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Turkey

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  • Topkapi Palace
    Topkapi Palace

For sheer diversity, it’s hard to beat Turkey. The country seems to exist in multitudes – of people, of natural landscapes, of cultures. It is a land of vast open spaces, massive mountain ranges, fertile valleys and rugged coastline, fast-growing cities and sleepy villages, bustling neon-lit seaside resorts and unfrequented beaches. Countless waves of invasions, rebellions and ongoing immigration have created a country that may surprise visitors with the breadth and depth of the cultural melting-pot, not just in the major cities but across the country, with Kurds, Greeks, Arabs and many more groups to be found.

A rich history has continually shaped Turkey, whilst leaving indelible marks - the country overflows with historic sites and archaeological wonders set in a varied and beautiful landscape. The Mediterranean coastline is punctuated with well-preserved Greco-Roman cities such as Pergamom and Ephesus, while the austere and rugged Anatolian plateau has cave churches hidden away in the improbable fairytale landscape of Cappadocia.

Aside from the historical relics, there’s much to be admired about modern-day Turkey. First time visitors to Istanbul, which is not the capital but still very much the pulse of the nation, will be overwhelmed with choices. There are Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques and palaces to see. But there are also cafes to frequent, Grand Bazaars to thrill at, hammams to visit and clubs to dance the night away in. The city thrums with constant hustle and bustle but for those who want to step out of the clamour, there are plenty of places to seek solitude and rest.

Still, the country is vast, and Istanbul is just one piece of Turkey’s puzzle. Beach-lovers can while away sunny days in the ever-popular resorts of Bodrum, Marmaris and Izmir along Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Ankara, the unlikely capital city, may be less of an attraction, but located in central Anatolia, it’s worthy of a few days’ investigation if only to see the contrast between the new modern city and the old citadel which still remains. Here, visitors can glean an insight into another aspect of traditional Turkish culture away from the more European sensibilities of Istanbul.

However deep its past, Turkey is now a thrusting and dynamic society that is navigating cultural, economic and political change while consciously seeking to retain the best of its multicultural heritage and time-honoured traditions of hospitality.

  • Capital:

    Ankara.

    Geography:

    Turkey borders the Black Sea and Georgia and Armenia to the northeast, Iran to the east, Iraq to the southeast, Syria and the Mediterranean to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west and Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest. Asia Minor (or Anatolia) is the name given to the peninsula that forms a bridge between Europe and Asia. It accounts for 97% of the country's area and forms a long, wide peninsula 1,650km (1,025 miles) from east to west and 650km (400 miles) from north to south.  The biggest city is Ankara, which is situated in the central plains of Anatolia.

    The other 3% of the country is Thrace, the tiny land mass which is the European portion of Turkey bordering Bulgaria and Greece and separated from Anatolia by the Bosphorus, a strait linking the Black Sea and Aegean Sea. Despite its small size 10% of the population lives here, with most of these in Istanbul.

    Two east-west mountain ranges, the Black Sea Mountains in the north and the Taurus in the south, enclose the central Anatolian plateau, but converge in a vast mountainous region in the far east of the country. It is here that the ancient Tigris and Euphrates rivers rise.

    Government:

    Republic since 1923.

    Head Of State:

    President Abdullah Gul since 2007.

    Head Of Government:

    Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan since 2003.

    Electricity:

    220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used.

    Timezone:
  • Currency Information:

    New Turkish Lira (TRY; symbol YTL) = 100 New Kurus (Ykr). Notes are in denominations of YTL200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of YTL1 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 New Kurus.

    Credit Cards:

    Visa is the most popular, closely followed by MasterCard. American Express is accepted in top-flight hotels, restaurants and some gift shops. ATMs are widely found in most areas. In all smaller restaurants, bars, guesthouses and shops cash is preferred. Many establishments in resort areas will accept Euros.

    ATMs:

    ATMs are easily found in most urban areas. As with all transactions be careful with your card, taking care to keep it in sight, and be discreet with cash.

    Travellers Cheques:

    Traveller's cheques can only be exchanged in banks. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Pounds Sterling, Euros or US Dollars. Credit cards are far more convenient.

    Banking Hours:

    Mon-Fri 0830-1200 and 1330-1700. Some banks in tourist areas and large cities are open daily. Cash can be exchanged in currency exchange offices (döviz bürosu) in all major cities and towns. Banks charge commission.

    Currency Restrictions:

    There are no restrictions on the import or export of local. The import and export of foreign currency exceeding US$5,000 must be declared.

    Currency Exchange:

    Cash can usually be exchanged commission free in currency exchange offices (döviz bürosu). Banks usually charge commission. Traveller's cheques can only be exchanged in banks with a passport. Travellers planning to exchange currency back from Turkish Lira to their own country before leaving Turkey, or those making a major purchase which may need to be declared to customs, must retain transaction receipts to prove that the currency was legally exchanged.

    Currencies: Exchange Rates:

    • 1 EUR = 2.88 TRY
    • 1 GBP = 3.70 TRY
    • 1 USD = 2.28 TRY

  • Best Time To Visit:

    Turkey is a huge country, and its climate varies widely from region to region as well as seasonally. For sightseeing holidays to Istanbul and the most important ancient and medieval sights, and for active walking holidays, the best times to visit are spring (April-May) and autumn (October-early November) when days are generally warm and sunny but not uncomfortably hot. Rainy spells and cloudy days are possible, however, in spring and autumn, so the best months for a sun-and-sea holiday on the Aegean or Mediterranean coast are June to end September. Resort areas are most crowded from June until the end of August.

    In developing ski areas such as Uludag near Bursa and Palandoken near Erzurum, the best time to visit is between December and April. Temperatures in and around Istanbul can vary from well below freezing in midwinter to above 40°C (104°F) in summer. The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts experience the hottest summers, with highs of 45°C (113°F), but midwinter temperatures can be as low as -5°C (23°F). Mountainous Eastern Turkey has the most extreme climate of all, with winter temperatures as low as -43°C (-45F) and highs up to 38C (100F). The climate of the central Anatolia is also extreme with summer highs of 40°C (104°F)and winter lows of -25°C (-13°F). The Turkish State Meteorological Office (www.mgm.gov.tr) provides a day to day, region by region online weather forecast.

    Required Clothing:

    Depending on where you are, appropriate clothing will vary widely. If visiting during the summer take light cotton layers and a hat, as temperatures can reach scorching, particularly in the cities. During the winter months pack heavier layers and waterproofs. Sturdy shoes and equipment are advisable for anyone who will be trekking in the mountainous areas.