Turkey has long been a favorite of British holidaymakers – and the doors have finally opened up again.
When visiting Istanbul, don’t miss the magnificent Suleymaniye Mosque or the Blue Mosque (pictured)
Poet Alphonse de Lamartine summed up the feelings of so many visitors to Turkey’s most famous city: ‘If you only had one view of the world, you should look at Istanbul.’
With its sultanate palaces, including the opulent waterfront Topkapi Palace, many mosques (don’t miss the magnificent Suleymaniye Mosque or the Blue Mosque), bazaars, strolls along the glittering Bosphorus and numerous museums (the most important being the Hagia Sophia, once a Byzantine church before it became a mosque in 1453 and turned into a museum by Ataturk in 1935, Istanbul is both enchanting and action-packed.
How to do that: Five nights guided Byzantine and Ottoman tours of Istanbul with hotels, three dinners, one lunch and flights from £1,839 pp B&B (kirkerholidays.com).
Star quality: Turunc Bay in Marmaris, surrounded by emerald green mountains and olive groves
Turunc, on the Bozburun peninsula, is a ‘holiday resort’, but it’s a lot quieter than most and has a blue flag beach. It is surrounded by nature: emerald green mountains, olive groves and cornfields. Zip around on Dolmus buses to explore the peninsula. Or see beautiful bays, many inaccessible by road, on well-organized five-bay cruises.
How to do that: Turunc Resort Hotel has a water park and a private sandy beach; a week from £474 pp all inclusive with flights (easyjetholidays.com).
Find a villa outside the coastal town of Kalkan, pictured, for a Turkish escape
Do you like a bit of resort fun, but also want to get away to your own space? Then find a villa outside Kalkan so you can pop into town for harborside bars and restaurants, then escape for a dip in your pool whenever you want.
How to do that: Villa Sea is fantastic for four people with a swoon-worthy infinity pool and outdoor deck overlooking the ocean from £1,327 per week, including flights (simpsontravel.com).
Pictured are ancient tombs on the Dalyan River – area attractions include boating and beaches
BETTANY HUGHES ON HER LOVE FOR TURKEY
Just one apple tea – and you’re hooked. My first was when I was 19, leaning out the window of a youth hostel, overlooking Istanbul’s old hippodrome, with the dome of the Hagia Sophia church – surrounded by simit-grabbing seagulls – on one side, calling for prayer of the Blue Mosque on the other.
Right there, at that moment, I fell in love – with the tea, the tea seller and with Turkey. And it’s a love affair that continues.
On my last trip, I combined hardcore history (there are more historic sites per square mile here than any other country) with hardcore foodie indulgence.
Bettany Hughes, pictured, says her love affair with Turkey has stood the test of time
The Ottomans, who have ruled the country for nearly 500 years, have actively sponsored trade from Baghdad to Vienna, from Cairo to the Czech Republic, so Turkey has always had the wildest cornucopia dishes. I am a lifelong vegetarian and no matter how many mountains I climb, seas I swim, caves I explore and horses or camels I travel here I always hope for the pounds.
If you’re traveling with kids, be warned, the Turkish tradition of extreme hosting means having Turkish delight, fresh apricots, sherberts, miniature donuts or a curious fruit puree band that looks like a cross between a fly trap and a showy leather belt, in their hands or mouth stuffed.
There is never a dull moment. My gentle swims around the Datca Peninsula are often exacerbated by the brush of a giant tortoise gliding past and, once, while driving a rental car through Cappadocia, we stopped to ask directions to an old woman who then joined us. added, hooking enigmatically into the car’s seat. In the remote, prehistoric settlements of southeastern Turkey, beads left by ancient pilgrims after a summer storm can be washed out of the earth like burrs in a hedge by rain. If you get the chance, travel through Turkey by boat – that’s how they’ve been doing it for at least 6,000 years (recent excavations in Istanbul have uncovered the world’s oldest canoe paddle).
Choose from a lyrical gulet around the southern Lycian coast, a sea taxi to the glamorous Princes’ Islands or a meander along the Meander River that winds inland to high hills of the ancient city of Miletus on the Aegean coast. That’s where we get our word ‘meander’ from.
This is home to two of the Seven Wonders of the World, where Cleopatra and Mark Antony had their affair, where the fork was invented and the Duke of Edinburgh carved the James Bond figure who practiced his water skiing in the 1950s.
Even if it’s just for the apple tea, just go.
By Bettany Hughes
Bettany Hughes’ Treasures Of Istanbul airs tonight at 7pm on Channel 4 and then on All 4. Her latest book, Istanbul: a story about three cities is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Dalyan has an unusual and picturesque location, on a delta between a huge lake and the coast.
There are plenty of attractions, including boating and beaches, and swimming with turtles (if you’re lucky) at Iztuzu Beach. Soak up history in the ancient city of Kaunos, famous for its Lycian rock tombs.
How to do that: Beyaz Villas, within walking distance of Dalyan, offers self-catering alongside a shared pool; from £380 per room per week (beyazvillas.com); fly to Dalaman.
SLOW IT DOES
Akyaka prides itself on his relaxed, slow-paced way of life. The architecture is largely in an attractive Ottoman style and the Azmak River here offers riverside restaurants, boat trips and great walks.
One of the best water excursions stops at a series of offshore islands, including Sedir, where Cleopatra and Antony are said to have gone swimming.
How to do that: Simpson Secret epitomizes rustic chic and has a pool with a heavenly view; from £915 pp, two sleeping places, for a week including flight/car hire (simpsontravel.com).
HISTORY AND HIKING
Turkey’s longest sandy beach, Patara is also one of the most pristine, protected because of the loggerhead turtles that come to lay eggs. The village of Patara, in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains, is equally sleepy, with a handful of restaurants. Explore Roman city ruins along the coastline or take a walk along the Lycian Way, one of the world’s most scenic routes.
How to do that: Patara Viewpoint offers hotel or self-catering accommodation with use of the pool and restaurant; B&B doubles from £280 per week (pataraviewpoint.com); fly to Dalaman, from £233 return from Gatwick (easyjet.com).
The Datca peninsula is beautiful, a 80-kilometer stretch of land with the Aegean Sea on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other. Expect pine-scented hills, olive groves, undiscovered beaches and small villages.
The ruins of Knidos, dating back to 4 BC, are magnificent. Stop by the ghost town of Kayakoy, a result of the 1923 population swap between Greece and Turkey.
How to do that: D Maris Bay offers sleek style and great views from the cliff’s edge, with five private beaches; a week with flights from £1,788 pp B&B (lastminute.com).
The town of Foca exudes charm and is a great base for history buffs, with its own castle to explore, plus the Roman cities of Ephesus and Pergamon within two hours’ drive. There are plenty of great beaches nearby – or hop on a traditional gulet to explore remote islands.
How to do that: Phokaia Beach Resort offers numerous activities including water sports; a week from £929 pp including flights and most meals (markwarner.com).
Modest Cirali is surrounded by a long stretch of gravel and sand, where turtles hatch in summer. A short walk away are the ruins of the Lycian city of Olympos, as is the Chimaera, where natural gas flames shoot dramatically from vents in a mountain. Further trips can be made around the surrounding mountains and along the Lycian Way.
How to do that: Rent a beachfront chalet, with free bike hire, from £320 pp per week B&B (responsibletravel.com).
One way to escape the crowds is to vacation aboard a traditional Turkish gulet. Choose your own boat or share with a handful of other holidaymakers.
Enjoy breakfast on board moored in scenic coves and dinner under twinkling stars.
In between, swim from the boat and around uninhabited islands, and disembark for trips to towns and villages.
How to do that: TUI’s one week Sailing the Turkish Coast gulet cruise costs from £716 pp including flights and meals (tui.co.uk).
Visit Iznik Lake (pictured above), where lazy days are spent swimming, cycling and fishing
Temperatures in Turkey may sizzle, but the sea isn’t the only place to cool off. Try the refreshing Iznik Lake, a two-hour drive from Istanbul.
Lazy days spent swimming, cycling and fishing can be alternated with a visit to the beautiful walled city of Iznik.
Dating back over 2,000 years, it is full of Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman sites, including the Hagia Sophia Mosque, built by Emperor Justinian, much like its famous sister in Istanbul.
How to do that: Fisek’s Lakeside House offers self-catering for up to nine people with a colourful, boho vibe; from £1,866 per week (airbnb.co.uk).
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
You must complete a health form (register.health.gov.tr) within 72 hours of arrival in Turkey and either have a double jab or have had a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival.
Evidence of recent recovery from Covid – a doctor’s note – is also accepted. Before returning to Britain, those who are fully stabbed must complete the UK Passenger Locator Form (within 48 hours of travel) and book a Covid test to be taken before ‘day two’ of return.
Those who are not fully vaccinated must complete the form and go into self-isolation for ten days with tests on days two and eight.
Please note that as of Monday (October 4) those who are fully vaccinated will not be required to take an antigen/lateral flow test before flying back. More information can be found at gov.uk.