This republic, whose new name has been approved by the United Nations, celebrated its centenary in 2023. It is a land that sits on either side of the border of Europe and Asia, with its wonderful history a match for anyone. At one time, modern-day Turkiye was described just as Asia Minor. Many of the significant places mentioned in the Greek and Roman Empire are in Turkiye. In addition, in the far southeast, the land was once part of Mesopotamia.
Independence came after struggles against Western powers following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Those powers certainly influenced daily life while the culture is also a result of Middle Eastern and Central Asian (the Ottomans originated there) contacts. Turkiye is a huge country stretching east as far as Iran and Iraq while in the west, it is the Aegean Sea and Greece. The north is the Black Sea and the Balkans while the south looks over the Mediterranean and Africa. Few countries offer such variety.
Below you will read about some of the things that make Turkiye so special, many historical and cultural. The wonderful warm climate, especially on the west and south coasts also adds a dimension to what Turkey is known for.
- What Is Turkey Known For?
- Top Tours
- 1- Its Strategic Location
- 2- Byzantine And Ottoman Landmarks
- 3- Ancient Ruins
- 4- Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
- 5- Goreme And Cappadocia
- 6- Pamukkale
- 7- The Turquoise Coast (Turkish Riviera)
- 8- Sailing
- 9- Turkish cuisine
- 10- Raki
- 11- Tea And Turkish Coffee
- 12- Whirling Dervishes
- 13- Turkish Baths (Hammams)
- 14- Mountain Ranges
- 15- Religion
What Is Turkey Known For?
- Best of Turkey 10-Day Package Tour – get a taste of the best Turkey has to offer.
- Byzantine & Ottoman Relics of Istanbul Full-Day Tour – see the treasures of Istanbul with an experienced guide.
- Gallipoli Full-Day Tour from Istanbul – a classic tour to pay homage to an important event in history.
1- Its Strategic Location
Turkiye sits where Europe meets Asia making its location strategically important to several countries and alliances.
In a world of many factions, someone with the ability to mediate on disputes is essential.
Turkiye’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees himself as that mediator despite the country’s membership of NATO restricting its ability to appear totally neutral.
The G20, the top economies in the world, includes Turkiye and provides an opportunity for regular discussions on numerous subjects.
As an Islamic country, Turkiye has a natural affinity with the Middle East and North Africa while its NATO membership ensures significant contact with the Western powers.
Turkiye competes in European sporting competitions and is often chosen to host finals in such as soccer and basketball.
The new airport in Istanbul, the country’s largest city but not its capital (Ankara is the capital of Turkiye), is an international hub for air travel.
Few airlines can match the number of countries on all continents that Turkish Airlines fly to with direct flights.
- Istanbul Bosphorus and Golden Horn Cruise – with audio guide.
- Istanbul Bosphorus Luxury Catamaran Cruise – with dinner show.
2- Byzantine And Ottoman Landmarks
The Ottomans arrived in Asia Minor in the 15th century and ultimately took Constantinople, the Byzantine capital, in the middle of that century.
Byzantium, later Constantinople, had been the capital of the Easten Roman Empire and several of today’s landmarks in Istanbul predate the Ottomans.
Emperor Justinian constructed a system to supply water to the city in the 6th century and the Basilica Cistern remains a popular tourist attraction today.
It is close to Hagia Sophia, originally a Christian church built during Justinian’s time, becoming a mosque when the Ottomans took control of the city.
It was a museum from the 1930s until recent years where it has become a mosque once again.
Head one way just a short distance and there is the Blue Mosque built by Ahmed I in the early 17th century while a similar distance from Hagia Sophia in the opposite direction is the old Ottoman headquarters, Topkapi Palace.
In just the small neighbourhood of Sultanahmet in Istanbul you can see some wonderful Byzantine and Ottoman landmarks.
3- Ancient Ruins
This is an ancient land that has been home to many peoples over the centuries.
One of the oldest attractions is Gobekli Tepe in Upper Mesopotamia, dated as far back as the 10th century BC.
It was home to hunter-gatherers and recent discoveries are suggesting even older sites.
Mount Nemrut is also in this part of Turkiye, a mountain whose top was heightened artificially to become a royal tomb.
It was in the 1st century BC that Antiochus I devised his plans and several statues remain towards the summit.
On the Aegean coast facing west there is Ephesus, once a major city in the Greek Empire and equally important during the Roman Empire.
4- Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
Soon after the Ottomans captured Constantinople, they began to construct the Grand Bazaar.
It remains the most vibrant bazaar you are likely to find anywhere in the world, certainly in Europe.
It is the largest covered market in the world, and the oldest.
There are more than 60 streets, all under cover, and they contain in excess of 4,000 shops.
With more than 90 million visitors annually, it can make claim to be the biggest tourist attraction in the world.
You will find it in Fatih within the walled city so not too far from the major landmarks in Sultanahmet.
It is a place where you can buy everything from gold and jewellery to carpets and clothing.
While there are many modern shopping malls in Istanbul, none have the atmosphere of the Grand Bazaar which incidentally employs over 26,000 people.
5- Goreme And Cappadocia
The region of Cappadocia in the heart of Turkiye’s Anatolia is the closest anyone can get to a moonscape.
It is easily accessed with two regional airports and hot air balloons over the region have proved very popular.
This was a volcanic area and the structures you will see are a result of erosion.
Studies show that the volcanic activities took place between 3 and 9 million years ago.
Goreme is an excellent base for exploring Cappadocia and it is an open-air museum in itself.
The name “Cappadocia” was first mentioned in scripts several centuries BC.
While the “fairy chimneys” are a major attraction, there are also underground cities, some with many levels, where the Hittites lived with their livestock as a form of protection from invaders, usually the Persians.
Mansions, cave homes, chapels, monasteries and churches carved from the soft stone fill the whole region with hiking around a marvellous experience.
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Pamukkale (cotton castle in Turkish) is a terraced site created by thermal spring water depositing minerals.
There are 17 hot springs with the hottest water being 100C (212F), that water reaching the top of the terraces from over 300 metres (almost 1,000 feet) away.
Visitors can walk on this travertine in bare feet and see the many thermal pools that have been established over the years.
Pamukkale is in South West Turkey near the city of Denizli, known for its textile production.
The old spa city of Hierapolis, at the top of the “castle” dates back to around 190 BC.
The ruins include a theatre, necropolis with sarcophagi and Roman columns submerged in an antique pool.
Earthquakes have caused significant damage over the centuries yet the site remains very interesting.
Both the city and the “cotton castle” found a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites over 30 years ago.
7- The Turquoise Coast (Turkish Riviera)
Turkiye’s south west coast has become hugely popular with tourists following the growth of charter flights.
Airports at Izmir, Bodrum, Dalaman and Antalya are extremely busy from spring until the arrival of winter.
Even in winter, the climate has its attractions, especially for tourists where winter at home means cold temperatures, rain and even snow.
Resorts that were once small towns, even villages, continue to grow as a result of the lovely warm and clear waters, as well as sandy beaches.
There are numerous tours on land and fantastic cruises along the coastline.
There is plenty of history as well.
Ancient rock tombs, theatre ruins, sarcophagi, and even a sunken city are found along this coastline where the man who is arguably the original “Santa Claus” lived and preached.
The weakness of the Turkish lira makes Turkiye good value even if that is offset by high inflation.
Turkiye’s extensive coastline and clear blue waters are so inviting for sailing.
Turkiye has several resort bases for those wanting to sail out into the Aegean or Mediterranean Seas.
It is possible to charter yachts while anyone on an adventure of more than a few days will find all the facilities on shore for servicing and supplies, equipment and obviously fresh produce.
Some extremely famous multi-million-pound yachts are regular visitors to modern marinas such as the ones in Marmaris and Gocek which face south or Bodrum facing the Greek Island of Kos.
The traditional boat that Turks have used to sail these waters is known as a gulet.
They come in varying sizes and even today, they usually come with two masts are made in the traditional way, using wood of course.
Recommended sailing trips:
- From Kas: Full-Day Private Kas Islands Sailing Trip
- Oludeniz Butterfly Valley Tour and St Nicholas Island Cruise
9- Turkish cuisine
As you already have realised, there are a huge number of influences on Turkish life and that definitely applies to its cuisine.
There are regional differences of course in such a huge country but there are also some common elements.
Fresh fruit and vegetables fill the markets when in season.
When something is out of season, it is simply forgotten until next time around.
Olive oil is plentiful everywhere as are a whole range of herbs and spices.
Together all these ingredients help to produce a rich and varied cuisine.
Mezes, the Turkish equivalent of Spanish tapas, come in many forms, some involving fish or meat but most vegetarian effectively.
Yoghurt and cheese provide further variety.
Kebabs are now a world phenomenon and there are significant differences by region with Turkish kebabs.
The traditional Adana Kebab is spicy, with the meat wrapping around a sword.
Iskender is another variety worth trying while street kebabs are food as you walk and you can learn how to make cig kofte from locals in Istanbul.
If you have a sweet tooth, Turkish delight and baklava (thin layered pastry with nuts, syrup or honey), an Ottoman creation, are sure to satisfy you.
Recommended tour: Istanbul: Guided Food and Culture Tour
While strict Muslims do not drink alcohol, and Turkiye is 95% Muslim, the “national drink” is raki.
It is very similar to products found in other European countries; Pernod and pastis from France, ouzo from Greece.
It is an aniseed flavoured drink which is mixed in a 50:50 ratio with water which changes the clear liquid cloudy.
For that reason, it is often called “Lion’s milk” and it’s legal for people to make their own raki for personal consumption.
Grapes and raisins are the basis before adding aniseed flavouring.
It has the potential to be extremely strong and Turks who do drink alcohol will inevitably drink raki when they are enjoying fish.
Indeed, if you were to buy raki at a bar or restaurant, you are likely to be given something small to accompany it.
That may be cheese, pasta, sour plums, whatever is to hand.
11- Tea And Turkish Coffee
Throughout Turkiye you will see people drinking cay (tea).
Consumption per head in Turkiye is higher than any other country in the world.
Men sit around discussing the matters of the day over tea while there are cafes that deliver tea to businesses and workers in general throughout the day.
Tea is grown in the extreme north east of Turkiye in the province of Riza near to the border with Georgia.
Indeed, Turkiye is fifth on the world list of tea exporters. Does that surprise you?
Turkish coffee is hugely popular, with or without sugar.
It is common in the Middle East to serve such strong coffee in small cups, especially as the end of a meal.
It is made with finely ground beans and the dregs will be left in the bottom of the cup, not filtering.
You may find it harsh, and some locals do, hence the small glass of water regularly served with it, and even a piece of Turkish delight.
For a bit of fun, turn the cup upside down into the saucer and let it cool.
The shapes you create allow for reading your fortune! Join a Turkish coffee making class.
12- Whirling Dervishes
While whirling dervishes originated in Persia (now Iran), these days the images you might see on advertising or events you might attend are more likely to be in Anatolia, often in areas around the city of Konya.
Whirling is a form of religious meditation used by Sufis.
It is an art requiring practise because rotating numerous times would otherwise leave anyone dizzy and unsteady at best.
The rotating is meant to replicate the spinning of the planets in the solar system.
The poet, Rumi founded dervishes in the 13th century.
There are set routines within fraternities which everyone needs to learn with the aim of connecting the performer directly to Allah.
In Istanbul, see this Whirling Dervishes Ceremony and Mevlevi Sema.
13- Turkish Baths (Hammams)
Hammams are associated with the Islamic world yet their popularity has spread far beyond that.
They are a form of steam bath whose origins are far earlier than that; the world of the Roman Empire.
They are seen as a form of therapy, cleansing and allowing you to relax and refresh yourself.
The Victoria era saw Turkish baths become popular throughout the British Empire, Western Europe as a whole as well as North America.
In Islam, they perform a ritual ablution yet they are also places where people go to meet and gossip.
They first appeared in the Islamic world in the 7th century and their popularity continues to this day.
You will find several in cities such as Istanbul that have existed for centuries with the architecture and design to prove it.
New ones cater for the explosion of tourism in modern resorts. Book a Historical Turkish Bath for an experience you won’t forget.
14- Mountain Ranges
Turkiye is a mountainous country with many remote places where bears, wolves and other wildlife live without human disturbance.
The weather in many of these eastern reaches van be extremely cold in the winter months.
There are some very famous mountains within Turkiye, none more so than Mount Ararat on the border with Armenia.
Mount Ararat is the place where Noah’s Ark supposedly finished up after the floods.
The Taurus Mountains form a west-east spine along the length of southern Turkiye.
Mount Nemrut is an ancient site in the east of the range where Antiochus I ordered it to be heightened to then by used as his tomb.
Several impressive stone statues surround its summit.
Elsewhere in Turkiye, there are mountains that have introduced skiing, typically above the industrial city of Bursa, a former Ottoman capital in the north west below Istanbul.
Turkiye is an Islamic country and the important celebrations are taken very seriously in the country.
Ramadan is followed throughout the country, followed by Seker (Sugar) Bayram, a three-day festival/holiday.
Ten weeks later, Kurban Bayram (The Feast of the Sacrifice) known in the Middle East as Eid al-Adha is a further celebration when the aim is to help the poor.
It remembers the time when Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son as proof of his commitment to God.
If you head to Sanliurfa in the south east there is Abraham’s cave and an artificial lake full of carp.
Legend has it that Abraham was thrown into flames by King Nimrod.
The flames turned to water and the wood to carp.
No one fishes in the lake which is in the heart of the city.
There are numerous magnificent mosques in Turkiye, several in Istanbul.
Visitors are allowed outside prayer hours.
If you are travelling in the south east, go to Adana and Sabanci Mosque which is very new.
Up in the far north west, the 16th-century Selimiye Mosque in Edirne is arguably the most impressive of them all.
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