Istanbul is the biggest city in Turkey, sometimes mistakenly taken for the capital city. In the past, during the Byzantine Empire period, it served as the capital, today, however, it is mainly a cultural hub of Turkey and the whole Orient.
Istanbul stands out by its non-standard localization on two continents divided by the Bosphorus Strait.
The former Constantinople offers wonderful monuments, magic atmosphere of the Asian metropolis, monumental Christian temples and Islamic mosques as well as unforgettable cruises across the Bosphorus.
The city is inhabited by over 11 million people, it is a commercial, industrial and cultural hub of the country. It is situated on two continents: Europe and Asia, at the shores of the Bosphorus, bathed by the Black Sea waters. Its beginnings date back to the ancient times, originally it was called Byzantium, it used to be a Greek colony from the 7th Century BC until the 4th Century AD when the Roman emperor Constantine I changed the name of the city into Konstantinoupolis – also during the Byzantine and Ottoman times. Only in 1930 the Turkish government officially made an appeal to start using the name Istanbul. Its meaning refers to distorted Greek words, which meant “into the City”.
Over the centuries, the city changed its rulers, creating a cultural and religious mosaic. First under the Greek, Gallic and Roman rule, later it was besieged by Arabs or merchants from the Italian Venice and Genoa. The Ottomans came to power in the 15th Century. As a result the caliphate was moved to what is now called Istanbul at the beginning of the 16th Century, which transformed the city in the centre of the Islamic world. The following years brought numerous palaces and mosques, which made the city even more beautiful. Later on, there were attempts to introduce some Baroque and Rococo elements, which was supposed to refer to the typical European architecture. The troops of the Allies entered the city in the year 1919. The subsequent years brought new changes. The capital city of Turkey was moved to Ankara (1923) and in 1930 the city got its present name – Istanbul. There are over 2,500 active mosques in the city. The first one was built on the Asian side of the city in Kadıköy district. Rumeli Hisari built in 1452 was its European side equivalent.
It is the capital and the second largest city of Turkey. It is mainly associated with beautiful monuments (Roman and Ottoman) and the memorabilia of a great Turkish politician – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Because Ankara lies in the centre of Anatolia, it has a specific type of climate with very hot, dry summer and cold winter. Compared to other regions in Turkey, Ankara is visited by relatively few tourists. It is, first of all, a very important economic and communication centre of the country, and not a tourist pearl. However, those who want to fully explore Turkey together with its all mysteries need to include this vibrant capital in their trip plan.
Antalya is a sunny resort at the Mediterranean Sea, popular with tourists. It is not deprived of a subtle aura of the local history and tradition. We will find everything here that a tourist looks for: picturesque corners of the old town, spacious, sunny beaches, boulevards full of shops as well as cosy restaurants with Turkish cuisine specialties. There are two exceptional minarets in the city: one is referred to as “Fluted Minaret” and the other – “Broken Minaret”. Antalya is located in the picturesque area, full of natural attractions and ancient ruins, so it is a great starting point for further excursions.
İzmir is a city located on the Aegean coast, it is the third most populous city in Turkey and second largest seaport (after Istanbul). Located at the Gulf of İzmir, the city is composed of 10 metropolitan districts. There are 3.2 million people living within the agglomeration, including 2.6 million within the administrative area of the city of İzmir. Currently İzmir is a an ultra-modern city with its wide boulevards and modern buildings. Main tourist attractions in İzmir include the Clock Tower from 1901 and the agora (market square) dating back to the ancient times. It is also worth taking a stroll along the Kordon boardwalk which starts at the Konak square. The map below presents the most important landmarks of the Konak district. The Archeology and Ethnography Museum, located in the city centre, is one of the biggest city attractions. The most important, and probably the only preserved monument of the ancient times, is the Roman agora.
Kayseri is a big industrial city and the capital of the province with the same name. It is here where Abdullah Gül – the current President of Turkey was born. What’s there to see? The most important place to see is the monumental citadel (hisar) built of black volcanic rock by the Roman Emperor Justinian in the 15th Century AD.
Why is it recommended to visit Bursa while on holidays in Turkey? Bursa is particularly famous for healing springs whose waters supply city baths and fountains. Bursa is a city of unique atmosphere where you can feel the spirit of the past in every corner. There are two monumental buildings here: the Grand Mosque and the Green Mosque with numerous Ottoman monuments along the picturesque old town streets. The location of the city is also worth paying attention to. It is situated at the foot of the Uludağ mountain range and just 25 km away from the shores of the Marmara Sea.
Bodrum is a popular resort and a port city on the southern coast of the Aegean Sea. The city is located in the southern part of Bodrum Peninsula, at the entry into the Gulf of Gökova. The Greek island – KOS is visible from the mainland. This international resort is a tourist and sailing centre. In the ancient times, it used to be called Halikarnas and then Petronium. The land where Bodrum is located used to be called Caria. As soon as in the 7th Century BC this territory was settled by Dorian Greeks and later fell under Persian rule. Bodrum is a birthplace of the most popular historian of the ancient times – Herodotus – often called “the Father of History”. Visitors to the city are amazed by low built-up area and picturesque location of white houses on the hills. High buildings are not allowed on the peninsula so we will not come across giant hotels that disfigure Alanya. Instead, we will find here little resorts with quiet campsites. Places such as Turgutreis, Ortakent, Türkbükü, Yalıkavak and Gümüşlük attract the biggest number of tourists. We, however, recommend Güvercinlik, located north-east of Bodrum. The centre of Bodrum is lively and crowded but it is still really nice. There are a lot of small shops with a wide range of souvenirs and you can also treat yourself on the local cuisine, especially fresh fish in numerous restaurants located close to the seaport.
Denizli is located in the alluvial valley of Büyük Menderes. The city is an important textile industry hub in the western part of Turkey. Located in western Turkey, it is a great starting point for excursions to Pamukkale. Moreover, it is renowned in Turkey for having roosters with a distinctive crow, louder than roosters from other regions. What is more, Denizli is a homeland of storks. When in Denizli, it is worth doing clothes shopping, paying special attention to cotton fabrics, produced from locally grown cotton. Approximately 6 km to the north of Denizli, there are ruins of ancient Laodicea, one of the ancient cities listed in the Apocalypse of St. John. It is recommended to taste döner kebab at the bus station (otogar) – it is hard to find a better one in Turkey and the price is really low.
Mecca is a major praying place for Muslims and Konya is one of the most important ones as once a year a casket with Muhammad’s hair gets open here. It is the time when lots of Muslims come to Konya. The city is also the centre of the Order of the Whirling Dervishes, founded in the 13th Century by Celaddin Rumi, called Mevlana. Konya is a city in southern Turkey, located on the Anatolian Plateau, at the northern foot of Taurus. It is the capital of the province with the same name. It is called the granary of Turkey. It is also a centre of the agri-food and leather industry. It is an exceptionally beautiful city – one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey. The districts around downtown comprise hundreds of small houses with gardens surrounded by clay walls.Konya is also a home for the Seljuk University (Selçuk University), which is one of the biggest higher education institutions in Turkey. The city is also renowned in the country for the exceptional religiousness as well as conservatism of its residents. While visiting Konya, we advise you to be sensible when it comes to the way you dress and behave. The most important sight in Konya is Mevlevi Tekkesi – 18th Century monastery complex of the Whirling Dervishes, which was once the most influential Muslim brotherhood, transformed into the Museum of Islamic Arts – Mevlana Müzesi by Atatürk. It is also the mausoleum of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi- Rumi called Mevlana, other members of the brotherhood and their families. When in the museum, you need to wear clothes covering your knees and arms and walk barefoot on carpets.
The city located in the Tigris River and Euphrates Valley (Dicle Nehri and Fırat Nehri) is often referred to as the unofficial capital of the Turkish Kurds. In fact, the number of Kurds living here is higher than in other big cities in Turkey. Unfortunately, the city’s demographic data is not very precise. For example, the number of Diyarbakır’s population varies from 800,000 to 2.5 million depending on a source. The city has a “besieged citadel syndrome”, resulting from clashes between the Kurds and the Turkish police. That is why we can see numerous patrols of law and order forces as well as military forces, including armored vehicles in the streets. However, the city itself is quite peaceful. It might mean silence before the storm, though. However fascinating the city is, your visit to Diyarbakır should be carefully planned with all the necessary precautions. On the other hand, you will often come across police officers having tea while on duty and local families having picnics on the grass. The city walls are the most important and most visible monument of Diyarbakır. They are supposed to be the second largest city walls in the world after the Great Wall of China but we cannot be sure if it is true. They are about 6 km long circling the old town with its most interesting monuments. There are four main gates into the old city, with one at every side of the world. Nevertheless, great basalt walls and wall towers, which have been partially restored, make a great impression. Right at the heart of the old town, there is the Great Mosque (Ulu Camii) – built by one of the Seljuk Turkish sultans in the 11th Century. Because the building was erected on the place of the Byzantine church, it is a mixture of various architectural elements. The inner courtyard with the fountain used for ritual ablution is especially impressive. We also want to remind you about the rules in mosques as they are not only monuments but also temples where people pray so we should not disturb and be respectful.
The fourth biggest city of Turkey is not as charming as Istanbul, monumental as Ankara or rich in history as Izmir, but travelers visiting Adana definitely will not be disappointed. This modern metropolis has a few real architectural pearls and it is the home of Adana kebab – one of the most popular dishes of Turkish cuisine. The city is situated on the Seyhan River, at the heart of Cilicia plain (tr. Çukurova) with its flat, well-irrigated land, which is one of the most fertile areas in the world. Adana’s strategic location has made it a gate leading from the Middle East and Central Asia to Anatolia and further to Europe. The route from Adana to the Anatolian Plateau leads through the so called Cilician Gates – Gülek Pass in the Taurus Mountains.
Mersin is a large city and a port on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the capital of the Mersin Province. Currently, Mersin is a real metropolis, with its own skyscrapers, hotels and even an opera. It is also the home of university which was founded in 1992. The Turkish government is planning to build the first in Turkey nuclear power station in the area of the city. However, this decision encounters strong protests of Greenpeace and other organizations. It is recommended to visit Mersin , especially if you want to explore a big Turkish port city life. The city offers beautiful boardwalks along the shore, lively street market and interesting dishes typical of this region. You can taste nopal fruit that has to be peeled wearing special thick rubber gloves. Mersin charms with the exceptionally successful combination of modernity and tradition. There is a spacious indoor bazaar in the city, where you can stroll endlessly through the sun-shielded labyrinth streets. If you feel like doing more European shopping, you can go to the shopping centre in the outskirts of the city, which will definitely satisfy your needs. Small brasseries neighbor with big, air-conditioned restaurants. Additionally, hotels in Mersin happen to be very cheap, clean and well-equipped, at the same time. (We stayed in Mersin in the biggest apartment we would be able to find in the whole Turkey and paid almost a symbolic amount for it.
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