There’s nowhere in the world quite like Turkey. On the cusp of Europe and Asia, Turkey is a real melting pot of cultures, where tradition and modernity sit seamlessly side by side: whether its soaring mosques alongside hip bars, bustling bazaars contrasted with chic boutiques or traditional handicraft workshops with modern art galleries. What’s more, aside from cultural delights, Turkey boasts spellbinding coastlines with turquoise seas, dramatic mountains and a bucket-load of exciting water-sports to experience – not to mention the incredible luxury hotels. There’s something utterly mesmerising about Turkey, and 2015 is set to be the year to visit.
For city breaks in Europe, we love Istanbul: but we’re not the only ones. Beating the likes of London, New York and Rome to the top spot, Istanbul was voted ‘Best City’ in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice awards for 2014, and it doesn’t come as a surprise to us. The astounding ancient architecture here mingles with a modern, cosmopolitan lifestyle, making it a totally beguiling, captivating place to visit.
For history lovers, Istanbul provides endless reasons to meander, explore, and marvel at its enthralling past. Ottoman mosques and Byzantine churches are scattered throughout the city, notably the infamous ‘Blue Mosque’ (Sultanahmet Camii), Hagia Sophia and Suleymaniye Mosque. The grandeur of the Ottoman Empire is also evoked in its palaces and mansions, which are open for tours or in some cases, for accommodation. Ciragan Palace Kempinski, for instance, was home to a string of Ottoman sultans in the 19th century and has now been transformed into a lavish luxury hotel sitting on the edge of the glittering Bosphorus river – a regal retreat, indeed.
Then, far from the urban sprawl of Turkey’s cultural metropolis to the west of the country, you’ll find alluring azure seas that are simply dazzling. Bodrum and the Turquoise Coast attract sailing enthusiasts for the exquisite waters and dramatic coastline: picture forested mountains, secret coves and ancient Lycian ruins – that’s what you’ll find in this beautiful corner of Turkey. Whether you stay at one of the fabulous bolt-holes dotted along the coast, like Amanruya or D-Hotel Maris, or opt for a luxury chartered yacht with a crew at your beck and call, you’ll be dipping in the serene waters everyday of your paradisiacal holiday.
Weave your way up north from here and you’ll find the charming little town of Alacati, a blue-shuttered, white-washed dream of a place awash with lovely cafes and trendy bars. With its up-and-coming boutiques and art galleries, this small town is a gem and now is the time to visit as it remains unspoilt and utterly delightful. It’s been a haunt of windsurfers and kitesurfers for years, given the excellent wind conditions at Ilica Bay. We love the rustic boutique hotels like Alavya and Bey Evi – exuding as much charm as the town itself.
While beach holidays in Turkey certainly are irresistible, inland Turkey is completely mesmerizing to explore, too. One hour from Izmir airport are the enchanting Ephesus ruins, steeped in ancient history and one of the best preserved sites in Europe, as seen in the exquisite columns of Celsus Library which, remarkably, still stands proudly to this day. This ancient port city is undeniable for anyone with an interest in history and promises to astonish you.
Finally, further inland in central Anatolia, the most fantastical landscape you could dream of is found: Cappadocia. With its beautifully strange rock formations, like the mushroom-shaped Fairy Chimneys, and thousands of cave houses that date back 3500 years, Cappadocia is completely captivating. Many of the hotels are set in the caves themselves which is an experience not to be missed!
With its rich culture, spectacular scenery, stunning hotels and amazing activities on offer, there really is no reason why you must wait any longer to visit Turkey.