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It's also a great country to visit. The Turks are mostly overwhelmingly friendly to foreign visitors, the cuisine is frequently excellent, the cities are dotted with majestic old buildings and the countryside is often worth a good old-fashioned gasp. There's an enormous variety of things to see and do ranging from water sports to mountain trekking, archaeology to night-clubbing and river rafting to raki drinking. Whether you leave Turkey with magnificent carpets, amulets to ward off evil, belly-dancing tips, an appreciation of its history, or just a tan, you're likely to want to go back for more.
The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. In Istanbul, summer temperatures average around 28 to 30° Celsius (82 to 86° Fahrenheit); the winters are chilly but usually above freezing, with rain and perhaps a dusting of snow. The Anatolian plateau is cooler in summer and quite cold in winter. The Black Sea coast is mild and rainy in summer, and chilly and rainy in winter. Mountainous eastern Turkey is very cold and snowy in winter and only pleasantly warm in high summer. The southeast is dry and mild in winter and very hot in summer, with temperatures above 45° C (113° F) not unusual.
When to Go
Spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) are best. The climate is perfect on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts then, as well as in Istanbul. In high summer the coastal resorts are stinking hot: your body may like to do as the locals do and take a siesta during the heat of the day. From late October to early April, the beach scene more or less shuts down. There's little rain between May and October except along the Black Sea coast, but from about mid-June, the mosquitoes come out in plague proportions in some areas. Eastern Turkey should really be visited from late June to September, as snow may close roads and mountain passes in the colder months.

Facts for the Traveller
Visas: Citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and virtually all the countries of Western Europe need only a valid passport for stays of up to 3 months. UK and US citizens do need visas, obtainable in advance at a Turkish consulate, or upon entry to Turkey.
Health risks: Polio, tetanus, diptheria, typhoid, hepatitis A & B, rabies and TB are all present in Turkey: vaccinations should be considered. Travellers to Turkey's steamy regions (Marmara and the Black Sea Coast) should also stock up on their favourite anti-malarial gear.
Time: GMT/UTC plus two hours
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Money & Costs

Currency: Turkish lira (TL)
Relative costs:
Budget meal: US$4
Restaurant meal: US$6
Budget room: US$8-18
Mid-range hotel: US$15-30
Turkey is a low-slung dollar burner. You can travel on as little as US$15 per day using buses and trains, staying in pensions, and eating one restaurant meal daily. For US$20 to US$45 you can travel on plusher buses, take well-cushioned train seats, kick back in 1 and 2-star hotels and eat most meals in restaurants. For US$45 to US$75 per day you can move up to 3 and 4-star hotels, take the occasional airline flight, and dine in restaurants all the time.
With the value of the Turkish lira always sliding, it's best to change money every few days. Keep an eye on all the zeros on your bills - it's easy to mistake a 500,000 lira note for a 50,000 lira note. Banks and exchange offices are generally only open Monday to Friday - you may find it hard to convert your travellers' cheques on weekends. ATMs are common in Turkish cities, towns and resorts, many of them connected to worldwide cashpoint networks such as Cirrus or Plus and to credit cards (Visa seems to be most widely accepted). Keep some exchange receipts as you may need them to change liras back at the end of your stay.
In cheaper restaurants it's not necessary to leave more than a few coins in the change plate. In more expensive restaurants, tipping is customary. Even if a 10 or 15% service charge is added to your bill, you're expected to give around 5% to the waiter directly and perhaps the same amount to the maitre d'. Porters expect a dollar or so; in taxis you might like to round up the bill; in other situations, for example, helpful guardians at archaeological sites, delicacy is required. Although a tip may be initially refused through politeness, you should offer the money a second and a third time. After three refusals, you can safely assume they really don't want the money. Bargaining is pretty common in Turkey - you're mad not to bargain for souvenirs. For hotel rooms, bargain if you visit between November and April or if you plan to stay more than a few days.

The dates for Muslim religious festivals are celebrated according to a lunar calendar; the dates are locked in every few years by Muslim authorities. Only two religious holidays are public holidays: Seker Bayrami, a 3-day festival at the end of Ramazan (30 days in December-January when a good Muslim lets nothing pass the lips during daylight hours), and Kurban Bayrami (March-April) which commemorates Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac on Mt Moriah. In commemoration of God permitting Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of his son, every Turkish household who can afford a sheep buys one, takes it home and slits its throat right after the early morning prayers on the actual day of Bayram. Family and friends immediately cook up a feast. You must plan for Kurban Bayrami: most banks close for a full week, transportation will be packed and hotel rooms will be scarce and expensive.
Secular festivities include camel-wrestling in mid-January, in the village of Selçuk, south of Izmir; National Sovereignty Day, April 23, a big holiday to celebrate the first meeting of the republican parliament in 1920. Celebrations abound in summer: there's a sloppy oiled wrestling festival in early June at Sarayiçi, near Edirne; the country Kafkasör Festival near Artvin in north-eastern Turkey in the 3rd week of June; the International Istanbul Festival of the Arts (late June to mid-July); Bursa's Folklore and Music Festival in mid-July and Diyarbakir's Watermelon Festival in mid or late September. The whole country stops, just for a moment, at 9.05 am November 10, the time of Atatürk's death in 1938.

Water sports are big in Turkey because of the beautiful coasts and beaches. Yachting, water-skiing, snorkelling and diving are well represented. Because of the many antiquities in the depths off the Turkish coasts, scuba diving is regulated - check before you immerse yourself in treasure. Turkey has plenty of mountains there for the climbing - the mountain climbing scene is small but enthusiastic. There is decent skiing at Bursa, near Antalya, on Mt Erciyes near Kayseri, and at Palandöken near Erzurum. Equipment can be rented at the slopes, but don't expect Alps-league facilities. Cycling through Turkey is eminently possible and mostly delightful, but you may wish to bring your own bike (and spares) as renting and selling good bikes is not yet widespread.


Straddling two continents, Turkey has spent the last several centuries struggling to decide whether it wants to be part of Europe or the Middle East. Today, Turkey is a vibrant cosmopolitan country with a keen awareness of its rich past.

Whether you're exploring the world's oldest city or climbing through some of the first Christian settlements, a visit to Turkey is a hands-on history lesson. It is also an instruction in natural beauty. The country is so vast that its climate varies greatly from one region to another. From the blue sea of the Turquoise Coast to the bizarre landscape of the Cappadocia region, nearly all outdoor enthusiasts will find something to appeal to their tastes in Turkey.

Of Turkey's hundreds of ancient cities and classical ruins, Ephesus is the grandest and best preserved. Indeed, it's the spunkiest classical city on the Mediterranean. Ephesus was Ionia, a flourishing cultural centre during the Greek Empire, and a busy provincial capital during Roman times. Ionia's Temple of Diana was counted among the Seven Wonders of the World, and the city was generally renowned for its wealth and beauty. Sts Paul and John took up the quill in Ionia and the Virgin Mary is said to have spent her twilight years here. A walking tour of the ruins will take at least half a day, and if you're here in summer, start early, because it gets stinking hot by high noon. Places you'll come across include the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers in which seven persecuted youths slumbered for two centuries, then woke up and ambled down to town for a meal; the colossal Harbour Gymnasium; the grand marble-paved Arcadian Way; the impressive Temple of Hadrian and a scattering of fountains, pools, brothels, libraries and public toilets.
Selçuk, a town of 25,000 people with more than its fair share of nagging touts, is the main tourist centre for the region. There's a beautiful museum in the centre of town and a fair swag of Roman, Christian and Muslim sights including the St John Basilica and a Byzantine Aqueduct. Izmir is the closest transportation hub. Frequent trains and buses trundle the 1 hour trip to Selçuk which is a mere 3km (2mi) from Ephesus.

Bodrum is the South Aegean's prettiest resort, with a yacht harbour and a port for ferries to the Greek island of Kos. Palm-lined streets ring the bays, and white sugar-cube houses, now joined by ranks of villas, crowd the hillside. Boating, swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving are prime Bodrum activities. At night Bodrum's famous discos throb, boom and blare, keeping much of the town awake until dawn. Both Turkish and foreign visitors complain about the ear-splitting cacophany, but the local attitude seems to be, 'If you wanted peace and quiet, why did you come to Bodrum?'. If this sounds like your kind of town, you can fly in to Imsik, 30km (19mi) to the north, or grab a bus from just about anywhere - it's 4 hours to Izmir by road. There are frequent ferries to Kos in summer, and a hydrofoil to Rhodes between May and September.

Antalya is the chief city on Turkey's central Mediterranean coast. As well as several km of pebble beaches and a historic Roman-Ottoman core, Antalya is a good base from which to explore the quieter beach towns and more spectacular ancient cities of the region. Side, 75km (47mi) east of Antalya, is the increasingly popular beach town once chosen by Mark Antony and Cleopatra for a romantic tryst. Alanya, 115km (71mi) east of Antalya, is another sea-sun-n-sand joint with a mini-Miami feel. Patara is a party town a few hundred km south-west of Antalya. The beach here is a simply splendid 20km (12mi) long and there are Roman ruins in amongst the dunes. You'll have to do your sunset-watching elsewhere, however, as the beach closes at dusk to give sea turtles access to their nests. The towns along the Mediterranean coast are all linked by bus and dolmus services (especially frequent in summer).

A temple, revealed by the recent excavations, is located at far west of the theater, and a church and the magnificent walls of the Roman Bath are visible beyond it. Another temple belonging to the Roman Period is located behind the bath. As we go downwards, we see the remains of a wall built in the shape of three-fourths of a circle with a row of columns on it and, behind it, a temple of the Doric order. The locality called Sülüklü Göl (Lake of Leeches) in Caunos today, was a harbor closed by means of chains during the Antique Period. The excavations performed at the north of this harbor have revealed a stoa which used to form a part of the Port Agora. The fountain near the stoa has a plan of in antis. style and has been restored recently, and the inscription which- is seen on its side facing the harbor, contains the written decrees concerning the customs house.

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