Discover Turkey’s rich cultural heritage and history

Introduction
Facts
Geography
Turkish art and culture
Turkish cuisine

Introduction
If you think you know Turkey, think again. This surprisingly diverse country was once a stopover on the ancient Silk Road, its territory a home for Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans, each of whom left their mark to contribute to Turkey’s rich cultural heritage and history.

Today’s nation owes much to one man: Kemal Atatürk. The founding father of the modern Turkish republic and its first president, his progressive reforms created a successful secular society. The present incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is keen to promote the role of Islam.

Turkey’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites stretch across the country and include the historic core of Istanbul and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In the east, the ruins of Ani, dubbed the “city of 1001 churches”, was once the mediaeval capital of Armenia, while over to the west, Troy is best known for the legendary siege recounted in Homer’s Iliad.

But for many, Turkey’s enduring appeal lies in its extraordinary natural beauty. Its shores form one of the jewels of the Aegean, particularly the glittering Turquoise Coast. Inland, it dazzles too, especially on the mineral encrusted terraces of stunning Pamukkale and in the breathtaking drama of the fairy chimneys crammed into Cappadocia’s valleys.

Some facts about Turkey
Population 84 million
Population density 110 / km2
Capital Ankara
Major cities Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Konya
Area 783,562 square km (33,436 square miles)
Major languages Turkish, Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish)
Major religion Islam
Monetary unit Turkish lira (TRY)
Time +3 hrs (GMT)
Telephone country code +90

Geography and landscape
Turkey spans the continents of Europe and Asia, though the majority of its land falls in the latter. To all intents and purposes it can be considered a peninsula, with a long Black Sea coastline to the north and the Aegean and Mediterranean to the west and south. It is characterised by a central plateau flanked by mountains to the north, west and south, as well as a rugged mountainous region in the east home to the country’s highest peak, Mount Ararat. Wind and water have sculpted much of the landscape, from Cappadocia’s eroded tuff to the valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates, which both have their source within Turkish borders. Its regions vary wildly in their climate: while you probably know it best for the hot sunny weather of its Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines, there are many places inland which offer winter skiing. Travel through Turkey and you’ll encounter a magical and varied landscape of extinct volcanoes, dense forests and arid plateaus.

Turkish art and culture
Turkey has a long tradition of art and culture. The lakeshore town of Iznik is known for its elaborately painted ceramic tiles which have been made here since Byzantine times. Miniature painting, known in Turkey as nakis, was especially important in mediaeval times, but survives as an art form today. The technique for creating marbled paper, known as Ebru, originated with the Ottomans but was particularly associated with the Beyazit district of Istanbul as late as the 1920s. Calligraphy is also important; though not Turkish in origin it was adopted and cherished by the Ottomans. Some of the most famous roundels can be seen in Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.  

Turkish cuisine
From humble street food stalls to the fanciest restaurants, Turkish food is as varied as it is tasty. The country is perhaps best known for the meze, a mixed platter of dishes usually served cold, including patlıcan salatası (aubergine salad), stuffed zucchini blossoms, bite-sized meatballs known as kofte, dolma (stuffed peppers) and sarma (stuffed vine leaves). Grilled meat and fish are common too, as are soups and stews. Travellers with a sweet tooth will be delighted to try the deliciously sticky baklava, filo pastry layered with honey and chopped pistachio nuts. And of course we can’t leave out lokum, referred to internationally as Turkish Delight, traditionally flavoured with rosewater.
Reasons to Visit Turkey  Tours to Turkey