Travel to Turkey: Explore Istanbul and the Rest of Turkey

Travel to Turkey: Explore Istanbul and the Rest of Turkey

I’m not Turkish, but when my plane lands in Turkey – eight times so far – I feel I’ve come home. The lure of this land began for me when, as a 17-year-old high school exchange student to a backwater town in western Turkey, I lived with a Muslim family who opened their hearts and home to me, a young teenager who’d never been anywhere – not even on an airplane.

I"m with my Turkish exchange cousin in a holy place: Üftade Mosque and Tomb in Bursa, Turkey <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

I’m with my Turkish exchange cousin in a holy place: Üftade Mosque and Tomb in Bursa, Turkey
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Decades later, I keep returning to Turkey for its legendary hospitality and history, architecture and ruins, water views and beaches, and for its unforgettable abundance of Mediterranean food, freshly picked from the garden or freshly caught from the sea. Every time I visit, my beloved exchange family and relatives welcome me home again to Turkey, suggesting I stay forever. I’d like that.

I'm with my Turkish exchange aunt and uncle from high school days, near Bursa, Turkey <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

I’m with my Turkish exchange aunt and uncle from high school days, near Bursa, Turkey
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Today’s Turkey: Straddling Past and FutureA tad larger than Texas, Turkey straddles two continents, Europe and Asia, and the dividing line is the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, once the capital of two great empires and today home to more than 15 million people. Politically, Turkey straddles East and West in a tug-of-war geopolitical allegiance between the secular government established by Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the theocratic pull of nearby Muslim countries. Such East-West tension is visually expressed in Turkey’s fashion scene: from extreme urban stilettos and thigh-high skirts worn by young Turks to full-veiled chadors and once-banned headscarves donned by conservative Muslims.

The strategic Bosphorus Strait is a thin, 17-mile finger of water dividing Europe and Asia in Istanbul <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

The strategic Bosphorus Strait is a thin, 17-mile finger of water dividing Europe and Asia in Istanbul
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo to see larger version)


Now is a perfect time for a traveler’s first – and likely not last – visit to Turkey, where cultural contrasts and Turkish delights abound, a country bursting with UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

A Turkish woman in traditional baggy pants (<i>shalvar</i>) greets visitors in Cumalikizik, Turkey <br /> Photo credit: Helen Holter

A Turkish woman in traditional baggy pants (shalvar) greets visitors in Cumalikizik, Turkey
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Easy to travel, rich in magical moments with locals, and warm hospitality beyond measure: Turkey is a layered, complex, and deeply satisfying destination for travelers, a country MIR explores on several private train journeys, a scheduled group tour, and on private handcrafted itineraries.


Five Stories: Travel to TurkeyI’ve divided Turkey into five stories with the theme, “Travel to Turkey,” to more easily share a few highlights of things to do, see, and eat in my favorite regions:

  • Travel to Turkey: 6 Favorite Highlights in IstanbulIstanbul is an easy introduction to Turkey’s legendary hospitality. Its minaret-studded skyline glistens with mosques, palaces, and water views that demonstrate the country’s living history, diverse cultures, and international cuisine.
Strangely-shaped volcanic rock formations draw travelers to Turkey's Cappadocia <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

Strangely-shaped volcanic rock formations draw travelers to Turkey’s Cappadocia
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Travel to Turkey with MIR
  • Handcrafted Private Journeys: MIR travelers often book several days in Istanbul at the beginning or end of their journeys, giving them the opportunity to more deeply explore this ancient yet modern city, beyond the highlights. Because it is so large and so diverse in topography, culture, and cuisine, Turkey lends itself well to focusing on distinct geographical regions with a handcrafted custom, private journey. Possible itineraries might include:
    • handicrafts such as Aegean Coast jewelry
    • art and traditions of making Turkish carpets 
    • history of Turkey’s famous tiles from Iznik
    • exploring world-famous archaeological digs, such as UNESCO-listed Çatalhöyük
Roasted chestnuts are a popular treat, sold by young and old on the streets of Turkey Photo credit: Helen Holter

Roasted chestnuts are a popular treat, sold by young and old on the streets of Turkey
Photo credit: Helen Holter

  • Other ideas: spending extended time on a gulet (a Turkish all-wooden yacht) on the Mediterranean Sea, sailing, fishing, snorkeling and scuba-diving in historic harbor towns and fishing villages along the way. Of course, you must take a Turkish bath! If food is on the travel agenda, Turkey tempts you with cooking classes and gastronomic opportunities to sample the country’s diverse cuisine as well as to learn to create some of those dishes as well, like baklava, Turkey’s favorite sweet.

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Whatever Turkish delights entice you, MIR can transform your dream trip into an unforgettable travel adventure steeped in Turkish culture, cuisine, history – and of course that legendary Turkish hospitality.

(Top photo: Water view of the Blue Mosque, its cascading domes and slim minarets punctuating Istanbul’s skyline. Photo credit: Helen Holter)

PUBLISHED: February 25, 2015

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