers. Going for over 25 years, it's the older sibling of July's İstanbul Jazz Festival.

2 Walking

The weather in eastern Anatolia has already become challenging by this time of year, but in the southwest, autumn and spring are the best seasons to enjoy the scenery without too much sweat on your brow. See www.trekkinginturkey.com and www.cariantrail.com.

November

Even on the coastlines, summer is a distant memory. Rain falls on İstanbul and the Black Sea, southern resort towns are deserted and eastern Anatolia is ensnarled in snow.

z Karagöz Festival, Bursa

A week of performances celebrate the city's Karagöz shadow-puppetry heritage, with local and international puppeteers and marionette performers. Held in November of odd years.

December

Turks fortify themselves against the cold with hot çay and hearty kebaps. Most of the country is chilly and wet or icy, although the western Mediterranean is milder and day walks there are viable.

2 Ski Season

Hit the slopes: the Turkish ski season begins at half a dozen resorts across the country, including Cappadocia's Erciyes Dağı (Mt Erciyes), Uludağ (near Bursa), Palandöken (near Erzurum) and Sarıkamış, near Kars. Late November to early April.

1 Snow in Anatolia

If you're really lucky, after skiing on Erciyes Dağı, you could head west and see central Cappadocia's fairy chimneys looking even more magical under a layer of snow. Eastern Anatolia is also covered in a white blanket, but temperatures are brutally low.

Itineraries

Classic Turkey

10 Days

Most first-time visitors to Turkey arrive with two ancient names on their lips: İstanbul and Ephesus. This journey across the Sea of Marmara and down the Aegean coast covers both.

You'll need at least three days in İstanbul to even scrape the surface of its millennia of history. The top three sights are the Aya Sofya, Topkapı Palace and the Blue Mosque, but there's a sultan's treasury of other sights and activities, including a cruise up the Bosphorus, nightlife around İstiklal Caddesi, and the Grand Bazaar.

From İstanbul, instead of schlepping out to the city's main otogar (bus station), hop on a ferry to Bandırma. From there, you can catch a bus or train straight down to Selçuk (for Ephesus) via İzmir, but it's more interesting to head west to Çanakkale, a lively student town on the Dardanelles. A tour of the nearby Gallipoli Peninsula's poignant WWI battlefields is a memorable experience.

From Çanakkale, it's a 3½-hour bus ride to Ayvalık, with its tumbledown old Greek quarter and fish restaurants. Finally, another bus journey (via İzmir) reaches Selçuk, a pleasantly rustic town and the base for visiting glorious Ephesus (Efes), the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean.

Itineraries

Coastal Cruise

3 Weeks

Leading across the Sea of Marmara and down the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, this seaside itinerary takes in beaches, ruins and relaxing holiday towns.

After a few days in İstanbul, hop on a ferry to Bandırma and then catch the bus or train straight down to Selçuk via İzmir. Time your visit to coincide with Selçuk's sprawling Saturday market, and pair the magnificent ruins of Ephesus with a trip to the mountaintop village of Şirince.

Next, hit the southern Aegean coast in cruise port Kuşadası, which is more fun than a karaoke bar and offers 'PMD' day trips to the ruins of Priene, Miletus and Didyma. These sites, respectively two ancient port cities and a temple to Apollo, are interesting additions to an Ephesus visit, giving a fuller picture of the region in centuries past. Spend a day or two nibbling calamari and sipping cocktails on the chichi Bodrum Peninsula and cross the Gulf of Gökova by ferry to the Datça Peninsula. With their fishing villages and rugged hinterland of forested mountains, Datça and the adjoining Bozburun Peninsula are excellent for revving up a scooter or just putting your feet up.

Continuing along the Mediterranean coast, beautiful Ölüdeniz is the spot to paraglide from atop Baba Dağ (Mt Baba; 1960m) or lie low on a beach towel. While in the area, consider basing yourself in secluded Kayaköy with its ruined Greek town. You're now within kicking distance of the 509km-long Lycian Way. Hike for a day through superb countryside to overnight in heavenly Faralya, overlooking Butterfly Valley; further inroads along the trail will definitely top your 'next time' list.

Also on the Lycian Way, laid-back Kaş' pretty harbourside square buzzes nightly with friendly folk enjoying the sea breeze, views, fresh meze and a beer or two. One of Turkey's most beguiling boat trips departs from here, taking in the sunken Lycian city at Kekova Island. From Kaş, it's a couple of hours to Olympos, famous for the naturally occurring Chimaera flames and beach treehouses.

A 1½-hour bus journey reaches the city of Antalya. Its Roman-Ottoman quarter, Kaleiçi, is worth a wander, against the backdrop of a jaw-dropping mountain range. From Antalya you can fly back to İstanbul or take a nine-hour bus ride across the plains to Cappadocia.

Itineraries

Cappadocia Meander

2 Weeks

If you feel drawn to Cappadocia's fairy-tale landscape after İstanbul, and you would like to stop en route across Anatolia, there are a few worthwhile spots to break the journey.

From İstanbul, catch a bus or hop on the fast train to Ankara, the Turkish capital. The political town is no match for that show-stealer on the Bosphorus, but two key sights here give an insight into Turkish history, ancient and modern: the Anıt Kabir, Atatürk's hilltop mausoleum, and the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, a restored 15th-century bedesten (covered market) packed with finds from the surrounding steppe. Tying in with the latter, a detour east takes in the isolated, evocative ruins of Hattuşa, which was the Hittite capital in the late Bronze Age.

Leave three days to explore Cappadocia, based in a cave hotel in Göreme, the travellers' hang-out surrounded by valleys of fairy chimneys. The famous rock formations line the roads to sights including Göreme Open-Air Museum's rock-cut frescoed churches and the Byzantine underground cities at Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu. Among the hot-air balloon trips, valley walks and horse riding, schedule some time to just sit and appreciate the fantastical landscape in çay-drinking villages such as Mustafapaşa, with its stone-carved Greek houses and 18th-century church.

Fly straight back to İstanbul or, if you have enough time and a penchant for Anatolia's mountains and steppe, continue by bus. Stop in Konya for lunch en route to Eğirdir, and tour the turquoise-domed Mevlâna Museum, containing the tomb of the Mevlâna (whirling dervish) order's 13th-century founder. Lakeside Eğirdir, with its road-connected island and crumbling old Greek quarter ringed by beaches and the Taurus Mountains (Toros Dağları), is a serene base for walking a section of the St Paul Trail. Possible day trips include the stunning ruins of Sagalassos, a Greco-Roman city at 1500m in the Taurus Mountains.

From Eğirdir, you can catch a bus back to İstanbul or fly from nearby Isparta. If spending your last night in Anatolian tranquility appeals more than the hustle-bustle of İstanbul, head to lakeside İznik, its Ottoman tile-making heritage on display between Roman-Byzantine walls. You will have to change buses in Eskişehir or Bursa to get there, while the final leg of the journey is a ferry across the Sea of Marmara to İstanbul.

Itineraries

Anatolian Circle

3 Weeks

This trip leaves out only eastern Anatolia, which is a mission in itself, and takes in both obscure gems and prime sights.

Begin with a few days among mosques, palaces and some 14 million folk in İstanbul, former capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. Next, head east to Safranbolu, with its winding streets of Ottoman mansions, before turning north to Amasra, where Turkish holidaymakers wander the Byzantine castle and eat fresh fish on the two harbours. Amasra is the beginning of the drive through rugged hills to Sinop, another pretty Black Sea port town and the birthplace of Greek philosopher Diogenes the Cynic.

Next, it's a six-hour bus journey via Samsun to Amasya, with its Ottoman houses, Pontic tombs and castle. Take it all in from a terrace by the Yeşilırmak River, and drink several tulip-shaped glasses of çay, before another long bus ride across the Anatolian steppe to Cappadocia. This enchanting land of fairy chimneys and cave churches is wholeheartedly back on the beaten track, but you can escape the tour buses by exploring the valleys on foot or horseback. Likewise, Göreme and Ürgüp are the usual bases, but you could stay in a less-touristy village such as Ortahisar, with its craggy castle. South of central Cappadocia, see rock-cut churches without the crowds in Soğanlı, where Byzantine monastic settlements occupy two valleys. Then head into the Ala Dağlar National Park for some of Turkey's most breathtaking scenery in the Taurus Mountains (Toros Dağları).

Konya, its magnificent mosques recalling its stint as capital of the Seljuk sultanate of Rum, makes a convenient lunch stop en route to Eğirdir. Lakeside Eğirdir has views of the Taurus Mountains and little-visited local sights such as Sagalassos, a ruined Greco-Roman city at an altitude of 1500m. There are more impressive classical ruins at Hierapolis, an ancient spa city overlooking the village of Pamukkale from atop the travertines, a mountain of calcite shelves. Nearby Afrodisias, once a Roman provincial capital, is equally incredible; you might have the 30,000-seat stadium to yourself.

From Denizli (near Pamukkale), it's just a few hours' journey by bus or train to Selçuk, base for visiting Ephesus. From Selçuk, you can fly back to İstanbul from nearby İzmir, or continue overland via our Classic Turkey itinerary.

Plan Your Trip

Turkey's Outdoors

Whether you want to sail over archaeological remains, tackle challenging summits or explore the countryside on horseback, Turkey offers superb playgrounds for active travellers from aspiring kayakers to dedicated skiers. Safety standards are good too, provided you stick to reputable operators with qualified, English-speaking staff.

Top Regions

Antalya & the Turquoise Coast

The Western Mediterranean offers the widest array of activities, including sea-kayaking, boat trips, diving, two waymarked walking trails, canyoning, rafting and paragliding.

Cappadocia

Excellent for a half- or full-day hike, with a surreal landscape of curvy valleys and fairy chimneys. There are also mountain-walking opportunities, horse-riding, and skiing on Erciyes Dağı (Mt Erciyes).

Eastern Anatolia

Head to the eastern wilds, especially the northern part, for mountain walking, white-water rafting, horse-riding, skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing.

South Aegean

Bring your swimming trunks to the more-popular stretch of the Aegean, where operators in spots such as Bodrum, Marmaris and Akyaka offer boat trips galore and water sports including diving, waterskiing, windsurfing and kite-boarding.

Walking & Trekking

Walking in Turkey is increasingly popular among both Turks and travellers, and a growing number of local and foreign firms offer walking holidays here. The country is blessed with numerous mountains, from the Taurus ranges in the southwest to the Kaçkars in the northeast, which all provide fabulous hiking opportunities. Hiking is also the best way to visit villages and sights rarely seen by holidaymakers, and it will give you a taste of life in rural Turkey.

Hiking options range from challenging multi-day hikes, such as the 500km Saint Paul trail from Perge near Antalya, through rural western Anatolia, and ending near Lake Eğirdir, to gentle afternoon strolls, such as in Cappadocia.

For more information on hiking in Turkey, visit Trekking in Turkey (www.trekkinginturkey.com) and Culture Routes in Turkey (www.cultureroutesinturkey.com).

Safety Advice

Bar a few well-known and well-maintained trails, most are not signposted and it's recommended to hire a guide, or at least seek local advice before setting off.

Weather conditions can fluctuate quickly between extremes, so come prepared and check the local conditions.

Day Walks

For half- and full-day walks, Cappadocia is unbeatable, with a dozen valleys that are easily negotiated on foot, around Göreme as well as the Ihlara Valley. These walks, one to several hours in length with minor gradients, are perfectly suited to casual walkers and even families. The fairy chimneys are unforgettable, and walking is the best way to do the landscapes and sights justice – and discover areas that travellers usually don't reach. After all, there aren't many places in the

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    I know about deadlines, and I know about padding word counts, but this is all "At Guney Dog you can enjoy freshly-squeezed, refreshing orange juice made from the freshest sweetest oranges." You know, instead of telling you if they have breakfast or, like, an otogar shuttle or something useful, right? It spends more time telling you about things that suck and to avoid than things it likes, which is never a good sign (and unconscionable in amazing Turkey). Also, she keeps her obsession with sceney git restaurant 360 in control here, but she doesn't other places, and for that and other reasons I can't quite forget how much Verity Cambell bugs me.