To understand this amazing country and to savour its rich culture and heritage, one must opt for the very best experiences of Turkey to get a glimpse of this land which is blessed with the very best of European feel coupled with oriental charm.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque/ Blue Mosque
The most iconic landmark of Turkey is the stunning Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as Blue Mosque. Its famous spires and blue tiled domes have become the cultural symbol of Turkey. However, nothing compares to a visit inside which draws admiration because of its intricate and beautiful interiors made of blue and orange coloured tiles, ornate calligraphy, extensive chandeliers and an aura highlighting the glorious era of the Turkish Empire. Built in 1616, the Blue Mosque is the finest example of Ottoman architecture and retains its grandeur and significance in the Turkish society.
Hagia Sophia is an important cultural heritage of Turkey, and is now an important museum. Initially built in 537 AD, it served as an Eastern Orthodox Church before being converted into the Imperial Mosque during the Ottoman Empire, before finally being converted into a museum in 1935. The Hagia Sophia also known as Ayasofya, has preserved its Christian and Islamic elements and in true essence is the symbol of Turkey’s progressiveness and secularism.
Located inside the walled city of Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world. There is a maze of 61 streets and close to 4000 shops selling authentic artefacts, carpets, pewter utensils, precious fabrics, jewellery, leather goods, interior items, spices and many more. History and culture is best evident in the Grand Baazar which draws millions of visitors and local each day in Istanbul.
The official residence and power centre of Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years in its 624-year reign, Topkapi Palace is the symbol of the bygone glorious eras and an empire which once controlled trade and politics of Europe, West Asia and North Africa. The palace contains important historic relics of the Islamic world including the Prophet Muhammad’s cloak and sword. The Palace ceased to serve as the official residence after the construction of the European style Dolmabahce Palace. However, the Topkapi Palace remain relevant because of the imperial treasury, the royal library and the mint.
The Bosphorus Cruise
The Bosphorus Strait separates the continental Europe and Asia and for several centuries has been the lifeline of the Asia Minor. A cruise in the Bosphorus is a timeless affair and is one of the most popular activities to enjoy while in Turkey. As you glide along the narrow strait, you will admire the layers of history starting from the Byzantium era to modern day cultural heritages of Turkey which include the world famous Bosphorus Bridge and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, which connects the European and Asian parts of Istanbul.
Pamukkale Thermal Pools
Pamukkale is a stunning geological wonder which is now part of UNESCO World Heritage sites of Turkey. Pamukkale’s famous terraces formed because of carbonate minerals left by flowing hot waters has medicinal properties. Tourism has been the major industry of the region for over thousands of years. The natural springs and pools are well preserved and there is also a museum which highlights the geological, historical and cultural significance of Pamukkale, a major symbol of the Turkish consciousness.
Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia
Hot air ballooning over the lunar landscape of Cappadocia and mystical underground city of Goreme is gaining popularity with the tourists. Enjoy a hot air balloon ride and admire the sweeping panorama of a lunar landscape dotted with mystical rock formations, rock-cut cities, manmade rock caves and series of hidden trails which initially helped the persecuted early Christians to survive until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Once your hot air balloon ride is over, do take a tour and explore the underground city of Goreme which is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Gallipoli is the founding rock from which modern day Turkey rose after the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in the First World War that saw heavy causalities and became an important part of the national consciousness of three countries – Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. Each year, 25th April, the landing day of allied forces in Gallipoli, is celebrated as the ANZAC Day. Thousands of Turkish warriors lay in rest with Australian, New Zealander and British soldiers in peace. This year in 2015, ANZAC Day will celebrate its 100th year of commemoration. Gallipoli will once again see an invasion by the Australians and New Zealanders in droves to pay their respect to the fallen warriors. Gallipoli is not just a graveyard; it’s the foundation of modern day Australia, New Zealand and Turkey.
Turkey’s famous Whirling Dervishes is now a celebrated UNESCO World Heritage status and is one of the ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. It is performed by the Mevlevi Order, formed in the 13th century by the followers of Persian poet, jurist and theologian Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. The sect still continues to exist but they have left their political ideals in favour of the promotion of the sacred art. Any visit to Turkey seems incomplete without a glimpse of the Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul or the birth place of the sect, Konya.
Turkish cuisine is rich in flavours and comprises the best elements of Baltic, Slavic, Mediterranean, Lebanese and Arabic cuisines. The delicious koftas, kebabs and stuffed eggplants are must savour items of Turkey along with regional specialities. Dairy products, soups, meat products, fishes, breads, salads are the general components of Turkish cuisine. Do savour the famous Turkish coffee and the local beverage of Raki.