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Lonely Planet Turkey

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Turkey is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Ride a hot-air balloon over Cappadocia's honeycomb landscapes, walk amid the ancient ruins of Ephesus, or soak in a hamam in Antalya's atmospheric old quarter; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Turkey and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Turkey Travel Guide:

  • Full-colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - including customs, history, art, literature, cinema, music, architecture, politics, landscapes, wildlife, cuisine
  • Free, convenient pull-out Istanbul map (included in print version), plus over 100 colour maps
  • Covers Istanbul, Thrace, Marmara, Gallipoli Peninsula, Izmir, Ephesus, Bodrum, Anatolia, Pammukale, Antalya, Ankara, Cappadocia, Aegean Coast, Turquoise Coast, Mediterranean Coast, Black Sea Coast, and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Turkey, our most comprehensive guide to Turkey, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

  • Looking for just the highlights? Check out Lonely Planet's Discover Turkey, a photo-rich guide to the country's most popular attractions.
  • Looking for a guide focused on Istanbul? Check out Lonely Planet's Istanbul guide for a comprehensive look at all the city has to offer; Discover Istanbul, a photo-rich guide to the city's most popular attractions; or Pocket Istanbul, a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, James Bainbridge, Brett Atkinson, Stuart Butler, Steve Fallon, Will Gourlay, Jessica Lee, Virginia Maxwell

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

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İstanbul

ePub

Pop 14 million

Some ancient cities are the sum of their monuments. But others, such as İstanbul, factor a lot more into the equation. Here, you can visit Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques in the morning, shop in chic boutiques during the afternoon and party at bars and clubs throughout the night. In the space of a few minutes you can hear the evocative strains of the call to prayer issuing from the Old City's tapering minarets, the sonorous horn of a crowded commuter ferry crossing between Europe and Asia, and the strident cries of a street hawker selling fresh seasonal produce. Put simply, this marvellous metropolis is an exercise in sensory seduction like no other.

Ask locals to describe what they love about İstanbul and they'll shrug, give a small smile and say merely that there is no other place like it. Spend a few days here, and you'll know exactly what they mean.

AApr Sunshine and balmy breezes usher in the colourful İstanbul Tulip Festival.

 

İstanbul's Bazaars

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Turks have trading in their blood, and have honed the ancient arts of shopping and bargaining over centuries. In İstanbul, the city's Ottoman-era bazaars are as much monuments as marketplaces, places showcasing architecture and atmosphere that are nearly as impressive as the artisan wares offered for sale.

One of the world's oldest and best-loved shopping malls, the Grand Bazaar has been luring shoppers into its labyrinthine lanes and hidden hans (caravanseries) ever since Mehmet the Conqueror ordered its construction in 1461. Come here to purchase carpets and kilims, bathwares, jewellery and textiles. Be sure to investigate its fabulous fast-food opportunities, too.

Seductively scented and inevitably crammed with shoppers, this building opposite the Eminönü ferry docks has been selling goods to stock household pantries since the 17th century, when it was the last stop for the camel caravans that travelled the legendary Spice Routes from China, Persia and India. These days, it's a great place to source dried fruit and spices.

 

Thrace & Marmara

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Grand narratives have unfolded in this corner of Turkey for millennia, leaving an extraordinary archaeological site (Troy), a city full of Ottoman buildings (Edirne), historically significant battlefields (Gallipoli) and a culturally fascinating and physically beautiful island outpost (Gökçeada) for visitors to explore. It was here that Alexander the Great crossed the Hellespont on his conquering march to Persia, and where the Achaeans (Greeks) and Trojans fought the war immortalised by Homer in the Iliad. Mehmet II launched his campaign to conquer Constantinople from the Ottoman capital of Edirne, and nearly 500 years later Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Peninsula, triggering a bloody stand-off with Turkish troops that would drag on for nine long months and help to define the modern nations of Turkey, Australia and New Zealand.

AApr & May Multicoloured wildflowers carpet hillsides on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

AMay & Jun Enjoy organic black cherries and semi-deserted beaches on Gökçeada island.

 

Gallipoli Battlefields

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Pilgrimage is the oldest – and often the most rewarding – form of travel. In Turkey, there are a number of ancient pilgrimage destinations, but only one dates from modern times and draws both local and international visitors: the pine-scented peninsula where the bloody Gallipoli campaign of WWI unfolded.

There were almost 130,000 Turkish and Allied deaths at Gallipoli, and the battlefields are home to more than 60 meticulously maintained cemeteries. Places for contemplation and commemoration, they include the Allied cemeteries at Beach (Hell Spit), Arıburnu (Anzac Cove), Lone PIne, Chunuk Bair and V Beach; and the Turkish 57 Alay (57th Regiment) and Kesikdere cemeteries.

Gallipoli is a place where bravery and sacrifice are honoured, and where the narratives of modern nations have been forged. The most famous memorial on the peninsula is the Arıburnu Sahil Anıtı (Arıburnu Coastal Memorial), which records Atatürk’s famous words of peace and reconciliation between the 'Johnnies' and the 'Mehmets'. Other memorials include the stone obelisk at Cape Helles that commemorates the 20,000-plus Britons and Australians who perished on the southern peninsula and have no known graves.

 

İzmir & the North Aegean

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This relatively short stretch of coast is first and foremost a magnet for holidaymakers. Beaches along the Ege Deniz (Aegean Sea), including the Biga Peninsula, are superb (and often empty), while on the Çeşme Peninsula, Alaçatı offers world-class windsurfing.

At the same time, this region is a colossus for history buffs. The hilltop ruins of Pergamum and Assos are breathtaking sites of antiquity, while others lie hidden along peninsulas inhabited by descendants of the Turkmen nomads. İzmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, is a buzzing, Eurocentric metropolis with an attractive bazaar and seafront kordon (promenade) and a fair few ancient sites of its own.

No matter where you go in this region, the Greek influence is inescapable. Many towns experienced the great population exchange of the early 20th century and today, in places like Ayvalık and on the island of Bozcaada, the architecture, music and food seem like bittersweet echoes from across the sea.

AMay Windsurf or cruise in a gület (traditional wooden boat) on the Çeşme Peninsula before the crowds descend.

 

İzmir & the North Aegean Highlights

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Travellers are spoiled for choice in this region and, at the risk of sounding cliché, there really is something for everyone here. Its ancient cities bring history alive, the beaches are seldom as frenetic as elsewhere, the food and wine are among the country’s best, and the ghosts of times past ever present.

The ancient city of Pergamum (now Bergama) is at the top of everyone’s list of places to visit and Assos in Behramkale is as dramatically situated as you’ll find anywhere. But don’t miss the wealth of ruins at lesser-known sites like Apollon Smintheion on the Biga Peninsula or Sardis east of İzmir.

The beaches at Bozcaada are rightfully celebrated and easily accessible. But go the extra kilometre to take the plunge at Çeşme’s Diamond Beach or the one at Çandarlı. And if you prefer to be on rather than in the water, head for Alaçatı Surf Paradise, the centre for windsurfing in Turkey.

The North Aegean has been colonised for millennia and is one of the most ethnically diverse regions in Turkey. Reminders of the region's multilayered past are seen and felt and sometimes even heard especially in places like Ayvalık, where many Greeks made their home before independence, and İzmir with its community of Sephardic Jews.

 

Ephesus, Bodrum & the South Aegean

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Turkey's sparkling Aegean coast boasts 4000 years of civilisation – and it's got the ruins to prove it, the most famous being the capital of Roman Asia Minor itself: Ephesus. Nearby, the ancient ports of Priene and Miletus, and the temple at Didyma, give the complete picture of the Aegean in centuries past.

In summer, the coast's population swells as millions of tourists descend on Marmaris, Kuşadası and, especially, Bodrum, Turkey's most glamorous seaside getaway. This whitewashed town beneath a 15th-century castle somehow maintains an air of refinement through the non-stop partying, while new boutique hotels and elegant eateries keep springing up, both here and in the sophisticated coastal villages of the Bodrum Peninsula. On the remote Datça and Bozburun Peninsulas, more elemental pleasures await in the rugged terrain and fishing villages with spectacular Aegean views.

The coast is most peaceful in spring or fall (when prices drop, too).

AMay & Jun Tour ancient sites while it's splendidly sunny but not oppressively hot.

 

Ruins of the South Aegean

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The Romans, Carians, Ionian Greeks and Byzantines were a few of the ancient civilisations that left their mark on this ruin-strewn stretch of coastline, where the very contours of the land have changed but weathered theatres and temples still stand.

On the flagstones of this great Roman provincial capital, you can tread in the footsteps of historical notables such as Anthony and Cleopatra.

Refreshingly quiet after Ephesus, Priene was, like its busier neighbour to the north, a port city. Silted up by the Meander River, the Aegean coast receded west to its current location, stranding these ports inland and spelling their decline.

Miletus suffered the same fate as nearby Ephesus and Pirene. Its most impressive ruin is the 15,000-seat Great Theatre, while the Temple of Apollo marked the start of a sacred road to Didyma.

With its towering columns, Didyma's Temple of Apollo is one of Turkey's most evocative classical ruins. It also helps visualise the lost grandeur of Ephesus' Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

 

Western Anatolia

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Durable, diverse and down to earth, Western Anatolia combines everything from ancient sites and spectacular mountain terrain to some of Turkey's heartiest food and friendliest people.

The region's diversity of ancient civilisations can be experienced directly: hike the rock-carved Phrygian Valley, pound marble pavements in the ancient cities of Sagalassos and Afrodisias, or take a woodland pilgrimage on the St Paul Trail. Original Ottoman capital Bursa, meanwhile, is a cornerstone of Turkish identity, with mosques, imperial mausoleums and the İskender kebap. The shimmering travertines of Pamukkale, on the other hand, are just great for splashing in.

The region's lesser-known attractions constitute its secret weapon, however: escapist Eğirdir, set on a tranquil lake, is perfect for hiking, a jaunt in a local fisherman's boat or doing nothing at all; while vibrant Eskişehir, a student city with an atmospheric old town, offers river gondola rides and happening bars and restaurants.

 

Western Anatolia Highlights

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Ancient ruins scatter this region, mossy remnants of civilisations that grew and faded in distant aeons. On street corners and windblown plateaus, weathered inscriptions and chipped statues tell the stories of the Phrygians, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and others. Wonderfully, because most of Western Anatolia's ruins are off the tourist circuit, at some sites it might be just you, the Anatolian wind and a ticket salesman who is keen to chat. Arrive early or late to have vast theatres and civic squares to yourself.

The ruins of Hierapolis, a multicultural spa city in Roman and Byzantine times, stand in decaying splendour atop Pamukkale's famous snow-white mountain of travertine rock formations.

Splendiferous Afrodisias boasts two of western Turkey's most photogenic relics. The tetrapylon, a monumental gateway, welcomed travellers when Afrodisias was the provincial capital of Roman Caria, and the 30,000-seat stadium still echoes with the roars of gladiators and spectators. The emperors were an equally bloodthirsty bunch of course, as the statues in the site museum reveal.

 

Antalya & the Turquoise Coast

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The ancient Lycians were on to something when they based their empire here. This is Turkey at its most staggeringly beautiful. Sandy sweeps of shore hug a coastline lapped by jade waters and backed by jagged, forest-blanketed slopes. The Turquoise Coast is prime sun-and-sea territory but step off the beach and you'll find the ancient cities of Xanthos, Letoön and Arykanda perched precariously on hilltops and ornate tombs carved into cliffs at Tlos and Myra. While hike any section of the 500km-long Lycian Way trail and you are rewarded with scenery well worth the sweat.

If you just want the beach though, you're in the right place. Patara's knock-'em-dead stretch of sand and Çıralı's cosseted cove are two of the best for beach-sloth inaction. Of course there are ancient sites just around the corner from both. Maybe the Lycians were partial to a bit of sandcastle action as well.

AMar–Apr Prime walking time. Stride across rugged hills alive with spring flowers.

 

The Blue Cruise

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A Blue Cruise is sightseeing with swags of style. Board a gület (Turkish yacht) to experience the Turquoise Coast's scenery in all its glory, with lazy days filled with swimming and sunbathing, and sunset toasts to one of the prettiest corners of the Mediterranean.

Fethiye is the most popular departure point for average landlubbers who want a taste of on-the-sea life. More experienced yachties (and those chartering an entire boat rather than a cabin) often head for Göcek or Kaş.

Gülets head out from Fethiye and skim the lush green coastline to Ölüdeniz before cruising on to the beach at Butterfly Valley, hemmed in by steep cliffs. The first day usually ends at St Nicholas Island, where there's plenty of time for swimming, snorkelling and – if you want your land legs back – exploring the island's ancient ruins.

A full day of soaking up the sun on board, with opportunities aplenty for swimming. On day two you usually cruise by the dinky harbour towns of Kalkan and Kaş, and moor near the Liman Ağzı peninsula.

 

Eastern Mediterranean

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This is Turkey's non-airbrushed slice of Mediterranean coastline. A handful of distinctly local-style beach resorts lie between the industrial port cities. Crumbling ruins sit among acres of intensely farmed countryside with nary a tourist in sight. In the ancient towns of Tarsus and Antakya, atmospheric old-town fragments cling on amid the modern hubbub.

The southern Hatay province's fascinating melding of religions, languages and foods is reason enough for many to linger. For others, the wealth of important early Christian sites is the eastern Med's ace up its sleeve. The area's historical riches though encompass a dizzying timeline of kings and conquerors that stretches from Karatepe's late-Hittite remnants, through Roman Anemurium, to the cliff-top castles of once-mighty Cilicia. The stretch of the Mediterranean that most people miss is full of surprises for those that make the trip.

AApr–May Munch on Anamur's bananas and strawberries during the spring harvest glut.

 

Antiquities of the Eastern Med

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Want to explore rugged crumbling ruins without the crowds? The eastern Mediterranean is chock-a-block full of vast archaeological sites, important early Christian sites and craggy clifftop castles that are all the more fun to explore because of their half-forgotten ambience.

This swath of rickety ruins tumbles down the cliffside to the beach. Soak up the heady atmosphere of long-lost grandeur while surveying the city from high on the citadel walls, or clambering through the once lavish Roman baths.

The underworld has come a-calling. Check visiting the abode of gods off your list, standing over Hell's abyss and inside the wide, yawning mouth of Heaven.

The Best Christian Sites

If you only see one castle in the eastern Mediterranean, pick this wondrous pile of ramparts and towers clinging onto a hilltop south of Adana. It's a sweat-inducing scramble to get up to the highest tower, but the views are worth it.

Giant slabs of inscribed reliefs guarded by glaring-eyed sphinxes and lions are all that are left of the 8th-century-BC Hittite town of Azatiwataya.

 

Ankara & Central Anatolia

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Somewhere between the cracks in the Hittite ruins, the fissures in the Phrygian burial mounds and the scratches in the Seljuk caravanserais, the mythical, mighty Turks raced across this highland desert steppe with big ideas and bigger swords. Nearby, Alexander the Great cut the Gordian knot, King Midas displayed his deft golden touch and Julius Caesar came, saw and conquered. It was also in this part of Turkey where the whirling dervishes first twizzled like human spinning tops and it was here that Atatürk forged his secular revolution along dusty Roman roads that all lead to Ankara, an underrated capital city and geopolitical centre. Further north through the nation's fruitbowl, in Safranbolu and Amasya, 'Ottomania' is still in full swing. Here wealthy weekenders sip çay with time-rich locals who preside over dark timber mansions. Central Anatolia is the meeting point between the fabled past and the prosperous present – a sojourn here will enlighten and enchant.

AMay–Jun Fruit harvest: cherries the size of a baby's fist, apricots sweeter than a baby's face.

 

Archives of Anatolia

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Written in the rocks, buried underground and carved into the cliffs, the high plateaus of central Anatolia are heavy with history. This is where the world's oldest wooden structure was discovered and where Atatürk came up with the idea of Turkey. Visit the following sites to reveal the full extent of modern Turkey’s yesteryears.

The mountainous, isolated site of Hattuşa was once the capital of the Hittite kingdom, which stretched from Syria to Europe. At its epoch this was one of the most powerful empires in the world. Today the tumbledown walls still recall past glories.

With breathtaking artefacts cherry-picked from just about every significant archaeological site in Anatolia, Ankara’s recently renovated Museum of Anatolian Civilisations is the ultimate history lesson.

Alexander the Great may have cut the Gordian knot here, but the real interest lies in the wooden tomb of a Phrygian king hidden for nearly 3000 years under a burial mound.

With a colourful history and some of the finest Seljuk buildings ever erected, the main square of the often-overlooked town of Sivas showcases Islamic art and architecture at its best.

 

Cappadocia

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As if plucked from a whimsical fairytale and set down upon the stark Anatolian plains, Cappadocia is a geological oddity of honeycombed hills and towering boulders of otherworldly beauty. The fantastical topography is matched by the human history here. People have long utilised the region's soft stone, seeking shelter underground and leaving the countryside scattered with fascinating troglodyte-style architecture. The fresco-adorned rock-cut churches of Göreme Open-Air Museum and the subterranean refuges of Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı are the most famous sights, while simply bedding down in one of Cappadocia's cave hotels is an experience in 21st-century cavern dwelling.

Whether you're wooed here by the hiking potential, the history or the bragging rights of unique accommodation, it's the lunarscape panoramas that you'll remember. This region's accordion-ridged valleys, shaded in a palette of dusky orange and cream, are an epiphany of a landscape – the stuff of psychedelic daydreams.

 

Cappadocian Frescoes 101

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The frescoes of Cappadocia's rock-cut churches are, to be exact, seccos (whereby tempera paints are applied to dry plaster). Although Cappadocia was an important religious centre from the early Byzantine period, most of the frescoes here date from the 10th to the 12th centuries.

Christ 'the All-Powerful'. Typically painted on the church dome, depicting Jesus holding a book in his left hand and giving a blessing with his left.

Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. The Nativity in Eski Gümüşler Monastery is particularly striking.

Portrayal of the miracle of Christ's metamorphosis in front of his disciples. A good depiction of this scene is in the Tokalı Kilise.

The 'Resurrection': Christ pictured with prophets, freeing souls from hell. The Karanlık Kilise has a superb example.

Similar to 'Christ Pantocrator', Deesis scenes show a seated Christ flanked by the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist.

'Judgement Day', when righteous souls will ascend to heaven. The depiction in the Church of St Jean is vividly well preserved.

 

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