Since ever considered the bridge between Europe and Asia, this country is today one of the world’s favourite holiday destination for both new and old generations. The border between the two continents runs through the capital, Istanbul, along the Bosphorus where one of the busiest waterways is crossed everyday by thousands of ferry boats. The name of this famous strait comes from the two words Bous (cow) and Poros (crossing place), with reference to a Greek legend in which Zeus turned his lover Io into a cow. His wife Hera conjured up a gadfly to sting the beast forcing Io into the stream.
Because of this peculiar position, the region of Anatolia, the old name of Turkey, has been the crossroad of many civilisations such as Greeks, Hittites, Persians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans to name just a few. Any of these civilisations left their own mark, so that any corner of the country is full of Greek and Roman ruins, Byzantine palaces, Seljuk caravanserais and Ottoman buildings. Turkey today is a modern nation with deep interests in commerce with Europe and Asia. Despite some political turmoil of the early XXI century, the country is very tourist-friendly and the range of possibilities for visitors is basically endless. Most travellers tend of course to focus their attention on the capital, Istanbul, but there many other places deserving a least a quick overview.
The landscape of Turkey is as varied as its size. On the coastline, superb white cliffs alternate with golden sandy beaches surrounded by blue crystal clear water. As a main consequence of this incredible variety, Turkey is blessed with the possibility of doing numerous outdoor activities throughout the year. Hiking is getting more and more popular among both travellers and locals. It certainly represents the best way to visit isolated villages that one would never have the chance to see otherwise and some breath-taking landscapes in between. The region of Cappadocia in particular offers surreal views on curvy valleys and impetuous mountains and hills. For serious long-distance trailers the reference is undoubtedly the Lycian Way. This path covers 509km between Fethiye and Antalya and it is partly inland and partly along the coast of Lycia (from which its name). A slightly shorter trail is the St Paul Trail which extends from Perge to Yalvac, partly following the route walked by St Paul on his missionary trip to Asia. Other popular destinations including steeper mountain walks are Mt Ararat (Turkey’s highest mountain with its peak at 5137m) near the border with Armenia and the Kackar Mountains in Anatolia with its beautiful view above lakes, rivers and forests and altitudes which vary from a max of 3937 to a min of about 2000m.
Another interesting way to visit the best spot of the country is by horse riding. There are countless opportunities to get on the saddle, especially in Cappadocia where the variety of tracks is impressive. And if lounging on a white beach will certainly be a temptation almost everywhere along the coast side, there are many other opportunities to get your feet into the water. Scuba diving is certainly the first one: the country offers a wide range of caves, reefs and spots with broken pottery and treasures from ancient shipwrecks. There are sites for all levels of proficiency, even though the best opportunities are as usual within the reach of experienced divers. Kas in particular, on the South-West coast, is considered the best place for a good diving. Other top dive spots on the Aegean coast are Ayvalik, Bodrum and Marmaris. Other popular water sports are kayaking, canoeing, and rafting. Coruh and Zamanti rivers are universally considered the top notch places for this kind of activities. Finally, even if Turkey is generally considered a summer destination, winter sports such as skiing and snowboard are becoming more and more popular as touristic attractions and the number of hotels offering daily and weekly packages of classes and lift passes is literally booming.
Another good reason to visit Turkey is for the excellence of its food. Turkish cuisine is famous all over the world but the best place to experience it fully is of course in the place where it comes from! A full meal, either lunch or dinner, starts inevitably with meze, which is a wide assortment of cold and hot appetizers. Sometimes the richness of these plates can be so high to represent the whole meal on its own. And if the space in the stomach is still enough, main courses generally rely on generous portions of chicken or lamb meat prepared in different ways and, if the restaurant is not too far from the coast, fresh fish with herbs, lemon and oil can often play another important role as well. Typical accompaniments include fresh salads with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, capers and sometimes cubed fresh cheese. Finally, it cannot be considered a proper meal if not ending by a taste of sweet baklava (a popular pastry prepared with nuts, sugar and honey) or helva (a delicious combination of flour, butter, sugar and some natural flavourings), accompanied by a sip of tea.