TURKEYS TOP TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

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Turkey is a country that is steeped in history and has hundreds of amazing attractions that see millions of visitors each year. Its really hard to choose which would be my top attractions, so based on visitor numbers plus my own opinions I have complied a list and some information about several of the top attractions.

CAPPADOCIA

The Cappadocian region is situated in the Anatolian area of Turkey. The rain and wind over thousands of years has created some amazingly shaped rock formations. These bizarre looking statues are called the Fairy Chimneys.

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Cappadocia is renowned around the world for one of the best places to take a ride in a hot air balloon. The surrounding landscape teamed with the excellent flying conditions allows balloons to gently fly above and in between the fairy chimneys. You can then ascend higher to have an amazing view over the region. The trips are held all year round so even on a snowy winters day the views are still breath-taking.

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It can be very busy with up to 100 balloons all flying at the same time. Dont worry though the safety record here is excellent and the balloon pilots need to train five times longer to fly here than anywhere else in the world. This in my opinion is a must do if you get the chance when visiting Turkey. A very early morning trip but well worth it. 

PAMUKKALE

This is one of Turkeys most beautiful natural attractions. Over thousands of years calcite filled waters have made these amazing natural mineral basins that have formed between bright calcium bicarbonate deposits and made it an unreal landscape. These white deposits stand out in contrast against the blue pools of the mineral basins.

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It can get very busy and its better to get there early when the attraction opens, or better still go in the winter. If you do go in the summer then don’t forget to take your bathing suit so you can have a dip in one of the pools. To preserve the pools you must enter barefoot so be careful they can be slippery. The locals say the mineralized water has healing powers, however if that doesn’t work you can guarantee softer feeling skin after a dip.

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Pamukkale is a must see if you’re in the area. Also don’t spend all your time bathing, there is the ruins of Hierapolis nearby that are worth a look too.

AYA SOFYA ( HAGIA SOPHIA )

The Aya Sofya is probably the most famous and most visited building in Istanbul. It was built in 537 AD. Originally built as a church in Byzantium times it was not surprising that Mehmet the Conqueror soon after the conquest of the city declared it would be a mosque in 1453. It remained a mosque until 1935 when realising its world historical significance he had it proclaimed a museum , and that’s what it is today.

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There are 30 million gold tessare ( tiny mosaic tiles ) that cover the interior and the dome. If possible have a climb up to the mezzanine level and see the Byzantine mosaics. The Hurrem Sultan Hamami is a turkish baths in the complex that was for Sultan Suleyman by the famous architect Mimar Sinan. It has recently been restored and is used as a hamam. It costs around 70 Euro for a scrub, foam and massage. 

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To enter the museum it costs around 40 TL however I would recommend getting an Istanbul Museum pass that gives you access to more attractions and works out a lot cheaper. The museum is open daily except Mondays from 9.00am until 19.00pm in the summer and 9.00am until 17.00pm in the winter.

GALATA TOWER

If you’re a tourist arriving in Istanbul then you probably will see this building on the skyline. The Galata Tower was built in 1348. The tower is just shy of 70 meters tall, and while this might not seem impressive by today’s standards, it was without a doubt a huge achievement in its time. One of the most remarkable features of the tower is the fact that it is still actively being used to this day. Then again, its stone walls are nearly four meters thick.

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Today its a popular tourist attraction that has had elevators installed that will whizz you up to one of the cities most popular nightclubs and not forgetting an excellent restaurant at the top. The Galata Tower can be visited and no early booking is required. You can simply go on site and pay a small entry fee, then explore the interior. It is organized like a museum, so it will keep you busy for a few hours.

MARDIN

Located in south-eastern Anatolia, Mardin is one of the most picturesque cities in Turkey. The whole city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is remarkable for its numerous historic buildings cascading down the hillside. At the top of the hill lies the citadel: an old fortress turned into military zone which, despite being inaccessible to tourists, still gives the city an impressive, distinctive air. The city is also home to stunning mosques and churches. Among them is the Great Mosque constructed in the 12th century, whose towering minaret soars above the city’s winding streets. There’s also the Deyruz-Zafaran monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in the world.

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Mardin due ro its amazing scenery and buildings has also been the setting for many Turkish TV series and movies. The worlds tallest man lives there too. Definitely a place to vIsit if you are interested in Turkey’s history but also if like me you enjoy Turkish TV.

TOPKAPI PALACE, ISTANBUL

Topkapı is the subject of more colourful stories than most of the world’s museums put together. Libidinous sultans, ambitious courtiers, beautiful concubines and scheming eunuchs lived and worked here between the 15th and 19th centuries when it was the court of the Ottoman empire. A visit to the palace’s opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury and sprawling Harem gives a fascinating glimpse into their lives.

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Possibly the most visited area is the Harem, where you would think this is the place where the Sultan had his wicked way with lots of women. However in reality these were the imperial families living quarters , and the harem was governed by tradition and strict rules. A visit to the harem needs a separate ticket from the palace entrance fee.

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The cost of visiting the palace is around 40TL per person and an additional 25TL for the harem. Children under 12 go free. The palace is open to the public in winter from 9am until 4pm and in the summer 9am until 6pm.

THE GRAND BAZAAR, ISTANBUL

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul would be my go to attraction in Turkey. I’m a woman, I love shopping and where better to go than somewhere that has sixty covered streets and thousands of shops! You can buy pretty much anything here from food to clothes.

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In the bazaar as a tourist your going to get pestered to buy things by the shopkeepers. They certainly have the banter. You could just say a polite  “no thank you” or if you see something you like try bartering for it. Dont be shy they expect it and it can be fun and you will think you have a bargain, and so will the shopkeeper even though he will probably tell you he will starve for the next 6 months at that price. 

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Popular items to buy are gold ( the gold really isn’t much cheaper than other places around the world but the purity of the gold is excellent ) and the jewellery designs are amazing. Leather goods, copper ornaments, colourful mosaic lamps and of course the spices and sweet treats look amazing. 

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The Grand Bazaar is open Monday to Saturday 9am until 7pm and closed Sundays. There are 22 entrances into the bazzar so prepare to get lost.

Written by: Rachel Labidi

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