Turkey is vibrant and unique, a place I’d always wanted to visit. We opt for a three-centre trip, first to the popular Turkish holiday destinations of Bodrum and Olu Deniz and then on to Istanbul – covering both Asian and European attractions in a bid to make the most of our visit.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Bodrum is now an ultra-fashionable city which attracts A-listers and the international jetset. Roman Abramovich regularly moors his mega yacht here and Jade Jagger loves it so much, she’s just opened her first restaurant here, The Secret Garden at Halikarnas.
It’s a picture-postcard scene that we delve straight into on our first day with a visit to Bodrum Castle. I’ve always been fascinated by castle’s – I must have read too many fairytales as a child – and Bodrum’s is simply spectacular. Known as the Castle of St Peter, it was built by the Knights of the Rhodes during the Crusades of the Middle Ages and we while away a morning exploring the ramparts and the Museum of Underwater Archaeology which is housed there. The views back to Bodrum and out over the Aegean Sea have to be some of the best vistas anywhere in the world.
We also spend time looking out over the ocean elsewhere. There is a myriad of beaches around Bodrum, but Bitez is our favourite. A mix of shingle and sand, it has a more relaxed vibe than busy Bodrum or neighbouring Gumbet.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aktugan/4965757434/
It’s the most photographed beach in Turkey, so we had to visit to see this beauty spot for ourselves. And we’re not disappointed. It’s no wonder the Blue Lagoon Beach is consistently voted one of the best in the world by travellers and industry insiders. On the Turquoise Coast, the sea truly is a sparkly shade of the prettiest aquamarine. We watch paragliders swirl lazily down from the mountain peaks behind before swimming in the crystal clear waters, accompanied by shoals of the tiniest fish.
I could probably have happily spent an eternity here, but we don’t want to miss the chance to see what is reputed to be one of the oldest Lycian cities in the world at Tlos, a few miles east of Olu Deniz. Here, says the legend, was the home of the winged horse Pegasus. We sit in the back row of the town’s Roman amphitheatre, among the cracked stones and the wild flowers, and imagine actors there in days gone by.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/juz22/421053475/
As we don’t have flying horses, we have to make do with an internal flight to Istanbul. The red tile rooftops of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar have become the stuff of film iconography after the spectacular opening scene of Skyfall, featuring Daniel Craig’s James Bond in a dramatic motorcycle chase.
We, however, stick to terra firma, getting delightfully lost among the thousands of stalls selling everything from jewellery to ceramics, lanterns to carpets. There are authentic Turkish treasures along with fake designer labels. In total, the Grand Bazaar, or Kapali Carsi, has an overwhelming 4,000 stores, 66 streets, a mosque, a post office and a police station. The choice is truly overwhelming. In the end, I opt for a gorgeous Byzantine-style piece of jewellery from Necef in silver, with lovely semi-precious stones. Just be prepared to haggle your heart out – the stallholders always ask for at least double what you should be paying.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/taksidia/2079008182
With tired feet after a busy day shopping, we sip refreshing mint lemonade at the historic Fes Café. It’s there that the owner gives us the tip that leads us to the Princes’ Islands, known in Turkish as Adalar. Just a short ferry ride away, they’re a haven of sandy coves and calm waters that seem to be largely undiscovered by international visitors. No cars are allowed on the islands, so it’s like stepping back in time.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kdixon/3420120919/
We mop up meze with fresh bread at one of Buyukada’s seafood restaurants before taking a horse-drawn cab tour. We feel truly privileged to have found such a Turkish delight.
Katie, a newbie travel blogger from the UK shares the highlights of her first trip to Turkey, from castles to coastlines and an east-meets-west melting pot of cultures.