DURATION: 11 days
BUDGET: S$8k for two, mix of midrange and boutique
East meets West in Turkey
Natural wonders abound in Turkey… a land which is shaped by a fascinating array of landscape features. With an arid steppe plateau at its centre, the Anatolia peninsular which Turkey rests on is surrounded by seas on the north, south & west borders (Black, Mediterranean & Aegean seas respectively). To the east are majestic mountains which include the famous snow-capped peak of Mount Ararat – long believed to be the site where the biblical Noah’s Ark landed after a great flood.
Since ancient times, Turkey has served as the crossroads of civilisations due to its strategic location between the vast continents of Asia & Europe. For thousands of years, Turkey was the last stop on the historical trading route known as the Silk Road. Many of the world’s greatest empires (including the Greeks, Persians, Romans, Ottoman etc…) had fought to rule over this prized piece of land… & till today, many of their legacies can still be seen throughout this culturally diverse country!
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and serves as its financial capital. Geographically, this city is considered the physical bridge between Asia & Europe as it straddles both ends of the divisive Bosphorous Straits. Every spring, the blooming flowers of native Judas trees will turn the shoreside hill slopes into a beautiful shade of purple… what a wonderful sight!
A unique feature of Istanbul is no doubt its impressive skyline dotted with minarets (tall spires) – these are important architectural parts of historic mosques such as the Sultanahmet Camii & Ayasofya. Other city attractions include the Topkapi Palace which was once the royal residence of ruling Sultans… & Kapali Carsi which is believed to be the world’s oldest shopping mall with over 4000 shops. Food lovers must seize the opportunity to try all kinds of kebabs (skewered meats). For the ultimate relaxation, a traditional Turkish hamam bath is an experience not to be missed!
Ancient landmarks aside, Istanbul also has a bustling modern side. The heart of modern Istanbul lies in Taksim Meydani square & the surrounding streets where much shopping, dining & entertainment awaits.
The most iconic sights in central Turkey’s Cappadocia region are the numerous fairy chimneys – these are cave houses carved into unusual tuff rock formations. That’s not all… head underground and one will be amazed by the labyrinth of secret tunnels & complexes which make up ancient citadels used by the early Christians to escape Roman persecution!
Feeling adventurous? How about a horseride through Goreme town’s picturesque landscape & orchards… Or perhaps spend an evening atop a hot air balloon for breathtaking sunset views – the Rose Valley is especially beautiful from above!
Also look out for delicious homemade pekmez syrup – a local grape specialty which works as a good energy booster!
AEGEAN COAST villages
A short history of the West Turkey region… After Greek-Turkey war, population exchange agreed by both governments resulted in abandoned Greek villages in Turkey (and vice versa). Forgotten for a while – a good thing – these are beautiful quaint towns rediscovered.
Selcuk town serves as a good base for travel. One can explore the many interesting local markets… then make short trips to famous sites nearby – for example, the ancient city of Ephesus where Roman ruins can be found & Meryemana (House of Virgin Mary) which is said to be the last residence of the mother of Jesus Christ.
Looking for a seaside vacation along pristine beaches? Be sure to relax for a few days at the Kusadasi resort town along the shores of Aegean Sea. And enjoy fresh seafoods too!
To the east of Kusadasi lies the UNESCO world heritage site of Pamukkale (or “cotton castle” in Turkish). This white travertine hillside is made of limestone deposits from thermal springs. Unfortunately, with the development of nearby tourist spa resorts (which redirected thermal waters away from the site), most parts of Pamukkale are now dry. Nonetheless if you know where to go, there is still an area that is protected (untouched) and one can imagine the beauty of the landscape long ago…