When I was 14 I went on my first trip abroad without my parents. I spent a week hiking in the Anatolian mountains, with a day or so in Antalya, on a trip organised through my school. At times, I absolutely hated it. It was freezing cold and really hard work when you’re 14 and not particularly fit.
However, I also loved it. I loved being outdoors in the mountains, falling in snow up to my waist, hearing prayer calls for the first time and trying cool new foods and mint tea.
I’ve yet to go back (and as I’m writing that I can’t believe this happened 10 years ago…) but, whenever someone mentions Turkey, or I browse pinterest and see pictures of hot air balloons in Cappadocia, my desire to visit this country grows.
Are there any countries that you’re like this with?
So, instead of boring my boyfriend with reasons I want to go to Turkey, I thought I’d tell you lot too. If you’ve been I’d love to know what you got up to!
Wherever I travel you can be sure that I’ll be eating my way around that country. Turkish cuisine is full of flavour and there’s so much more to it than kebabs!
Sure, Turkey has kebabs, but don’t think of that brown stuff pretending to be meat rotating on a stick – that’s most definitely not what you’ll find in Turkey!
Instead, you’ll find succulent pieces of meat cooked over charcoal fires, delicately spiced lamb köfte, Lahmacun; A pizza like dish with a topping of finely minced meat and onions with spices on flaky thin dough, manti; small beef or lamb dumplings, Borek; a Turkish savoury pastry comes in many varieties, most popularly filled with minced meat or spinach and cheese, and, for dessert, the delicious sticky Baklava. YUM.
Although I’ve already trekked in the Anatolian mountains, I certainly wouldn’t pass up on a second chance to explore more of Turkey’s impressive peaks. There’s something so calming about snow-capped mountains, the lack of people and watching birds soar above you.Not to mention the perfectly clear air that I miss so much when I spend too much time in London!
Hot air ballooning
Cappadocia is one of the most popular places in the world to go hot air ballooning. Images of the unique landscape with a sky full of balloons are all over Pinterest and Instagram and hot air ballooning has been on my to-do list of adventures for as long as I can remember.
Most tours, such as this one from HolidayMe from one of their Turkey tour packages, take off at sunrise and drift over the landscape of fairy chimneys, pigeon houses and vineyards before dropping you back down to earth. It looks magical!
Istanbul’s old city
As full of minarets, Byzantine churches and Ottoman palaces as it is boutique hotels, rooftop bars and gourmet restaurants, Istanbul is a city that seems to have it all. What excites me most, however, is the opportunity to roam around the old city. The old town areas of a city are always my favourite parts and I’d expect this would be the case in Istanbul too.
I want to buy food from the old wooden carts in the streets, watch spices being weighed on old brass scales and hear the call to prayer as the sun sets.
Shopping in the grand covered bazaar
One of the world’s largest covered markets, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul has 60 streets and over 5,000 shops. It’s well known for jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices and antiques.
The Bazaar has been trading since 1461(!) and besides shopping there are also two mosques, four fountains, two hamas and several restaurants.
I’d love to walk through the labyrinth that is the Grand Bazaar and pick up some unique gifts to take home.
Bosphorus cruise tour
Just as climbing to the tallest building on your first day in a new city is a great way to get a feel for the city, taking a cruise down the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul is cited as one of the best ways to get to grips with the city.
From the boat you’ll see mosques, the massive Rumelihisar fortress, the 19th Century mansions of the Ottoman elite and the Sultan’s gingerbread palaces and hunting lodges. You could even pop over to Asia for a day if you fancied it as the Bosphorus links the continents of Europe and Asia together!
Watch the Whirling Dervishes
Dervish is the name given to Sufi Muslims who have taken vows of poverty and austerity. Since the 12th Century, Dervishes have been known for their wild or ecstatic rituals. Because of these rituals they then became known as dancing, whirling or howling dervishes.
It’s now possible to watch a whirling dervish ceremony in several towns throughout Turkey. Watching this centuries-old ceremony while listening to Persian chanting and traditional Turkish music would be such a unique experience!
Visit the Blue Mosque
Although not its official name, the historical mosque in Istanbul is known as the Blue mosque; so called because of the blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design.
Built in the early 1600s the mosque remains an active place of worship as well as a popular tourist sight as long as you’re modestly dressed.
Pamukkale Thermal Pools
I’m a sucker for a pretty looking thermal pool and the Pamukkale Thermal Pools are no exception. The name, meaning “cotton castle”, has been given to these pools due to the effect that the hot calcium-laden waters springing from the earth create. Pamukkale has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since the 1980s and it’s easy to see why people flock to these beautiful pools from the pictures!
Ruins of Ephesus
Another of Turkey’s tourist attractions, Ephesus is a large Roman archaeological site and arguably one of the most famous and popular on the Mediterranean.
The main sites in Ephesus are the Temple of Hadrian and the Library of Celsus although I’m sure sites I’ve never heard of could end up being my favourite! I’d plan to get up super early and spend a whole day visiting the area to fit in as much as possible!
Have I missed anything out? What of the above would make you want to visit Turkey?