Turkey has had a significant role in the history of the world. The Ottoman Empire, which spanned for a period of 600 years and was highly influential in the west, has left an incredible legacy that can be admired to this day. The former Constantinople is today's dazzling Istanbul, not only Turkey's capital but a haven for culture, food, and shopping.
Besides the endless sightseeing landmarks in Istanbul, people traveling to Turkey can head to the UNESCO Heritage site of Cappadocia in Central Anatolia, one of Turkey's most beautiful attractions. There's also the Turkish Riviera where visitors can soak up the sun and swim in the calm crystal waters. You might also want to try a Turkish Hamman, a traditional bath where you can relax and enjoy a foaming scrub.
The history of Turkey is as intricate, fascinating as any history of any country in the world. It's impossible to include all the details, but we'll do our best to share the most important facts.
Turkish History: a brief summary
Turks lived in Central Asia about 2000 years BC and eventually spread all over Asia and Europe establishing a number of empires including the great Hun Empire, the Göktürk Empire, the Uygur Empire and several others. At the beginning of the 11th century, Turks began settling in Anatolia, thanks to the help of the Byzantines. The Turks conquered the entire region of Anatolia and founded the Anatolian Seljuk State, which was eventually named Konya Sultanate. The Seljuk weren't in power for long. When the Mongols invaded Anatolia in 1243, they made room for the Ottoman Age. After the conquest of Anatolia, the Ottomans spread like wildfire and rose up as a powerful empire that ruled in three continents and for 623 years, until the end of the First World War.
In 1435, Constantinople was taken over by the Ottomans and Sultan Mehmet II became the ruler from 1451 until 1481. Known as "the Conqueror", Mehmet led the Ottomans into an era of growth, ruling over Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, and Romania. All empires come to an end and this was no exception for the Ottomans, whose decline begun in the 16th century. While Europe had gone through the Renaissance and begun conquering regions around the world, the Ottomans stayed behind.
The Ottomans entered World War I in 1914 and sided with the allied powers. They were defeated and were forced to sing the Mondros Armistice on October 30, 1918. Due to this Armistice, the empire was occupied by Britain, Greece, France, and Russia bringing an end to the Ottoman age. Under Mustafa Kemal, the country fought to gain independence. He was given the name Atartuk which means Father of Turks and along a united front, he fought for national liberation. The war lasted from 1919 to 1922 and the victory was military and diplomatic. Turkey signed the Lausanne Peace Treaty on 1923 that finally recognized Turkey's creation and international borders. On October 29th, 1923 the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ruled as president for 15 years and introduced a wide variety of political, legal, social, cultural, economic reforms that were unprecedented in any other nation around the globe. As president for 15 years, until his death in 1938, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk introduced a broad range of reforms in the political, social, legal, economic, and cultural spheres that were virtually unparalleled in any other country. The truth is that he was ahead of his time, a clear example is that women received equal rights under the law and women were able to vote and run for office.
The Republic of Turkey remained neutral during World War II. It became one of the first members of the Council of Europe in 1949 and was an early member of NATO and many other organizations. Political stability has been a challenge, Turkish democracy was interrupted by military coups d'état in 1960, 1971 and 1980. Turkey has an important and strategic location and therefore it has been recognized as a regional power. Under President Tayyip Erdogan the country has gone backward in many ways.
If you are thinking about traveling to Turkey, you might want to consider visiting its neighboring country Armenia, once influenced by the Ottomans and with gorgeous hiking spots. Read further to find out about visa requirements, safety tips, and Turkey's top attractions.
Turkey Basic Information
Turkish Lira (TRY)
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When to Go
When to go to Turkey? The country enjoys a wonderful weather most of the year. If you are inclined to go to the Turkish Riviera, the summer is crowded and very hot, but it offers a wide range of activities. Read below for some additional tips on Turkey’s climate.
High Season: Starts in June and ends in August. Summer season is when the country’s temperatures are the highest as well as prices. It is a crowded season and Turkish schools are also out. Other important dates to keep in mind are Christmas, New Year and Easter. Istanbul is a city that attracts visitors throughout the year but its busiest period is April, May, September, and October.
Shoulder Season: takes place between May and September. Lesser crowds and pleasant weather. Istanbul is actually calmer in June, July, and August.
Low Season: Autumn is basically the month of October and Spring begins in April. Several hotels and hostels offer discounts while others are closed. It mostly depends on where you want to go. Some tourists chose to go skiing resorts during October, where it is high season. Istanbul is most quiet between November and March.
Turkey is a good destination for:
Turkey Entry Requirements
Most nationalities need an e-visa when traveling to Turkey. You can easily apply for a visa online and present it upon arrival to the country. Your passport should be valid for at least six months upon entry. The e-visa will allow you to stay up to 90 days in the country.
Visitors are allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes, 1 kg of coffee, 500 g of tea, 1 bottle of wine or spirit and five bottles of perfume. Personal electronic devices are okay, but only one of each type. Unlimited currency and gifts of up to 300 USD if older than 15.
When leaving Turkey, you should keep in mind that you can not export or take with you an antique. If you wish to take a traditional carpet, you must present a certificate that demonstrates that this is not an antique.
Turkey Country Atractions
Where to begin? Turkey has dozens of cities, landmarks, beaches, and activities to compliment anyone’s taste. Istanbul is a city that everyone should visit at least once. However, we have handpicked some of Turkey’s most beautiful attractions to inspire you before your trip.
- Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya: an architectonical masterpiece, it was commissioned during the Byzantine period by Justinian the emperor in 537. It was a Christian church, converted into a mosque centuries later under the Ottomans. Finally, Atartuk declared it a museum in 1935.
- Ephesus: an ancient Greek city, it is now three kilometers from Selçuk. It was once the trade center of the ancient world, and according to a legend, it was founded by the Amazons, great female warriors. Visit Ephesus to witness a fantastic metropolis that is still being unearthed.
- Cappadocia: it might remind you of a foreign planet from a scene in Star Wars. Cappadocia features honeycombed hills and high boulders and a unique soft stone. There is much to see here, including the rock-cut churches and the underground refuges of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli.
- Topkapi Palace: set in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, the palace is a grand museum. Formerly, it was the main residence and headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. Its history unveils the secret events that took place there during the Ottoman empire. Topkapi is a gorgeous building that has survived over the centuries.
- Pamukkale: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this incredible area is well known for its large white terraces of travertine and its hot springs. A dazzling sight, visitors can make use the thermal pools. Its name means cotton castle and the weather in the area is pleasant most of the year.
- Turkish Riviera: also referred as the Turquoise Coast, expands between Antalya and Mugla. The waters are calm, warm and clear and although temperatures can be very high in the summer, visitors relax by the sea or practice water sports. Visitors will encounter a mountainous scenery and rivers where kayaking is available for tourists.
Turkey has a unique position in the world, it is the country where Asia meets Europe. It was a grand empire and today, it still has much to offer to visitors. However, when traveling to Turkey there are a few things that can help you have a better experience.
- A little Turkish doesn’t hurt. Though vendors, businesses and restaurant staff in Istanbul speak many languages, don’t expect that to be the case in the rest of the country. Knowing a few Turkish words also shows that you are interested in their language and culture, people will be kinder to you if you make the effort.
- Beware of how you dress, this applies to both men and women. How you dress does make an important impression on citizens of Turkey. Turkish women are stylish too, regardless of whether they wear headscarves or wear short dresses with heels. To be able to enter certain mosques, you will have to cover your legs and arms and it’s advisable to have a scarf to cover up your head.
- Carry cash in different currencies like EUR, Turkish Lira, and USD. Don’t rely on an ATM and have cash with you at all times. Traveler’s checks are difficult to cash in.
- There will be traditional Turkish toilets. Don’t freak out and use them as you would use a regular toilet. These squats are clean and in general there is a tap with running water next to them to flush.
- You may want to book a dentist or a hair implant appointment while you’re visiting. Both are much more affordable in Turkey than in most countries in Europe.
- In the summer take a hat with you and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
- You can’t go to Turkey and not go to a Turkish Hamman or Turkish Bath. Usually, inexpensive, they baths are relaxing, clean and fun!