As the Eurasian bridge across the Bosphorous, Istanbul opens doors to both Europe and Asia. Acting as a perfect base for adventure further East or West, the tourism of Istanbul today is a steady reflection of the traditional trade routes along the historical Silk Road, which gained its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade that occurred along the well-travelled 4000miles of road. Nowadays, traditional means of travel have been replaced by railroads which now link the east to the west and Istanbul is located at a pivotal point in terms of sea travel, linking the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. As a result of it’s vibrant past, Istanbul is an eclectic mix of cultures that provides you with the first taste of the unknown, before you explore further afield in whichever direction you choose.
Prince Islands –
The Prince Islands are a set of 9, with 4 being open to the public. Once reserved for exiled royalty, the Islands are now a favourite with the wealthy Turks who head to these quaint little spits of lands as an escape from the city. The main island, Buyukada, is than an hour away from Istanbul by ferry, which can be found at Kabataș on the European side or Bostancı, Kartal and Maltepe on the Asian side. The fastest option is one of the commuter sea buses by IDO or Şehir Hatları offer regular ferries. The islands retain their charm with traditional Victorian cottages lining the coasts and horse and cart or bicycles being the only mode of transport used on the island. Silence is the main thing you’ll notice here, a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of busy Istanbul, making it a great choice for families who are looking for some down time where they don’t have to worry about the children getting into too much trouble!
With a rich history dating back to 6th century BC, Cappadocia has earned it’s reputation as being home to both natural and historical wonders. Located in Eastern Anatolia in central Turkey, there are many cities worth visiting in the Cappadocia region. However for sights and activities that will delight the whole family, Goreme is home to the famous fairy chimney rock formations that mirror the minarets of the Turkish mosques and cave houses as well as being hugely popular for hot-air ballooning and trekking. To really appreciate how the natural materials of Cappadocia have been utilised over the years, Goreme Open Air Museum is a must-see. Usually the first thing people visit in Cappadocia due to the ease with which it can be reached ( it is very central, just 15minutes outside of Goreme village), it is made up of an interconnecting complex of religious buildings most of which are dated at around the 10th-12th centuries and have incredibly been carved out of the natural soft stone. Colourful reliefs are still in place as are the original architectural aspects of the churches such as columns and domed roofs. At only 15 TL per person, it is well worth the visit to witness such a blending of natural and man-made design. To get from Istanbul to Cappadocia you have a few options: internal flights in Turkey can be ridiculously cheap and both of Istanbul’s airports travel to Kayseri and Nevșehir airports, there are shuttle buses that can take as little as 4-5 hours or night buses that take 10-12 hours and are often the cheapest option at about 85TL.
Escape the tourist crowds, do something unusual and head west – yes, west – from Istanbul to Edirne near the borders of Greece and Bulgaria. Not usually a trip undertaken by tourists who tend to lean towards the east once they’re faced with the Eurasian choice presented by Istanbul. However as one of the old capitals of the Ottoman Empire, Edirne holds it’s own in terms of cultural output and historical interest. Easily reached from Istanbul by bus, you can depart from the Buyuk Otogar bus terminal and reach Edirne before lunch time. The journey usually takes between 2 and 3 hours and return journeys from Edirne are regular – around four buses an hour head back to Istanbul. Visit Edirne’s majestic Selimiye Mosque which dates back to the 16th century or have dinner in a restaurant along the river; Edirne offers all of the cultural insight of Istanbul without the hordes of people.
Pamukkale is Turkey’s most well-known natural mineral bath spa. A mineral bath since the Roman times, it is easy to understand how Pamukkale has retained it’s popularity once you see the different levels of the calcium white travertine, creating rock pools that form this natural spa. The pools form part of a larger complex which encompasses the Roman ruins of Hierapolis (a town built around the natural spa), the sacred pool and the archaeological museum. The admission fee to enter this complex is 20TL per person and will allow you access to all three attractions. The Antique Pool is the highlight for people wanting a dip in the warm waters and is delightfully dotted with remains of the Temple of Apollo and is surrounded by natural greenery. The fee for this pool is fairly expensive at around 32TL though. Getting to Pamukkale can be a headache; buses take around 10 hours (though they are very regular) however the option to fly is there as always in Turkey, with flights landing in Denizli Cardak Airport and shuttles being available to take you straight to Pamukkale from the airport.