Six places you must visit in… Turkey

Turkey has become a great holiday destination for both beach lovers and culture vultures. Travel-mail rounds up the six places you must visit when planning your next trip…  1. STARTER RESORT Marmaris is a very good introduction to Turkey, a just-the-right-size resort on the south coast, set between mountains and a superb, sheltered bay hemmed in by islands. On the waterfront, silken-tongued salesmen will sell you trips ranging from jeep safaris through the pine-clad mountains of the Loryma Peninsula to a lazy day on Cleo patra’s Island, where the sand is said to have been shipped from Egypt by Mark Antony. My favourite trip is to Turtle Beach at Dalyan, a protected reserve for turtles on a three-mile-long sandy spit. Back in town, I recommend the hammam (Turkish bath) for the treatment reputedly devised to cure Cleopatra’s headaches. Image 2. NICE TROY Alone under a high 3,000-year-old wall, with only a wild tortoise for company, I stood in Troy, the setting for the greatest story ever told, outside the Bible. It was easy to conjure up those fabled warriors, Achilles, Ajax and Odysseus, the Greek soldiers tumbling out of that huge horse (see the replica at the entrance) and the wondrous beauty Helen, who triggered the siege. Enough of Troy’s ancient masonry survives to suggest that, whatever actually happened here, this was once a tremendous place. Close by are the Dardanelles, the narrow, history-rich neck of water dividing Asia and Europe. And on the other side, the dignified calm of the Gallipoli peninsula and its beaches, scene of the doomed Allied campaign in the First World War. Combine the two in a day trip. 3. SEEK CHIC Bodrum is one of Turkey’s most select resorts, at the foot of the west coast. By day, handsome ranks of white stucco houses with blue window frames shimmer on a green hill, bursting with bougainvillea, overlooking a dazzling blue bay. By night Bodrum basks in the glow of the lit-up St Peter’s Castle, built by the Knights of Rhodes with pieces of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which stood nearby. Today the castle houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, displaying riches recovered from wrecks – some 3,000 years old. Bodrum has a marina fit for the South of France, swanky hotels and high-decibel nightlife, complete with prowling paparazzi. But there’s perfect peace in the 15-mile-long peninsula to the west, with ancient terraced fields dotted with beehives. There are thrilling glimpses down to islands, capes, inlets and quiet villages with welcoming waterside restaurants. Image 4. BRIDGING CONTINENTS Istanbul, where two continents meet across the Bosphorus, is the European Capital of Culture for 2010. The ancient city is crammed with blockbusters from 2,500 years of history. There are Greek and Roman remains alongside the mystique, power and glitter of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The short ferry trip from Kadikoy in Asia to Eminonu in Europe (the best way to the centre from Sabiha Gokcen airport, used by easyJet) gives a perfect view of the old city, dominated by the Ottoman Topkapi Palace, the vast dome of the Aya Sophia (once the greatest cathedral in Christendom) and the fabulous Blue Mosque. The flip side of the city’s flat-out commotion is the nearby car-free Princes’ Islands, 45 minutes by ferry. 5. SUPER SOUTH Antalya, in Turkey’s deep south on the Mediterranean’s Turquoise Coast, is a resort doubling as an open museum, refreshed with springs gushing down from the Taurus Mountains. The old quarter is a tight swirl of red-roofed houses, threaded by narrow, cobbled streets. It sits above the marina, site of an old Roman port. The triumphal arch, honouring a visit by Emperor Hadrian, still stands. Greek, Roman and Byzantine antiquities litter the coast and the mountains above. There are easy day trips to ancient sites such as Perge, Side and Aspendos. My pick is the high and impregnable mountaintop city of Termessos, one of the few places to resist Alexander the Great. The Lycian Way, a 320-mile path between Antalya and Fethiye, is one of the world’s finest long walks. Image 6. LAZY DAYS Top of my list of Turkish holiday experiences is a lazy, bay-hopping jaunt by boat  round the coast. The south and south-west coasts are the very best locations, and day (or shorter) trips are available from most resorts. They follow roughly the same magical formula. Sail for a bit. Then drop anchor for a swim in some empty cove, followed by lunch aboard.

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Photographs of plovers.

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This shot was taken as the fading rays of the setting sun broke through an overcast sky in Sandy Point State Reservation last July. It won’t be too long from now that the shorebird numbers will start increasing with the spring migration, and I hope to get out there to photograph them. Plum Island (which contains both the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and the Sandy Point State Reservation) gets red knots passing through each year — and it’s my goal to photograph one in their gorgeous spring colors.

Sunrise Sandwich..

Last summer, I spent a week photographing a colony of sandwich terns which nest on an island near to my home. The only way of getting to the island is by boat and the earliest departure is at 7:00am. I really wanted to shoot the birds bathed in golden morning light so I slept overnight in the hide to be ready at 4:00am, in time for sunrise. Just as the sun started to peak over the horizon, the adults were already streaming in and out of the colony, shuttling freshly caught fish to their hungry chicks.

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The birds flew out of the colony to my right and upon returning, the adults with nests to my far left flew, right in front of the rising sun. They’re fairly fast flyers and tracking them full frame with the 800mm lens I was using was very difficult. I found I had a much higher hit rate if I focused on the birds flying past a little further away and as a result, I managed to catch this adult just before it past in front of the blinding sun-ball..

Istanbul Private Sunset Yacht Cruise

There is so much to see aboard a sunset cruise in this impressive waterway from the comfort of your own private Bosphorus Cruise Luxury Yacht. Watch the enormous round domes, luxury homes, and impressive minarets fill the skyline. Enjoy the flickering city lights consuming the sky with their vast pervasive luminance, exuding beauty as the soothing music aboard the yacht becomes a truly melodic symphony of an elegant cruising experience unlike anything you could ever imagine. Watch the city lights bounce and dance across the ripples in the water, from Asia all the way to Europe, displaying profusions of spectacular colors; gold, red, and orange.

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The evening is consumed by magic and shrouded in mystical enchantment. The cruise is perfect for romantic dinners and also for family celebrations.

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When the cruise is finished, you can choose to be dropped of at your hotel, or in front of one of the famous and fashionable nightlife spots along the Bosphorus shore.

Cruise Ports.

Ask for the ride of your dreams.

Things to do in Cruise Ship Ports

Knowing that cruise ship passengers have such limited time ashore, we’ve created this section to help you maximize your time while in port, with the confidence that after even one day in Turkey will lure you to return to explore the country with more time.

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Istanbul

There’s no time to waste in this city of superlatives, so grab your day pack and hurry, as there’s so much to see, experience and eat. Begin with the fascinating basilica of Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), the stunning mosaics of St. Savior in Chora and the Greek-inspired Hippodrome, and grand cisterns left behind by ancient Rome and Byzantium. Next see the grand monuments representing the early Ottoman Empire: the exotic Topkapi Palace and its Museum, the magnificent Blue Mosque and the shopping extravaganza that is the Kapali Çarsi (Grand Bazaar).

The latter half of the Ottoman Empire saw a society looking westward, and this European influence is abundant in the beautiful Beaux Arts hall of the Çiçek Pasaji , the passages of the Balik Pazari, and the fabulously grand 19th century buildings lining Istiklâl Caddesi.

Increasingly, visitors to Istanbul are recognizing that the city’s main attractions are not all in its past. As the cultural and intellectual capital of Turkey, Istanbul is a showcase of contemporary art and cutting edge fashion. You can sample this excitement at countless galleries throughout the city, beginning at the Istanbul Modern and working your way up along the newly trendy streets of Galata and hip alleyways of Beyoglu.

Take a break from the ship’s cuisine to try a dizzying variety of appetizers called Mezze, savory kebabs or gourmet cuisine in a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus Sea.

Stay ashore past your bedtime to partake in Istanbul’s vibrant nightlife. From intimate cafes to boisterous meyhanes, from folk music to concerts in the Church of Hagia Irene, the city offers a taste of every musical genre.

Kusadasi

Centuries ago, trade ships and maritime commerce called to port directly into the harbor of Ephesus. But the sands of time have moved the coastline miles to the west, and now the bustling cruise ship port and beach resort town of Kusadasi is the gateway to one of the most important ancient cities in all of the Mediterranean.

In one day on shore, it is possible to see one of the most famous and largest archeological sites in the world – Ephesus. Also be sure to visit the Great Theater where St. Paul preached, the Roman basilica where St. John is buried, the House of the Virgin Mary, said to be the place where Jesus’ mother lived out her final days and the solitary soaring column remaining from the Temple of Artemis, one of the Wonders of the Ancient World.

Be sure to leave time to enjoy the scenery outside of the archaeological site, because your cruise ship has deposited you on the beach along one of the most splendid sections of the Aegean, a region with a relaxed approach to life and leisure. A sampling of the good life can be had up in the mountain valley of Sirinçe, a charming terraced village whose residents follow in the footsteps of the original Greek inhabitants in their tradition of wine making.

Like most of Turkey’s coastal towns and villages, Kusadasi,’s roots were as a fishing village. With its colorful fish market adjacent to the cruise port, the town still has its share of local fishermen, supplying a wealth of fresh seafood to restaurants along the shoreline.

If by chance you happen to find yourself with two days in port, consider an excursion to the cities of Miletus, Priene and Didyma, part of the historic land of Ionia,  birthplace of Homer, of Thales and of western thought.

Besides a peek through the marvel that is Ephesus or the pages of Ionia, the truth is that Kusadasi is first and foremost a beach town surrounded by the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea. Stake your claim to a little spot of sand behind the town’s causeway-connected, castle-topped Pigeon Island, on an expanse of City Beach, on the powdery sands of infamous Ladies Beach or on the serene and pine-scented shores of Dilek National Park.

Bodrum

One of the initial attractions for cruise ship passengers arriving into the chic resort town of Bodrum is St. Peter’s Castle, its commanding presence dominating the entire magnificent bay. Once the fortress used by the Knights of St. John then conquered by the Ottoman’s Sultan Süleyman the Great, St. Peter’s Castle is now home to the pioneering Museum of Underwater Archaeology, exhibiting a wealth of rescued artifacts such as the world’s oldest shipwreck.

Beyond the port and atop this little harbor town of whitewashed stone houses is the Antique Theater, a remnant from the heyday of Halicarnassus. Hidden amidst the warren of narrow cobbled alleys is the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, another of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World located on Turkey’s shores.

Leave time to explore the bustling markets, to sample Bodrum’s delectable showcase of local produce, to purchase a pair of famous hand-crafted leather sandals or to swim, snorkel and scuba the area’s clear waters from the deck of a traditional, wooden gulet.

Yet if Bodrum is famous for its history as the birthplace of Herodotus, it is even more renowned today as the epicenter of Turkey’s nightlife scene. Artists and performers of all nationalities and specialties love to play to Bodrum’s evocative settings, curating concerts presented in castles, amphitheaters and in restored Byzantine basilicas.

Trabzon, Black Sea

Trabzon served as an important port as far back as 7,000 B.C. and today, the city’s historic churches and mosques and the surrounding countryside’s forests and monasteries continue to welcome the curious and the intrepid.  Most certainly, the extraordinarily sited Sumela Monastery, hewn into Mt. Karadag (Mela) high above the surrounding forests, is a must see for all who venture to this special corner of the Black Sea.

After days acquiring your sea legs, you may want to ground yourself with an excursion to the idyllic lakefront villages and pastorally sloping mountain terrain at Uzungöl. The landscape is rife with trails and dotted with characteristic village inns serving tasty regional specialties with traditional hospitality in some of the lushest and most  striking scenery in all of Turkey.

In the city of Trabzon itself, the cylindrical drum-topped Church of the Hagia Sophia harkens back to the golden days of Byzantium, its magnificent interior frescos as remarkable as those that adorn its namesake in Istanbul.

The Blue Voyage

Take one dazzling broad-beamed skiff, place it atop the timeless waters of Turkey’s southwestern coastline, add ancient harbors dressed in fallen pediments and decorative friezes, and sprinkle on a generous portion of secluded coves embraced by sheer, pine clad cliffs.  That is the Blue Voyage.

This timeless trip through history and nature offers the promise of an unforgettable experience, where at once you may sail along the pristine waters navigated by Homer, explore ancient cities conquered by Caesar, and swim along the shores seduced by Cleopatra.

Extended cruises lasting up to a week or more usually center around the wakes left by Lycian ships plying their way along the shores of Marmaris, Fethiye, and Antalya, or along the lesser traveled islets and coves stretching from Çesme to Bodrum and into the heart of the Gökova Gulf. The experience is one that can be enjoyed on your very own private chartered gulet or yacht, or shared with soon-to-be lifelong friends on boats rented out by the cabin.

For those lacking the luxury of time, countless expertly captained day boats depart from these and other ports and harbors up and down Turkey’s coastline, offering shorter term guests a sampling of picturesque bays and remote coves dressed in ancient ruins that can turn a day out on the water into the experience of a lifetime..

Turkish Cuisine

The food culture of a society is closely related to its way of living. It develops over the course of time according to changes in the way of living.  Many years ago, the Turks led a nomadic life, depending on agriculture and breeding domestic animals, as other societies had done in other parts of the world.
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Once living conditions became unfavourable in Central Asia, they moved south westwards and there were new plants and animals in these new settlements. As the Turks became familiar with their new surroundings, they gradually began to rear animals and plant crops specific to the region; invented simple methods to process the foods they produced; they also learned to store some of these foods for winter months.

Most Turkish dishes are good combinations of well balanced foods and/or ingredients. For example: Dolma and Sarma (stuffed and wrapped vegetables), soups made with lentils, meat and vegetables, rice or bulgur from Bread-Cereals group and finally yogurt, which is served with most of these dishes. Meat and vegetable stews are always served with rice or bulgur pilafs. The main ingredient of Borek is plain or raised dough made from egg, milk, yogurt, oil and flour.      

Meat, cheese, vegetables with herbs and a variety of seasonings are used as fillings in borek.  Yogurt-based soups with a variety of cereals and meat and /or legume mixtures are also perfect combinations. Dried legumes are combined with vegetables, meat and cereals. Pilafs are made with meat, chicken, fish and or variety vegetables. Pilafs are also good side dishes for dried vegetables.  They are usually served with ayran or cacik.  Kebabs are prepared with vegetables and served with Turkish bread pilaffs and ayran.

Desserts are mostly pastry-based, and commonly include nuts and syrup. The most popular desserts include Baklava, lokma, tulumba tatlisi, kadayif and kunefe.

Top Reasons to Visit

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A Turkey vacation maybe the perfect choice for you because it is a travel heaven and a tourist hotspot. Turkey is one of the top ten destinations in the world, according to number of visitors and revenues. Are you still wondering “why go to Turkey?” Here are some Turkey information and the top 10 reasons why a Turkey vacation is the ideal getaway.

1. Sun and Sea Lovers’ Paradise: The unique Mediterranean climate and beautiful nature of Turkey allows almost 6 months of summertime in southern parts, especially in Antalya and Bodrum which are the most popular “sun and sea” tourist destinations. The sandy beaches are splendid and the sea, especially the Aegean coastline, is the most amazing. It is a mildly cold sea that allows for a refreshing experience.Blue Voyage or Blue Crusing is the most favorite way to visit all the beaches with a yacht while enjoying the “turquoise” sea. This may surely be the highlight of your Turkey vacation.

2. History: Turkey is extraordinary rich in history. Did you know that Turkey hosts the most arhaeological sites in the world? Anatolia is the birthplace of many civilizations, empires, historic figures and legends. One of the oldest known human inhabited areas is in Çatalhöyük, Konya dating back to 6500 BC. Ephesus (Temple of Artemis), City of Troy,Cappadocia and the cave church of St.Peter are among some of the countless important sites to visit in your Turkey vacation.

3. Accommodation: Turkey has the most amazing luxury and boutique hotels in the world, especially in Antalya region. The lavishness and the extravaganza in these hotels are probably unmatched since most of them cater to Russian oligarchs and tourists as well. On the other side, you may find the most beautiful hotels at very affordable rates due to intense competition among travel agencies.

4. Shopping: Authentic gifts, carpets, rugs, kilims are among the tourist favorites and shopping is breeze if you know where to go. There are more artistic features and special creativity in Turkish carpets than any other carpet in the world.

5. Culture: Turkey’s population is a diverse mixture of many different ethnic origins and that shows when you visit different regions of the country. Each region has different traditions, their own arts, music and foklore, and even their eating habits are totaly unique to the region. Even though they all pride themselves in being Turks, this multicultural environment adds great richness to the country.

6. Eating: Turkish cuisine is among the best in the world. It is a fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. There are so many culinary delights like the Turkish tea, Turkish coffee and the famous Turkish delight. You can find these almost anywhere in Turkey, while the most delicious kebabs are in souteastern part. The foods that are brought in small portions before the main course are called “Meze” in Turkish and they are fabulous. They are usually consumed with the most famous Turkish alcoholic drink called “Raki” (anise flavoured national drink). It is also referred to as the “lion’s milk”. Fish also holds a very important place in Turkish cuisine and Fish restaurants and taverns can be found near the bay areas.

7. Turkish Bath – Hamam – Spa Experience: This is definitely a must if you are intending to visit Turkey. Turkish Bath or hamam as it is called here, will help you relax and unwind and get rid of all your nervous energies. A Turkish Spa is also a favorite among tourists nowadays since it combines traditional hamam experience with more Far Eastern touches like using aromatic smells and certain massages.

8. Nature Sports: If you are into nature sports you are in the right place. Hiking, trekking, mountain biking, river rafting, scuba diving, windsurfing, wave surfing, kite surfing, paragliding, parasailing, skiing, jet-skiing are among the many nature sports that you can truly enjoy in Turkey. One more Turkey information: The golfing industry has grown very fast over the last few years and Turkey established itself as one of the leading golf destinations in Europe. The golf courses especially in Belek, Antalya are spectacular.

9. Business Opportunities: Turkey is one of the largest economies in the world yet it is still considered a developing nation. This provides enormous business and investing opportunities, especially in the real estate sector. Your Turkey vacation may turn into a great investing decision as well.

10. Relatively Cheap: Turkey’s national currency is Turkish Lira. Compared to Euro or Dollar, in terms of buying power, it is weaker. This presents an advantage to travellers who convert their Euros or Dollars to TL and buy stuff in TL. An important tip: Immediately convert your foreign currencies to TL upon arrival to Turkey and pay everything in TL.