Turkey: History, Culture, and Magic
Where to Stay
Views of the vividly blue Gumbet Bay are just one of the assets at the Resort Bodrum in Bitez. This hip resort boasts spacious rooms with designer touches, gourmet dining, spa, access to a top-notch 18-hole golf course, bowling alley, and volleyball and basketball courts.
The Four Seasons Hotel Bosphorus in Istanbul occupies a former palace and presents a complex that lives up to its royal heritage. The gorgeous rooms and suites, gourmet restaurants, and exotic spa—all with expansive views over the sparkling blue water—create a luxurious wonderland you would expect from a Four Seasons property.
Where to Eat
The Uchisar area of Cappadocia is home to Elai Restaurant, a sophisticated eatery that boasts a beautifully historic building and open-air terrace for al fresco dining. The dishes are global in nature, though the French and Turkish offerings steal the show.
Deniz in Izmir is an upscale seafood restaurant that specializes in elegant yet low-key evenings perfect for romance or celebration. The menu includes a long list of tempting fish dishes, though one of the most popular is the fresh catch of the day prepared in an earthenware pot.
Where to Go
The ancient Roman ruins at the storied city of Ephesus are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to glimpse an ancient way of life. Not only is it historically important, but it’s famous as one of the seven Asian churches mentioned in the Bible. Among the highlights of the ruins: the tomb of St. John the Apostle, the Temple of Hadrian, and the enormous 44,000-seat theatre. While at Ephesus, take the six-mile trek to view the house where the mother of Jesus is said to have lived after his crucifixion.
Holiday like the locals do by ferrying from Istanbul to the Princes’ Islands. It’s ideal for those who prefer their vacations to be quiet—there are no cars allowed—and dream of a simpler time when horse-drawn carriages were the only things around with four wheels. Sights on the island include monasteries and old wooden mansions.
Where to Shop
Ankara is one of the largest cities in Turkey, and the shopping options reflect that. The Karum Is Merkezi shopping mall is the place for upscale shopping at international stores such as Burberry’s and Calvin Klein, while locally made products can be found in the stores on the street of Bakircilar Çarsisi.
Turkey is well known for its carpets and kilims (woven mats), and the area around Antalya is particularly renowned for its contribution to the woven arts. Traditionally, borders and motifs woven into the carpets have meaning—from announcing a pregnancy to expressing happiness to encouraging good fortune—so it can be fun to ask the salesperson about the motif of your favourite carpet.
What to Do
One of the most popular items associated with Turkey are its famous baths. It’s almost criminal if you don’t partake in at least one Turkish bath (or hammam) while on holiday. Most luxury resorts feature spas that offer these steamy baths, usually followed by a scrub and massage. But if you want a stand-alone activity, head to a popular, historic bath like Galatasaray Hammam in Beyoglu and Cagaloglu Hammam in Sultanahmet.
Heard of a whirling dervish but never knew what it was? The tradition of whirling dervishes, who are actually members of the Sufi Mevlevi Order, was born in Turkey. A dervish is a term for someone studying Sufi, and the whirling is part of a religious dance (the Sema). This fascinating ceremony is best caught in Konya, where the order originated, though there are plenty of performances in Istanbul as well.