Since the dawn of time, this land of mountain ranges, high plateaus and fertile river valleys has been the bridge between Orient and Occident, a point where European and Asian cultures have clashed and combined. Once the core of the mighty Byzantine Empire and later of the great Islamic Ottoman Empire, the country has always played a major role in the history of humankind. Some of the earliest towns ever established existed here and the rivers which nurtured the great civilisations of the Fertile Crescent rise in the Turkish mountains. Whilst western Europe was being savaged by Goths and Vandals in the fifth and sixth centuries, the Byzantine emperors presided over a period of great splendour.

Modern Turkey combines this distinguished past with a very lively present and provides a wonderful playground for today’s travellers. There is much to explore – from Istanbul, the ancient city on the Bosphorus, to the gardens and parks of ‘green’ Bursa, the old capital, hugging the slopes of the 2,443-metre Mount Uludag (Mount Olympos). 

For most visitors the Turkish coast is a prime attraction. The Aegean and Mediterranean shores stretch from the Greek border to the frontier with Syria and contain unspoiled sandy beaches and coves fringed with pine forests. Pristine fishing villages and busy market towns, exciting new resorts with a huge range of facilities, services and entertainment, the ruins of Troy, Pergamum, Ephesus and dozens of other fabled sites of antiquity are just waiting to be explored.

Apart from the coast, one of the major pleasures of a holiday in Turkey is the excellent cuisine. Due to the enormous variety of fish, fowl, meat, grain, vegetable and fruit produced in the country, combined with the numerous cultures that settled here over the millennia, contemporary Turkish food is amazingly varied. Kebabs, pilavs, borek, egg-plant specialities and the tangy white feta cheese may have found their way here from central Asia, but all were developed and refined in the kitchens of Turkey.

Shoppers will be intrigued in Istanbul’s teeming Kapali Çarsi, the old Grand Covered Bazaar or in modern malls. Turkish carpets are objects of great desire. The Turks claim to be the originators of the knotted pile carpet and they are the heirs to a long and illustrious tradition of textiles.