Packed to the brim with ancient monuments leftover from a parade of conquerors and endowed with showcase scenery that never fails to impress, Turkey is a dazzling destination that straddles Asia and Europe. Its vibrant culture, famed cuisine and vast history wow all who venture here while its glorious landscapes – from the sun soaked Mediterranean to the mighty mountains and arid steppe – are a highlight in themselves.
Renowned as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the spellbinding Byzantine glory of the Aya Sofya Museum (Hagia Sophia) is not only Istanbul’s top sightseeing attraction, but also one of the top sites in Turkey. The staggering bulk of its exterior is rimmed by the delicate minarets added after the Ottoman conquest while the sumptuous and cavernous frescoed interior is a grand reminder of old Constantinople’s might and power.
Not to be missed, the mighty ruin of Ephesus is a city of colossal monuments and marble-columned roads. One of the most complete, still-standing Roman cities, this is the place to experience what life must have been like during the golden age of the Roman Empire.
The surreal swooping rock valleys of Cappadocia are every photographer’s dream. Cliff ridges and hill crests are home to rippling panoramas of wave-like rock or wacky-shaped pinnacles that have been formed by millennia of wind and water action. And if you don’t feel like hiking for the views, this is one of the world’s top destinations to take a hot air balloon ride. If the lunarscape isn’t enough to tempt you, nestled in those valleys are the frescoed rock-cut churches of the Byzantine Era when this area was an important early Christian site.
A visit to Topkapı Palace leads you into the fantastical, opulent world of the sultans. It was from here that the leaders of the Ottoman Era carved out an empire that would extend up into Europe and down through the Middle East and into Africa. The interiors with their decadently exuberant tiling and lavish jewelled decor are an unforgettable peek into the Ottoman’s powerbase.
One of Turkey’s most famous natural wonders, the pure white travertine terraces of Pamukkale cascade down the slope looking like an out-of-place snow field amid the green landscape. Although the travertines are themselves a highlight of a trip to Turkey, the vast and rambling ruins of Roman Hierapolis lie on the top of this calcite hill providing another reason to visit.
This funerary mound scattered with the broken remnants of once mammoth statues that guarded it, has to be Turkey’s most peculiar archaeological site. The giant body-less stone heads of long-forgotten gods stare out from the summit of Mount Nemrut casting an eerie atmosphere over the barren mountaintop.