Abroad101’s Spotlight Country Series: Turkey

If you’re a traveler looking to step off the beaten path of your typical European destinations and venture into a country filled with fascinating history and attractions equally incredible as Paris’ Eiffel Tower then Turkey is the country for you! This seaside country has a landscape that is nothing short of amazing. From an outline of beautiful beach filled coastlines, to the inland landscape scattered with ancient battlegrounds, ruined castles, and palaces of great empires, you are sure to experience something astonishing. To help you define Turkey’s must-sees, we have hand selected the top things to do while you visit! 

1. Istanbul: Aya Sofya aka the Hagia Sophia
Famous for it’s dome, which is supported by 40 pillars made of hollow bricks, the Aya Sofya is considered the essence of Byzantium architecture and is said to “have changed the history of architecture.” Now a museum located in Istanbul, the Aya Sofya was built between 532 and 537 under the emperor Justinian, as an Orthodox Patriarchal basilica then was later converted into a mosque. Outside, beautiful fountains and quintessential Turkish flora grace the gardens that surround the building. For 10 euros, visitors can admire the beautiful, renowned architecture and ornate decoration of the former mosque on their own. For 25 euros you can have a complete 45 minute guided tour around the entire premise. The Hagia Sophia is a definite must see for anyone venturing through Istanbul.

2. Istanbul: Whirling Dervishes Ceremony
The Whirling Dervishes performance is a spiritual tribute to the to 13th century mystic, poet and philosopher Mevlana C. Rumi and his followers. Guests of the performance are welcome to talk to the musicians and dervishes after the ceremony. The ceremony begins with a speech that introduces viewers to the history of the 800-year-old tradition and is followed by the second part of the performance, which includes pieces of Sufi Music. They take place every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:30pm and will charge around 45 Turkish Lira. This is a perfect opportunity for any traveler looking to dive into the Turkish culture.
3. Istanbul: Bosphorous Cruise and
Istanbul’s Egyptian Bazaar
This is a great activity for any cooking enthusiast traveler! Istanbul’s Egyptian Bazaar is just over 350 years old and home to some of the most exotic spices and herbs. This tour can be classified as Turkey’s “Most Colorful Tour” and continues to be one of the most popular attractions. This four-hour tour begins at the bazaar where you can sample the smells of a diverse array of spices, from the everyday common spice to the exceptionally unique. Feel free to browse around the different stalls and get the best deal! Once you finish your spice shopping, board the boat and get ready for your charming cruise on the Bosphorous. You will sail passed the magical city of Istanbul with exceptional views of the famous Dolmabahce and Beylerbeyi palaces.
4. Avanos: Pottery Workshops 
Turkey is decorated with beautiful, authentic pottery made by locals that is the perfect gift to send home to anyone. Better yet – many small towns along the outskirts of bigger cities offer pottery workshops for free or at a small price! Learn how to make your very own unique piece of Turkish pottery from the pros, which is infinitely less expensive than buying one at a store. Look for these workshops along small side streets near the main square and get ready to get dirty!
5. Bursa: Day Trip
If you find yourself staying in Istanbul, make sure to venture outside the city walls and visit the other beautiful Turkish cities. One that stands out in particular, is the city of Bursa, capital of the silk trade! Upon arriving in Bursa, visit the Green Mosque and the Green Tomb, both famous for their intricate tile decorations. After sampling some authentic Turkish fare for lunch, make your way over to the Bazaar and the Koza Han to experience the atmosphere where merchants from all over the world have come for centuries to trade their silk cocoons. Next, if you’re ready for some beautiful landscape scenery, jump on a cable car and travel up Uludag Mountain for some amazing panoramic views of Bursa.
6. Cappadocia: ATV riding
Cappadocia, a well-known region in eastern Turkey, is a great location for some adventurous fun! The geography of this area is extremely unique as it is made up of a multitude of natural wonders. The land of Cappadocia is dotted with “fairy chimneys” or rock formations that protrude from the ground in tall chimney-like shapes. Rent ATV’s with your friends and ride in and around the caves and fairy chimneys that make up this very unique landscape. During your ATV ride around the region, you will come across many houses carved into the soft rock in which locals have made into their unusually inspirational homes. Visit the city of Goreme to experience the magnitude of this geological phenomenon! 

7. Istanbul: Turkish Bath
This can easily be classified as one of the most unique experiences that one can do while traveling through Turkey! This would be a perfect opportunity for anyone that loves a good spa-day. Also known as hamam, a Turkish bath resembles a steam bath and is done as a method of relaxation and cleansing. After rounds between two hot rooms complete with cleansing and a calming massage, you can move to a cooler room for more relaxation until you are ready to leave.

8. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace
Want to know what a sultan lived like? Then visit the Topkapi Palace, which is flooded with fascinating, unusual stories of sultans who lived there. Make sure to allot a good chunk of your day to exploring the grounds and hearing the many different tales of each sultan who lived in the Topkapi Palace. Tickets for a guided tour are around 10 euros but you can also buy an audio guide that will only cost you 5 turkish lira.

9. Troy, Gallipoli: Two-day Tour
If you have enough time, taking this two-day tour to Troy and Gallipoli are definitely worth your while! First, venturing to Gallipoli from Istanbul, visit the famous World War One site and experience the ANZAC secrets. Next, visit Troy, the site of the legendary Trojan War. Experience first hand the place where the Greeks waged war against Troy after Paris presumably stole the wife of the King of Sparta. In Troy you will find a replica of the famous Trojan Horse. If you don’t have time for both cities pick whichever appeals to you the most and spend an entire day exploring!

10. Istanbul: Princes’ Islands
Before leaving Turkey, don’t forget to visit the gorgeous coastline that outlines our spotlight country. From Istanbul, you can take a trip to the Princes’ Islands that dot the Sea of Marmara. These islands make a great day trip if you looking to escape the hustle and bustle of a big city. Transportation on the island is solely by foot, bike, or horse so once you choose your method of choice you can begin exploring these beautiful islands. Want to visit all of the islands? Sure! There are ferries that can take you between all nine islands that make up the Princes’ Islands so you can visit as many or as little as you have time for.