Linking Europe and the Middle East, suspended between the new and the long-established, Turkey retains a disconcerted balance of both east and west, representing a cultural mix with many discrepancies and contradictions. Modern city boutiques and exotic bazaars clamour for customers, the weekly tolling of church bells interrupts the daily call of the muezzin, and Roman ruins and the beginnings of Christianity compete for attention with the history of the Ottoman Empire and modern secularity.
The different regions of Turkey offer an assortment of landscapes, activities and characters, and whether one is a history or archaeology enthusiast, a sun-worshipper, sailor, or city-lover keen on shopping, there is something on offer for everyone. Istanbul, with one part in Europe and the other in Oriental Asia, is a fascinating city with its frenzied market places, imperial residences and minarets, and sporting a lively ambience of contemporary art and musical entertainment. Cappadocia in Central Turkey offers an astounding landscape of eroded volcanic rock cones and fairy chimneys, remarkable subterranean cities and rock-hewn houses that merge harmoniously with the ochre-coloured landscape; while further south the 'Turquoise Coast' is a haven for boat cruises. One can enjoy a variety of water sports, sunbathe on golden sands, or explore the wonderful ancient cities of Troy and Ephesus on the shores of the Aegean Sea.
Most visitors concentrate on Western Turkey, with its picturesque seaside resorts along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, scenic and recreational attractions, well-preserved archaeological sites and fascinating museums that bring its rich history to life. Wherever one ventures in Turkey there is certain to be a warm welcome and traditional hospitality, making this a deeply satisfying corner of the world in which to travel.
The official currency is the New Turkish Lira (TRY), which was
introduced on 1 January 2005, whereby six zeros were dropped from
the TL and the sub-unit New Kurush was created. Currency can be
exchanged at banks, exchange booths, post offices, airports and
ferry ports; banks have the worst rates and highest commissions,
but will exchange lesser known foreign currencies. Banks open
mainly Monday to Friday, but some are open daily in tourist areas.
ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas, but
Turkish ATM keypads usually do not have letters of the alphabet on
their keys. Most bank branches have ATMs which accept Cirrus and
Plus. Major credit cards are widely accepted; the most popular are
Visa or MasterCard, but American Express is accepted in many of the
more expensive places. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at some
banks and currency exchange offices, but are not as welcome as cash
or credit cards. US dollars or Euros are preferred. Some pensions
and hotels in the most popular destinations accept US dollars as
|TRY 1 =||US$ 0.54||Â£ 0.35||C$ 0.55||A$ 0.52||R 4.55||EUR 0.42||NZ$ 0.68|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
There are no vaccination requirements, although a typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travellers, unless coming for a short period and only eating in major hotels and restaurants (e.g. business travellers or cruise ship passengers). There is a risk of malaria in the south-eastern part of the country, but not in the main tourist areas in the west and south-west of the country, although mosquitoes can still be an irritation in summer. Most tap water in the larger towns and cities has been chlorinated, but bottled water is still recommended for drinking. Food from street vendors should be treated with caution. Medical facilities and standard of health care are not high in state hospitals and private health insurance is recommended. Modern facilities exist in private hospitals in Ankara and Istanbul.
All passports must be valid for at least the period of stay. All travellers to Turkey are required to hold return or onward tickets, documents for the next destination and sufficient funds for the period of their stay. Entry may be refused to those of unkempt appearance. Visas on entry incur a fee of around US$20 and must be paid for in cash. Passengers without a clean appearance and unable to show sufficient funds for the duration of their intended stay in Turkey may be refused entry. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Turkish Tourist Office: +90 (0)212 573 4136 (Istanbul) or www.tourismturkey.org
Foreign Embassies in Turkey
The splendid city of Istanbul has many unique and fascinating features. It is the only city in the world reaching across two continents, with its old city in Europe and modern Istanbul situated in Asia, separated by the Bosphorus Strait. It is also unique in having had capital status during two successive empires, Christian Byzantine and Islamic Ottoman, and the legacy from both is visible in the modern city today.
Istanbul's location on the water made it a much coveted site as a commercial shipping port and military lookout, and as capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, as it was known, became extremely desirable as a centre of world trade, until Mehmet the Conqueror claimed it for the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and it became the imperial seat of the sultans. After the War of Independence the capital was moved to Ankara, but Istanbul still remains the commercial, historical and cultural heart of Turkey today.
The charm and character of Istanbul lies in its endless variety and jumble of contradictions. Its fascinating history has bequeathed the city a vivid inheritance of Byzantine ruins, splendid palaces, ancient mosques and churches, hamams (bath-houses) and exotic bazaars. Modern Istanbul exudes trendy bars and nightclubs, western boutiques, office blocks, and elegant suburbs. The call to prayer heralds the start of each day and the city comes to life with over 11 million residents forming a chaotic social and cultural mix of unscrupulous carpet merchants, wealthy shoppers, religiously veiled women and destitute beggars. Joining the noisy throng are over-awed tourists and those capitalising on the tourist trade.
The Aegean Coast possesses some of the most spectacular and significant of Turkey's archaeological sites with a rich cultural legacy from early Greek, Roman and Ottoman civilisations. The ancient cities of Ephesus and Troy are permeated with the past, where amphitheatres, chariot-rutted streets and columns reek of historical importance. It was here that St Paul laid the foundations for the beginnings of Christianity, and where the face of legendary beauty, Helen of Troy, 'launched a thousand ships'.
Besides historical attractions, the Aegean is known for its magnificent coastal scenery and long stretches of sandy beaches, where pine trees and olive groves clad the hills surrounding popular resorts like Bodrum and Kusadasi. Inland, the calcium-rich mineral springs that surge over the edge of a mountain plateau at Pamukkale form Turkey's leading mineral spa and is one of the most celebrated natural attractions in the area. The city of Izmir, once famous for its figs, is today the modern capital of the region, and a major port and busy commercial centre, with good hotels and restaurants.
Cappadocia occupies the centre of Turkey, the region between the Black Sea in the north and the Taurus Mountains, between the capital Ankara and the city of Malatya to the east. Famous for its spectacular natural rock formations and valleys, Goreme National Park, as it is known today, is strewn with underground cities, stone chapels, monasteries and dwellings that were hewn out of the weirdly eroded volcanic rock from as long ago as 400 BC.
Thousands of years of wind and rain erosion on a landscape of soft volcanic stone topped with hardened larva caps has created a fascinating landscape of rock cones and pinnacles that are known as 'fairy chimneys'. The Valley of Fairy Chimneys is the most popular area, roughly within the triangle formed by the three main towns of the region, Avanos, Urgup and the main transport hub of Nevsehir.
Outside the triangle to the south are the remarkable underground cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli, where layers of tunnels and an intricate system of caves hid generations of settlers and sheltered early Christians fleeing persecution. The Ilhara Canyon is another religious hideaway with more than 100 painted churches and about 4,000 dwellings carved into the rock walls or concealed within the cliffs; its river bed and lush vegetation stand in stark contrast to the dusty, seemingly barren land above.
Cave dwellings, ancient monasteries and painted chapels are well camouflaged, with entranceways that are barely noticeable among a landscape of perforated cliff walls and rock fissures. Houses of volcanic stone blend unobtrusively into the natural surroundings, pigmented in natural shades of ochre and yellow, to pinks, greys and greens, and many people still inhabit the cones and chimney formations. In tourist towns such as Goreme, delightful little hotels and pensions are built partially into the rock or are housed within a rock cone and offer cave-style rooms.
The coastline along the Mediterranean Sea is an alluring destination, renowned for its magnificent scenery with picturesque coves and rocky headlands, turquoise waters, golden beaches and pine forests. The beautiful landscape, where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean is the beginning of the Turquoise Coast, dominated by the mountains of the Taurus range whose cliffs plunge into the sea of intense blue. Further along the Mediterranean one reaches the Turkish Riviera as it is known, the region of Antalya; and together these make up the tourism capital of Turkey. Simple villages share the water's edge with sophisticated resorts, and fishing vessels and pleasure yachts mingle together in the sheltered harbours. Endless days of sunshine make it a paradise for boat cruises, sunbathing and swimming and numerous water sports, and there are a variety of restaurants and bars to round off a day on the water.
The coast also boasts a rich cultural legacy from early civilisations and is imbued with history and legend, found in ancient cities and at sites such as the fires of Chimaera at Olympos, and numerous ruins dotted about the countryside.
East and west fuse together perfectly in Turkey's capital city of Ankara, where shades of the mystical east and ancient civilisations lie partially hidden among 20th-century office buildings, shopping malls and government offices. The city is imbued with the spirit of modernity and youth, this being a student town filled with language schools, universities, colleges and military bases. It also has a vast ex-pat community (most of it diplomatic), which adds to the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Situated on a rocky hill in the dry, barren region of Anatolia, this humming city can trace its history back to the bronze age, and has been a part of historic events through several great civilisations, including the Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greek, Romans, Galatians and Ottomans. Alexander the Great was one of the conquerors who stayed in the city for a while, and today's tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to unearthing the city's historic attractions.
With a population of well over four million, Ankara is a deserving capital city, aptly named as the 'anchor' of Turkey, perhaps not always sought after by tourists but certainly entertaining hordes of business travellers and those seriously intrigued with ancient history.
The old heart of the city (Ulus) is centred on an ancient citadel on a hilltop, where many historic buildings have been restored, many having been turned into restaurants serving traditional Turkish cuisine. In this area there are several Roman archaeological sites, and narrow alleys shelter shops selling eastern delights like leather, carpets, copper, spices and jewellery. From the heart outwards, the city spreads across various hills in modern splendour, carefully planned by the city fathers after Turkey's independence fighter, Ataturk, set up provisional government in what was just a small dusty town back in 1920, after the first World War. Ataturk brought in European urban planners to create his proclaimed capital, and he lies here today in his lofty mausoleum, the Anitkabir, in a green 'peace' park, amid the wide boulevards he created.
Apart from archaeological sites, the most interesting things to see in Ankara are the many museums, and the beautiful parks, like Kugulu Park, renowned for its graceful swans, and the Genclik Park with its rowing pond and botanical garden.
Travel Guide powered by www.wordtravels.com, copyright © Globe Media Ltd. All rights reserved. By its very nature much of the information in this guide is subject to change at short notice and travellers are urged to verify information on which they're relying with the relevant authorities. Globe Media does not accept any responsibility for any loss or inconvenience to any person as a result of information contained above.