No other Mediterranean destination offers the visitor as much variety as Turkey. Head east from the olive and vineyard-blessed shores of the Aegean across the rolling steppes of Anatolia and you’ll meet the dramatically mountainous frontiers of Georgia, Armenia and Iran. North across the towering Taurus Mountains from the sun-kissed Mediterranean resorts and you’ll come to the temperate, hazelnut and tea-producing mountains of the Black Sea. Cross the mighty Euphrates and Tigris rivers of Turkey’s arid yet fascinating southeast and you can climb biblical Mt Ararat – 17,000 feet-high and glacier-clad – balloon over the fairy tale volcanic landscape of Cappadocia or relax on a beach criss-crossed with the flipper marks of nesting turtles.
Such a remarkably diverse topography, climate and flora and fauna means Turkey offers every kind of holiday experience you could wish for – with warm temperatures well into October. To relax, lounge by the beach or pool at an all-inclusive near Mediterranean Antalya, or cruise the beautiful Turquoise Coast aboard a traditional wooden sailing boat (gulet). Feeling more active? The Turquoise Coast and its hinterland is perfect for kayaking, scuba-diving, canyoning, mountain-biking and hiking the waymarked Carian and Lycian trails. Accommodation ranges from simple, family-run pensions in places like Dalyan, Kaş and Patara to luxurious hotels in chic Bodrum and golfer’s favourite, Belek – and everything in between, so there’s something for every budget.
Given that geographically Turkey spans two continents – Europe and Asia – and is poised culturally between primarily Christian Europe and the predominantly Muslim Middle East, it’s no surprise that it has a rich and vibrant heritage. Whether soaking up the atmosphere of legendary Troy, gently perspiring in a steamy, 500-year-old Ottoman Turkish bath, getting to grips with contemporary art at the Istanbul Modern or following in the footsteps of St Paul in ancient Perge, there’s always something to intrigue the curious visitor. That’s without mentioning the country’s rich culinary tradition – a blissful union of the best flavours of East and West.
At long last Turkey has moved to the new green list, making it the ideal choice for an autumn break. Turkey’s famous hospitality has not been dimmed by the travails of Covid-19, and its well-regulated tourism industry has done its utmost throughout the pandemic to keep visitors safe, not least with its Ministry of Culture and Tourism safe certification programme for hotels, restaurants and transport. And whilst soaring inflation and the need to be ultra-competitive in the face of shrinking tourist numbers induced by the pandemic are less than ideal in the long-term for either locals or the Turkish tourism industry, they do mean that holidaying here is extremely good value for money compared to most European destinations. With that in mind, here are some of the nation’s best breaks – for every type of holidaymaker.
The pull of the past
Turkey has a breadth and depth of history few other countries can rival. Most familiar to visitors from the West are the myriad Classical Greek and Roman sites peppering its beautiful Aegean Coast. The ruins of Troy, brought to life in Homer’s Iliad, still stand at the mouth of the Dardanelles. Ephesus’ huge theatre, where St Paul proselytised and unwittingly caused a riot amongst its silversmiths, is astonishingly well-preserved. The spectacular ruins of Pergamon, once famed for its comprehensive library, run in dramatic tiers down a striking rocky outcrop. Exploring these, or the countless other ancient sites littering Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean shores, often with nothing more than a few goats or tortoises for company, is one of life’s great joys.
Feeling more adventurous? Head deep into Anatolia to explore the Byzantine rock-cut churches located in the incredible geological wonderland that is Cappadocia. The most recently uncovered jewel in Turkey’s archaeological crown is, however, Unesco-listed Göbekli Tepe, an astounding series of circular stone structures dating back to 10,000 BC (thus predating Stonehenge by some seven thousand years), situated beyond the Euphrates in the country’s southeast. Easier to visit are the Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques of one of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating cities, Istanbul. No matter where you go in this remarkable country, it’s impossible to resist the pull of its past.