Important Dates

About Turkey

Turkey: A Land for All Tastes

In Turkey you will experience an incredible diversity in nature, culture, history, beliefs and ideas.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

AS a bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey has so much to offer visitors: breathtaking natural beauty, unique historical and archaeological sites, steadily improving hotel and touristic infrastructure and a tradition of hospitality and competitive prices. Therefore, it is not surprising that Turkey has become one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations.Turkey is above all a huge open-air museum, a repository of all the civilizations nurtured by the soils of Anatolia.

Kastamonu / Valla Canyon
Besides its great sights and monuments, Turkey offers unlimited opportunities for leisure and pleasure. Majestic mountains are ideal for climbers, hikers, skiers and paragliders. There are over 8000km of coastline laced with picturesque bays and coves offering not only unique spots for summer holidays but also exciting opportunities for scuba diving, sailing, parasailing and cruising. Year-round sunshine destinations are accessible in Turkey, while there is plenty of snow in others.
A Unique Geography Connecting East to West

Turkey is like a mosaic made up of many different reliefs and formations: parallel mountain ranges, extinct volcanoes, plateaux fissured by valleys and plains.

TURKEY is a vast peninsula, covering an area of 780,000 sq km and linking Asia to Europe through the Sea of Marmara and the Straits of İstanbul and Çanakkale

Bolu / Yedigöller

Surrounded by seas on three sides, it is placed in the temperate climate zone.
There are more than 10,000 species of plants in Turkey, 20% of which are endemic. Turkey is home to a number of ornamental flowers, the most notable being the tulip.

Turkey has a great variety of wild animals, with around 160 species of mammals. The forest belt to the north is home to grey bears, while the south is home to wild goats. Sea turtles and seals play in the waters of the Mediterranean and the Aegean.
There are 418 species of indigenous or migratory birds, some of which are extinct in Europe, such as the black vulture.


The bucolic, rural scenery radiates with sincerity and health, enhancing the traveler’s experience.Turkey’s landscape has the combined characteristics of the three oldest continents of the world: Europe, Africa and Asia.

A Melting Pot of Peoples

İstanbul has the honour of having served as the capital of three successive empires – the Roman, the Byzantine, and the Ottoman. Anatolia itself became a crossroads of peoples, cultures and religions.

İstanbul / Ortaköy

Turkey has an extremely rich cultural heritage. Perhaps no other land has witnessed so many diverse civilisations over the last 11,500 years. After the great Mesopotamians, the Hittite and Urartian kingdoms flourished in Anatolia. The Ionian and Roman civilisations predominated the western Anatolia. İstanbul has the honour of having served as the capital of three successive empires – the Roman, the Byzantine, and the Ottoman.

Antalya / Perge

In addition to the historic edifices proudly displayed at such main archaeological sites as Troy, Pergamum, Ephesus, Miletus, Priene, Didyma, Aphrodisias, Heraclia, Caunos, Perge, and Aspendos, many coastal villages and towns are blessed with their very own Anatolian ruins on the outskirts.

A Country of All Faiths

As civilisations succeeded each other over a period of 11,500 years, they each left their religious legacy and, after the monotheistic domination of Anatolia, Islam, Christianity and Judaism co-existed in harmony.

The Hattians, Hittites, Hurrians, Urartians, Ionians, Lydians and Phrygians had rich mythologies. Greek mythology began with the Iliad, the epic poem of Homer who was himself a child of Anatolia. Homer was deeply influenced by the cultural environment of his motherland, in particular, by the legacy of the Mesopotamian civilisations.

Şanlıurfa / Halil-ül Rahman Mosque

This is also the land of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse and was the venue for the first seven councils. Christianity took root and thrived in Anatolia, where it found a historically intense religious and spiritual lifestyle. The population easily adopted the new religion preached by St Paul, St Barnabas, St Silas and St Timothy. The Church of Ephesus was founded in 54AD. By the second century, two dioceses had already come into existence, one in Kayseri and the other in Malatya. Cappadocia was Christianised long before Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity as a legal religion.

As a natural outcome of centuries-long peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious identities, today Christian and Jewish shrines are preserved and respected in line with the Islamic tradition of tolerance.

The Village

Silhouettes of villages, accentuated by slim minarets, dot the hillsides along the highways of Turkey, reflecting the climate and character of each region.

Dwellings on the Mediterranean coast are built from a stone that takes on the colour of the sky when the sun is low on the horizon, with timber starting to be integrated at higher altitudes. Wooden frame and log construction in the temperate zone gives way to wattle and daub and eventually sun-dried brick in the southeast of the country.

Rize / Pokut Plateau

A real treat for the history buff is a visit to one of the villages just outside Bursa such as Cumalıkızık, which is just as would have been in the 13th century.

The Traditional Turkish City

Built on lands unfavorable for cultivation, traditional Turkish cities display unique vernacular architectural styles reflecting regional conditions with an urbane and sophisticated building tradition.

The traditional Turkish city is typically situated along historical trade routes, notably the silk and spice routes. Built on lands unfavorable for cultivation, these cities display unique vernacular architectural styles reflecting regional conditions with an urbane and sophisticated building tradition.

Amasya / Servet UYGUN

It is in these cities that both high style and vernacular culture evolved side by side, giving us the best examples of Turkish architecture as well as the best of folklore, traditional arts and crafts, customs and food. These cities were home to folk heroes such as Köroğlu and the poet Yunus Emre, whose simple verses offer profound ideas for humanity, along with the well-known Nasrettin Hodja, another famous folk hero whose personification of folk wisdom in his humorous anecdotes is still widely quoted and enjoyed.

The popular theatre tradition, with its comedians, storytellers, marionettes and shadow puppets evolved in the provincial cities.

The Big City in Turkey

Turkey's focal points are its three largest cities, İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir which have become major urban centres by historical providence as well as by design.


For more than 1500 years İstanbul was the capital of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.

With one arm reaching out to Asia and the other to Europe, İstanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents. The Bosphorus courses the waters of the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn through the city’s heart.

İstanbul's fate has been sealed by its vital strategic location and its enchanting natural beauty. For more than 1500 years it was the capital of three empires: Roman, Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. It was beautified accordingly with magnificent monuments and became a metropolis where diverse cultures, nations and religions mingled. Those cultures, nations and religions are the small pieces that form the mosaic of İstanbul.

İstanbul’s most important building works started in the Byzantine period and the city was then embellished further during the days of the Ottoman Empire.


As an imperial capital of 1500 years, İstanbul is rich in architectural monuments reflecting its past splendour.

The most magnificent of İstanbul’s monuments are clustered on the historical peninsula, the triangular piece of land surrounded by the Sea of Marmara to the east and south, by the Golden Horn to the north and by the city walls to the west. The Historic Areas of İstanbul was inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 1985, enchanting visitors with an impressive texture. Sultanahmet Square is the core of the historical peninsula and the most prominent examples of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture can be seen in close proximity here.

Living Heritages of Byzantines

During the Byzantine Period the centre of the city was the Hippodrome and its environs. The Palacewas the centre of power, the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) the most spectacular of the religious buildings; the Hippodrome served as the common entertainment centre and the Yerebatan Sarnıcı (Basilica Cistern) supplied most of the city’s water, – all are to be found at the centre of the city. During Ottoman times, the square where the Hippodrome once stood became the site for the circumcision ceremonies of the Sultans’ sons.

The Hagia Sophia is referred to as the 8th wonder of the world.

Great Mystic Symbols

Aged more than 1500 years old, it is one of the great symbols of İstanbul. The mosaics of Hagia Sophia, which were uncovered after it became a museum, are the foremost examples of Byzantine art of the 9th to 12th centuries. The Kariye Museum (Chora Church) is another Byzantine monument famous for its fine mosaics and frescoes. The Neve Shalom, Ahrida and Aşkenazi synagogues are three of the most important sacred places for Judaism in İstanbul.

The Topkapı Palace is particularly important for the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi (Chamber of Holy Relics) where the Prophet Muhammed’s Hırka-i Saadet (Blessed Mantle) and Sancak-ı Şerif (Holy Banner) are kept in their golden chests. The Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, was built between 1609 and 1616 and houses the tomb of its founder, Sultan Ahmed I, a madrasah and a hospice.


Building on its assets inherited from a glorious past, İstanbul is an international city with a financial and economic center offering services in banking, telecommunications, marketing, engineering and tourism. International conferences and festivals, fairs, fashion shows, sports and art performances give a new dimension to the life and potential of the city.

İstanbul is one of the busiest centers of 'congress travel' in the world, offering every support and service to conferences of all sizes. Great service is available due to İstanbul’s excellent transportation and communication facilities and a wide choice of accommodation equipped with the latest technology.


A stay in İstanbul is not complete without a traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, the strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful mixture of past and present, grand splendour and simple beauty.


This horn-shaped estuary known as the Golden Horn divides European İstanbul into two. As one of the best natural harbours in the world, the Byzantine and Ottoman navies and their commercial shipping interests were centred here.


İstanbul is an international centre for arts and culture with a rich tradition in opera and ballet, theatres performing both Turkish and international works, concerts, exhibitions, festivals, auctions, conferences and, of course, museums.


İstanbul is a shopper’s paradise, catering to all kinds of customers. From covered bazaars and workshops that continue ancient traditions, to shopping malls and department stores, İstanbul offers a wide variety of shopping opportunities.


The city of Ankara lies in the centre of Anatolia on the eastern edge of the great, high Anatolian Plateau, at an altitude of 850m. With its yellow wheat fields, young volcanoes and infinite steppe, the plateau offers a stern landscape though a look at its history reveals millennia rich with emotive episodes.

Due to its location in the centre of the country, the region has been a historical junction of major trade routes and a crossroads of migratory streams. The Hittite Empire, one of the superpowers in antiquity, emerged here in Central Anatolia. The Hittites distinguished themselves not only through the civilisations they created, but also through the state structure they evolved and their tolerance and respect for human rights.

Throughout history, Ankara has witnessed battles between powerful armies in quest of domination. The city was an important

cultural, trading and arts centre in Roman times and a major trading centre on the caravan route to the east in Ottoman times. However, it had lost importance by the 19th century. When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk chose Ankara as the base from which to direct the War of Independence, it once again became an important centre. By consequence of its role in the war and its strategic position, it was declared the capital of the new Republic of Turkey on October 13, 1923. Ankara, known until that time for its rabbits, cats and goats, became the geographic, political and administrative centre of Turkey, with all the government offices and foreign embassies transferred from İstanbul. The first buildings to alter the skyline of Ankara were the Museums of Ethnography and of Painting and Sculpture. They no longer stand alone and today Ankara counts a number of skyscrapers, large shopping centres, five-star hotels and bank headquarters.

Ankara is located at the crossing point of the routes from east to west and north to south – thus its influence and importance on commercial routes dates back to such very early times as the Assyrian Trade Colonies Period.

Moreover, it was located on King Road which was one of the most important routes in ancient times, extending from Sardis, capital of Lydia, to Susa City in Mesopotamia. Ankara had been used as a settlement area continuously during the Phrygian, Galatian, Roman and Byzantine periods, and Alexander the Great was one of the most famous people that the city hosted. Ankara also came to the fore for its mohair obtained from Angora goats during the Ottoman Empire and became one of the important trade cities of the empire owing to its location on the Silk Road. Although the city entered a stagnant period alongside the general decline of the Ottoman Empire, it gained a new importance with the proclamation of the Turkish Republic and developed swiftly as the capital city that today is the second biggest metropolitan city in Turkey.

The Temple of Augustus, Column of Julian and the Hacı Bayram Mosque are also popular sites in Ulus that you should not miss visiting. The Temple was built by the Galatian King Pylamenes in 10AD as a tribute to Augustus, and was re-constructed by the Romans on the ancient Ankara Acropolis in the 2nd century. It is important today for the "Monument Ancyranum", the sole surviving political testament of Augustus, detailing his achievements and inscribed on its walls in Latin and Greek.

Ankara’s most important monument is undoubtedly the eternal resting place of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkey.

Ankara is a centre for opera, ballet, jazz and modern dance, as well as home of the prestigious Presidential Symphony Orchestra.


The beautiful İzmir pulls you into a world of picturesque modernity and traditions, with its refreshing touches to the human souls.

İzmir is the ancient city of Smyrna, or "the country of the sacred mother", which existed even before the arrival of the Hittites and was ruled by Ionians, Persians, Romans and Ottomans. The original city was established in the third millennium BC (at present day Bayraklı) and had the most advanced culture, alongside Troy, in Western Anatolia. Excavations at Bayraklı have unearthed a temple dedicated to Athena and the wall of the Ionian city which had flourished there between the seventh and fifth centuries BC. Pottery dating back to the third millennium BC has also been uncovered. By 1500BC, it had fallen under the influence of the Central Anatolian Hittite Empire.

İzmir mesmerizes visitors in an aura of history and modernity.

During the first millennium BC İzmir, known then as Smyrna, ranked as one of the most important cities of the Ionian Federation and Homer is believed to have lived here during this period. The Lydian conquest of the city around 600BC brought this period to an end. İzmir remained little more than a village throughout Lydian rule and the sixth century BC Persian rule. During the fourth century BC, a new city was built on the slopes of Mt Pagos (Kadifekale) during the reign of Alexander the Great. İzmir's Roman period, beginning in the first century BC, was its second great era. Byzantine rule followed in the fourth century and lasted until the Seljuk conquest of the 11th century. In 1415, under Sultan Mehmet Çelebi, İzmir became part of the Ottoman Empire.

Welcome to İzmir of Modern Times!

Today, İzmir is one of Turkey's most pleasant cities: its streets are shaded by palm trees, the sideways are beautiful and the houses elegant. As the final destination of the "King's Road", which goes all the way to Iran, İzmir continues to be a focal point for tourism and entertainment. The city's coastline is renowned for its fish restaurants along the coast as well as its bars, discos and nightclubs whereas its hinterlands are rich in monuments and ruins which tell the tale of countless ancient civilizations. Also, highly valued since ancient times, the Balçova Springs are found just 10km west of İzmir.

Must-see sights

On arrival in İzmir there are many must-see sights such as the Church of St Polycarp, one of the seven churches mentioned in Bible. The Archaeological Museum, near Konak Square, houses a superb collection of antiquities including the statues of Poseidon and Demeter which in ancient times stood in the Agora. Next to the Archaeological Museum is the Ethnography Museum which displays a fine collection of Bergama and Gördes carpets, traditional costumes and camel bridles. On Kadifekale (Mt Pagos) stands the impressive ruins of a castle and its walls which were built by Lysimachus under the reign of Alexander the Great. They still dominate İzmir today. The castle offers an excellent vantage point from where to enjoy a magnificent view of the Gulf of İzmir. The Agora, or marketplace, in the Namazgah quarter was constructed during the rule of Alexander the Great; what remains today, however, dates from the rebuilding under Marcus Aurelius after a devastating earthquake in 178 AD. Built in the 16th century, and restored in the 19th, Hisar Mosqueis the largest and oldest mosque in İzmir. In the village of Birgi, the Çakır Ağa Mansion is a fine example of traditional Turkish architecture.

Nature and history are interwoven into a city design show.

Şirince, a peaceful village nestled in greenery, has a long history just as the other settlements around do. You can enjoy local tastes and visit the houses dating from the Ottoman Period that stretch along narrow streets with stone pavements. As an original Aegean settlement with many other unique characteristics, Şirince Village deserves a visit.

Ephesus: A Monument for All Time

The ancient city of Ephesus is Turkey’s most important ancient city, and one of the best preserved and restored. One can still stroll for hours along its streets passing temples, theatres, libraries, houses and statues. It contains such grand public buildings as the impressive Library of Celsus, the theatre, the Temple of Hadrian and the sumptuous Temple of Artemis which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The ruins also include public toilets and even a brothel dating mostly from the fourth century BC.

Ephesus is particularly important for faith tourism as it contains the House of the Virgin Mary. It is believed that the Virgin Mary was taken to this stone house by St John, where she lived until her death at the age of 101. The Church of the Virgin Mary, close to the original harbour of Ephesus, was the setting for the Third Ecumenical Council in 431. Two other religious sites worth visiting are the Basilica of St John, built in the sixth century, and İsa Bey Mosque, which is a sample of Seljuk architecture. Ephesus is not just a touristic site. It is home to the International İzmir Festivalutilizing its grand amphitheatre, Celsus Library and the House of the Virgin Mary.

Boost yourself in Çeşme

The district of Çeşme is a very popular summer resort in particular with the residents of nearby İzmir and includes such historical sites as a 16th-century castle and an ancient caravanserai. The white sandy beaches stretch lazily along a road lined with exquisitely built houses, several large hotels and a number of restaurants, serving excellent seafood and Turkish specialties. Most of the hotels are set on beaches outside the centre of town and the peninsula has excellent conditions for windsurfing, with Alaçatı's beach being one of the best spots.

In Çeşme it is possible to have a complete spa treatment alongside a beach holiday, as the area offers a wide range of hotel accommodation with some of the hotels having their own spas, making use of the area's natural mineral waters. Ilıca with a white sandy beach of the same name, is the most famous of these hot springs which contain high levels of sodium chloride, magnesium sulphate and calcium bicarbonate. Ilıca hot springs also offer underwater massage and electrotherapy as well as hot mineral pools and baths.

The turquoise coast of Alaçatı embraces surfers with its clear blue waters.

The town of Alaçatı lies to the south of and inland from Ilıca and the coast. Windmills dot the hills above Alaçatı, a delightful and typical Aegean town, with some converted into cafes. There is a good beach a couple of kilometres to the south and many lovely bays along the coast southeast of town are accessible only by yacht, ensuring peaceful and relaxing anchorage in this popular sailing region.

Explore Foça

The district of Foça is situated on the site of the ancient city of Phocaea and is said to have been founded by the very same people who founded the French city of Marseilles, Attalia in Corsicaand Ampurias in Catalonia. Around 600BC the inhabitants of Foça decorated their buildings, temples and ships with wooden statues of cockerels, and according to a legend, one such statue is still hidden somewhere in the town.

Turkish Coastline: A Paradise for Yachtsmen

With over 8333km of coastline bordering four different seas and embroidered with countless coves, inlets, bays and beaches, Turkey is a paradise for yachtsmen with a different and private anchorage available for each night if one so wishes.


TURKEY is home to the Blue Voyage, the idyllic cruise which equates with "sailing with the winds, into coves and over the seas, thus becoming one with nature". For lovers of an active life, sailing in clear waters provides great opportunities for swimming, fishing, water skiing, surfing and diving.

The special design of Turkey’s indigenous sea-going vessel, the gulet, is synonymous with the Blue Voyage with its harmonious combination of practicality and tradition. Constructed mostly in the shipyards of Bodrum, Bozburun, Marmaris and İstanbul, and along the Black Sea coast, these broad-beam and wide-decked boats are equipped with motors as well as fully functional rigging. A good selection of charter gulets, motor yachts and sailboats are available for week tours, while smaller boats can be rented for day trips.

Spas and Thermal Springs

Hundreds of thermal springs and spa facilities dotted the geothermal belt of Anatolia during the long era of development by the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.

The ancient Romans were the first to discover that Turkey’s many thermal springs offer unique therapeutic powers; they built the ancient city of Hierapolis close to the waters of Pamukkale. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian built baths at the natural hot springs of Çekirge at the foot of Mount Uludağ in Bursa to make best use of the healing properties of these springs. Many thermal baths were also built by the Ottoman sultans across the lands of the empire. Today Turkey is one of the seven countries which enjoys rich geothermal resources and it is one of the leading countries in Europe for geothermal therapy. Western Anatolia in particular abounds in thermal springs, or kaplıcas in Turkish, where people seek remedies for a wide variety of health problems and disorders. Some thermal waters are suitable simply for relaxation, while others are believed to offer specific health benefits. In either case, spas in Turkey are under the supervision of the Ministry of Health for strict compliance with high standards of hygiene. Most of Turkey’s top hotels also have their own spas and health clubs offering the latest in health and beauty treatments.

Trekking and Mountaineering

A glance at a topographical map of Turkey immediately reveals that this is a country of mountains, offering areas suitable for trekking and mountaineering with wonderful nature reserves with a rich variety of flora and fauna.

Mountains, rising on all four sides, encircle the Anatolian peninsula and form a part of the Alpine-Himalayan Mountain range. Two of Turkey’s most famous peaks are volcanoes, both inactive: Mt Erciyes in Kayseri in Central Anatolia (3917m) and Mt Ağrı (Mt Ararat 5137m) in the east. Other well-known mountain ranges are the Rize-Kaçkar (3932m) in the eastern Black Sea region, Niğde-Aladağ (3756m) in the Central Taurus range, and the Cilo and Sat mountains (4136m) near Hakkari in the eastern Taurus.

Niğde / Aladağlar

For those interested in trekking, Turkey offers many opportunities. The Lycian Way and St Paul Trail are the two official long distance footpaths of Turkey. Both paths are 500km and trekking is possible almost all year round. The Lycian Way stretches along the coast from Fethiye to Antalya, with many ascents and descents. The St Paul Trail is a newer footpath leading from Perge, 10km east of Antalya, to Yalvaç, northeast of Lake Eğirdir. Treks on these paths range from a difficulty level of medium to hard, depending on the section and the season

Traditional Handicrafts

Traditional Turkish handicrafts form a rich mosaic by bringing together the cultural heritage of all the different civilisations which have passed through Anatolia over the millennia.

Among the traditional handicrafts are carpet weaving, ceramics and pottery, embroidery, leather manufacture, musical instrument-making, masonry, copper work, basket-making, saddlemaking, felt-making, weaving and woodwork. Carpet weaving is one of Turkey’s oldest handicrafts. Turkish carpets and kilims are characterized by the use of woollen yarn, bold drawings and bright colours that form a pattern of infinite beauty. Turkish carpet weaving started among the nomadic Turkish Peoples of Central Asia and was introduced to Anatolia by Seljuks in the 11th century. Anatolian women continued this tradition for centuries, using woollen yarn produced by twisting the wool with their fingers and dyes they extracted from wild plant roots.

Copper Work

The Seljuks and Ottomans developed a highly original decorative and pictorial style for ceramics, imitating the technique of tile-mosaic. With the emergence of Ottoman might, ceramic art matured and İznik and Kütahya became major centres of production. The Ottomans introduced coloured glazes, in particular sapphire blue and golden yellow, and invented a new technique enabling many tiles to be fired on one single modular tile, thereby eliminating the time consuming process of piecing fragments together in the mosaic. Another traditional handicraft is copper and brass work; the inhabitants of Anatolia have used copper kitchen utensils from time immemorial and copper work reached its height during the Ottoman age. The Ottomans exploited the copper mines of Anatolia and the Balkans, and perfected the craftsmanship of copper. Today, traditional pots and pans have been replaced by more convenient utensils, but in cities where copper craftsmanship continues, such as Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Kahramanmaraş and Muğla, copper and brass objects are still manufactured in the traditional way.

From the 16th century onwards, jewellery artisans in the Sultan’s Palace succeeded in creating their own original, rich style. The art of jewellery still continues in many regions of Anatolia and the Covered Bazaar in İstanbul has preserved its historic reputation as Turkey’s main centre of jewellery.

Food Fit for a Sultan

Turkish cuisine is considered to be one of the three main cuisines of the world because of the variety of its dishes, its use of natural ingredients, its flavours and tastes which appeal to all palates and its influence throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

For those who travel so as to engage in culinary pursuits, Turkish cuisine is definitely worthy of exploration. The variety of dishes that make up the cuisine, the ways they come together in feast-like meals and the evident intricacy of each dish offer enough material for life-long study and enjoyment.

Turkish cuisine originated in Central Asia, the first home of the Turks, and then evolved with the contributions of the inland and Mediterranean cultures with which Turks interacted after their arrival in Anatolia. It was refined and enriched over the centuries in the palace of the Sultan, but its tendency for simplicity and natural tastes was preserved. In line with the palace cuisine, Anatolia’s regions developed their own gastronomic specialties.

Turkish Cuisine / Mantı

Eating is not taken lightly in Turkey and dinner in a good restaurant may take four or five hours in the company of friends and family, sipping drinks and savouring the endless procession of hot and cold dishes while engaging in conversation that begins with light-hearted humour and often turns into poetic reminiscences of the past. Turkish cuisine ranks with French and Chinese in its variety, nutrition and finesse. Like its Chinese and French counterparts, Turkish cuisine developed according to the availability of ingredients. Original Turkish cuisine in Central Asia was composed mainly of meat dishes and such milk products as cheese.

In Anatolia, the cuisine grew with the abundant supply of vegetables and fruits. With its roots in Central Asia, and its later development in Anatolia, Turkish cuisine is in a sense a bridge between Far Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, with the accent always on enhancing the natural taste and flavour of the ingredients. There is no dominant element in Turkish cuisine, nothing equivalent to the sauces in French and pasta in Italian cuisine.

In Turkish cuisine, meat, fish, vegetables and pastas can be prepared in countless different ways. For instance, eggplant, a vegetable not so commonly consumed in Europe, constitutes a main dish in Turkey and can be cooked in no less than 40 different ways. The sauces and spices used in Turkish cuisine are never allowed to alter the original taste of the main ingredient though. The ingredients are basically cooked in their own juices and the flavour is enhanced with butter, olive oil, salt, onions, garlic, spices and vinegar.

A number of Turkish culinary specialties have a world-wide reputation, one of which of course is lokum, or Turkish delight as it is better known. Made of sugar syrup which is boiled with starch, hazelnuts, pistachios, mint or rose water are added to it. One of the most famous Turkish desserts is undoubtedly baklava (honey and nut pastry). Other sweet specialties include pastes of almonds, pistachios and coconut. The roasted pistachio is a favourite snack and is also used in several dishes and sweets. Turkish coffee is also world-renowned. Its preparation is quite different from other coffees. The coffee grounds are first stirred into cold water in a pot with a handle and then boiled until it foams. The foam is then poured into the cup and the coffee boiled once again. The coffee grounds left in the bottom of the cup are undrinkable and often used for fortune telling by Turkish women who can be very proficient at scrutinizing the pattern left by the coffee grounds for hidden meaning. Another Turkish specialty is undoubtedly the Turkish simit (bagel). The simit is a sesame seed-covered bread ring, available any time and everywhere from street peddlers to street corners. Turks like to start the day with a freshly baked simit and a cup of Turkish tea which is prepared by using a double-tiered tea pot.

Turkey on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Turkey is adorned with precious examples of humanity’s endless strivings in progress, aesthetics, meaning and purpose from throughout history with these combining to form the cultural heritage of our planet. Each monument and object from the past also gives us an insight into our origins and our lives today.

Historic Areas of İstanbul

The cultural heritage of İstanbul was shaped by its location as a strategic entrance to Anatolia, Central Asia and the Middle East on the one hand, and to Europe on the other.
The Historic Areas of İstanbul, inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1985, cover four main areas: the Archaeological Park, the Süleymaniye Mosque and its associated Conservation Area, Zeyrek Mosque and its associated Conservation Area, and the City Walls of İstanbul.


In its evaluation report the International Council on Monuments and Sites has stated that one cannot conceive of the World Heritage List without İstanbul, which has been associated with the world’s major political, religious and artistic events for over 2000 years. The cultural property in this area includes unique monuments and masterpieces of universal architecture, two of which are the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), built by Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Milet in 532-537, and the Süleymaniye Mosque, a masterpiece of Sinan the Great Architect. The 6650m city walls of Theodosius II, with its second line of defences created in 447, has been one of the leading references for military architecture.

City of Safranbolu

Located in a district of Karabük province in the Black Sea Region of Turkey, Safranbolu is a typical Ottoman city that has survived to the present day with the architectural forms of the buildings and streets illustrative of their period. During its zenith in the 17th century, Safranbolu’s architecture influenced urban development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire. The city was an important caravan station on the main east–west trade route from the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century. Built in 1322, the Old Mosque, Old Bath and Süleyman Paşa Madrasah are the most prominent examples of Ottoman architecture in the city.

Archaeological Site of Troy

Contrary to popular opinion, the archaeological site of Troy does not embody just one ancient city. In fact, this site comprises the ruins of at least nine different settlements, built one on top of the other, dating back to the early Bronze Age. The first city was founded in the 3rd millennium BC and flourished as a mercantile city due to its location. This unique site enabled its inhabitants to control the Dardanelles (today’s Çanakkale Strait), a waterway which is used by every merchant ship passing from the Aegean Sea and heading for the Black Sea. The extensive remains at this archaeological site are the most significant demonstration of the first contact between the civilisations of Anatolia and the Mediterranean world. Naturally, Troy is of immense significance to understand the early development of European civilisation at such critical stage. Moreover, Troy is of exceptional cultural importance because of the profound influence of Homer’s Iliad on the creative arts over more than two millennia.

Göreme National Park and The Rock Sites of Cappadocia

Located among the ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations, Göreme is a town in the Nevşehir province of Central Anatolia. With a spectacular landscape entirely sculpted by erosion, the Göreme Valley and its surroundings contain rockhewn sanctuaries that provide unique evidence of Byzantine art in the post-Iconoclastic period. The area also contains the villages of prehistoric cave dwellers and underground cities that include the remains of human habitation dating back to the 4th century. Göreme contains unique natural features and displays a harmonious combination of natural and cultural landscape elements.

Hattusha: The Hittite Capital

Hattusha, found near modern Boğazkale (formerly Boğazköy) in Çorum province, was the capital of the Hittite Empire in the Late Bronze Age – a region situated in a loop of the Kızılırmak River in Central Anatolia. The archaeological site of Hattusha contains several notable elements: its urban organization, the types of construction that have been preserved (temples, royal residences, fortifications), the rich ornamentation of the Lions’ Gate and the Royal Gate, and the ensemble of rock art at Yazılıkaya. The city enjoyed considerable influence in Anatolia and northern Syria in the 2nd millennium BC.

Çorum / Hattusha
Mount Nemrut

Mount Nemrut can be found in south-eastern Turkey, 40km north of Kahta near Adıyaman, standing at a height of 2206m. It is most notable for the gigantic statues located at the 1st century BC on its summit – a sanctuary built by King Antiochus I of Commagene – with the engineering of the construction continuing to amaze visitors when seen for the first time. The colossal statues of Apollo, Zeus, Hercules, Tyche and Antiochus rest on terraces that flank the artificial tumulus and a ceremonial road of approximately 180m connects the eastern and western terraces, lined on both sides with incomplete statues and stele. Sunrise makes a deep impression with visitors at this particular spot on Mount Nemrut, with its magnificent scenery set against the background of the landscape of nearby hills and mountains.


The site, located in southwestern Turkey, consists of two components: the archaeological site of Aphrodisias and the marble quarries in the northeast of the city. The temple of Aphrodite dates from the 3rd century BC and the city was built in the 2nd century BC. The wealth of Aphrodisias came from the marble quarries and the art produced by its sculptors. Arranged around several large civic structures, the city streets include temples, a theatre, an agora, and two bath complexes.

Selimiye Mosque and Its Complex

The Selimiye Mosque and its Külliye form a complex including a madrasah or Islamic religious academy, dar-ül hadis (hadith school), timekeeper’s room and an arasta (avenue of shops). Constructed by the celebrated architect Sinan between 1569 and 1575, the Selimiye Mosque and its complex are located in Edirne, the capital of Ottoman Empire before İstanbul. A masterpiece of Ottoman art and in the history of world architecture, the Selimiye Mosque is visible from all parts of the city with its monumental dome and four slender minarets. Besides its unique architectural characteristics, the mosque evokes admiration with its exquisite details in its carved-stone work and marble, glazed tiles, wood carving and mother-of-pearl inlays.

Edirne / Selimiye Mosque
Divriği Ulu Mosque and Hospital, Sivas

The Divriği Ulu Mosque and its adjoining hospital was constructed by Emir Ahmet Shah in 1228. The mosque has a single prayer room and is crowned by two cupolas. Some of the unique features of this masterpiece of Islamic architecture include the highly sophisticated technique of vault construction and a creative, exuberant type of decorative sculpture. This is particularly evident on the three doorways in contrast to the unadorned walls of the interior.


The ancient Lycian capital of Xanthos, today in the Turkish village Kınık, lies 18 km north of Patara. The theatre, Tomb of the Harpies, Nereid Monument , agora, and Inscribed Pillar, among a mixture of ruins from Lycian, Roman and Byzantine times, create a special atmosphere at this site. The archaeological site of Letoon is located between the towns of Kaş and Fethiye in Antalya, approximately 4km south of Xanthos along the river. These sites illustrate the blending of Lycian traditions and ancient Greek influence, especially in their funerary art. Archaeological experts and linguists agree that the epigraphic inscriptions are crucial for our understanding of the history of the Lycian people and their Indo-European language.


Pamukkale, meaning "cotton castle", is a natural attraction in south-western Turkey’s Denizli province. Unique in the world, Pamukkale resembles a frozen waterfall, with white layers of limestone and travertine cascading down a mountain slope approximately 2700m in length and 160m in height. Thermal spring waters, laden with calcareous salts running off the plateau’s edge, have created a fantastic formation of stalactites, cataracts and basins. At the end of the 2nd century BC, the dynasty of Attalid, the king of Pergamon, established the thermal spa of Hierapolis close by. Situated on a plateau, we find both the thermal centre and the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis. The ruins of the baths, temples and other monuments can be observed at the site.

Denizli / Pamukkale
Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük, Konya

Çatalhöyük is renowned as one of the earliest settlements of the Neolithic era, shedding light on the dawn of human settlement with unique examples of the earliest domestic architecture and landscape painting as well as sacred objects of the mother-goddess cult.
The site has extraordinary arts and crafts, with the earliest finds dating from 7400BC, and it has been an important key to unlocking the mysteries of the beginnings of agriculture and civilisation. The social organization of the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük and its urban plan are believed to represent the ideals of equality.
The tumulus shows that the history of mining in Anatolia dates back to the Neolithic era and provides ample evidence that people were involved in agriculture as well as hunting and gathering at that time. Çatalhöyük is also the first site in the world where a city plan is depicted in wall paintings. Baked-clay seals from the site show that the concept of property ownership developed in that era.

Pergamon and Its Multi-Layered Cultural Landscape

The ancient city of Pergamon near İzmir, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014, is a settlement that was rebuilt constantly and persisted in the stage of history due to its strategic location, though it has been exposed to many occupations and destructions throughout its history. Having been conquered by Alexander the Great after Persian rule, Pergamon’s golden era was during the 2nd century BC when it became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon. Pergamon was a centre of health, culture and arts for many years with the world’s largest library and spectacular sculptures hewn by accomplished artists. Pergamon maintained its importance during the time of the Romans when construction works continued. A trip to Pergamon, described as “the most famous and magnificent city of Asia Minor” by Plinius Secundus, the 1st century BC author and philosopher, will allow you to discover the traces of this famous city of antiquity.

Bursa and Cumalıkızık: The Birth of the Ottoman Empire

Bursa, one of the early capitals of the Ottoman Empire, reflects the early period of Ottoman culture. Cumalıkızık is a village from that period, a place where time seems to have stopped. The village is notable both for its houses, which are excellent examples of the civil architecture of the Ottoman period, and also for its friendly inhabitants that revel in the traditional setting. It is a ‘living Ottoman village’ with an unspoiled historical ambiance, everyday living, cultural values and natural surroundings where you are sure to step into a time capsule of wooden houses, narrow streets and monumental trees.

Archaeological Site of Ani

Lying on a secluded plateau in the Turkish Province of Kars, Ani is home to military, religious as well as residential buildings and fortifications which trail back hundreds of years. These structures reflect the characteristics of the medieval urbanism that was formed within centuries by Christians and Muslims. It grew into a magnificent capital of the Bagradit Armenian Kingdom in the 10th and 11th centuries with a population over one hundred thousand and gained economic power by controlling one branch of the Silk Road. Even after coming under the sovereignty of Byzantines, Seljuks, and Georgians, it kept playing a vital role as a significant crossroads for merchants. However, the city started to go into decline after the Mongol invasion and a destructive earthquake that occurred in 1319. Through the technically and artistically advanced structures of the region built between the 7th and 13th centuries, this archaeological site provides the modern-day archaeologists with valuable information that unveil the evolution of medieval architecture.

Kars / Ani
Diyarbakır City Walls and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape

Located on an escarpment of the Upper Dicle (Tigris) River Basin, the fortified city of Diyarbakır and the landscape around bearing the traces of several civilisations throughout the history has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015. The site encompasses the Amida Mound, known as İçkale (inner castle), the 6 km-long city walls of Diyarbakır with their numerous towers, gates, buttresses and 63 inscriptions from different periods, as well as Hevsel Gardens, a green link between the city and the Tigris that supplied the city with food and water.


As one of the most important centres of the ancient era, Ephesus has been inhabited approximately for 9000 years throughout the Hellenistic Era, Roman Period, Byzantine Era, the Period of Principalities and the Ottoman Era and has always been a very important port city and the centre of culture and commerce. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015, the site comprises Çukuriçi Mound, Ayasuluk Hill (Selçuk Fortress, the Basilica of St. John, İsa Bey Bath, İsa Bey Mosque, Temple of Artemis), the ancient city of Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary.