Turkey travel guide, including map of Turkey, top Turkey travel experiences, tips for travel in Turkey and what to do in Turkey
Turkey has long been a crossroads, forming a geographical bridge between the East and West; as a result its heritage is rich, from ancient Roman ruins to Ottoman palaces to Byzantine monasteries perched on cliffs to the First World War battlefields of Gallipoli.
Turkey’s terrain is varied too: there’s over 8,000km of coastline, split between the turquoise Mediterranean and the Black Sea, plus multiple mountain ranges (snow-topped Ararat is over 5,000m), undulating steppes and placid lakes.
A diverse land, and the perfect introduction to the East.
- Explore the fairytale rock chimneys of Cappadocia – by foot, on horseback, or from a hot-air balloon
- Trek Turkey’s long-distance paths: the stunning coastal Lycian Way or the lesser-known and remote St Paul’s Trail
- Take the train to Istanbul – arrive in old Constantinople like the travellers of old, before exploring the city’s mosques and monuments
- Tantalise your tastebuds on a cookery course at Yediburunlar Lighthouse, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast
- Wonder at the vast Roman ruins at Ephesus
- Hike in the wild and remote Kackar Mountains
- Soak up some Sufi mysticism and watch the whirling dervishes in Konya
- Take the (cheap!) ferry from Istanbul up the Bosphorus to visit the fishing villages where Europe and Asia meet
Drinking alcohol is accepted in Turkey; public drunkenness isn’t. Dress conservatively away from the beach – though relaxed, Turkey is still a Muslim country. When visiting mosques, shoes should be removed, and shoulders, knees and usually heads (for women) covered. Be prepared to haggle and be firm when walking through bazaars – traders can be persistent.
Travel in Turkey: vital statistics
- Capital of Turkey: Ankara
- Population of Turkey: 76.8 million
- Languages in Turkey: Turkish, Kurdish
- Time in Turkey: GMT+2 (GMT+3 Mar-Oct)
- International dialling code in Turkey: +90
- Voltage in Turkey: 230 V, 50 Hz
- Visas for Turkey: Turkey visas
- Money in Turkey: Turkish lira (TL). ATMs are available in most areas; major credit and debit cards are accepted in most areas. You should tip guides and restaurant staff. Be prepared to haggle.
- Turkey travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- Turkey Tourist Board: Go Turkey
When to go to Turkey
The best times to visit Turkey’s archeological sites and cities are spring (Apr-May) and autumn (Sep-Oct) as the temperature is warm, but not too hot. These are also good times to walk the Lycian Way and other coastal areas. High summer (Jun-Aug) can be stifling: fine for beach bumming, and the best time for high-altitude walks in eastern Turkey – snow may close paths outside of summer. Winters can be extremely cold and many hotels close, though city breaks are still an option
Turkey international airports
Atatürk International (IST) 24km from Istanbul; Milas-Bodrum (BJV) 36km from Bodrum; Dalaman (DLM) 5.5km from Dalaman; Izmir Adnan Menderes (ADB) 18km from Izmir; Antalya (AYT) 13km from Antalya.
Getting around in Turkey
Turkey is a big country – good-value and useful flights link key cities, handy for the time-poor. Turkey’s intercity buses are excellent and efficient, and serve most areas. Turkey’s train network isn’t extensive, but a few routes are viable and fun: for example, the train from Istanbul to Ankara, the slow ‘express’ to Lake Van, or the Istanbul-Aleppo (Syria) service. Self-drive in Turkey offers flexibility but road accidents are common. No Istanbul trip is complete without taking the ferry across the Bosphorus, Europe to Asia in minutes.
Turkey doesn’t have that many campsites; most are along the cost. Basic guesthouses and pensions are good budget options in Turkey, and are often family run. Touts may congregate at Turkey’s bus stations, so it’s easy to find accommodation, if a little hassley. Hotels in Turkey range from simple to boutique; at the top end you can stay in renovated Ottoman mansions. In Turkey’s popular coastal resorts there is an abundance of mass-market hotels.
Turkey food & drink
Turkish food is varied and delicious. It’s often meze style – lots of small dishes to sample, including aubergine dips, calamari, borek (stuffed pastries), mashed broad beans and stuffed vine leaves – plenty of options for vegetarians, too.
Beyond meze, Turkish food involves a lot of meat, often in kebab form – the smell of charcoal-grilled beef, lamb and chicken permeates Turkey. Fish is also good – just make sure it is fresh. Other highlights on the Turkish menu include wonderful breads, super-sweet baklava (pistachio and syrup pastry) and salty white cheeses.
Despite being a Muslim country, alcohol is easy to find in Turkey, especially in the touristy coastal regions. Efes is the Turkish beer of choice. Raki, grape spirit, is potent. Turkish coffee is pitch black, very strong and often sweet. Tea is widely drunk and served black.
Health & safety in Turkey
Make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations before travelling to Turkey – visit your GP for advice. Mosquitoes and sandflies can be a nuisance, especially along the coast in summer; pack repellent. Malaria risk is minimal, but seek advice before travel. Drink purified water and make sure food is well cooked and fresh. The sun can be strong – cover up, and pack high-factor sunscreen.