Now that the UK has scrapped his traffic light system, vacationers are booking trips to popular destinations that were previously banned. Among the countries on the green list were Egypt, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and in Europe – Turkey.
Turkey bridges the gap between Europe and Asia, which means it is often said that this is where “East meets West”.
While many Europeans consider Turkey the perfect beach vacation, they have a lot more to offer than lounge chairs.
It shares borders with Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Each country influences Turkish culture in its own way, so that each corner of the country feels completely different from the others.
Here’s everything you need to know for a last minute getaway.
Travel rules in Turkey
If you are traveling to Turkey from the EU or the US, you will need to show proof of two COVID vaccinations, proof of recent recovery from COVID, or a negative PCR test taken within the past 72 hours.
Turkey is one of the more and more countries to take the “mix and match” vaccine approaching too. This means switching to different COVID-19 vaccines for second doses or boosters. So it’s likely that those with two different vaccines can still get in.
But the rules are slightly different for passengers arriving from the UK, Iran, Egypt and Singapore. Passengers from these countries must present a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours of arrival in Turkey, even if they are doubly vaccinated.
If you are traveling from any of these four countries and are only transiting through Turkey, you do not need to show a test result.
Unfortunately, travelers from Brazil, South Africa, Nepal and Sri Lanka are banned from entering Turkey until further notice.
All arrivals to Turkey, except Turkish citizens or holders of a residence permit, must complete an online form within 72 hours of arrival.
Do you have to wear a mask in Turkey?
You must wear a face mask at all times at airports and for the duration of all flights to and from Turkey.
Wearing a mask is also compulsory at all times outside the home throughout Turkey. This includes on the streets, in parks, gardens, picnic areas, markets, by the sea and on public transport.
The provinces of Turkey are divided into four levels based on COVID-19 risk: low, medium, high and very high. A map of Turkey illustrating these levels is available from the Ministry of Health.
Are some parts of Turkey dangerous?
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel to areas within 10 km of the border with Syria, with the exception of the town of Kilis.
This extends to all but essential trips to other regions of Sirnak, Kilis (including Kilis town), Hatay provinces, Diyarbakir, Tunceli and Hakkari provinces.
However, FCDO also notes that most trips to Turkey each year are smooth.
What to do in Turkey?
The capital of Turkey is Ankara, but its largest city and financial center is Istanbul. Either is a great starting point, but Istanbul is easier to navigate as a tourist.
Turkey has seven regions. These are the Eastern Anatolia region, the Central Anatolia region, the Black Sea region, the Mediterranean region, the Aegean region, the Marmara region and the Southeastern Anatolia.
The region of Eastern Anatolia is the largest, consisting mostly of mountains and Turkey’s largest lake, Lake Van. The capital, Ankara, is located in the Central Anatolia region and the tourist center of Istanbul is in the Marmara.
Each region is famous for different things, but in general Istanbul is considered the most popular destination. Bodrum turns out to be the best place to stay on a budget (with the best nightlife) and Cappadocia has some of the most beautiful and spectacular scenery. The best beaches are Patara Beach, Bodrum Peninsula, and Kaputas Beach.
Here are 5 great things to do during your stay:
5. Visit Goreme National Park, Cappadocia
Goreme National Park and the rock sites of Cappadocia are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The spectacular rocky landscape has been entirely sculpted by erosion and testifies to Byzantine art of the post-iconoclastic period. Remains of human settlements dating back to the 4th century can be found here.
While you’re at it, you can take a 1 hour hot air balloon flight and admire the “fairy chimneys”, or fairy chimneys, mountain ridges and valleys. The best time to go is at sunrise, when the sky is a faded orange.
4. Take a trip to the blue lagoon of Oludeniz
Ölüdeniz is a seaside resort and lagoon in the Fethiye district of Muğla province, on the turquoise coast of southwestern Turkey.
There is a sandy bay to visit and the lagoon itself is a national nature reserve. Olüdeniz seawater is famous for its shades of turquoise and aquamarine.
A great activity to do here is paragliding. It is considered one of the best places in the world for paragliding due to its unique panoramic views and stable weather conditions – 2000m in the air.
The best international airports to travel to the Turquoise Coast are Fethiye and Antalya.
3. Spot the sea turtles in Dalyan
Nature and animal lovers will love Dalyan Turtle Beach (also known as Iztuzu Beach). It is known throughout Turkey for its natural splendor. There are over 100 varieties of bird species here as well as three varieties of turtles, including the endangered loggerhead Caretta caretta.
You can take a boat trip from the town’s port to reach the beach and visit the main turtle conservation area. It is a great place to swim alongside turtles, visit the nearby hot springs or take a mud bath.
The mud here is rich in minerals like magnesium and sulfur, both of which are good for the skin.
2. Head to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul
The famous Blue Mosque (or Sultan Ahmed Mosque) is a masterpiece of the Ottoman era and a functional place of worship in Istanbul.
But why is it called the Blue Mosque? Because its interior is lined with more than 20,000 İznik tiles, a turquoise ceramic. The upper levels of the mosque are also painted blue, with lots of natural light and over 200 stained glass windows.
The mosque is particularly unique architecturally due to its six minarets and five domes. Six minarets were unusual, even for an imperial mosque built in the 1600s, as they implied equality with the multi-minaret mosques of Mecca.
It is popular with tourists and devotees, so you will need to make sure you book your time slot – but it’s worth discovering the grandeur of this historic building.
1. Go for a walk in the underground city of Derinkuyu
Derinkuyu Underground City is an ancient multi-level city in the province of Nevşehir. It was built to house 20,000 people during the Arab-Byzantine Wars (AD 780-1180), spanning eight floors and reaching depths of over 280 feet (85 meters).
The city continued to be used by Christians as a protection against Mongol incursions from Timur in the 14th century, and then when the area fell to the Ottomans, it was used as a refuge by the natives from the Turkish Muslim rulers.
You can take a guided walking tour and explore the excavated ruins, including the remains of stables, cellars, storage rooms, kitchens, cellars and wells.
The experience is unforgettable and a very popular option for tourists, but be aware that the narrow tunnels and small chambers can make navigation in Derinkuyu tricky for those suffering from claustrophobia.
What is the best time of year to visit Turkey?
The months of April, May, September and October are pleasant and warm, with temperatures between 20 ° C and 30 ° C. These are usually the best times to visit Turkey’s historic sites, and the last couple of months can provide European travelers with much-needed winter sunshine.
Fethiye, Bodrum and Antalya are considered the top three winter sun destinations.
The summer months from June to September are very hot, with temperatures reaching 35 ° C on the south coast.