TOUR OF TURKEY
One city just won’t be enough when you embark on a journey through this exotic nation.
Getting lost is easy in Istanbul. Not because the street system is complex, but because with so many contrary currents eddying through the streets, it is hard to maintain your orientation. Chic rooftop bars and centuries-old mosques; avantgarde art and bartering in the bazaar over glasses of apple tea; wizened men fishing on the banks of the Bosphorus while seafood feasts are served in exclusive restaurants.
Istanbul is a hotspot not just geographically - the city famously straddles two continents, Europe on one side of the Bosphorus, Asia on the other – but also historically. Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans have all ruled here, leaving the city with such an array of magnificent monuments, you would need a week to do justice to them all.
Top of the list are the exquisite Blue Mosque, the dizzying Topkapi Palace, and the Hagia Sophia, the sixth-century church converted into a mosque. Often overlooked but well worth a visit is the atmospheric underground cistern.
Tourist-central Sultanahmet is home to the intimate Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, where every window has views of the Blue Mosque. Haggle over ceramics, spices and scarves in the nearby Grand Bazaar, or discover buzzing Beyoglu, where Istiklal Avenue offers great people watching.
Along the Bosphorus, former fishing villages now draw trendy crowds. Next to the Bosphorus suspension bridge, Ortaköy’s waterfront is lined with fish restaurants; further afield, Bebek is a favourite brunch spot. For Ottoman opulence, a stay at Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul is a must. Built around an actual palace, it also features a superb perch right on the Bosphorus, and an eye-catching infinity pool.
Battles old and new
Head west from Istanbul to reach Gallipoli, Australia’s most infamous battlefield. Start at the Gallipoli
Simulation Centre, where 3D technology illuminates all aspects of the conflict. A visit to Anzac Cove is a must for many Australians, as is a stop at one of the 40 cemeteries, such as Lone Pine.
Not far from Gallipoli lies a much more ancient theatre of conflict: the fabled city of Troy, reputedly besieged by the Greeks for 10 years. Excavations are ongoing at the site, where nine different layers testify to the city’s decline, rebirth and decline.
Turkey’s most impressive ancient city is still to come. Ephesus was one of the major metropolises of Greco-Roman times, its Temple of Artemis included among the Wonders of the Ancient World. It is the best-preserved classical city in Europe – astonishing when you think that only 20 per cent of the city has so far been unearthed.
Not far from Ephesus lie two very different attractions. Pamukkale’s hot mineral springs, gathered in sparkling white calcite terraces, are a favourite with Instagrammers the world over. Almost as photogenic is Bodrum, the ancient city of Halicarnassus today reincarnated as Turkey’s most glamorous getaway. Whitewashed houses, palm tree-lined promenades and chic clubs draw large crowds every summer.
Further along the coast, the city of Antalya is also worth visiting for its atmospheric district of Kaleiçi, with its beautifully-preserved Ottoman houses, and the superb Antalya Museum. This is one of the world’s richest repositories of archaeological discoveries, offering insights into the many empires that have held sway in this part of the world.
Turkey’s other must-visit destination is Cappadocia, a surreal lunarscape of thrusting limestone spires, where homes and churches are carved into the soft rock or buried deep underground. The accommodation of choice is one of the area’s many cave hotels, where you can enjoy a 21st-century take on caveman living. Argos in Cappadocia, a restored medieval village, is both rich in atmosphere and comfort. Make yourself get up early to take part in a sunrise hot air balloon ride: it’s an experience that doesn’t disappoint.
05 05 Explore Cappadocia’s surreal landscape by hot air balloon.