When the rain is falling in Western Europe and the drizzle is backed up the Thames River I think of Turkey; iridescent blue waters, ancient ruins, endless summer nights and plenty of cold beer.
Hold on tight for a quick run down of my 6 favourite places in Turkey.
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul
One could write pages and pages about this wonderful city but let’s stick to the basics. Get in by plane from the UK, as cheap as chips if you can swing that deal with EasyJet, or come down the long way from Budapest by the old “Stamboul Train” route passing through Bucharest and crumbling Romania and Bulgaria.
Stay in Sultanahmet, the semi sleazy backpacking area near the main sights, some of the hostels here have been around for years, as have some of the residents! The views of the Bosphorus from the obligatory rooftop terraces are perfect for cold beers and watching the sun go down.
Eat a fresh grilled fish sandwich from one of the boats near the old Galata Bridge and watch the ferryboats as they rush madly across the river or shop in the Grand Bazaar, possibly the most famous market in Europe.
Visit the Agia Sophia, the Topkapi palace, the Blue mosque and party all night across the golden horn in Galata.
The pristine beach in Olympos
Think beer? True, but also the home of some of the most spectacular ruins outside of Rome. Just a few kilometres from Selçuk, where most visitors base themselves, the ruins of Ephesus date back to 2000 years BC. with wonderful preserved ancient streets and buildings, the magnificent Great Theatre which had a capacity of over 24,000 spectators plus a 3000 year old public bathroom.
Hostels in the area are cheap and quite a few have pools making them more attractive than the nearby resort of Kusadasi, not on my list!
Easy to get to from the Greek Island of Rhodes, Fethiye makes a perfect base for the surrounding sights; it’s only a short minibus ride to Oludeniz beach and also acts as a starting point for the Blue Cruises to Olympos.
There are several good hostels just on the outskirts of town at the port where you arrive by boat from Rhodes. My favourite is Ferah Pension which has a small swimming pool just outside the bedroom!
Nightlife is calm in Fethiye but a great bargain, fresh fish at half the price of Greece and terraces offering cold beer and cocktails at very competitive prices with frequent happy hours.
Entrance to Kadirs in Olympos
Probably my favourite town on the southern Turkish coast, Kas is nestled under a daunting rock face as it spreads out to the harbour below. Winding streets hide many bars and restaurants with the main scene not starting until late as the summer heat is scorching. Locals and tourist alike take their refreshments out on to the benches and walls of the promenade and ‘people watch’ while reflecting on their day.
Scuba diving is a popular sport here and the main operators are lined up in the port. For those who are into more relaxing sports the beaches are a short bus ride away or if you can manage a bit of a trip the beach at Pataras is by far your best bet.
Tree houses, Lycian ruins and a fire god, what more do you want? The blue cruises finish their tours near here and many travellers aim immediately for the fabled tree houses in the valley. The oldest one is Kadir’s, still a funky hangout, however now you have more to choose from as the area steadily goes upmarket.
Heading from your wooden shack to wander down to the sea is a pleasant experience, as you pass through shaded olive groves and scattered ruins until finally coming to the broad expanse of beach and the gentle cooling waters.
Take the time to cruise the Turkish coast
For those with any energy left after the day’s exertions take the hike up the mountain to the famous Chimera where natural methane ignites on the side of the rocks. This has led to many ancient legends and also usefulness as a form of lighthouse for passing ships.
This seaside resort is expanding at one heck of a pace with so much money being poured into extravagant hotels here it is obscene. However the old town is a great find and has plenty of sights to distract the traveller. It is very useful as a gateway to Turkey with charter flights coming into the nearby airport.
There is a good choice of hostels in the easily walkable old town, a warren of streets with plenty of beautiful converted buildings. The best value restaurants and bars are here with prices escalating as you get closer to the port.
Overall Turkey is great value in this more financially difficult times with accommodating locals, amazing natural beauty and a cultural vibe different to the rest of the Mediterranean.