May 19, 2024
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‘Magic that will inspire never-ending travels’: readers’ favourite places in Turkey | Turkey holidays

Winning tip: ruins and roses on the River Euphrates

In a country full of hidden gems, it is hard to choose one. But I would highly recommend taking a trip to the south-east of Turkey – “cradle of civilisation” territory – and on the road between Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa, turn off near Yukarıincirli and head 17 miles north to Halfeti for a boat tour of the mighty Euphrates. This region was hit hard by the recent earthquake, but that gives added reasons to visit: a morale boost to the locals, and some help for their struggling economy. On that cruise you’ll get a chance to see the remarkable submerged city of Old Halfeti, as well as the ancient fortress of Rumkale and, if you’re lucky, a karagü, the black rose that is indigenous to this region.
Umair

EAST

Glowing mosques, Şanlıurfa

Pool of Abraham/Balikligol and Halil ur Rahman mosque.
Pool of Abraham/Balikligol and Halil ur Rahman mosque. Photograph: Ayhan Altun/Alamy

Şanlıurfa is a magical place. Unlike Turkey’s coastal resorts the cultural influences pouring in here are Kurdish, Arabic, Syrian and Iraqi, giving the city an entirely different, and wonderful, flavour. You can taste it in the distinctively spicy Urfa kebab on the old town streets or in the delightful menengiç coffee served in ancient Silk Road caravanserais. You can also see it in the glowing sandstone mosques resembling Oxford colleges reborn with domes and minarets. Şanlıurfa (often shortened to Urfa) is also the perfect jumping-off point for trips to the 11,500-year-old stone circles of Göbekli Teppe, where there are some of the world’s oldest known megaliths.
David Hagan

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Antiquity on high, Mount Nemrut

Ancient carved stone heads of Antiochus at Nemrut Dağ.
Ancient carved stone heads of Antiochus at Nemrut Dağ. Photograph: Gavin Hellier/Alamy

High on top of Mount Nemrut in the south-east, in the area still recovering from last year’s terrible earthquake, Nemrut Dağ was built in 62BC as a sanctuary and tomb for its creator, Antiochus, a Greek Hellenistic king who ruled the Seleucid empire. It’s miles from anywhere, but this eerie site – which survived the earthquakes relatively unscathed – is worth the effort to reach. Once there you can marvel at huge statues of Antiochus, lions, eagles and Persian and Greek gods. At some point the giant stone heads were removed from their bodies and now stare balefully from the ground. The easiest way to visit this Unesco site is on a bus tour, and you can stay in rustic accommodation in nearby villages and experience the local culture.
Susanna C

NORTH

Camping on an emerald bay, Black Sea

a camping tent on a beach near Black sea at eveningWBXG53 a camping tent on a beach near Black sea at evening
Photograph: Karina Tkach/Alamy

Ömerağzı Koyu, an enchanting forested campsite, sits above a bay of emerald water, which laps quietly against the white pebbled shoreline of the Black Sea coast. The evening light glows yellow along the ridges of natural pools, where family run restaurants, adorned with pink bougainvillaea, serve plates of meatballs and falafel. The campsite is a two-hour drive east from Istanbul and best reached if you have a car via the D605 highway. It is an affordable destination, costing €5 a night and presents an opportunity to immerse yourself in local life, as you join the friendliest families of Georgians, Turks and Syrians on their summer holidays.
Maddie Lewin

Scary views, Torul

Karaca caves are 147m years old.
Karaca caves are 147m years old. Photograph: Mehmet Kalkan/Alamy

The Black Sea region is less frequented by international tourists, though its natural beauty, breathtaking views and warm hospitality is equal to any more well known destination in Turkey. I was recently in Torul and saw the local sights of Karaca caves with their intricate limestone formations, the glass terrace perched on the side of the mountain with a beautiful if slightly scary view to the valley below, the mountain lake Limni Göl, and also visited the astounding Sümela monastery, which has recently reopened after renovation work.
Verity Hollywood

Hiking, hills and pines, north of Ankara

With friends I’ve just spent a few peaceful days in the beautiful Soguksu national park in the mountains of Kızılcahamam, an hour north of Ankara. We enjoyed a couple of campsites with good cooking facilities, and explored several hiking trails through pine forest along gentle streams, camping and swimming. Apparently there are bears and wild boar here but we didn’t see any sign. Some of the park is a protected area for wildlife so is not accessible. Its highest point is Arhut Hill, at 1,789 metres. Breathing the fresh pine forest air and listening to the woods’ magical song will leave you wanting to stay for ever.
AV

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WEST

Sunken tombs and ruins, Simena

A kayaker paddles past a sunken Lycian tomb at Simena.
A kayaker paddles past a sunken Lycian tomb at Simena. Photograph: Thomas Wyness/Alamy

The stunning sunken ruins of ancient Kekova are a popular boat trip from the resorts of the Turquoise Coast between Fethiye and Antalya, but you can beat the day trippers by staying on the beautiful peninsula of Simena (Kaleköy). Visitors can only get to Simena by boat from Kaş, Üçağız or Demre; the trip is excellent as you squeeze past submerged Lycian tombs to get into Simena’s harbour (also popular with turtles). Sea kayaking tours run you across the bay to the ancient city, but the real magic is the peace of the place itself: stay a couple of nights to really soak up the blues of the sea and sky, and traffic-free silence.
Ellen Roberts

Islands in the Sea of Marmara

Buyukada, one of the Princes Islands.
Büyükada, one of the Princes Islands. Photograph: Liz Coughlan/Alamy

The nine Princes’ Islands (Adalar in Turkish) in the Sea of Marmara, are a tranquil haven reached by a ferry journey of around two hours from Istanbul. Büyükada is the largest and makes for a truly relaxing break; cars and buses are banned and transport is mainly by bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Stunning, cool pine forests, beautiful secluded beaches, old monasteries and historic wooden mansions are all easily reached. You can also travel easily between the islands. The Splendid Palace Hotel (doubles from £105 B&B) on Büyükada is a grand old building with stunning views that makes a good base, and there are decent fish restaurants around the harbour.
Stephanie O’Brien

Ancient ruins and bougainvillea, Aegean coast

Stone houses in Assos.
Stone houses in Assos. Photograph: Alamy

Explore the town of Assos, also known as Behramkale, in Çanakkale province on the Aegean coast. The area offers a unique blend of history, stunning natural beauty, and a tranquil atmosphere. Assos is home to the ancient ruins of the Temple of Athena, an impressive 6th-century BC Doric-style structure. The site also includes a well-preserved theatre with breathtaking views over the Aegean. The village itself is picturesque with narrow streets, stone houses and colourful bougainvillaea, creating a delightful atmosphere for leisurely walks.
Michelle Thompson

Ottoman architecture on the lake, İznik

My favourite chill zone is İznik 85 miles by car south-east of Istanbul. Stroll the shady streets and admire 14th-century Ottoman architecture, or visit the museum to learn the history of colourful İznik tiles which adorn the great mosques of Istanbul. The large İznik lake is great for swimming and you can relax with a book in the lakeside Aile Çay Bahçesi where tea is 10p a glass. It’s a laid-back vibe so go there slowly; take a ferry from Yenikapı docks, Istanbul, across the Sea of Marmara and pick up a minibus at Yalova (both for about 150 Turkish lira, under a fiver, when I did it) then enjoy the view across olive groves on the left and the turquoise expanse of Lake İznik on your right.
Charlie Reed

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