Take a walk around the capital
Visit Ankara, city of contrasts, where the futuristic tomb of Ataturk occupies an entire hillside, and the magnificent Museum of Anatolian Civilisations sits tucked below the ancient citadel. This is your starting point for unravelling the complex history of Eastern Turkey, the mysteries of the world’s earliest mountain civilisation, the warrior Hittites, and their successors: the skilled Urartian gold-workers.
Wander the snow-capped fairy chimneys
Explore the valleys of Cappadocia in the snow, which are even more magical in winter than in summer. A flight in a hot-air balloon lends the whole experience a surreal quality as you glide silently above the eerie volcanic rock formations of Goreme and its surrounding villages.
Visit the world’s earliest temple sanctuary
From a base in Urfa, Turkey’s most traditional Arab city, make an excursion to Göbekli Tepe, the hilltop site of the world’s earliest temple sanctuary, to puzzle over the monumental rock circles with their haunting and as yet undeciphered animal carvings. Dated to 9000BC, the archaeological site is over 6,000 years older than Stonehenge.
Soak up the history of the Syriac Christian heartlands
Discover the Syriac Christian heartlands of the Tûr Abdin with its 4th-century monasteries and churches, some abandoned, some still working and even gradually expanding. The birdlife and flowers of the spring on this 1,000m high plateau are unforgettable, as are the Syriac wine and food.
Explore the beauty of the Pontic Alps
Go for treks in the unspoilt and beautiful Kackar Mountains, sometimes called the Pontic Alps, returning in the evenings to the simple rural villages with their wooden houses and fine stone Georgian churches.
Enjoy a cuppa of Turkey’s finest tea
Enjoy the Tea Festival of Rize on the Black Sea Coast with its colourful dancing and music, while learning about the history of Turkey’s national drink. Its leaves are grown and harvested by women on the lush green slopes above the north-facing coast.
Challenge Turkey’s highest peak
This is the best month for an ascent of the staggering Mount Ararat, at 5,165m Turkey’s highest peak, snow-covered all year round. Allow a good three days for the strenuous climb of this legendary volcano, followed by at least two days’ recovery time.
Take a boat trip around the islands of Lake Van
The high summer is the perfect time for boat trips and immersing yourself in the vast mountain-circled Lake Van, seven times the size of Lake Geneva. The silky waters leave your skin and hair feeling softer than any conditioner, and the best places to swim are from the tiny islands dotted with ancient Armenian churches.
Watch the sunset over Mount Nemrut
Late summer, with its clear light and long days, is the best time for making the ritual pilgrimage up to the mountaintop sanctuary of Nemrut Dağı, where the gigantic headless statues of the gods sit guarding the tomb of Antiochus, king of ancient Commagene. Spending a night as close to the summit as possible means you can appreciate both the sunrise and sunset views.
Marvel at Gaziantep’s stunning mosaics
By late autumn temperatures in Gaziantep, on the northern edge of the Mesopotamian plain, have reduced sufficiently to allow leisurely strolls through the city’s colourful souks and old Ottoman quarters. The purpose-built Zeugma Museum on the edge of the city is now home to the world’s best displays of Roman mosaic flooring rescued from nearby villas before the Euphrates was dammed and flooded.
Discover the architecture of the Ottomans
The late autumn temperatures and colours are ideal for visiting the Ottoman towns of Safranbolu and Kastamonu, gems of Ottoman residential architecture with their wooden-beamed gables and re-tiled roofs. The nearby forests are perfect for gentle strolling.
Get on your dancing shoes and take a whirl
The Whirling Dervish Mevlana Festival takes place in Konya every December, when the city comes alive with daily performances of the celebrated ritual dance and you can share the mystical experience with local people in this, Turkey’s holiest city.