Religious melting pot, ancient trading hub, location of a classic Homeric epic: with assets like these it’s no surprise that Turkey has become a must-see destination among culture vultures. It boasts a historical pedigree that casts most other countries into the shade, and – unlike some other Mediterranean holiday havens – its colourful past is still visible in a host of archaeological sites, antique buildings and classical palaces.
The best place to start any cultural holiday in Turkey is in the west of the country, which plays host to one of the most famous ancient cities of all time: Troy, site of the Trojan-Greek war and set for the eponymous Hollywood blockbuster. The oldest ruins here date from 3000BC and visitors can still see the walls that divided war heroes like Achilles, Hector and Paris.
If a trip to Troy doesn’t sate your passion for history then the ancient city of Pergamum, further along the coast, is well worth a visit. The modern-day city of Begama now straddles the site, but there are still plenty of classical treats to see – including a stunning Acropolis, a church identified by St John the Divine as the throne of the devil, and an extensive archaeological museum.
When you’ve explored the classical treasures of the west coast, head east to immerse yourself in the cultural life of modern-day Turkey. The cities of Ankara and Istanbul are cultural hubs and great places to begin an initiation into the lavish Turkish music and dance scene. The State Opera and Ballet occupy both cities and are internationally renowned for stunning performances, but there are also plenty of independent acts putting on everything from traditional Turkish folk music to jazz events.
For an additional treat, arrange your holiday in Turkey around one of the country’s many lively cultural festivals. The highlights of the Turkish calendar include the International Ankara Film Festival which takes place in mid March; Istanbul International Music Festival in June/July; the Izmir International Fair in early September and Antalya Film Festivalin October.
But whatever time of year you plan to take your break, don’t miss out on a visit to one of Turkey’s many splendid museums. The best parts are focused around the country’s fascinating history, and include the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, the Ephesus Archaeology Museum and the Antalya Archaeology Museum. Finally, art lovers will relish a trip to the Istanbul Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, which boasts one of the finest collections of its kind in the world.