Turkey Dropdown content is the most accessible of the Middle Eastern nations. A natural land bridge, it connects the eastern part of Europe to the Caucasus, and the viridian Black Sea coast to the arid Arab peninsula. With Emirates, Etihad and most major airlines serving flights to Istanbul, you can easily fly from Europe, the United States and Asia.
Yet with its proximity to war-torn
Truth be told, certain remarks from Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have not helped the country's global reputation. But that’s exactly why you should visit now: Erdoğan is not Turkey; its people are. Go now to experience the incredible hospitality of the Turks first hand – on the ground, Turkey really is another world from what is described in newspaper headlines.
Whether you decide to travel slowly by train from Istanbul to Erzurum, the gateway to eastern Anatolia, or fly with one of the major airlines from Istanbul to Kayseri to marvel at the eerie rock formations of
For the most part yes, it is. But the Kurdish areas in the southeastern corner of the country – literally facing war-torn Syria – can be unpredictable. While traveller message boards report that it's generally safe to visit the layered city of Mardin, the unofficial capital of Turkish Kurdistan, Diyarbakır, still sees occasional unrest. But remember – Turkish people are charming, chatty folks who never shy away from sharing a witty conversation over a glass of tea. And even if English speakers thin out the more one travels east, language barriers don’t change the fact that the hospitality is always top-notch.
If you don't fancy flying with one of the major Middle Eastern carriers (and you're feeling adventurous), Turkey is one of the world's easiest countries to hitchhike — it's often possible to cover up to 800km in a single day. However, solo women travellers should be aware that the most conservative pockets of Turkish society are not used to seeing women travelling alone.
Few know of any city besides the obvious Istanbul and capital city Ankara. But among the underrated highlights there’s
About 50km away, the Sumela Hanging Monastery, hemmed into the side of a sheer cliff, is one of the Middle East’s most powerful sights. You can stay at Ts Park Hotel, an 18th-century building renovated to boutique hotel that is within walking distance of Trabzon’s best sights.
Another gem is
Izmir is also the perfect gateway to explore the Aegean coast, striking off to the amazingly preserved ancient city of Ephesus, or moving eastwards to the kaleidoscopic travertine terraces of Pamukkale. If you feel like splurging, base yourself at the Renaissance Izmir Hotel, right in the centre of the action.
In general, anywhere outside of Istanbul and the Aegean coast sees very few visitors. An eastern Anatolian highlight is the city of Van, set next to Turkey's
Nature lovers and hikers could try all or part of the
A delicate concoction of Mediterranean and Asian tastes,
Last but not least, a great icebreaker for Turkish people is to invite their guests to share a meal. Refusing is not just plain rude, but a missed opportunity to visit their homes and bring back unique cultural experiences.
Outside the more conservative cities of the Anatolian plains, it’s easy to go beyond stereotypes and get a feel for the nation’s cultural beat on the Aegean coast – and, of course, in never-dormant Istanbul. You may want to time your visit with the Istanbul Book Fair, Turkey’s largest literary event held annually since 1982. If you're lucky, you’ll catch a sight of Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk, one of Turkey’s most forward-thinking voices.
The area surrounding Istanbul's Istiklal Caddesi, a pedestrian road that leads from Tünel Square to central Taksim Square, is full of tiny side alleys where hundreds of small restaurants, cafés and clubs offer all kinds of nightlife, staying open 24 hours on weekends. This is where you'll find bands – from Anatolian folk ensembles to blues, jazz, reggae, hip-hop, and even heavy metal groups – performing throughout the night.
This feature is in collaboration with Wego.ae, a leading travel search engine and app for accommodation and flights in the Middle East and North Africa. All recommendations remain editorially independent. Top image: Cappadocia ©Olena Tur/Shutterstock