Fall in love with Turkey’s historic sites and breathtaking wonders in 2020…
Is Turkey on your bucket list? Are you keen to explore buzzing, bustling Istanbul? Are you looking to swim in the warm waters of the Turkish Riviera, or uncover the hidden wonders of Cappadocia and Ephesus? With a brand new decade on the horizon, there is no better time to satisfy your wanderlust and head off to magical Turkey. If you need a nudge, we’ve put together a list of just some of the country’s unforgettable sites.
1. Istanbul’s Blue Mosque
Easily one of the most beautiful buildings in the world… Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) is a breathtaking composition of columns, domes, stained glass windows, tile work and chandeliers. Built over 400 years ago by Sultan Ahmet I to reassert Ottoman power in the region, the mosque is still used as a place of worship today.
Need to know
Visitors to the mosque should be aware that they will need to remove their shoes before entering the mosque (plastic bags are provided free of charge). They should also wear appropriately modest clothing (avoid vests, leggings or shorts).
Head scarfs are available at the entrance to the mosque and women are required to cover their hair. It’s a good idea to check prayer times, as the mosque is closed five times a day for prayer.
Visits to the mosque are free of charge, but you can make a donation to help maintain the mosque if you wish.
Also: Istanbul is an Instagrammer’s dream. The city’s palaces, bridges, buildings and streets are awash with colour and life. Visitors should take in the Grand Bazaar or consider a food tour of the city. A must-see is the Bosporus strait (which separates Europe and Asia) during a hop on/hop off boat cruise.
2. The ‘fairy chimneys’ of Cappadocia
Possibly the most iconic images of Cappadocia are of hundreds of hot air balloons floating across the region’s uniquely lunar landscape. But even more captivating are the ‘fairy chimneys’ at Pasabag (Monks Valley), Goreme.
These wondrous, geographical formations were sculpted by centuries of wind and water erosion. Capped like mushrooms, the columns are referred to as ‘fairy chimneys’ by the locals, as according to folklore, the area was once inhabited by fairies who lived deep underground. In fact, the ‘fairy chimneys’ did have their fair share of inhabitants over the years, including a hermitage of Simeon monks!
Cappadocia is famous for its caves and underground cities, and visitors should definitely visit the Zelve Open-Air Museum. This unforgettable ‘cave town’ once housed one of the largest communities in Cappadocia.
3. The natural rock pools of Pamukkale
Pamukkale’s beautiful rock pools (also known as the Cotton Castle Springs) are one of Turkey’s most striking natural wonders. This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts 17 hot springs (with water temperatures ranging between 35 and 100 degrees Celsius). According to Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation in South Africa, this is a real highlight of any trip to Turkey.
“Both Trafalgar’s ‘Best of Turkey’ itinerary and Costsaver’s 2020 ‘Wonders of Turkey’ trip take in the pools at Pamukkale. The beautiful blue of the shallow pools and the white-terraced landscape is something to behold! And a visit to the ancient Roman spa of Hierapolis gives visitors a chance to take a dip in the hot mineral waters.”
Also: The Turkish countryside is incredibly beautiful. Take a drive south, through the Taurus Mountains to Antalya. Guests of Trafalgar can stop en-route for lunch with the Yazir community. This ‘Be My Guest’ experience is unique to Trafalgar and gives guests the opportunity to really experience local food, cultures and traditions.
4. The turquoise waters of Fethiye
It’s hard to beat the crystal clear waters of Turkey’s ‘Turquoise Coast’ – and in particular the Gulf of Fethiye. These turquoise waters are home to an archipelago of 12 islands.
Traditional wooden gülets anchored in the bay make for incredible insta-worthy photographs, and if you’re tired of soaking in the views or lying in the sun, Fethiye itself is a bustling port with a wonderful market, shops, restaurants and bars.
No visit to Fethiye is complete without a visit to the famous Ölüdeniz lagoon. Its picture-postcard scenery and calm waters make it one of Turkey’s most photographed destinations.
Southwest Turkey is home to many wonders – both natural and historical. Take a taxi boat to Butterfly Valley, a breathtaking canyon which is home to beautiful waterfalls, walking trails and more than 105 butterfly species!
For history buffs, Fethiye was the site of the ancient Lycian city of Telmessos, and visitors can explore historic remains like the rock-cut Tomb of Amyntas and other Lycian sarcophagi.
5. The ancient city Ephesus
A trip to Turkey wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the ancient city of Ephesus. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Ephesus’ well-preserved Greek and Roman ruins date back to the 10th century BC. Ephesus is the perfect example of an old Roman port city, complete with sea channel and harbour basin.
Visitors are transported back to days of old and can wander around Ephesus’ most famous sites. These include the Library of Celsus, the Basilica of St. John and the Temple of Artemis – one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.’
Legend has it that the Virgin Mary lived her last days on earth in a small stone cottage on Mount Koressos, just outside of Ephesus. This beautiful shrine, simply called ‘The House of Virgin Mary’ is well worth a visit. It is often considered a pilgrimage for those who come to visit the house (now rebuilt as a chapel), and you can light a candle, leave a message on the ‘Water of Mary’ (a well believed to be a source of miracles), or simply enjoy the peace and tranquillity under the cypress trees.
Turkey is a place of contrast and wonder. Whether you prefer bustling markets of spice and colour, idyllic beaches or amazing sites of archaeological importance, Turkey will not disappoint.
By Linsey Schluter