Why Turkey Should Be on Your Bucket List in 2016

If you haven’t picked out your next vacation destination yet, here’s why you should consider a visit to timeless Turkey.
by Mary Wimmer

As we usher in a brand new year, there’s little doubt that Turkey remains one of the hottest places to see in 2016. With almost 40 million tourists from around the world visiting the destination in 2014, and an expected 42 million last year, it’s safe to say that Europe’s best kept secret is officially out.  If you haven’t yet had a chance to take in Turkey’s intoxicating blend of Asian exoticism mixed with European sensibilities, make this year your lucky one.  Here are the top five reasons why Turkey deserves top billing on your 2016 bucket list.

Visiting Turkey is a study in contrasts: most of its landmass is technically in Asia, yet it is home to more than two millennia of European history; its cosmopolitan cities like Istanbul and Ankara belie its history as the cradle of civilization; and while most Turks practice Islam, the world’s largest Christian church can be found there.  It’s often said that while Turkey’s mind is European, its heart is decidedly Asian – which makes sense, given its unique geographical position straddling both continents.  In fact, throughout much of its history Turkish rulers have gone back and forth from Western to Eastern influences, creating one of the most culturally diverse places in the world.

From the Trojans to the Mongols, Greeks to Romans, and the Ottoman Empire, Turkey is a treasure trove of archeological wonders left behind by empires that have come and gone, leaving behind their unique mark on the country.  Nowhere is this more visible than at the Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul’s most beloved attractions.  A modern day museum, it was built in 537 A.D. as a Greek Orthodox cathedral before becoming a Roman Catholic Church and then an imperial mosque when the city was conquered by Ottoman Turks in 1453. While the Haggia Sophia contains some of the most beautiful and well-preserved Christian frescoes in the world, no trip to Turkey is complete without a visit to its crown jewel of antiquities: Ephesus. The ancient port city is home to the Temple of Artemis, the Basilica of St. John and the Church of Mary, among many other sites.

There are very few places in the world that you can start your day on a ski slope and end it on a beach – Turkey is one of them.  While the country may not be top of mind when you’re thinking of a ski holiday, it does have more than a dozen operating ski resorts, including a number within an accessible distance to its Mediterranean coast.  Further inland lays one of the most scenic geographical sites that the country has to offer: Cappadocia. Picture a semi-arid landscape dotted with miniature chimney-like sandstone structures worn away by the elements, about as far away as you can get from the hustle and bustle of cities like Istanbul and Ankara, where bazaars with hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of shops intersperse thoroughfares with restaurants, hotels, cafes and so much more.  

Don’t be duped by the Turkish delights that your corner bakery offers, the real deal is much tastier.  While Turkish sweets like baklava and savoury dishes like kebabs have become popular all over the world, lesser known dishes are every bit as delicious:  kofte and lahmacun are definitely worth a try. Tourists who have visited Greece or the Balkans may find similar flavours in Turkish offerings, though Turks maintain their own twist on dishes using spice combinations unique to their country. Be sure to sample a main staple at most Turkish homes and restaurants: Turkish coffee, which is prepared by simmering roasted and finely ground coffee beans in a pot before serving. So distinctive is the coffee that it’s been named an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” product by UNESCO.

When it comes to rest and relaxation, nothing beats a Turkish hammam. The experience begins by relaxing in a warm room heated by a continuous flow of steamy air, before moving to an even hotter room to sweat out the toxins. It ends with a quick splash of cold water to waken the senses. You can add massage, reflexology, facials, and other spa services at most establishments catering to tourists. Best of all, most places will allow you to use the facility for as long as you like.    

Want to visit Turkey, but not sure how to go about planning your trip – or even who to go with?  We’ve taken care of all the planning so that all you have to do is book: our next Solo Traveller Club adventure to Timeless Turkey will be departing April 22 to May 1; so you can explore Turkey with like-minded travellers and skip the single supplement!  Visit ancient ruins, take a hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia, dine in fabulous Istanbul, enjoy a wine-tasting in Sirence village, and more on this pre-planned tour that offers eight nights’ accommodation in a single room (no sharing!), flights, transfers, tours and some meals – all for the inclusive price of $2499, with no single supplement!  But hurry, call 1-800-402-4636 to save your seat on the Timeless Turkey excursion or visit your nearest CAA Travel Store soon…booking ends on January 22!