Turkey offers the adventurous traveler a chance to explore European and Asian culture, chic city life, exotic landscapes, crystal clear waters, mouthwatering cuisine and a vibrant LGBT community fighting for visibility and equality.
For a taste of what Turkey has to offer, we’ve mapped out an itinerary that hops from metropolitan Istanbul to the natural beauty of Cappadocia and then on to Bodrum.
Stay for a night or two at the The Witt Hotel, nestled in the hilly neighborhood of Cihangir., where cafes, antique shops and restaurants line the streets.
Located away from the city center, the Witt offers a mellow bohemian atmosphere and incredible rooftop views of the entire city. The hotel is just a 15-minute walk to bustling Taksim Square, and The old city is easily accessible via taxi or tram.
Book a suite for the luxuries of home including kitchens, living areas and marble bathrooms with walk-in showers.
The Four Seasons Bosphorus is the link between Europe and Asia in the middle of bustling Istanbul. Situated along the water on the European side of the city, it’s a great place to spend a day at the pool and take a break from sightseeing.
The hotel is a former 19th-century Ottoman palace transformed with all the modern amenities—including a gorgeous spa, in-house hamam and an outdoor breakfast buffet that’s fit for a sultan.
Vault Karaköy, The House Hotel is perfectly located with easy access to the waterfront, the amazing restaurants of Karaköy, the exciting neighborhood of Beyoğlu and the fabulous old city.
Take the funicular one block from the hotel to the highest point in Beyoğlu for a sunset drink at Mikla. Book a bubble bath scrub down at Kilic Ali Pasa, one of the oldest and most luxuriously renovated hamams in the city. And of course, tram over to the old city for a tour of the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar.
Before you head over to the old city, book a tour through Locally Istanbul. A personal guide who speaks perfect English brings you through the maze of the Grand Bazaar and is able to show you the quality wares.
Stop for an authentic Turkish coffee before passing on to the Spice Market and the Blue Mosque. Each tour is tailor-made to your interests, expectations and changing mood as the day goes on.
For a taste of what the Ottoman sultans dined on centuries ago, try Asitane located in Edirnekapi next to the gorgeous Chora Chora church.
While Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, is more LGBT-friendly than most of the Muslim world, that’s not saying much: The government banned Grindr in 2013 as part of a law against promoting unnatural sexual acts.
And while there’s no ban on homosexuality, transgender Turks in general face widespread discrimination and harassment.
The Istanbul Pride Week, happening in late August, brings upwards of 50,000 people to the city. Istanbul was also the cite of widespread protests against police brutality and restrictions on personal freedoms.
Before heading to Bodrum for a few days of Aegean Seaside rest and relaxation, hop on a short flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia, smack in the middle of Turkey. Book a room at the stunning Museum Hotel, carved into the walls of a mountain on the outskirts of town.
Rooms face the vast open landscape of the fairy chimney-speckled desert. Enjoy dinner outside under the stars and spend an afternoon sipping cocktails by the pool.
Cappadocia is renowned for its archaeology and subterranean settlements, including a recently discovered underground city that dates back some 5,000 years.
But you don’t have to drop down to explore the region: Launching right outside of town, Butterfly Balloons offers sweeping vistas and close-in shots of over the valley’s iconic stone structures.
Bodrum is Turkey’s answer to South Beach, but don’t be confused by the terminology: There is the bustling city of Bodrum from which many gullet boat tours launch, and there is the sleepy peninsula of Bodrum, home to several top-tier luxury hotels.
For the four-star treatment, spend a few nights at Macakizi Bodrum. Step into the understated yet chic open-air lobby for check-in and then head down the garden steps to the waterfront where you can spend the day lounging on daybeds wrapped along Macakizi’s private cove.
Aside from the bright blue waters at the tip of your toes, the food at Macakizi is a major draw. (Do’nt miss the chocolate baklava served at the lunch buffet.)
For nightlife, spend time in the city of Bodrum: Mamara Hotel sits atop the hill overlooking the span of the city and ocean. Shuttle buses provide easy access to the port and main shopping areas, but plan to spend at least one or two days at the hotel by its fantastic pool.