Let me be clear: I love Istanbul. It’s in my top 5 of “best cities anywhere, ever”, and so it’s being omitted from this article. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s too good – I’d spend far too long on Istanbul and the rest of Turkey would be covered with a tiny footnote; the inverse of the one I have added now[ Istanbul’s pretty good, too.]. Rather ironically, in pointing this out I have been unable to omit Istanbul entirely from my writing about Turkey. Hm. Let’s move past it.
In 1923, Ankara was officially announced as the capital of Turkey. When Atatürk took over the rest of Turkey (including… you know… the other one) he kept the capital in Ankara with the hope of bringing Turkey away from its past and bring in a new sense if identity. Ankara’s a pretty cool place, and is high enough above sea level to get snow during the winter, which is quite exciting baring in mind you’re in Turkey. There are a number of ancient archaeological sites in and around the city, dating back to Roman, Byzantine and pre-Roman civilisations; which are all worth spending a few days checking out.
The Ankara region also has a lot to offer in terms of cuisine: Turkish food is famously and consistently excellent, and it doesn’t get any better (or cheaper) than the street food in Ankara. From the back of a van you can get expertly cooked Pide and Köfte for a fraction of the restaurant price. Make sure to try the Güveç – a stew cooked in a wood oven – which is the regional dish of the area.
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There are so many historical sights dotted around Turkey that it’s stupid to suggest a handful and ignore the others, so I’m not going to mention any more. Suffice to say wherever you find yourself in Turkey, you’re bound to have something of historical note nearby; probably surrounded by the jugged, hot grasslands that make up most of Turkey and are great to walk and drive through – I always feel like I’m in some kind of modern Western when I travel through any part of rural Turkey: it has that kind of vibe, but prettier.
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The southern points of the Turkish coast have enormous appeal to travellers – they’re the archetype of sun, sea and sand, and is cheap enough to have vast appeal for tourists, particularly in the affordable and well-supplied all-inclusive resorts around Antalya. Antalya is the third most visited city in the world, after Paris and London, by international arrivals; but very few tourists actually visit the city – almost all get direct coaches to the resorts along the coast. Which is a shame, really – the city itself is a lovely place, with interesting architecture and culture that’s well worth seeing. And the nightlife isn’t bad either.
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The coast around Antalya isn’t all about the private hotel-owned beaches either. The two near the city are pristine and beautiful – everything you expect them to be. For a free lunch and maybe some free booze, (though I didn’t tell you this) make your way into one of the all-inclusive hotels along the coast surreptitiously and help yourself. Again, I didn’t tell you. But it works. Besides, most of the hotels are western-owned and don’t do much to contribute towards the Turkish economy. See your free meal as a stand against capitalism, if it helps.