Holidays to Turkey – Fabulous weather, stunning beaches
Where to begin? Why is Turkey incredible? The simple answer – probably because it is incredibly complicated, the original mystery wrapped in a puzzle inside an enigma and so on and on. Each layer is fascinating and beautiful and alluring and indescribably different from the last. You can keep coming back here again and again, year after year, and not even begin to scratch the surface of what this extraordinary country has to offer.
A few basic facts to kick things off. Turkey has 7,200 kms (4,474 miles) of coastline (this includes the Black Sea and the Bosphorus as well as the Aegaean and Mediterranean), which offers a vast range of choice when it comes to holiday resorts. Over two-thirds of the country’s 80 million people live within 30 kms (18 miles) of the coast. Two of the country’s main cities, Izmir, on the western Aegaean coast, and Antalya, on the southern Mediterranean coast, are also two of the biggest summer sun destinations.
With so much space, Turkey’s coastline offers an infinite variety of choice to holidaymakers – white powdery sand or pebble beaches; tiny hidden coves tucked into the cliffs and accessible only by boat or busy beaches with sunbeds for hire, lifeguards, watersports and drinks on tap; shallow lagoons where children can splash about in safety or wide windy bays perfect for wind-surfing and other watersports. Do you like open scenery and long stretches of sand?
Head for the Aegaean coast or the eastern Mediterranean resorts such as Belek, Side or Alanya. Or do you prefer the drama of the mountains? Along the western Mediterranean coast, from Bodrum to Antalya, the mountains plunge straight into the sea. There are still plenty of beaches but they are generally smaller, spaced out along winding clifftop roads while hotels and resorts climb the hills behind.
There’s also seemingly unlimited choice when it comes to the resorts themselves. There are self-catering apartments, small pensions and boutique hotels, huge all-inclusive resorts and luxurious 5-star lodges.
Do you want to chill out with a good book on the beach or by the pool? Do you want a load of additional activities from tennis to yoga classes or massage on tap?
Do you want the convenience of a kids club while you hit the shops or do you want to hire a car and take your children exploring the ruins of the ancient world?
Do you prefer the ease of all-inclusive hotels, the adventure of finding a harbourfront meyhane (Turkish tavern) and exploring some of traditional cuisine or do you want to party the night away in a busy Bar Street or heaving outdoor club?
Hopefully the other articles in these pages – on Beaches, Resorts, Sightseeing and Things to Do – will help give you some ideas about which destinations around the coast will best suit you.
There really is something for everyone and everywhere you will find crystal clear blue seas, the warmth of the sun and a warm and welcoming smile.
“Hoşgeldiniz” – “Welcome”. You’ll see it and hear it everywhere.
The Turks are hugely proud of their country and love nothing more than to welcome visitors. In some ways, they remind me of the British. Like us, they think of themselves as a monoculture but are in reality a mongrel nation. Unlike us, they are not at all self-deprecating. They are more than happy to proclaim that Turkey is the best country in the world at absolutely everything, and don’t have much of a sense of humour when it comes to matters Turkish, so careful with the jokes.
Turkey covers a huge area and really is the divide between Europe and Asia. As a result, throughout history, it has not only been home to numerous native tribes but invaders from the Greeks to the Celts, Persians, Romans, Mongols, and the Turks themselves who have arrived over the centuries creating a true cultural melting pot.
Faces vary from the hawk-like bone-structure of the Kurds to the aquiline noses of the Greeks and the almost Chinese features of the Mongols. There are dark-haired, fair-haired and ginger Turks. At the fall of the Ottoman empire, the great national leader, Ataturk, was looking for a way to unite the people and decided that the Selcuk Turks, who had ruled in the 12th century, had been the best role models, so arbitrarily declared all the motley crew across the country were Turks – and so they have been ever since.
These days about 99% of the population are Muslim. Islam is generally a pretty laidback affair in Turkey. Many Turks drink alcohol and in the western resorts, you will see local women wearing tops with spaghetti straps as skimpy as those of the tourists. But you will see also quite a few women in headscarves – more than there used to be – it’s become fashionable and they are often real designer statements, tied creatively.
If, occasionally, you see a woman in full hijab – chances are she’s an Arab visitor. However, some wear them because of true religious belief and almost Turks are believers, however casual. At the moment, there’s a tussle going on between the western-looking middle classes and the religious right wing who are trying to drag the country slowly towards a less secular, more Islamic viewpoint. In this, as in everything else, Turkey stands firmly on the crossroads between East and West.
Its geography has also left the country with the most extraordinary historical and cultural legacy. Since the time of Abraham (just one of many Biblical figures who came from Turkey), this country has been home to great civilisations and empires – the Hittites, the Persian Empire, ancient Greece, the Roman province of Asia Minor, the Byzantine Empire, the Selcuks, the Ottomans, the Armenians, the Mongols.
Mark Anthony met and married Cleopatra here. This was the route of Alexander the Great’s conquest, the Silk Road, and the Crusades. The Genoese moved in to run the Empire for the Ottomans and the Italians and French arrived briefly and unsuccessfully after WWI to try and carve themselves an empire.
There are ruined cities, great castles, magnificent mosques and hans (inns) and hamams (bath houses). Turkey even gave us tulips, Turkish Delight, kebabs and Father Christmas. What more can you ask?