Turkey is a vast country peppered with impressive natural wonders, ancient cities and gorgeous coastline. If you're traveling for less than a month, it's wise to narrow your itinerary down to three or four towns or cities.
While what you read in guidebooks about visiting "must-see" attractions should be considered, it would be a shame to miss some of Turkey's smaller, more intimate spots, which undoubtedly provide visitors with profoundly rich experiences.
The Beyoglu District
In a city of 14 million people, it's easy to get lost in the crowd. Istanbul is loaded with fabulous sites and attractions, but most tourists never experience the local spots that show off this city's chic, sensual flare.
In the Beyoglu District, sloping streets flanked with art galleries, trendy cafes, happening bars, sexy nightclubs, and hip restaurants appeal to even the most sophisticated urbanites. An intriguing aspect of Beyoglu, is the element of surprise, which lies in the layout of many of its buildings. Stumble upon eateries such as the White Mill Café, and watch as indoor dining areas gracefully unfold to airy gardens adorned with exquisite pieces of art and plenty of seating to ponder life over a cup of Turkish coffee.
Located in Central Anatolia, in the Nevsehir Province, Cappadocia is a whimsical region marked with enchanting natural wonders. The exquisite beauty here must have been the work of fairies who created the giant "tufa" formations, which undulate about the valley like fluffy pockets of rose-colored meringue. The magnificent landscape is coated with these limestone formations, and others known as "fairy chimneys" which have distinct, mushroom-like features.
Hiking is the best way to soak in Cappadocia's otherworldly atmosphere. Going with a guide, such as Walking Mehmet, is strongly recommended, as the area is vast and scattered with ancient churches and pigeon houses carved into the soft rock formations. During the hike, you will find yourself in awe of the beautiful dells and large valleys dotted with chestnut, mulberry and poplar trees juxtaposed against the massive rocky landscape . Visit in summer, and see this semi-arid landscape explode with vibrantly-colored wildflowers -- a stunning contrast of pinks, blues and greens pop against a sandy profile.
Spending an evening or two in the tiny town of Goreme is a must. At night, the town's colorful lighting gives one the sense of being among a village created by the likes of Walt Disney. Cozy and safe, what Goreme lacks in good, authentic cuisine it makes up in warm hospitality and a laid-back charm that is simple and inviting.
If you travel to this small island in the Aegean Sea, I can almost guarantee that you will find it to be one of the most memorable destinations on your trip. With a mere population of approximately 2,400, Bozcaada rewards each visitor with an intimate island experience.
Although beautiful, Bozcaada's main appeal is not its beaches. The true allure of this little gem lies in the town center where locals gather to dine, chat and play bat gammon in the main square. Here you will find a daily market overflowing with olive oils, jams and thyme-infused honey from the island. Expect nothing less than the fresh catch of the day at any seafood restaurant where the décor ranges from traditional to trendy and chic. Try the grilled sea bass at Muz and linger over a tulip glass of Turkish tea as its shi shi vibe lulls you to contentment.
There is no shortage of homemade jam on the island and breakfast at Rengigul Guesthouse & Art Gallery will introduce you to some thirty flavors made from local fruits, vegetables and herbs fresh from owner, Ozan Germiyanoglu's garden. A truly special experience, guests and visitors dine with Ozan in her tranquil garden on a long rectangular table, sampling from an assortment of breads, savory pastries, herb-infused jams, olives, salads, and cheeses laid out in family-style fashion.
For some sweet and salty treats, meander among the cobbled streets to Ada Café and try a glass of red poppy syrup and an eggplant pastry, then stop by Cicek Patisserie, for some homemade lemonade, soft apple cookies and a taste of their delicious tomato jam.
Bozcaada has four wineries: Yunatcilar, Ataol, Talay and Corvus, which offer daily tastings and seasonal tours of the vineyards. Corvus is a favorite among visitors and locals alike, producing a large selection of wines ranging from classic reds to local Cavus grape varieties.
WHERE TO STAY:
Defterdar Yokusu No:26 Cihangir, Istanbul 34433, Turkey
Abdi Ipekci Cd. No:34 Nisantasi Sisli, Istanbul 34367, Turkey
Gaferli Mah. Cevizli Sok, Goreme, Goreme 50180, Turkey
Cumhuriyet Mahallesi, Kale Arkası Mevkii, Bozcaada - Çanakkale, Turkey
Atatürk Caddesi No:31 Bozcaada - Çanakkale, Turkey
Follow Maria Russo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MariaCultureist