Where is Turkey and Why Should I Go?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Where is Turkey on the map?

In Eurasia, everybody knows where is Turkey. If not yourself, then a friend or a friend of a friend spent a great summer vacation in Turkey. It is the country of Istanbul, once called Constantinople. It is the country of all-inclusive Antalya. The home for the amazing Cappadocia. Turkey is the country which gave the world the kebab. It is the legacy of the Ottoman Empire. So, if you don't know by now where is Turkey, don't tell anyone. Get a map and start searching.

Turkey is mostly situated in Western Asia, covering the entire South coastline of the Black Sea. But it also has a European part, separated by the rest of the country by the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus Strait. So, Turkey is a European country, with the territory on two continents and a multi-ethnic population. This will ease your travel conditions and will help you better understand the charm of this country. It also makes very easy finding where is Turkey on the world's map.

From Alexander the Great to the Byzantine era, this land has seen many peoples and wars. The Turks migrated here in the 11th century and took over the region in 1453 when they conquered Constantinople. The glory of the Ottoman Empire covered Western Asia, North Africa, and Southeast Europe, and besieged Vienna in 1683. The Ottoman Empire ended in 1922 after several wars in the Balkans and the Turkish War of Independence. It may be the richness of these lands, or it may be the mix of different traditions and cultures. It may be the natural beauty of this country, situated between East and West, between seas and mountains. There are many reasons to discover aromatic Turkey and emerge into centuries of history and legends. 

Best Time to Visit Turkey

Turkey during the summer is perfect for relaxing at the beach, but there is so much more to discover!
Turkey during the summer is perfect for relaxing at the beach, but there is so much more to discover!

Considering where is Turkey, any time is suitable for a visit. In Turkey, summer is very hot, perfect for seaside relaxation. On the other side, winter is freezing, with enough snow for winter sports enthusiasts.

In April, May, September, October, and November, tourists come to see ancient sites, historical cities, and enjoy outdoor activities. The coasts of the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea have a mild Mediterranean climate, perfect for a visit all year long.

Turkey is a country rich in culture, history, and traditions. It is a unique place, and you'll be sorry if all you see from this great country is a beach (although they are beautiful). Plan your visit according to local festivals and celebrations, and you won't regret it.

Here is a short list of the most exquisite Turkish festivals:

Mevlana Whirling Dervishes Festival

Mevlana Whirling Dervishes Festival is majestic!

Image Courtesy of Rove.me

This festival is held every year in Konya. Its date is calculated after the Islamic calendar and is different every year. The festival is dedicated to Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi, an Islamic saint, and it is the reason for a pilgrimage to Konya. The celebration is split into seven ceremonies, each having a musical theme and whirling dancers. This is a religious celebration, so be respectful and admire the joy and the beauty of the dance.

Republic Day

Republic Day in Turkey is celebrated on October 29nd.

Celebrating the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, on October 29rd 1923, Republic Day is a national holiday. You can take part in street celebrations and admire the fireworks.

Ramadan

Ramadan is the Islamic Holy Month, infamous for its fasting period.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan means a month of fasting between sunrise and sunset, followed by feasts and carnival atmosphere. Ramadan is followed by the Sugar Feast. This means three days of celebration, candies, baklava, wearing new clothes, and enjoying life.

International Sand Sculpture Festival

International Sand Sculpture Festival is one of the largest sand exhibitions in the world and is a sight to behold.

Although this is a new tradition, the artistic sand creations on Lara Beach (Antalya) deserve to be seen. It's one of the largest sand exhibitions in the world.

Sun Splash Festival

Sun Splash Festival hosts many international artists for an awesome vibe.

Image Courtesy of Sun Splash Festival Turkey

Another new addition to the Turkish cultural agenda, Sun Splash Festival is held in Bodrum. It is an international music festival, featuring jazz, soul, funk, and bossa music artists. 

Cappadox

Cappadox aims to bring more tourists to Cappadocia.

Image Courtesy of Cappadox Festival

This is a festival which aims to bring tourists to Cappadocia. It means music, contemporary, art, food, and outdoor experiences — all in the breathtaking landscape of Cappadocia.

How to Get Around Turkey

Traveling the roads of Turkey is an engrossing experience, but there are alternatives.
Traveling the roads of Turkey is an engrossing experience, but there are alternatives.

Turkey tourism is known worldwide. A visa is required only for some countries, but you better check before planning a journey.

Getting to Turkey is very easy. Many airlines have flights to Istanbul, and Turkish Airlines has been voted as the best airline in the world for several years in a row. As Turkey is a gate between East and West, so is Istanbul airport.

You can also get to Turkey by car, coming from Bulgaria, Greece or Georgia. Avoid the border with Syria; there is a conflict area for some time. Buses are also available coming from Southeast European cities like Bucharest, Sofia, and Athens.

If you want a romantic journey, you may want to choose to get to Turkey by train. The glory of Orient Express is still around. Today, the original Orient Express stops in Vienna, but you can continue your journey with the daily TransBalkan train. 

Inside Turkey, you also have many travel possibilities. Choose the plane if you are in a hurry. Choose the long-distance bus network or a car to get around the country and see all that you can see. Trains are comfortable and cheap, too. As Turkey is adapting for more and more tourists, infrastructure is excellent and tourist's friendly. Keep in mind to have valid car insurance and pay the road taxes, if you choose to drive around.

What to Do in Turkey

Hagia Sophia is the symbol of Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia is the symbol of Istanbul.

The desire to experience Turkey brings most of the tourists in Istanbul. Istanbul is Turkey's largest city, and the former capital of Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. But it isn't the current capital of the country. The smaller and less famous Ankara is modern Turkey's capital. Still, Istanbul deserves to be the first stop on your journey.

Istanbul is a city on two continents, situated on both sides of Bosphorus Strait. It is a vast city, Istanbul's population is estimated at around 15 million people. And it is indeed a bridge between cultures and religions. With so much history and traditions, this city is a sophisticated metropolis, flavored with Turkish spices, and featuring both old and traditional architecture, and modern one. It is an enormous bazaar in the most authentic Turkish way. And like in any bazaar, getting lost is always a possibility. It's a good idea to buy an Istanbul transport card if you stay for several days. Using public transport may be confusing, and you don't want to have to look for extra tickets. The card can be refilled when you need.

There are a lot of famous places to see in Istanbul. Perhaps the most famous is Hagia Sophia, a former Greek Orthodox Church, built in the VIth century. Hagia Sophia is famous for its architecture, with a massive dome. It is also renowned for its history. It was converted into a mosque in 1453 when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople. Many parts of the church were destroyed (bells, altar, mosaics with Jesus and Christian saints, etc.), but the building survived. In 1935 it was transformed into a museum. 

Istanbul's attractions map also includes:

Blue Mosque also named Sultan Ahmed Mosque

The wonderful architecture of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

Built in the XVIIIth century, the mosque is home for Ahmed's tomb. It is still used as a mosque, although many tourists come here. It has impressive architecture, with five domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The interior has more than 20, 000 handmade ceramic styles in more than 50 tulip designs.

Topkapı Palace 

The entrance to Topkapi Palace.

Built in the XVth century as the headquarters of the Ottoman sultans, the palace is now a museum. It is very rich in artful decorations and Oriental architecture. It also gives you a clue about the lifestyle of a sultan.

Grand Bazaar 

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest covered markets in the world.

This is one of the largest covered markets in the world. And probably the most famous one. It has more than 90 million visitors every year. Built in the XVth century, Grand Bazaar is the best example of Turkish culture and traditions. Ottomans were great merchants, and their bazaars were luxurious and glamorous. From spices, tea, silk, silver, and up to servants and services, everything was negotiated in the bazaar. This spirit still exists in Grand Bazaar, but the merchandise is more contemporary.

Bosphorus

Bosphorus Strait is perfect for a romantic cruise.

If you want to experience the border between Europe and Asia, take a Bosphorus cruise. It has over 600 waterfront houses and offers a view to many palaces and mosque. It's a fabulous way to see Istanbul from the water.

You can go see the magnificent Duden Waterfalls by yacht.

But Turkey means much more than Istanbul. Natural landscapes are also waiting for visitors. For example, Duden Waterfalls from Antalya give quite a performance. You can go see them by yacht because the waterfalls end in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Mount Aratat is an important place in Turkey's culture.

Also, you don't want to miss Mount Ararat, home for the highest peak in Turkey (Great Ararat - 5,137 meters). Moreover, Mount Ararat is considered the resting place of Noah's Ark. And if you are interested in ancient history, go see the Temple of Artemis, situated near Selçuk.

Cappadocia is a famous place known for its hot air balloon rides and epic hikes.

Cappadocia is a unique place. A special destination for trekking in Turkey, Cappadocia's valleys have names like Rose Valley, Love Valley, and Red Valley. The rock sites of Cappadocia are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Their fascinating colors and their strange forms (pillar and minaret-like) attracted people for centuries. Situated in the heart of Anatolia, the region has not only geological value, but also historical value. This incredible landscape has another quality. It is perfect for hot air balloons and paragliding. Goreme is the ideal place to look for a hot air balloon ride.

What to Eat in Turkey

Where is Turkey, you can enjoy in some of the most wonderful feasts.
Where is Turkey, you can enjoy in some of the most wonderful feasts.

Turkish cuisine is something you've probably already tried. It traveled outside Turkey from medieval times and let its mark on many other cuisines. It also traveled in more recent times and made the kebab famous worldwide.

In almost every European country you can find Turkish food. But the most authentic and the most flavored of the Turkey dishes can be found only in Turkey. Here is a short and delicious list of dishes to try on your Turkish journey:

Kebab 

Kebab is love. Kebab is life.

You have to choose from a long list of kebabs. Or just try them all:

Shish kebab

Shish kebab is made on a skewer.

Legend says that this kebab was invented by soldiers who used their sword to cook meat. It consists of grilled pieces of meat (or fish) on a skewer. It may have beef, lamb, or chicken, but not pork.

Doner kebab

Doner kebab is the rotating one, that is imported all round the world.

This is the "rotating kebab", the one imported all over the world. Pieces of meat (again beef, lamb or chicken) are slowly roasted on a vertical spit. It is usually served in a flatbread, along with vegetables and sauces.

Iskender kebap

Iskender kebap is very similar to Doner, but also much different.

It uses Doner kebab meat, but serves it with tomato sauce and yogurt, on a piece of pita bread.

Steam kebab 

Steam kebab is yet another one of diverse Turkish kebabs.

Turkish stew cooked in a sealed pot or casserole.

Akcaabat Kofte

Akcaabat Kofte is a name given to a Turkish meatball dish.

Meatballs are also part of the Turkish culinary tradition. They are usually grilled.

Sulu Kofte

Sulu kofte are meatballs boiled in tomato sauce.

These are also meatballs but boiled in tomato sauce.

Ezogelin soup

Ezogelin soup is full of red lentils.

Soups are also popular. Maybe the tastiest one is Ezogelin soup, made with red lentils and bulgur. Bulgur is often used in salads, like Kisir.

Sweets 

Baklava is most probably the most popular dessert in Turkey!

Under this generic name, stays a diverse range of pastry and sweets. From the famous Baklava to Sütlü Nuriye (a milky version of it), from Zerde (sweet rice pudding) to Aşure (wheat pudding with fruits), from Cevizli sucuk (alias candy) to Pişmaniye (a type of halve), Turkey knows to play with sugar. Anything that looks sweet, must be tried. And don't forget about the Turkish delight, produced here since the XVIIIth century.

Now you know where is Turkey and what to do there!

Turkey is well worth the visit!

There are many awesome things to see and to do in this country. It's impossible not to know where is Turkey. From perfect beaches and services to outstanding landscapes, Turkey seems made to be a host. To think that not so long ago, the Ottoman Empire wanted to conquer the world. Maybe the world was conquered after all. But not through wars, but through impressive art and architecture, through tasty food, and a perfect connection between Western and Eastern civilizations.

Now that you know where is Turkey, isn't it time to visit this magnificent country? What are you still waiting for?


If you want to check out more about neighbouring countries to Turkey, here is something to satiate your curiosity:

Where is Georgia on the Map?

Where is Armenia on the Map?

Monica Radulescu a freelance writer for aSabbatical.com
Travelling is a joy. It's a way to become a better and wiser person. Mountain paths and road trips are my favourites.