Top 5 Sites Outside of Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is a great place to begin discovering Turkey, the well known city which marks the border between Europe and Asia is historically rich and culturally diverse with a good tourist infrastructure and many Istanbul tours to choose from. However, this busy city is very different to the rural villages, traditional towns and tourist resorts that occupy the majority of the country. To discover a little more of this large and wonderful country it best to leave behind the crowded streets of Istanbul and head to the beautiful southwestern region.
A quirky port town with a bustling market and a cobblestone old town filled with unique cafe bars, boutique shops, souvenir stores and vibrant displays of Turkish sweets. Fethiye is fantastic base for visiting both ancient and 20th century ruins, just 8 km from the town you can walk through the grey streets of derelict houses in the Ghost Town of Kayakoy, abandoned since the population exchange in 1923, or climb the hill above Fethiye’s old town to crawl inside 2,000 year old rock-hewn Lycian tombs.
Around Fethiye there are also plenty of beaches to choose from and the nearby resort town Oludeniz hosts one of the best, sitting at the foot of 1,900 metre high Father Mountain, as well as the famous Blue Lagoon, abundant with sea life and stunning corals. Wildlife watchers will love this spot and so will outdoor enthusiasts and thrill seekers.
The breathtaking Cotton Caste is an incomparable natural phenomenon, a stunning ivory shade, these travertine pools hug the valley slopes, overflowing with warm, mineral rich water. Pamukkale is a jaw dropping natural spa and a photographer’s dream so don’t forget to pack your camera and visit in the evening when the setting sun reflects off the white castle. In this village nature and history are combined and below the pools is an ancient historical site. Hierapolis was once a spa city during the times of the Roman Empire but was originally constructed by the Ancient Greeks. Today the site has an impressive marble columned entrance way, a well preserved theatre and a collection of historical artifacts inside an original bathhouse. On the hill top you can also visit the acropolis and alongside the Temple of Apollo you can dip into a man-made pool of ‘sacred’ thermal water.
A visit to Cappadocia should certainly be on anyone’s Turkish holiday itinerary. This region of central Anatolia has a history dating back to before the stone age although the the earliest records are of Hittite settlers who built their homes into the soft volcanic tuff and made their cities underground where future generations expanded the maze of tunnels and used them to live in comfort and security in times of invasion and religious persecution. The hills and valleys of Cappadocia have since been inhabited by Early Christians, Syrian Monks, Greeks, Romans, Seljuk Turks, Ottomans and more, the region is made up a collection of traditional villages like Avanos, where pottery making is still the common craft, Uchisar, with a castle at the highest point on the Cappadocian landscape, and Goreme, which is the main transport hub of the region with a variety of budget and luxury accommodations.
Just 3 km from the town is one Cappadocia’s main attractions, the UNESCO open air museum, home to some of the best preserved frescoes inside of original rock-hewn churches. Historians will be enthralled by the Cappadocia’s origins while outdoor lovers can lose themselves hiking through the stunning valleys of red rocks, vineyards, fairy chimneys, pigeon homes and troglodyte caves.
The Blue Cruise
The Blue Cruise is undoubtedly the best way to enjoy Turkey’s southwest Mediterranean Coast. Dubbed as the Turkish Riviera or the Turquoise Coast, this stretch of cliff lined coast has been popular with sailors for decades and each year, from April to October, classic wooden gulet yachts cruise the sea between Bodrum and Antalya. Standard cruises are usually between four and eight days but private charters are also available for longer voyages.
One of the most popular itineraries is between Fethiye and Olympos, calling at Butterfly Valley, where you can swim or search for rare types of butterfly, St Nicolas Island, topped with Byzantine ruins, and the modern town of Kas before cruising through the scenic Kekova region to anchor in bays of transparent water and visit a hilltop castle and sunken Lycian city in Gokkaya bay.
Gallipoli Peninsula & The Ancient City of Troy
On the Gallipoli Peninsula in western Turkey are more examples of 20th century history as this peninsula was where the disastrous Dardanelles Campaign took place in 1915. Australian, New Zealand and Turkish monuments occupy the same hilltops and passes that where battles took place and you can still visit original WW1 trenches and the see the remains of destroyed warships in the mouth of Anzac Cove.
Meanwhile for ancient history you can visit the ruins of the city of Troy on the eastern banks of the Dardanelle Strait. According to the poem by Homer this 3rd century BC city is where the legendary Trojan war took place and the entrance to the archeological site is marked by a replica Trojan Horse. You can travel from Istanbul to Gallipoli and Troy by public bus to Canakkale and ferry across the Dardanelle Strait, or join a tour to this region of Turkey.
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