8 Reasons Why I Think You Should Visit Turkey

I have visited Turkey three times and will do it again if I get a chance. For many reasons, Turkey is one of my favourite destinations. Unf...

I have visited Turkey three times and will do it again if I get a chance. For many reasons, Turkey is one of my favourite destinations. Unfortunately, the majority of people who visit Turkey, never leave their all-inclusive resort to explore this wonderful country. But trust me - Turkey has so much to offer so that anyone can find their own reason to fall in love with Turkey.
As I'm writing this article, I'm anticipating a lot of pushback or at least some legitimate questions from my readers since Istanbul and Ankara - two major cities in Turkey - have both been targeted by terroristic attacks over the past year. As much as I wish things were different, I cannot deny the fact that public safety is a major concern in Turkey. Having said that, I don't think the risk is considerably lower in any Western European country or even in the United States as, unfortunately, terrorism has spread all over the world. You'll have a higher chance of staying out of trouble in Turkey if you avoid visiting big cities and especially events that attract crowds.
As a matter of fact, my family and I were in Istanbul when there was a terrorist attack by ISIS at Ataturk Airport on June 28, 2016. Lucky us, our plane landed at another airport in Istanbul - Sabiha Gokcen. I should give credit to the Turkish airport security as they employ the most stringent practices I've seen in the world including the security check before you even enter the airport lobby. But, unfortunately, you can't 100% prevent things like the terrorist attack at Ataturk Airport from happening. As for the rest of the country, I felt reasonably safe in Turkey throughout my entire visit as police and Jandarma (armed forces) also patrol the streets in Istanbul and smaller cities as well as highways. 
Here are my eight reasons why I believe you should seriously consider visiting Turkey.

1. Rich History. 
Today's Turkey sits on the land that has belonged to many different cultures and civilizations. Ancient Greece, Persian, Roman, Armenian and Ottoman Empires, Italians, Crusaders as well as modern Turkish Republic - just to name a few. 
Its unique geographical location provided a strategic advantage to those who possessed this land. Two Turkish straights - Bosphorus and Dardanelles - that connect the Black Sea all the way to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas are great examples of such an advantage.
What I particularly liked about Turkey is that a lot of heritage from previous cultures and civilizations has been preserved over centuries and even millennia. Unlike many other places on Earth, where changing a political rule would often mean that everything that would remind about the previous one would be erased, Turkey and its predecessors seem to be very respectful of the heritage that predated them.

2. Religious Tolerance. 
Although the vast majority of people living in today's Turkey are Muslim, religion is officially separated from state affairs. 
This was a ground rule introduced in the first half of the 20th century by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a founding father of the Turkish Republic. 
Some people say that it is changing now as the current president of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan is supporting the re-islamization of the Turkish nation.
I honestly didn't find any evidence of that as I compared what I've seen in 2008 and 2016. Turkish people now and then are very open-minded and tolerant of foreigners and other religions.
The picture below is the proof of that.
But the greatest example ever of such religious tolerance is the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It was built by the Romans as a church in the 6th century. When Constantinople (now Istanbul) was conquered by Ottoman Turks in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II, who was Muslim, was so impressed with the grandeur and beauty of Hagia Sophia, that he even kneeled before it. Not only did he not destroy it, but also he later ordered to convert it to a mosque. 
He and his successors-sultans over the next five centuries understood the value and importance of the Hagia Sophia's frescoes and mosaics, so they helped save them by covering them with plaster and, later on, with gigantic circular-framed disks on several restorations. 
I'm not aware of any better example in the world's history of such religious tolerance.  
I truly believe that sultans had hoped for a day when these treasures would be uncovered. And this day came in 1935 when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk officially converted Hagia Sophia into a museum.

3. Turkish sweets. 
Sugar and sweets have been popular in the Middle East for centuries, but I think Turkish took it to the next level. Nowhere else in the world can you find such a variety of sweets than you can find in Turkey.
The most popular ones are Turkish delights or rahat lokum - a confection based on a gel of starch and sugar with different flavours. But the selection is really huge and includes baklava, kaymakli kayisi, salep dondurma, revani, tavukgogsu, osmanli macunu, kunefe and many others. My favourite one is the syrup-soaked pastry with pistachio.  
Sweets is the Turkish tradition, and it's not only for tourists. I saw sweets way off the beaten path.
Lokma, another popular kind of sweets, is very similar to a donut.
You really have to come to Turkey to experience all its sweets!

4. Beaches. 
Having access to four seas - Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara and Black, no wonder Turkey has some of the best beaches in the region. The most popular ones are located along the Southwestern coast of the Mediterranean. 
If you're looking for a white-sand beach with turquoise water, look no further than Ölüdeniz located just south of Fethiye. 
Its blue lagoon looks amazing up close as well as from 6,000 ft / 2,000 m.
There is a private beach in Ölüdeniz which charges a fee to enter, but the public options are just fine.
The shallow waters of Sugar Beach in Ölüdeniz would be perfect for little children.
Another perfect-looking beach is in Kaputas located on the coastal road between Kalkan and Kas.
The long pebble beach in Cirali's Bay is the one with crystal clear water.
And what can beat the view of Mount Olympos while sunbathing on the beach?

5. Ancient Greek and Roman ruins. 
As I mentioned earlier, Turkish people and those who had lived on this land before the Turks came, have had a strong sense of preserving a heritage from previous cultures and civilizations. 
That's why Turkey has so many well-preserved sites with Greek and Roman ruins.
Even after 2,000 years, those ruins are where they used to be. How come they have not been used as a material for dwellings built later?

6. Turkish Bazaar. 
If you have not been to one of the Turkish bazaars or simply markets, you have not seen Turkey. Its noise, bustle, smell, and colours describe Turkey like nothing else.
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, founded in 1455, was number 1 among the world's most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors in 2014, according to Wikipedia. The number of visitors in 2015-2016 significantly dropped due to terrorist acts, but it's still busy.
I like the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul more because it's smaller, less touristy and you can find really good deals on sweets and spices. But the real bazaar is where the locals and foreign wholesalers go. 
Unlike at the Grand Bazaar where the prices are usually inflated 2-3 times for tourists, there is no bargaining at this one in Eminönü. And the prices are already the lowest you can find.

7. Hiking in the Mountains. 
Turkey can brag to be the hiker's paradise. But you should carefully pick a season as summers can get really hot and dry in Turkey.
The most popular hiking trail in Turkey is the Lycian Way, a 540-km / 335-mile footpath between Antalya and Ölüdeniz along the southwestern coast of Turkey. It's arguably one of the top hiking trails in the world.  
It's well-marked and hikers usually take one month to finish the trail. The best time to hike it is February to May or September to November.
It offers amazing views of the sea and surrounding mountains.

8. Turkish Hospitality. 
And last, but not least - Turkish people are some of the most open and welcoming people in the world. You can feel it everywhere - on the streets, in a hotel, at a restaurant and so forth.
Like many other nations in the Middle East and the Caucasus, they have a strong notion of "a guest", and they unconsciously want you to be comfortable and welcomed.
Despite a widespread opinion, that locals see tourists only as wallets with money, this isn't true for the majority of Turkish people. 
Even those who have only been to all-inclusive resorts in Turkey would likely agree with me.
I always tried to stop to eat at places where no tourists go. And there was never a problem communicating with Turkish people even though none of us spoke a common language. And, yes, the food is healthy and delicious!
This young Turkish couple, for instance, offered their sandwiches to us. And it was a truly sincere gesture. 
I hope I convinced you to travel to Turkey next year. It's a great country with a very good infrastructure for travellers. Whether it's going to be an all-inclusive resort or a trip you planned yourself, you won't be disappointed. And if you stay away from crowded places, you'll certainly be safe. 

My other posts from the Trip to Turkey
Gorgeous White Travertines of Pamukkale

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