Located between Europe and Asia, Turkey is known for its olive groves, ancient ruins, and Mediterranean beaches. With influences from the Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, the country has come to develop its own unique culture.
Although not a top destination for some travelers, Turkey has plenty to offer for those who visit. With a population of 85.04 million (as of 2021) that are eager to showcase the beauty of their country, you can spend days or weeks exploring a nation whose history dates back millenniums.
Hoşgeldiniz – Welcome to Turkey!
Ankara is the capital of Turkey, which displays the county’s past and holds hope for the future. While it doesn’t have the same picturesque landscape as Istanbul, Ankara has worked hard to build a better city. With heavy influence and help from students, the city has become central to international affairs.
Ankara has multiple museums and a tribute to Turkey’s modern founder, which makes it a popular destination for historically interested tourists. Along with a thriving street scene, you won’t get bored in this bustling capital.
- Culture and History
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
Turkey is an ancient country and has some of our oldest regions that have been permanently settled for thousands of years. With the original Turkic people settling in the area, the Göbekli Tepe is dated back to 10,000 BC. It’s one of our oldest discovered man-made religious structures.
In Antiquity, the Greeks dominated the scene and parts of Turkey became Armenia, which was created by colonists from Greece in the year 657 BC. Persians ruled in 499 BC and Turkey eventually fell into the command of Alexander the Great in the year 334 BC. After his death, the area was divided into smaller Hellenistic kingdoms under the Roman Republic.
By 324, Constantine ruled, and Turkey became part of the Byzantine Empire, which was ruled by Constantinople (now Istanbul). But after the fall of the Byzantine, the Ottoman Empire rose from small groups of Oghuz Turks and helped created some of the most iconic landmarks in the country.
Under the rule of the Ottomans, Turkey was the center of power for the Empire. Islam is now the majority religion of the country with 98% of the population practicing the beliefs.
With a vast history, Turkey’s culture is unique. The country draws influence from the past, as well as the geographical location between eastern Europe and western Asia. Modern Turkish culture has found itself divided between a Western ideology and the Islamic religion.
Religion dominates tradition and culture in the family, with traditional gender roles being upheld.
The unique culture also means that Turkey has come to develop their own language – Turkish. While many think that Turkey speaks Arabic because the Ottomans used many Arabic and Persian words, the language was changed in 1932 and reintroduced many old Turkish words.
However, in many tourist areas, English is also spoken. In fact, English is the main language for tourism and many Turks in the industry or hospitality business will speak it But with a variety of foreign tourists, you could hear other European or Asian languages as well.
While Turkey has plenty of hidden beauties throughout the country, it’s important that you first consider your spending budget as you begin to plan your trip. If you’re willing to take some time to pre-plan, Turkey can be traveled on an affordable budget.
Significant portions will be split between airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and entertainment. Transportation is another essential part of your traveler’s budget, which we will cover in the next section.
Airfare is the first big portion of your budget that you will have to consider. Flights to Istanbul from the United States have a big price range, mostly due to airline budget deals and when you travel.
Most flights will cost about one thousand dollars, but many deals can reduce the price by 50%. The further ahead you book your flight, the more money you can save. Turkey is a popular destination all year round, but the highest tourist season runs from April to September, which is when flight prices will also be higher.
Accommodation is another important consideration and it can be made affordable or expensive, depending on your budget. Hostels are popular throughout the country. A private room in a hostel will likely cost double the price of a dorm room but provides you with more personal space.
If hostels are not to your liking, a nice hotel will cost a moderate fee, however, higher-end locations can cost hundreds or thousands a night. Airbnb is also a popular way to find affordable and private accommodation in the country. Most people will spend the same amount of money on an Airbnb as a hotel.
If you’re willing to share a house and are seeking a private room, you should expect to pay closer to that of a hostel. An Airbnb can also help you reduce your overall budget by providing you with a kitchen so that you can cook your own food.
In Turkey, food is both delicious and affordable. Islak burgers are a common food throughout the country, which are grilled meat patties that are placed in a bun and soaked in a garlic tomato sauce.
Kebabs are also a very popular cuisine in Turkey, and you can find them as street food or in restaurants. There’s more than one type of kebab, so look for the Doner, Shish, Yogurtlu, and Iskender variations to try. Baklava and knafeh are popular sweets in the country and many are served in restaurants after your main course.
Two other famous culinary selections of Turkey include Turkish Delight and tea or coffee. Turkish Delight has made its name throughout the world, but when you’re in the country of origin you will find that the authentic versions actually come in a variety of flavors.
Tea is another huge part of the culture and you will find it everywhere. Traditionally, the tea is black but full of flavors and served with sugar. Turkish coffee, on the other hand, is quite bitter and thick. Coffee tends to be more of a love-it-or-hate-it amongst tourists.
When you’re eating out, you should expect to spend a modest amount for a meal at a traditional restaurant. Local eateries will be a cheaper option, as will purchasing these on the street, like kebabs. Upscale restaurants will be more expensive in comparison, but overall, not too costly.
If you are traveling on a tight budget, you can also buy your food at the local stores and markets and cook in your own accommodation. However, with the affordable price of food, we do suggest that you experience authentic Turkish cuisine when you can.
If you are into the nightlife and want to explore the bars, you will also have to add drinks to your budget. Alcohol tends to be very expensive in Turkey because it is traditionally shunned by their religion. But for tourism, alcohol is sold at a steep price.
You should also keep in mind that drinking in bars or tourist areas will be much more expensive than purchasing bottles at the grocery store, like Raki, a popular Turkish alcohol.
For those who are ready to party, Smyrna Bar in Istanbul is a casual establishment that provides a large selection of drinks. For the best view of the city, 360 Istanbul is the place to go and they offer world-class wines, cocktails, and other liquors.
How to Get Around
Turkey is a big country and getting around is not as expensive as you would think it would be. With flights, buses, metros, trams, and taxis, there are plenty of ways for you to get around.
For those who need to go further distances, domestic flights are also a great and affordable option that saves you long hours in a bus or car. Many domestic flights can be bought for a few dollars, though you do have to deal with the hassle of airports. But for a time-conscious traveler, it can let them see more of the country on their trip.
Buses, Metros, and Trams
Minibusses can be used to travel between cities, and it’s how most locals choose to travel too. For short rides, the dolmuş (minibus) costs a few cents to dollars, depending on the distance. The buses have a variety of routes and are a safe way to travel. They are also significantly less expensive than a taxi.
Many travelers choose to use local transportation, like the metro, in big cities such as Istanbul and Ankara. Easy to use and similarly priced to the bus, you can go through the entire city and enjoy great views. If you plan to adventure a lot in Istanbul, the Istanbulkart is a pass that can reduce your transportation costs by 50%.
Taxis are also an option, but if you are going long distances, they can be quite expensive. It’s suggested that you use taxis at night and for short trips so that you don’t blow your budget. Uber is also an option.
If you’re a confident driver, you can also rent a car. Some cars can be rented for a minimal fee, without insurance. But be aware that driving in Turkey tends to be quite chaotic and a vehicle with manual transmission is more common.
Walking is another great way to get around the city so that you can explore more. It’s also free and you’ll have a great time seeing new sights. However, be aware that you should only walk in tourist areas and don’t walk alone at night. When walking, keep your belongings close as petty theft can happen in tourist areas.
Top Cities to Visit
With numerous cities that have unique and interesting attractions, there are plenty of destinations to pick from when traveling to Turkey. While Ankara and Istanbul may be the most popular, you should try to explore as much as possible while visiting. To help you decide where to go, here are the top cities for travelers in Turkey.
Once known as Angora and centrally located in the Anatolia region, Ankara is the capital of Turkey. The city is popular amongst artists because of its various performing arts showcases like the State Opera and Ballet or the Presidential Symphony Orchestra.
There are also a variety of museums to see ancient artifacts. The Citadel, an old Byzantine Empire wall that has been well-preserved and is open to the public, is a well-known part of the city. Ankara is also thriving with small cafes and has a variety of top-rated restaurants for diverse cuisine.
One Constantinople, Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and is filled with living history presented in architecture, art, cuisine, and local lifestyle. The city was once the final stage of the Silk Road and ancient architecture still towers over the streets. Impressive mosques and palaces fill the skyline and are open to the public.
There are plenty of museums to explore and you can purchase a pass that provides you access to multiple locations. The city also has a diverse cuisine, which reflects its location between two continents.
Pamukkale is located in Western Turkey and is famous for its mineral-rich hot springs that are terraced on the hillside. The hot springs are known as the “Cotton Castle” and are constructed of white limestone.
The thermal springs were named a World Heritage Site and have become extremely popular amongst tourists. Another attraction that is close to Pamukkalke is Hierapolis, which is an ancient Greek city built on top of the hot springs.
Bodrum is a colorful town located on the Aegean Sea, which has twin bays and the beautiful Bodrum Castle. The castle is named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and rests oceanside to the vibrant blue water. With plenty of resorts and beaches, Bodrum is also a popular vacation destination.
Antalya is a resort destination in the Mediterranean region, which is famous for its blue waters and is aptly called the Turquoise Coast. The city used to be a major Roman port but has now become famous for its natural beauty. Kaleici is the Old Town and it houses plenty of shops and restaurants on the historically preserved streets.
The landscape of Cappadocia is astoundingly gorgeous and features the “fairy chimneys”, which are clusters of towering rock formations in the Monks Valley. Bronze Age homes have been carved in the valley’s walls and used by cave dwellers.
One of the most famous attractions in Cappadocia is the hot air balloon tour, which is a great way to see the area from above. Plus, the view of colorful balloons filling the sky only enhances Cappadocia’s magic.
Located on the coast of Ionia, Ephesus is an ancient Greek city that is home to stunning ancient ruins. The Romans eventually took control of the area, which is why you will see Roman ruins. Now, the city is a World Heritage Site and is one of the most well-preserved Roman cities. The Library of Celsus and the Ephesus Amphitheater are the two biggest attractions.
Points of Interest
While cities tend to be the main attraction, there are also a variety of points of interest throughout the country which are open for adventure. Home to historic landmarks, ruins, and beaches, you won’t be able to see everything the country has to offer during one trip alone. Here are some of the most visited sites in Turkey.
Once a Greek Orthodox Christian Cathedral and then an Ottoman Imperial Mosque, the Hagia Sophia is now a famous museum located in Istanbul. The Hagia Sophia also called the Aya Sofya, is famous for its large and central dome, which has a 105-foot diameter.
Aside from the impressive construction, the museum holds ornate objects, mosaics, gates, and doors. It’s an excellent place to experience art and step into living history at this 1,500-year-old structure.
Aspendos is an ancient city that is located just outside of Antalya, which houses a massive theater from the Roman Empire. The theater was built under the reign of Marcus Aurelius and could fit up to 20,000 people.
The semi-circular layout has a double-column entrance and is open to the public. Other ancient ruins in the area include an acropolis and an aqueduct.
Patara Beach is 18 kilometers long and rests along the Mediterranean coastline. The beach has a stunning landscape and also houses the ancient ruins of Patara, the city. The ancient Patara City is close to both Kas and Fethiye for easy access.
Sometimes regarded as the most photographed Mediterranean beaches in the world, Ölüdeniz is a small resort village on Turkey’s southwest coast. The white sand beaches are lined with bright blue water as well as a huge natural attraction.
A lagoon sits at the center and provides protective bathing for leisurely beachgoers. But for adventure, just summit the nearby mountains and you can jump off to paraglide over the pristine landscape.
“The Land of Four Seasons”
While Turkey may not be at the top of everyone’s travel bucket list, this country has plenty to offer. The stunning beauty of Istanbul and the jaw-dropping natural beauties only solidify this country as a top tourist destination.
With an expansive history and well-preserved ancient ruins, travelers can step into the past and explore ancient civilizations. With plenty to do and see, Turkey will surely be an unforgettable vacation.