For sheer diversity, Turkey is hard to beat. The country is best measured in multitudes – of people, natural landscapes and cultures. It is a land of vast open spaces and massive mountain ranges, fertile valleys and rugged coastline, fast-growing cities and sleepy villages, seaside resorts and remote beaches.
Countless waves of invasion, rebellion and immigration have forged a country whose cultural depth and breadth may surprise visitors as they venture not just through major cities, but across the country.
Turkey overflows with historic sites and archaeological wonders, all set in a varied and beautiful landscape. The Mediterranean coastline is punctuated with well-preserved Greco-Roman cities like Pergamom and Ephesus, while the otherworldly landscapes of the Cappadocia region harbour cave churches and underground cities.
Though capital status eludes it, Istanbul is very much the beating heart of the nation. The city is an archive of cultural influences throughout the centuries, playing host to Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques and palaces. Yet it’s no relic. Cafes, bustling bazaars, hammams (public baths), and nightclubs all buzz with activity.
Still, Istanbul is just one piece of the vast Turkish puzzle. Beach-lovers can while away lazy sunny days at the ever-popular Bodrum, Marmaris and Izmir resorts along Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.
The unlikely capital city, Ankara, may be less frequented, but its location in central Anatolia makes it worthy of a few days’ visit, if only to witness the contrast between the city’s modernity and the surviving citadel. Away from the more European sensibilities of Istanbul, Ankara also presents an opportunity to gain insight into other facets of Turkish culture.
However deep its roots are, Turkey is today a thrusting and dynamic society, navigating cultural, economic and political change while seeking to retain the best of its multicultural heritage and time-honoured traditions. And that's arguably what makes it so rewarding.