Turkish Delights

Welcome to Turkey, Europe’s hot spot

By: Riana Lagarde

What is the number-one French destination for sun and fun? It’s probably not what you think half of Europe heads east to Turkey. That’s right, the new European holiday resort hot spots are in Aegean waters.

Despite hemming and hawing about letting Turkey into the European Union, Europeans flock to five-star luxury resorts in the Antalya Province that are pas cher (super cheap), while relaxing on Turkey’s western Mediterranean beaches, lavishing in oriental spa treatments and exploring prehistoric ruins located in the old Ottoman empire

Historical Routes

My first visit to Turkey left a deep impression on me. Following the historical silk route through Ephesus, up to the port of Istanbul in a gullet (Turkish yacht) and renting cars inland, provided me with an in-depth look at this amazing country. I experienced more courtesy and friendliness in Turkey than almost anywhere else I’ve traveled.

In small villages, strangers would smile and offer us strong Turkish coffee or apple tea. At makeshift tables we filled up on kebabs, spicy okra, stuffed eggplants and peppers, pilavi (a special rice dish), borek (stuffed meat pies) and loads of tangy yogurts and filo-dough pastries made with pistachios and honey.

On Turkey’s west coast, the Aegean seaside ports of Bodrum, Marmaris and Antalya have grown into some of Turkey’s major resort areas with beautiful beaches, historical sites and 300-plus days of sunshine a year. On my trip, I rented a van in Kusadasi, a popular cruise ship port. It had sliding doors on both sides, which in the July heat I left ajar, giving me an unobstructed view of the passing scenery.

Greece and Turkey have very similar countryside, dotted with crumbling Greco-Roman temples and azure blue seascapes. Turkey, being a little less touristy, felt more mysterious to me with veiled women, polite Arabesque hospitality and an eagerness to be accepted as European.

During my travels, I took pit stops at the Dalyan Mud Baths (rumored to reverse aging) and the Pamukkale hot springs, before finishing my expedition in the archaeological site of Ephesus, one of the ancient wonders of the world.

Once again aboard the gullet, Istanbul (the capital of the Byzantium Empire) glowed in a purple-pink sunrise with minarets silhouetting the skyline.

The Sultans Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Archaeological Museum which contains pieces of ancient Mesopotamia, Babylonia and pre-Greek artifacts were stops along a daylong guided tour that ended at a carpet store, as they all do. The famous Istanbul Spice Market a souk (market) of sensory delight offered everything from carved, jewelled daggers to freshly picked cardamom pods.

Traveling Turkey

Turkey is surrounded by three magnificent seas, mountains, fields of sunflowers and picturesque hay stacks reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting. The country’s many modes of transportation are easy to navigate. While the Orient Express no longer runs, clients can take scenic train rides from Europe to Asia (and still be in the same country), take a ferry to Greek Isles or a hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia’s moonscape of volcanic rock. Clients short on time can opt for a quick domestic flight on Turkish Airlines.

Though Americans need a visa to enter Turkey, it’s easy to acquire for $26 at the airport in Istanbul or ahead of time at the local consulate.

As I boarded the plane for the flight home my bag stuffed with pottery and aromatic spices, my mind filled with wonderful memories I already had a strong craving to return some day.


Bodex Travel and Yachting Agency

Cappadocia Tours & Travel Turkey
Hot-air balloons, horseback riding, Jeep safari and archaeological digs

Turkish Airlines

Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Turkish State Railways