Turkey really is a country with a bit of everything for everyone. Straddling the border between Europe and Asia, it culturally combines the secular and religious, its Christian and Islamic heritage, and the ultra-ancient (Çatal Höyuk dates from 7500BC) with the ultra-modern - drawing visitors from all over Europe (2m Brits per annum) and the world. And that's before we get onto the weird landscapes (Cappadocia), the stunning coastline & beautiful beaches (314 Blue Flag & 17 Blue Flag Marinas), the diverse flora and fauna (more endemic plant species exist in Turkey than the whole of Europe), the eleven UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the near perfect climate.
Gototurkey.co.uk is the official website of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office in the UK.
What to do/Where to go
Antalya is Turkey's most visited region, not least because its ideal year-round climate keeps the hotels open and the visitors coming. Considered the "Turkish Riviera" it has dramatic scenery, wonderful beaches and a number of notable historical, archaeological and natural attractions such as the Chimaera Flame, Manavgat and Kursunlu waterfalls and the Saklikent Gorge. World-class archaeological sites include Aspendos, one of the best preserved Roman Theatres in the Mediterranean, the birthplace of St. Nicholas (aka Father Christmas), Perge, Side, Phaselis and Demre.
Istanbul, it turns out, after some recent archaeological excavations, is even older than we all thought, dating back over 8,000 years. No wonder it's firmly in the top ten most popular European city-break destinations, with plenty of 'must-sees' like the the Blue Mosque or the harem of Topkapi Palace, or my favourite, the cistern and 'must-dos' like taking a ferry on the Bosphorus, eating or shopping in Cehavir Mall, the largest mall in Europe. By the way, Istanbul is bidding to be host the 2020 Olympics.
Izmir (formerly Smyrna), on the Aegean coast is Turkey's third largest city by population and hugely popular with yachties and beach-goers who flock to the coast & islands nearby. Supposedly founded by the Amazon female warrior tribe, the city is also reputed to be the home of Homer (the ancient poet, not Simpson).
Cappadocia is the region famous for its other-worldly rock formations, subterranean churches and underground dwellings. Cappadocia was a refuge for the early Christians, who escaped persecution by living and worshipping underground (there are an estimated 3000 rock churches in the region). The best-known centres are Ürgüp, Göreme, Avanos, Üçhisar, Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı and Ihlara. Göreme, where many villagers still live in cave dwellings and there are a number of B&Bs, is most visited by tourists. It is surrounded by extraordinary rock formations known as Peri Bacaları or 'Fairy Chimneys'. The area is also famous for its carpet-weaving, wines and the distinctive red pottery of the Avanos area.
Ephesus, once the trade centre of the ancient world and a religious centre of early Christianity, is one of the most well-known classical cities along the West coast of Turkey. Ephesus hosted one of the seven churches of Asia, addressed in the Book of Revelation of The Bible, and it is said that the Gospel of John might have been written here. Today's archaeological site lies three kilometres south of the Selcuk district of Turkey’s İzmir Province. The two 'big ticket' buildings are mostly lost and mostly intact: The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is represented by one inconspicuous column, whereas the 3rd century Theatre, where it is said St. Paul preached, was expanded in the 1st century AD by the Romans until it reached its present seating capacity of 24,000 people.
Gulets are traditional 2/3-masted wooden yachts, and a fantastic Turkish invention, from the coastal towns of Bodrum and Marmaris, offering charter coastal holidays. These days, for convenience, many use their engines and don't actually sail, which in my view is an abomination! Avoid if possible.
What's Cool, New or Unusual
The latest of Turkey's 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, added July 2012, is the Neolithic site of Catalhoyuk in Central Anatolia, believed to be among the world's oldest human communities dating back approximately 9500 years. It is also the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date and is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world with the wall paintings in the ancient city being regarded as some of humanity's earliest artworks.
Hidden Jewels - 5 destinations of the beaten tourist track
Turkish Travel Blog - Natalie Sayin has been methodically exploring and sharing her country with us for several years now.
Turkey's for Life - Julia & Barry xxx's blog about life and events in and around Fethiye.
Arse About fez - Bill Fredo's expat blog about living in Turkey.
Being Koy - Karyn Phillips' blog about life in Kirazli Koy, Kusadasi.
There's also a couple of books you might consider, written by my colleague Jeremy Seal who has been a lifelong fan of Turkey.
Pop along to the website named after the tribe that founded Izmir (see above) to get a copy ;)
Interesting/Useful Blog Posts
Busing Around Turkey - Katie Aune's useful guide to the buses.
Caveman in Cappadocia - Norbert Figueroa explores the caves of the Goreme Open Air Museum, Uchisar Castle, and Devrent Valley in Capadocia.
The Road Forks/Turkey - Akila & Patrick McConnell are eating their way around the world. They have a good collection of posts about food and culture in Turkey.