Istanbul is one of the most unique cities across the globe because of its rich history and geographical location. In the 7th century, Greek colonists led by King Byzas established the colony of Byzantium, the Greek name for a city on the Bosphorus and named it Byzantium. Emperor Constantine the Great made Byzantium capital of the Eastern Roman Empire in 306 AD and the city was known as Constantinople after from that point on. For more than 1500 years Istabbul was the capital of three empires: Roman, Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires.
It is the capital of Turkey and the only city in the world that is built on two continents: Europe and Asia. The Turkish Straits are conventionally considered the boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia, as well as the dividing line between European Turkey and Asian Turkey. Its strategic geographical location has lead to a formation of a unique culture that encompasses both European and Asian values admirably. Though the country is a home to people with different religious beliefs, there is harmony among its citizens.
The Bosphorus, also known as the “Instabul Strait”, is about 30 kilometers (19 miles) long and 700 meters (2,300 ft) wide and it connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea. I particularly found the Bosphorus very interesting because of its importance to international trade. It is the only way for Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia and Ukraine to reach the Mediterranean Sea and other seas and is one of the world’s busiest waterways with 42,000 vessels passing through in an year. Since the width of the strait is so less ship lose about $1.4 billion annually by waiting at either end of the Bosphorus for permission to cross through.
The city has numerous attractions like the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi palace, Galata bridge, Bosphorus river, Istikal street, Taksim square and the Hippodrome. Istanbul is strategically built and it is one of the most tourist-friendly cities in the world. When I visited Turkey last year with my family, we lost our guide because we reached a little late to the meeting point outside Topkapi palace. Though that was our first time visiting Istanbul, we were able to navigate across the city through other people’s help without any cell service. The local people of Istanbul are very friendly and they are always willing to go out of their way to assist tourists.
PS- Don’t forget to visit Istikal street at night to shop from the best brands and visit the most luxurious cafes in Turkey.
Goreme is a town in the Cappadocia region and it is famous for its “fairy chimney” rock formations. A fairy chimney is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin. The town has an extremely rich history and consists of numerous beautiful sights. During the Roman era, the area became home to Christians retreating from Rome and Christianity prevailed as the primary religion in the region.
The Göreme National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and The Göreme Open Air Museum located inside the park is one of the most famous sites in central Turkey. The complex contains more than 30 carved-from-rock churches and chapels, some having superb frescoes inside, going all the way back to the 9th century.
The Old Church at Tokali Kilise consists of a 32 scenes depicting the traditional tripartite division of the life of Jesus Christ; the Infancy, the Miracles, and the Passion. I was extremely fascinated by the particular illustration of Christ’s life because I grew up in a society that practiced Hinduism. I only knew about the significant events in Christ’s life because I was never given an opportunity to know everything about his life.
I decided to practice Hinduism like my family and did not actively seek information regarding Christianity as I felt content with my religious beliefs. However, after seeing all his life events carved out in forms of paintings and frescoes, I learnt a lot about Jesus Christ and Christianity. I realized that gaining knowledge about other religions is essential in understanding different cultures. This experience enhanced my understanding of Christianity and made me more open to all faiths.
The town is filled with rock houses, rock restaurants and rock hotels. These hotels are carved out of the landscape and they let you experience the true culture and beauty of the region. Spending a night at one of these rock hotels is a very unique experience because it takes you back to the stone age except you get to take your memory foam mattress and pillow with you.
PS- Remember to fly with Hot Air Balloon and view the breathtaking fairy chimneys at sunset.
Bodrum is a port city at the intersection of the Aegean and the Mediterranean sea. The city is a famous holiday getaway in Turkey because of its gleaming beaches and sophisticated yacht clubs. Condé Nast Traveler and Bloomberg named Bodrum one of the best places to travel in 2019.
The city was called Halicarnassus in ancient times and was known for housing the Mausoleum of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The remains of the Mausoleum are still present and its foundations can be seen by tourists for free. If you’re a Greek Mythology nerd like me you will find it fascinating to know that Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian who is known as “The Father of History”, was from this city.
Some of the main attractions in the city are the Castle of St. Peter, Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Palmarina, Bodrum Amphitheater and Bodrum Marine Club. The city is also famous for its European nightlife and offers numerous high-end shopping experiences. You can immerse yourself into a bohemian atmosphere through the cities’ cosmopolitan bars and restaurants.
If you have not booked your hotel yet and are travelling with adults, you should strongly consider The Marmara Bodrum. It is a 5-star beach hotel built on a hilltop and offers panoramic views over the Bodrum city and the radiant Aegean Sea, as seen in the first and the fourth picture of the slideshow. The hotel offers a free shuttle to the beach and provides taxi services for visiting the city. Its terrace restaurant has a vast range of selections and is a great place to have an authentic Turkish meal. Please feel free to contact me for discounts if you decide to book this hotel for your tour.
PS- Visit the Ortakent-Yahşi Beach and enjoy the views of this picturesque coastal city.
Kuşadası, once a small fishing village is now a major resort town on Turkey’s Aegean coast which has access to both the Greek island of Samos and Ephesus. Kuşadası is a popular destination among history and mythology buffs as it is in close proximity to numerous Greek and Roman historical ruins.
Ephesus is only 11.7 miles away from Kusadasi and you could easily get a cab to go there. It was the second largest roman city and its ruins are among the best preserved Greco-Roman remains found all across the globe. Ephesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it consists of the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The House of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, is located in the vicinity of Ephesus and is believed to be the place where she spent her last days. It is popular believed by catholic pilgrims that Mother Mary was brought here by Saint John. Her small stone house is now an important pilgrimage destination for Catholics.
Kuşadası is an hour away from Didyma which was home to the famous Oracle of Didyma and the second largest ancient Greek Temple: Temple of Apollo. It is about 25 miles away from Priene, home to the Temple of Athena. You could also visit the secret and mystical Cave of Zeus at the Dilek National Park which is only 12 miles from Kuşadası. I enjoyed Kuşadası immensely because I am a huge Greek Mythology fan. I have read all the Percy Jackson books and it was incredible to see all the ancient sites in and around Kuşadası.
PS- Stop by the Kusadasi Harbour to cool off with a Mojito and watch the gorgeous sunset.
Pamukkale, meaning cotton castle in Turkish, is one of the most extraordinary natural wonders in Turkey and is known as The Cotton Castle of Turkey. It is recognized as a World Heritage Site together with Hierapolis, an Greek-Roman bath city. The ruins of Hierapolis consists of Hierpolis Theatre which is a well-restored example of Roman architecture.
The main attraction of Pamukalle is the vast white cliff with basins of water and frozen waterfalls. Pamukkale acquired its name because these white cliff look like they are made out of cotton balls. These pools originated from thermal waters with high mineral content. When the supersaturated calcium carbonate water reached the surface, carbon dioxide was removed from it, and the calcium carbonate deposited on this surface. The calcium carbonate was deposited as a soft gel which crystallized into travertines over time.
Pamukkale is my go to destination for relaxation and refreshment because of these hot spring pools. Swimming in a large pool with ancient Roman ruins makes one feel like royalty. I particularly enjoyed the experience as I could have never even dreamed of swimming with marble columns which are over 2,000 years old. Experiences like these fill me with awe and make me appreciate the beauty of nature immensely.
PS- Take a dip in the enchanting thermal spring known as Cleopatra’s pool and apply a mudpack to attain that stunning glow on your face.