By Eric Rutter
If you are a traveller looking to sightsee on a tight budget, consider booking a trip to Turkey to quench your wanderlust-filled thoughts. As a country occupying parts of both Europe and Asia, Turkey offers a unique blend of cultural influences spread across a lush, water-filled topography that would be ideal for a 10-day excursion.
But how could one fit this vast country’s compelling aspects into just a week and a half?
Simple. Start at the coast and work your way north to Istanbul, stopping at UNESCO World Heritage sites, ancient ruins, world-famous bazaars and rugged mountains.
Antalya: Two days
Kickstart your trip in the beautiful coastal city of Antalya, which features its namesake, the Gulf of Antalya. As a waterway that feeds into the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf is a prominent source of seafood that provides a delectable assortment of Mediterranean cuisine to the restaurants scattered across the region.
With such an abundant water source to the city’s southern edge, it may be surprising to learn that an even more scenic aquatic destination lies 10 kilometres North of the city centre: the Upper Düden Falls. With forges, hidden caves, and waterfalls, it is a quintessential location for a temperate yet thrilling nature hike.
But if this doesn’t satiate your thirst for the water, venture back into Antalya proper for the Lower Düden Falls to admire the plunging waterfall on a sea-side boat tour. While in the city, make it a point to take in the breathtaking expanse of the Aspendos Theatre. With a capacity of upwards of 20,000, the theatre currently features concerts and ballets to entertain the musically-minded.
Finally, what trip to the coast would be complete without a pitstop at the beach? The pristine sand at Konyaalti Beach is a stunning complement to the rich blue waters. Don’t forget to pack your sunblock!
Konya: Two days
Heralded as one of the most conservative cities in the country, Konya offers a deep look into the heart of Turkish culture. In the city centre, you will find a host of museums, minarets and classic Ottoman architecture that reflects the city’s storied past.
Among the most visited venues is the Mevlana Museum, named after the famed Persian poet Rumi; it was home to the original whirling dervishes, which is part of a religious ceremony known as Sama. Typically, whirling dervishes dazzle the audience with spinning routines and light shows, creating a congenial atmosphere for tourists and locals alike.
Konya is built with an extensive tram system, so it is simple to travel through the city, and many do so strictly to admire the artistry and architecture. Extensive tile work adorns many buildings in the area, so vibrant cityscapes are a sight to behold.
Cappadocia and Kayseri: Three days
As part of central Turkey, Cappadocia is a must-visit for those searching for genuinely culture-enriching experiences. Located north of the Taurus Mountains, it is loaded with cone-shaped rock formations known as “fairy chimneys,” with many found in the Monks Valley region. Take a tour down into the hills to discover homes carved into valley walls long ago during the Bronze Age to delve deeper into this historical civilization.
Cappadocia is famous for its hot air balloons, which fill the skies with colour. You can also travel across the area on a camel to experience the Anatolian region from a different perspective. If you want to get the adrenalin pumping, the city of Kayseri is home to the Zamanti River, where you can take a rafting trip through the hills. Also, trekking and alpinism are popular activities for those near the still-active Mount Erciyes volcano.
Istanbul: Three days
Consider closing out your Turkish trip in Istanbul to find a world-class mixture of the past and present. As a former fixture of the Silk Road, Istanbul connects Europe and Asia through the strait of Bosporus, the only passageway between the Black and Mediterranean Seas. With its rich textile and trade history, the city is filled with neolithic artefacts that further represent its position as a cultural focal point where the east meets the west.
To indulge in the finer side of Turkish cuisine, walk through the famed Grand Bazaar, an open-air market and trade hotspot. With stalls selling spices, tea, produce, flowers and kebabs at each turn, the Grand Bazaar covers your culinary needs. But expect to haggle with a local street vendor during the process! It’s part of the market’s charm.
Architecturally, the city centre’s Hagia Sophia stands out as a spectacularly colourful, ornate mosque and is well worth a visit. Also functioning as a museum and historical hub for artefacts, the Hagia Sophia is perhaps the most famous element of the Istanbul skyline.
From exquisite beaches and waterfalls to hidden caves, minarets and culturally-rich cuisine, Turkey is filled with activities to enthral even the most adventure-minded traveller. Plan your visit, pack your bags, and go!