Turkey holiday guide: best places to visit, stay, hotels and restaurants

·5-min read
From Cappadocia to Istanbul: a definitive guide to  the best spots in Turkey  (Unsplash)
From Cappadocia to Istanbul: a definitive guide to the best spots in Turkey (Unsplash)

Turkey is go! As of September 22, the country comes off the UK’s red list - making it one of the best places in Europe to secure some last-minute summer sunshine.

So where to flop?

Here’s our guide on what to see, eat and where to bed down in Turkey.

Where to go in Turkey

Situated between south-eastern Europe and western Asia, and bordered by the Mediterranean, Black and Aegean Sea, Turkey offers a destination rich in culture, sunshine and the perfect mix of lazy seaside towns with bustling city life. From wandering its largest city of Istanbul boasting architectural brilliance; to exploring Greek ruins in Bodrum; stunning thermal waters in Pamukkale or simply soaking up the sun on the Aegean beaches in resort town Kusadasi - there is something for every holidaymaker in Turkey.

Istanbul

Best of both worlds: Istanbul straddles two continents (Unsplash)
Best of both worlds: Istanbul straddles two continents (Unsplash)

Historically known as Constantinople, the unique city of Istanbul straddles the two continents of Asia and Europe, welcoming eastern and western culture and oozing vibrancy.

Explore the spectacular Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish), one of the most iconic and architecturally impressive buildings in the country, with its magnificent structure and blue Iznik tiled interior. Visit the heart of the Ottoman Empire at Topkapi Palace and make a trip to the grand Basilica Cistern, built using 336 columns, to discover the largest surviving Byzantine Cistern in Istanbul. Wander the cobbled streets and meander through the colourful markets and bazaars (don’t miss the Grand Bazaar) showing off brilliant craftsmanship and tastes of Turkey. Treat yourself to a traditional hammam Turkish bath and enjoy the glistening waterfront at sunset. Istanbul will intrigue you at every corner you turn.

Where to stay: Book a room at The Four Seasons Hotel, located in the heart of Istanbul’s oldest district Sultanahmet, for a luxurious stay. With a charming courtyard, killer views of the famous Blue Mosque, an indoor pool with underwater speakers and a heated outdoor pool, the hotel is equipped with luxury touches to make your holiday that extra bit special. Treat yourself to a Balinese massage at its tranquil spa for total relaxation.

Where to eat: With a fabulous view of The Golden Horn waterway and located near the enchanting Chora Church, Asistante is a favourite amongst foodies, with a menu offering distinguished Ottoman dishes, all cooked with using authentic original methods. Be sure to try their mahmudiyye (a traditional chicken stew flavoured with cinnamon, cloves and apricots), polished off with sweet halva (a Middle-Eastern fudge-like desert made with tahini, nuts, sugar and spices).

Bodrum

Become a beach bum in Bodrum (Unsplash)
Become a beach bum in Bodrum (Unsplash)

Take a trip to the port city of Bodrum for its turquoise coastline and ancient city attractions, topped off with a buzzing nightlife scene. For those interested in history and art, explore the Gothic architecture of the Castle of St Peter; roam the Greek ruins of the ancient Bodrum amphitheatre sitting on a hillside overlooking the city; and mooch around the beautiful marina lined with white yachts while sampling fresh seafood. Take a trip to one of Bodrum’s surrounding beaches for the day - whether you’re after watersports at Fener beach, swimming at Karaincir beach or total peace at Kadikalesi beach.

Where to stay: Indulge at the five-star Kempinski Hotel, situated in the dreamy Barbaros Bay. With lavish rooms all featuring sea-facing balconies, with a chilled-out vibe, there’s nowhere else you’ll want to rest your head. Head to the infinity pool for majestic views and sunbathe by the marina bar, with private access to the sea. Pure bliss.

Where to eat: Eat at Memedof for the true Bodrum foodie experience. Offering fresh fish and Turkish meze, dine with charming sea views from the terrace and taste the wonderful flavours of the Med. Tuck into platters of saksuka (fried aubergines), fava (mashed fava beans) and fried calamari, followed by grilled red mullet and shrimps.

Cappadocia

Instantly instagrammable (Unsplash)
Instantly instagrammable (Unsplash)

Located in central Turkey, Cappadocia is best known for its colourful hot-air balloons, which you’ll want to get on the ‘gram. Take in the breathtaking landscape, incredible rock formations and cave dwellings from up high in a balloon or follow one of many hiking trails across the rocky terrain. Climb to the top of Uchisar Castle for panoramic views, immerse yourself in the past of Cappadoci and visit Kaymakli Underground City for fascinating stories through narrow, sloping passages. Another top attraction includes the Goreme Open-Air Museum, standing in the very centre of Cappadocia, featuring the rock-cut churches and beautiful wall paintings.

Where to stay: Experience a truly special stay at the first boutique hotel in Cappadoce: Kayakapi Premium Caves. Renovated from a historical building, the hotel features heavenly pools and Turkish baths to unwind in after a day of exploring. Sample local wines from the cellar and take an alfresco tasting up on the terraced bistro.

Where to eat: It’s no surprise Elai Cappadoce has become one of the best restaurants in the central region, with its authentic Turkish ambience set against the beautiful backdrop of the Cappadoce valleys and Mount Erciyes. The menu is equally as impressive with traditional native dishes full of fresh ingredients paired to local wines - sit back and relax on the terrace and sample some of the region’s best delicacies.

Kusadasi

The old fishing village of Kusadasi, on Turkey’s west coast, boasts golden sandy beaches and cobbled streets dotted with authentic restaurants and markets. Go snorkelling in the crystal blue waters at one of the eight Aegean beaches or try rafting in a wave pool at one of the local waterparks. Explore the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, visit Pigeon Island (the symbol of Kusadasi), or simply nibble on some meze in the port and watch the cruise ships come and go.

Where to stay: Relax by the bay in Northern Kusadasi at The Double Tree Hilton Hotel for panoramic views of the sea and the city. Boasting contemporary design and space with a fabulous outdoor pool and rooftop restaurant, this family- friendly hotel is the perfect choice.

Where to eat: Tucked up a side street in the old town of Kusadasi, Saray offers traditional Turkish cuisine in an atmospheric courtyard. The friendly staff will serve delicious meze dishes, authentic goulashes and kebabs whilst live music plays in the background for a lively dining ambience.

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