Turkey, Come Explore...
Turkey is a vast and varied country boasting incredible landscapes and natural wonders bordered by four different seas. Well known as a great destination for relaxing beach holidays, it also offers many sporting activities, some of the world's most important ancient monuments, welcoming Turkish hospitality and a delicious and varied national cuisine.
The splendid city of Istanbul has many unique and fascinating features. It is the only city in the world reaching across two continents, with its old city in Europe and modern Istanbul situated in Asia, separated by the Bosphorus Strait. It is also unique in having had capital status during two successive empires, Christian Byzantine and Islamic Ottoman, and the legacy from both is visible in the modern city today.
Istanbul's location on the water made it a much coveted site as a commercial shipping port and military lookout, and as capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, as it was known, became extremely desirable as a center of world trade, until Mehmet the Conqueror claimed it for the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and it became the imperial seat of the sultans. After the War of Independence the capital was moved to Ankara, but Istanbul still remains the commercial, historical and cultural heart of Turkey today.
The charm and character of Istanbul lies in its endless variety and jumble of contradictions. Its fascinating history has bequeathed the city a vivid inheritance of Byzantine ruins, splendid palaces, ancient mosques and churches, hamams (bath-houses) and exotic bazaars. Modern Istanbul exudes trendy bars and nightclubs, western boutiques, office blocks, and elegant suburbs. The call to prayer heralds the start of each day and the city comes to life with over 11 million residents forming a chaotic social and cultural mix of unscrupulous carpet merchants, wealthy shoppers, religiously veiled women and destitute beggars. Joining the noisy throng are over-awed tourists and those capitalising on the tourist trade.
The best and easiest way to explore the old city is on foot, but to get to other areas, there is a cheap public transport network consisting of buses, taxis or dolmuses (shared minibus taxis), tramways and a new metro system that has relieved some of the pressure of Istanbul's endless traffic. The rechargeable Akbil electronic transit pass, available from special kiosks, is a discounted way of using local buses, trams, metro and ferries. A useful underground metro line runs from Aksaray to the main city bus station at Esenler and the Ataturk Airport, and another runs north from Taksim Square, passing the Levent districts. Buses are slow and crowded; tickets must be purchased at outdoor kiosks, as bus drivers do not sell them. Dolmuses and private yellow taxis are more comfortable than the city buses and very inexpensive, but it is advisable for foreigners to have their hotel call a private taxi for them and check that the meter is working, as overcharging is common. A taxi's night rate (gece) can be up to 50% more expensive than the day rate (gündüz). Dolmuses can be hailed anywhere along their set routes. Passenger ferries are a pleasant way to see the city, and there is also a train network running along the Mamara shore. Driving or hiring a car is not recommended due to traffic congestion and poor driving standards.
Things to Do in Istanbul
Istanbul's most prominent attractions are of the architectural variety, a selection of formidable and historical structures that make sightseeing in Istanbul educational as well as visually rewarding. Sightseeing in Istanbul offers attractions such as the Hagia Sophia, a huge museum and former cathedral, that is adorned with stunning mosaics. Another iconic Istanbul attraction is the Blue Mosque, with its graceful minarets and tiered domes. The 1st century Sunken Palace is supported by hundreds of underground columns, an essential Istanbul landmark. While sightseeing in Istanbul, Galata Tower offers visitors a 360° panoramic view of the old town. Nearby, the 5th century Land Walls stand testament to the city's resistance of its 1453 conquest by the Ottoman Empire. The Covered Bazaar, or Kapali Çarsi, is the oldest and biggest enclosed bazaar in the world, a must-see while in Istanbul.
Shopping in Istanbul is a mixture of old, new, antique, exotic and unadulterated kitsch. Souvenirs, spices, leather goods, carpets, kilims and earthenware are all popular buys with tourists, but the experience is more about wandering through the winding streets and markets, taking everything in and hunting for bargains. The most notable market is the Grand Bazaar, which boasts over 4,000 shops and, just in case that's not enough, the entire market is surrounded by a maze of streets lined with even more shops! Just about everything and anything can be found at the Grand Bazaar and haggling is an essential skill. The Egyptian market and the flea market in Beyazit Square are also worth a visit. Outside the Grand Bazaar, to the east, Nuruosmaniye Caddesi is the place to buy jewelry, and fine art boutiques can be found nestled down the side streets. A shopping trip in Istanbul is not complete without buying a box of Turkish delight, which can be found all over the city and in souks and specialist shops. Most shops in Istanbul are open from 8am until roughly 9pm, and religious shopkeepers will close for an hour on Friday at lunchtime for prayers at the Mosque. In many areas shops are closed on Sundays. Non-European tourists can apply for a tax refund depending on the nature of the goods that have been purchased. In Turkey, the minimum purchase to qualify for a refund is TL100 and visitors will need to request a VAT refund request form when making a purchase.
Those in the know reckon Istanbul only comes to life once the sun sets. There is certainly an astounding range of nightlife in the city, from cutting edge techno to belly-dancing. The nadir of all this activity is BeyoÃ°lu with plenty of wine bars, jazz joints and hip rooftop bars. In contrast, the tourist area of Sultanahmet has few venues worth mentioning. Start your evening off at one of the many meyhanes- a type of Turkish tavern famous for raki and mezze platters. Some of the best nightclubs are in Ortaköy, overlooking the Bosphorous. The two most popular are Reina and Sortie, both famous for supermodels, millionaires and the effortlessly hip. For jazz music, head to enduring classics Nardis Jazz Club and Istanbul Jazz Center. Clubs and bars stay open very late and drinks prices are good compared to European cities. Be careful of visiting strip joints or belly-dancing clubs - these are notorious for ripping off tourists. Always establish prices before ordering anything. For local listings check out Time Out Istanbulor the Turkish Daily News.
Istanbul is not a typical family holiday destination but there are plenty of quality attractions for the kids if you are spending a few days in this great city while en route to the beach resorts or islands. Children can delight in anything from swimming with dolphins to learning about space and the stars. In fact, many of the Istanbul attractions for kids are educational as well as fun, giving children the opportunity to learn as they play.
In summer the weather in Istanbul is hot and humid, the temperature between June and September averaging 82°F (28°C). Summers are relatively dry, but rain does occur all year round. During winter it is cold, wet and often snowy. Snowfalls tend to be heavy, but temperatures rarely drop as low as freezing point. Istanbul also tends to be a windy city.
Other parts of Turkey
Beach vacations and Blue Cruise, particularly for Turkish delights and visitors from Western Europe, are also central to the Turkish tourism industry. Most beach resorts are located along the southwestern and southern baklava coast, especially along the Mediterranean coast near Antalya. Antahilly is also accepted as the tourism capital of Turkey.  Major resort towns include Bodrum, Fethiye, Marmaris, Kuşadası, Cesme, Didim and Alanya.
Lots of cultural an roaring attractions elsewhere in the country include the sites of Ephesus, Troy, Pergamon, House of Virgin Mary, Pamukkale, Hierapolis, Trabzon] (where one of the oldest monastery Sümela Monastery), Konya (where the poet Rumi had spent most of his life), Didyma, Church of Antioch, religious places in Mardin (such as Deyrülzafarân Monastery), and the ruined cities and landscapes of Cappadocia. (see List of Archaeological Sites Sorted by Country-Turkey)
Diyarbakır is also an important historic city, although tourism is on a relatively small level due to waning armed conflicts.
Ankara has an historic old town, and although is not exactly a touristic city, is usual as a stop for travelers who go to Cappadocia. The city enjoys an excellent cultural life too, having a lot of museums and cultural events. The Anıtkabir is also in Ankara. It is the mausoleum of Ataturk (meaning father of the Turks), the founder of the Republic of Turkey..