The stunning opening sequences of the new James Bond film, Skyfall, set in iconic Istanbul have once again propelled Turkey into the international limelight.
While 007 will go to any lengths to get his hands on top secret data, including embarking on a death-defying chase over the city’s rooftops – we have taken a less dangerous route to uncover more about Turkey’s hidden gems.
As we don’t have the spy skills of James Bond, we asked the experts at the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office to give us the lowdown on the Turkey you might not know about.
So whether you have been to Bodrum before, planning a Turkey holiday or just want to show-off your insider knowledge to friends, family and colleagues at the pub or in the office – here are five of the best places you won’t find in a standard travel guide but more likely in a brown folder stamped top-secret.
Off The Beaten Track
Bozcaada is the perfect place to just mooch about in the beguiling back streets, dropping in and out of cafes, art galleries and craft shops, then stopping for tea and a chat with the locals in the big tea garden in the town centre or at the waterfront fish restaurants. It’s also famed for its boutique wineries, restored stone houses and small lokantas serving delicious fresh food and drink.
Turkish Lake District
Turkey has its very own lake district in the south-west of the country. Just a two-hour drive from the Mediterranean coast, the largest, and most beautiful, Lake Egirdir, offers swimming in a peaceful environment surrounded by greenery and mountains. For those who enjoy authentic culture the extraordinary market that takes place on the outskirts of nearby Pinar Pazari village is sure to enchant. Local fish is a speciality in particular baby crayfish direct from the lake. The nearby Yazılı Canyon National Park, Kovada Gölü National Park and Kasnak Forest make great trips as do the other smaller lakes, Beysehir, Burdur and Salda. Cultural sites in the area include Sagalassos high up on a plateau which has an ancient theatre in a good state of preservation and the unique C13th Selçuk Kubadabad Palace near Beysehir.
Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and located on a steep-sided gorge, this beautifully preserved Ottoman town boasts graceful half-timbered Ottoman houses many of which have huge water pools to cool on hot summer days. There are artisans working at traditional Turkish crafts while local eateries serve traditional Ottoman cuisine and allow the town has kept its authentic atmosphere it is very much a place to live not a museum. History buffs will love the fully restored Ottoman baths and a central caravanserai which dominates the town.
The 590-km Lycian Way, which runs between Fethiye and Antalya, is Turkey’s first way marked long-distance path. The brain-child of Kate Clow who designed and implemented it, it opened in 1999 and traverses the landscape of what was once Lycia, the historical name of the Teke Peninsula, and one of the earliest Mediterranean civilisations stretching back to at least 3000 years ago. The route is graded medium to hard and as well as following the coast it dips down to beaches and detours away to summer pastures and forests, reaching its highest point in cedar forest 1800m high on Mount Tahtali.
Catalhoyuk, near Ankara. Çatalhöyük was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC. It is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date and was most recently added by UNESCO to its World Heritage List. The wall paintings in the ancient city are regarded as some of humanity’s earliest artworks. Many objects of ancient daily life have been uncovered, including decorative flint ‘daggers’ with bone handles and clay or stone figurines, depicting human figures and animals. Another distinguishing feature of Çatalhöyük was the nature of the houses: they had no doors to the outside and were clearly entered through ladders from the roof, and the inhabitants buried their dead under the floors of their platforms.
Now you could keep this quality clandestine information closely to your chest – or you could be kind and share these hidden gems with your friends and family. Go on – it would be rude not to!
View some of the places mentioned in this post on our custom Google Map.