13 Reasons You Need to Travel to Turkey this summer

turkey-architecture

13 Reasons You Need to Travel to Turkey this summer

1. Many of the best attractions are completely free.

Explore the sensory overload that is Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Look up to take in the intricate tile work of the Blue Mosque. Admire the baklava, dripping with honey, piled three feet high in window displays on bustling İstiklal Caddesi. Or beach-hop along the Mediterranean from sophisticated Bodrum to turtle-inhabited İztuzu; Brit-crazy Fethiye to secluded Patara; resort-heavy Antalya to the endless sandy expanse of Alanya. You won’t spend a lira.

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2. You can stuff your face with summer’s bounty for pennies — without leaving your beach towel.

In Turkey, the street food comes to you. Whether you’re sprawled under an umbrella in Bodrum or joining the locals for a nightly picnic in İzmir’s seaside Kordon park, you can’t escape the musical call of the street vendors.

Start with a cone of sesame- and honey-glazed peanuts, then move on to midye dolma — stuffed mussels, served up for 30 cents a pop from massive round trays, and carried on the vendor’s head from customer to customer. Pay attention as the midyeci shows you how to use the top shell as a spoon for scooping out the aromatic rice that’s been flavored with a dash of cinnamon and a squirt of lemon juice.

turkey-architecture

Flag down the roasted-corn-on-the-cob cart, or watch the procession of seasons as the plum cart’s stock transitions from tiny, tart, green yeşil erik in May to plump, juicy, purple tatlı erik by July. Whatever you sample, save room for a slice of honeydew kavun, deftly carved in front of your eyes. The sweet, juicy flesh tastes even better after a long, hot day of sightseeing.

3. Your summer vacation photos will double as indisputable evidence that you’ve been to Mars.

4. You can follow Turkish “Highlanders” on their annual migration to greener pastures.

5. Turkish cuisine is reinventing itself, thanks to hot young chefs.

6. No need for a watch tan line — ditch it and tell time by the call to prayer.

7. Turkey will prove you’ve been exfoliating wrong your whole life.

You don’t know clean, silk-like, summer skin until you’ve had your earlobes, pinky toes, and everything (yes, EV-ERY-THING) in between doused in citronella-scented bubbles and scrubbed down by a heavy-handed attendant armed with a gritty goat-hair kese. And this all goes down while lying on a heated marble pedestal in the middle of a 16th-century hammam.

8. Locals will welcome you into their kitchens.

You want to know what’s in the kofte? The waiter will happily bring you out back to the kitchen to meet the chef. Wondering how baklava is made? The woman selling it in İzmir’s massive Bostanlı Pazar (“BosPa” for short) won’t speak much English, but she’ll happily pantomime the day-long production for you.

And in Eastern Turkey, you can trade in the hostel for a homestay. That’s where you’ll get the best cooking lesson from the ultimate Turkish chef — a mom. Imagine rolling sarma with grape leaves picked off the very arbor you’re sitting under.

9. You’ll never be more than an arm’s length from a steady supply of hot, fragrant çay.

10. You might not be expecting it, but yes, Turkey has waves too.

hammam

None of Turkey’s shores touch open ocean, but at Alanya on the Mediterranean and Kerpe on the Black Sea, some crazy Turks are riding the waves. The Alanya Surf Team and Danube Surf House and Academy are two small communities where you’ll learn that there’s a certain subculture of Turks who are constantly checking weather reports and will jump in the car at a moment’s notice to jet to a remote seaside town where waves are going off, however briefly.

11. Walking through the calcium deposits and mineral springs of Pamukkale is like being in an alternate universe, where snow is warm and water glows neon.

12. Turkish ice cream doesn’t melt very fast.

Maraş dondurması is made with salep, a flour derived from orchid tubers, which creates a stretchy, marshmallow-like treat that melts at a controllable pace. So slowly, in fact, you can do as the locals do and order it sandwiched betweenkağıt helva wafers. You’ll find it all over the country, but you can also go straight to the source: Maraş, the city in southern Turkey famous for producing this Turkish version of the ultimate summer treat.

13. You can go on your very own “blue voyage.”

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