Turkey is a large peninsula that bridges the continents of Asia and Europe. It is surrounded on three sides by the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea. This location creates a cultural melting point between Asia and Europe which can be seen from the buildings, the people and the food. Due to this cross cultural interaction for centuries, there is so much about Turkey that is intriguing for travelers. Just the mention of Turkey inspires visions of romance and exotic sites.
Turkey is home to some truly iconic sights to see. Two of the most popular reason that people travel to Turkey are to see the country’s religious sites and historical sites. The majority of the population is Muslim and some of the top tourist attractions are famous Muslim mosques including the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Suleymaniye Mosque. Ancient ruins in Turkey are seemingly endless and many are relatively unknown to most but two of the most popular are the funerary mound of King Antiochus I on top of Mount Nemrut and the ancient ruins of Ephesus.
No trip to Istanbul would be complete without visiting the city’s famous markets. The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world and the Egyptian Bazaar is packed with colorful and aromatic spices.
While Turkey is loaded with landmarks to see, it is also a country with gorgeous landscapes, sun-soaked Mediterranean beaches and snow-capped mountains. Two of the world’s most unusual landscapes which are located in Turkey are the Pamukkale Hot Springs and the distinctive cone-shaped rock formations at Cappadocia.
My list of must see attractions in Turkey are a mix of religious sites, historical sites, natural wonders and cultural activities. Turkey is devoutly religious which is evident from all of the mosque minarets rising above the Istanbul cityscape. Visiting one of Istanbul’s famous mosques is a good way to gain insight into the local culture.
Local markets are places where I like to visit to get a better understanding of the local culture. They are interesting places where the local vendors bring their products and place them for everyone to see. Making a visit to the Grand Bazaar will not be disappointing!
Two of my favorite experiences in Turkey were visiting Ancient Ephesus and seeing the Hagia Sophia. These two experiences were also my most memorable times of my time in Turkey for completely different reasons.
I had heard about Ancient Ephesus my entire life but I actually knew very little about the city. Being able to walk through the streets and see how the city might have looked changes my viewpoint of the city from stories of a place from ancient times into actually being able to visualize how the city might have been.
Now I have a better idea of how the city actually looked, I have walked through the entrance gate into the city and down the main streets. I feel like I have a better understanding of the city and the lifestyle of the people that lived here.
My favorite memory of visiting ancient Ephesus was walking through the entrance gates into the city. I could visualize people entering the city hundreds or thousands of years ago walking through these same entrance gates. I had a feeling of wonder and excitement as I entered the city and I am sure the people of ancient times has the same feelings. The only difference is that they could see chariots rumbling past them, hear vendors calling for people to buy their products and smell the food being cooked on open air grills.
The Hagia Sophia is considered one of the top 100 wonders of the world and it was at the top of my list of places to see on my visit to Istanbul. There are several factors that make this site special. It was built almost 1500 years ago making it the oldest building in Istanbul and it has been an important spiritual center for both Christians and Muslims. For the first 1000 years it was a Christian place of worship and for the last 500 years it has predominantly been a Muslim worship building except for a short period where it was a museum.
Its historical significance alone is enough to make me want to see it but it is also a stunning building both on the outside and inside. From the outside it is an overpowering presence in the Istanbul cityscape. On the inside it is truly majestic and it on par with some of the European basilicas that I have visited.
Few places make me want to stop in my steps when I enter the door but the Hagia Sophia is one of those place where I instantly stopped and tried to absorb everything that I could see. The main worship room is massive and intimidating when I first entered the room. There is a good reason that the Hagia Sophia is considered one of the world’s top 100 places to see, it is impressive!
I will be making more posts on things to do in Turkey, so check back later to see my future posts on Turkey.