Destinations

ISTANBUL

For more than 1500 years İstanbul was the capital of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. With one arm reaching out to Asia and the other to Europe, İstanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents. The Bosphorus courses the waters of the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn through the city’s heart. İstanbul's fate has been sealed by its vital strategic location and its enchanting natural beauty. For more than 1500 years it was the capital of three empires: Roman, Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. It was beautified accordingly with magnificent monuments and became a metropolis where diverse cultures, nations and religions mingled. Those cultures, nations and religions are the small pieces that form the mosaic of İstanbul. İstanbul’s most important building works started in the Byzantine period and the city was then embellished further during the days of the Ottoman Empire. Modern and Traditional Together It is İstanbul's endless variety that fascinates its visitors. The museums, churches, palaces, grand mosques, bazaars and sites of natural beauty are countless. As relaxing on the western shores of the Bosphorus at sunset and watching the red evening light reflected on the other continent, you may suddenly and profoundly understand why so many centuries ago settlers chose to build a city on this remarkable site. At such times you can see why İstanbul is truly one of the most glorious cities in the world. İstanbul is Turkey's most developed and largest city, with the latest discoveries indicating that the history of human habitation there goes back some 400,000 years. The purple years of İstanbul may have started in 330 when Emperor Constantine declared the city the capital of his empire – royal purple is the colour of the Byzantine imperial family. Until 1453, when it was conquered by the Ottomans, the city served as the capital of the Byzantine Empire. During the reign of the Byzantines, İstanbul was adorned with a number of great monuments, which made it the most magnificent city in the world, even during the declining years of the empire.

BURSA

The city of Bursa, southeast of the Sea of Marmara, lies on the lower slopes of Mount Uludağ (Mt. Olympos of Mysia, 2543m), with the city deriving its name from its founder King Prusias of Bithynia. It subsequently came under Roman, then Byzantine rule before it became the first capital of the Ottoman Empire in 1326 under the command of Orhan Gazi. Many important Ottoman buildings still remain in Bursa. Known as "Green Bursa", the city is filled with gardens and parks and overlooks a verdant plain. It is situated at the centre of an important fruit-growing region. Bursa was, and still is, famous for its peaches, silk, towels and thermal springs. Make a point to try the locally invented İskender Kebab, a dish of bread, tomato sauce, strips of grilled meat, melted butter and yogurt! Candied chestnuts are another regional specialty. The tour of the city begins on the east of the city at the Yeşil Türbe (Green Mausoleum). Set in a garden and distinguished by its exterior panelling of tiles, the mausoleum holds the cenotaph of Sultan Mehmet I. Across the street, the Yeşil Mosque of 1424 reflects the new Ottoman, as opposed to Seljuk, aestheticism. A madrasah nearby completes the complex and is also home to the Ethnography Museum. Before exploring this area, stop for a glass of tea in one of the traditional tea houses. Going uphill to the east, you pass the Emir Sultan Mosque in its delightful setting and, after walking through a district of old houses, you reach the Yıldırım Beyazıt Mosque (1391). More from Ottomans Now make your way to Cumhuriyet Square (known locally as Heykel) and stroll along Atatürk Avenue to Koza Park where outdoor cafes are scattered among flowers and fountains! At the back of the park, a long building named the Koza Han (1490) houses the trade in silk cocoons. From here, go on with the covered bazaar area with its narrow streets, caravanserais and bedesten (covered market)! On the other side of Koza Park stands one of Bursa’s oldest religious buildings: The Orhan Gazi Mosque (1339). Nearby is the large Ulu Mosque constructed in the Seljuk style; a finely carved walnut minber (speaker’s platform) and impressive calligraphic panels decorate the mosque. The şadırvan (ablutionary fountain) lies uncharacteristically inside the 20 dome mosque. Walking west from the Ulu Mosque you arrive at Hisar, an old and picturesque quarter of Bursa. In the park that overlooks the valley are the mausoleums of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, and his son Orhan Gazi who commanded the army that conquered Bursa. The cafes of Tophane offer a good place to stop for refreshment.

ANTALYA

With ancient cities hidden among forests with oxygen-rich air, Antalya is a holiday paradise offering much more than one might expect. Antalya was founded in 158-138 BC by Attalus II, King of Pergamon, who named the city Attaleia after himself. Having been inhabited continuously since then, it was encircled by strong protective walls in Roman times. The Byzantines and Seljuks successively occupied the city before it came under Ottoman rule. Today it is one of the world's best-loved tourist resorts, with numerous five-star hotels, holiday villages and entertainment establishments. Besides the chances Antalya offers for skiing on the mountains and then descending to the shore for a swim, the proximity of a great number of archaeological sites and ruins enhances its appeal. There are great works of art from different civilizations at every corner of the city. In the picturesque old quarter of Kaleiçi, narrow, winding streets and old wooden houses abut the ancient city walls. When Emperor Hadrian visited Phaselis in Antalya in 130 AD, a beautifully-decorated three arched gate with Corinthian columns was built into the city walls in his honour. It was the only entrance through the city walls. The two towers flanking the gate, as well as other sections of the walls, are standing near the marina. The clock tower in Kalekapısı Square was also part of the old city’s towers. The elegant, fluted minaret of the Yivli Minaret Mosque at the centre of the city, built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in the 13th century, has become Antalya’s symbol. The Karatay Madrasah in the Kaleiçi district, from the same period, exemplifies the best of Seljuk stone carving.

IZMIR

The beautiful İzmir pulls you into a world of picturesque modernity and traditions, with its refreshing touches to the human souls. İzmir is the ancient city of Smyrna, or "the country of the sacred mother", which existed even before the arrival of the Hittites and was ruled by Ionians, Persians, Romans and Ottomans. The original city was established in the third millennium BC (at present day Bayraklı) and had the most advanced culture, alongside Troy, in Western Anatolia. Excavations at Bayraklı have unearthed a temple dedicated to Athena and the wall of the Ionian city which had flourished there between the seventh and fifth centuries BC. Pottery dating back to the third millennium BC has also been uncovered. By 1500BC, it had fallen under the influence of the Central Anatolian Hittite Empire. During the first millennium BC İzmir, known then as Smyrna, ranked as one of the most important cities of the Ionian Federation and Homer is believed to have lived here during this period. The Lydian conquest of the city around 600BC brought this period to an end. İzmir remained little more than a village throughout Lydian rule and the sixth century BC Persian rule. During the fourth century BC, a new city was built on the slopes of Mt Pagos (Kadifekale) during the reign of Alexander the Great. İzmir's Roman period, beginning in the first century BC, was its second great era. Byzantine rule followed in the fourth century and lasted until the Seljuk conquest of the 11th century. In 1415, under Sultan Mehmet Çelebi, İzmir became part of the Ottoman Empire. Welcome to İzmir of Modern Times! Today, İzmir is one of Turkey's most pleasant cities: its streets are shaded by palm trees, the sideways are beautiful and the houses elegant. As the final destination of the "King's Road", which goes all the way to Iran, İzmir continues to be a focal point for tourism and entertainment. The city's coastline is renowned for its fish restaurants along the coast as well as its bars, discos and nightclubs whereas its hinterlands are rich in monuments and ruins which tell the tale of countless ancient civilizations. Also, highly valued since ancient times, the Balçova Springs are found just 10km west of İzmir.

CAPPADOCIA

Having been a sanctuary for early Christians, Cappadocia is an open air museum full of unequal natural and cultural components. The region of Cappadocia is located in the middle of a once-active volcanic area of central Anatolia. Millions of years ago three of its mountains - Erciyes, Hasandağ and Güllüdağ - were active volcanoes; indeed this activity persisted intermittently at least into the Neolithic period according to the prehistoric paintings. The volcanic eruptions were so strong that in some places the lava was up to 150m in thickness. Over many millions of years, volcanoes, wind, rain and ice sculpted the region which we now know as Cappadocia. As the landscape was eroded, basalt stones remained and formed conical structures with some reaching as high as 45m. The local people referred to these unique rock formations "fairy chimneys", a name that has endured throughout the ages. If nature was the first artist to arrange the decor, it was Anatolian man who carved the rock and built houses, churches and over 250 underground cities out of it over the centuries. A unique heritage of nature and humanity Cappadocia offers visitors an extraordinary and lavish banquet of natural wonders that exceed their wildest imaginations. These wonders are elegantly graced with works created by the hand of man. With its unique natural features displaying a harmonious combination of natural and cultural landscape elements, Cappadocia is an enchanting open-air museum and an unparalleled example of the common cultural heritage of humanity. Cappadocia incorporates the provinces of Aksaray, Nevşehir, Niğde, Kayseri and Kırşehir. For most people, the name Cappadocia suggests the towns of Uçhisar, Göreme, Avanos, Ürgüp, Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı and Ihlara, where the land has been shaped into fantastic forms over the course of millions of years. Fairy chimneys that seem mysterious and cities and houses of worship that extend many meters deep into the earth are all enveloped in an atmosphere that is ethereal and unworldly.

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