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Tantalising Turkey

Bordered by eight countries, the swell of 3 seas and straddling the boundary of East and West, it’s no wonder Turkey is a cultural melting pot. Experience local life through enticing food, music, bazaars, architecture, art and people. Let yourself be lured back in time by whispering relics amidst magical landscapes. Unfurl the secrets of lost empires that flowed through Anatolia like the waves crashing around its shores.

Cultures truly collide in this stunning cosmopolitan hub. The legendary hospitality of locals will help you get acquainted with the pace of life as you explore centuries-old mosques, churches, palaces and markets, then relax in contemporary cafes, gardens, bathhouses and bars. Take a sunset ferry down the Bosphorus and marvel at the pastel skyline.


Regional Highlights

  • Topkapi Palace is the crown jewel of the Ottoman Empire as well as the oldest and largest palace in the world. Here, you can view amazing treasures and get a feeling for the lives of those who once inhabited this palace.
  • Head to Sultanahmet Square on foot, where you will find the bulk of ancient monuments that date back to the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Here you will find the stunning Blue Mosque, one of the most famous monuments in both Turkish and Islamic world's and is famed for its blue Iznik tiles and its towering six minarets. The Blue Mosque overlooks Hagia Sophia, this former basilica and mosque is now the Saint Sophia Museum. Take a moment to linger here to admire the fine Byzantine mosaics.
  • More ancient monuments are dispersed throughout the peninsula of the Old City, such as the Church of St Savior in Chora which has an interior covered by mind blowing frescoes and mosaics. An impressive section of mostly intact Theodosian Walls is right next to this church.
  • A rather unique museum is the Museum of Innocence. The novel of the Nobel Prize winner, Orhan Pamuk, is solidified in this fascinating collection that brings the narrative to life
  • Follow your nose to the bustling Spice Bazaar it's a great place to stock up on edible souvenirs such as lokum (Turkish Delight), spices and pestil (sheets of dried fruit). Test out your haggling skills at the Grand Bazaar, it's the most fantastic, monstrous and totally manic shopping bazaar you could hope to experience!
  • After a day of sightseeing take a ride on a Bosphorus ferry and gaze back at the twinkling lights of the old city, sit back & relax in a comfy cane chair under shady trees and enjoy a leisurely tea & nargileh or get amongst the high velocity nightlife at the ever growing array of bars, clubs and restaurants.
  • A visit to Gallipoli is a solemn, moving and fascinating experience for all visitors to Turkey, particularly for those from the ANZAC nations. If you are short on time but do not want to miss out on this infamous pilgrimage a day trip from Istanbul is the perfect way to do it.
  • Take a Prince’s Island tour. This chain of nine small islands evolved from a place of exile during the Byzantine era, to a popular destination for locals and tourist to escape the hectic pace of the city. Here you can embrace the laid back lifestyle plus the quiet and calm atmosphere, the only sounds you will hear are bicycle bells and the clippity-clop of horses’ hoofs.
  • Dolmabahce Palace is a truly opulent palace that was built in the 19th century with absolute decadence and grandeur that represents the Ottoman Empire. This massive residence has 285 rooms, 43 halls, a 4000kg Bohemian glass chandelier, a crystal staircase with a balustrade made in Baccarat crystal, a 600 metre long quay along the shore of the Bosphorus, two monumental gates, immaculate, ornate gardens and spectacular views.
  • Cross the Bosphorus Bridge from Europe into Asia!
  • Cruise the Golden Horn - it is considered to be the world's largest natural harbour and divides the European shore of Istanbul into two, the old and new Istanbul.

Venture into the heart of ancient Anatolia and the nucleus of Turkey’s future. Look beyond the purpose-built capital to uncover poetic landscapes speckled with castles and relics from Byzantine, Hellenistic, Phyrgian, Hittite and Ottoman civilisations. People-watch over coffee alongside hipsters and old-timers in lively cafes and alfresco restaurants.


Regional Highlights

  • The Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and Ataturk Mausoleum (Anit Kabir) contains the most extensive and valuable collection of original artifacts dating back from the Stone Age, Neolithic Age, Hittites, Urartians, Phrygians and many more eras, it is a highlight of any visit to Ankara.
  • Take a ride up Atakule, a 125 metre observation tower, for spectacular views of the city.
  • Ankara Citadel (Hisar) one of the capitals most recognisable symbols.
  • Mausoleum of Ataturk, the eternal resting place of the national hero who founded modern Republic of Turkey. The Mausoleum is adorned with statues, reliefs and embellishments created by many of Turkey's artists.
  • Wander the narrow streets of the historic neighbourhood of Hamamonu one of the most fascinating areas of Ankara to visit.
  • Wander the narrow streets of the historic neighbourhood of Hamamonu one of the most fascinating areas of Ankara to visit.
  • Venture further afield, with a guide, to Hattusha where you can take a step back in time amongst great ruins from Hittite civilisation. Early Bronze Age people who seemed to be way ahead of their time, it’s fascinating!
  • About four hours from Ankara, high in the mountains above the Black Sea coastline in a narrow valley, lies the beautiful and historic city of Amasya, once the capital of a great Pontic kingdom. With a life spanning over 7500 years, many ancient civilisations have left fascinating remains of their time within this once fortified city.

A shimmering string of ancient coastline-clutching towns that will become the pearl in your Turkish exploration. The ebb and flow of ancient empires hangs on the cliffs like the salt in the air. Discover green, subtropical lands draped in historical castles, churches, monasteries and mosques as you unfurl fables like Queen Hippolyte and her tribe of Amazon warriors.


FAQs

Capital city: Ankara

Population:  78.7 million

Language: Turkish

Currency:  Turkish Lira (TRY)

Time zones: GMT+02:00

Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin), Type F (German 2-pin, side clip)

Dialing code: +90

Most nationalities require visa to enter Turkey.

Turkey has an e-Visa application system where you can apply for a visa online. Visit the following URL to go to Turkey’s official e-visa website: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

The cost may vary depending on your nationality; please refer to the e-visa website for more details.

Single or multiple entry visas are valid for a maximum 90-day stay, and for entry into Turkey within 90-days from the date of issue. The earliest date that you can apply for this visa is 90-days prior to your planned arrival date.

Travel Insurance is mandatory for all group journeys and Sundowners Overland strongly recommends travel insurance for all other journeys. You must ensure that your insurance policy covers you for the entire duration of your journey, for all activities you will be participating in and that you have purchased the highest level of cover available to you for medical emergencies (including repatriation/evacuation cover) which are relevant to ALL the destinations that you will be visiting. Contact us for further information and quotes.

If you are taking special medication, it is a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor to show authorities if necessary.

Since some medications can also be affected by changes in temperature or require special care, we recommend you discuss this with your doctor before departure.

Although Turkey is typically perceived as a summer destination, it really is a year round destination depending on where your interests lie. Spring and autumn generally offer the most comfortable temperatures for visiting the array of ancient sites. Summer brings high and dry temperatures perfect for visiting coastal regions and lounging by the sea. Winter can get quite cold particularly in the interior of the country, however these can be the best months to explore the sites with fewer people.

The local currency is the Turkish Lira. Major credit cards are widely accepted in the main cities in large hotels and tourist areas, but are not usually accepted in more remote areas. This is also the case with ATM’s – access to ATM’s is readily available in Istanbul and Ankara, but harder to come by beyond the main cities. ATM’s can sometimes run dry on weekends in smaller towns.

Note: Travellers cheques are no longer accepted in Turkey.

Istanbul:

  • Breakfast of Simit and cheese from a street stall USD $0.50
  • Tram ride USD$2
  • A Beer USD $2-$3.50
  • A simple lunch USD $2-$5
  • A Hamam visit USD $7-$10
  • Dinner in a restaurant USD $15-$20

*Prices are approximate average costs based on prices at 11/03/17 and are based on the equivalent amount of local currency.

Turkish border crossings can be busy with several hundred trucks queuing on each side sometimes waiting days until they get across! Thankfully our overland border crossings don't take that long and are reasonably painless (as far as border crossings go) with the standard security, customs and immigration checks.

You will usually need to walk between no-man’s land when entering and exiting Turkey, we suggest keeping your luggage as minimal as possible. Here is the test: after you have packed your bags, try carrying them up and down a flight of stairs. If you are comfortable with that, then all is well. Otherwise, start culling!

  • Respect and manners go a long way in any culture.  Learning a little of the language, reading as much about the history and culture of the region and observing local gatherings is a great way to start.
  • Whilst most Turkish cities are very cosmopolitan nowadays, its important to keep in mind that the Turkish people can still be quite traditional. With Islam being the religion of the majority of the population, Muslim holidays (including Ramadan) are observed, as are other Islamic customs and rules - so acting modestly is essential (especially when visiting mosques and people's homes), as is dressing conservatively. Women should wear a headscarf when entering active religious sites and men should remove hats.
  • In churches it is polite to stand around the edges of the building rather than in the centre. It is acceptable for foreigners to light candles.
  • Photography near military or government buildings and installations, critical civil infrastructure and public demonstrations is strictly prohibited and will result in arrest.
  • Many people do not like being photographed. Always ask, and receive permission before photographing someone.
  • Hammam etiquette – Bring soap and shampoo as it is not always sold in the foyer. Men will be supplied with a peştamal (similar to a sarong); women will generally enter in the underwear (no bra). You will be supplied with some wooden slippers and a Havlu (towel). Leave your clothes in the change room. In main bath chamber it is customary to have one person per basin. Refrain from making the water soapy. Use scoop-dishes provided to the sluice yourself. It is considered good etiquette to clean your marble slab with a few scoopfuls of water before leaving.

Mobile phone coverage is good in larger cities and towns; it’s a bit hit and miss beyond these areas. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your service provider or purchase a local SIM card. You will need to make sure your device is unlocked to accept a foreign SIM card.

Internet access is available in main cities and towns, but will be hard to find in rural areas.