Disclaimer: This is a contributed post.
For many millennia, Turkey has captivated the five senses. With its diverse topography and deep historical roots, you will find it difficult to visit this region and feel like a mere sightseer. Instead, you will embark on a much richer experience that exposes 13 civilizations layered and woven together like textile fabric. Following the thread from ancient history to modern times can prove dizzying in magnitude, but if you stick close to the heart of Turkish culture you will surely feel the strong beating pulse of this remarkable country. Travellers on a small budget are, in a sense, perfectly primed to get to know the real Turkey and truly savour all it has to offer.
Get in touch with unspoilt nature
The shoreline along the southwest coast of Turkey has been compared to the French Riviera, but its allure runs much deeper than glamorous beachwear. Story has it that, Roman hero, Mark Antony, chose this sandy expanse as a wedding gift for his beloved Cleopatra.
At first glance, the Turquoise Coast, might seem better suited for big spenders with tastes for gület cruises (tradition Turkish sailboats) and spa treatments, but this seaside paradise proves hospitable to backpackers and budget travellers too. Flying to Dalaman with Monarch puts travellers in close proximity to several destinations boasting supreme natural beauty. While mega resorts have mushroomed up all along the coast, Butterfly Valley, which is a half-hour drive from Fethiye is a secluded oasis only reachable by taxi boat for 15 Turkish lira. Tents and tepees are available on site, and prices vary from 10 lira (in March) to 34 lira in the summer high season. Described as a sort of Garden of Eden for butterflies, this picturesque canyon—far from other tourists—attracts hikers, photographers and hippy travellers, who prefer taking it slow. Although not the best place to interact with locals, Butterfly Valley, offers a wonderful chance to connect with the natural landscape without being bombarded by sightseer activities.
Discover life by the seaside
If you prefer a less secluded atmosphere, cheap Bodrum flightswill land you in what was once a sleepy fishing village with crystalline views of the Aegean Sea. Home to a population of 33,000 people the peninsula thrives with the quiet routines of anglers, farmers, and boat builders. The summers tend to be overrun with cruise boats, yachts and tour buses, but even then there are plenty of activities that speak to the true feel of this seaside outpost. Before you’re tempted to visit the medieval Castle of St. Peter and the Halicarnassus Mausoleum—one of the seven wonders of the world ease into provincial way of life by taking time to savour a few essential Turkish pastimes.
Have a cup of coffee
There is no better way to start the day than to find a café overlooking the moon-shaped harbor below. One could argue that coffee culture got its start in Turkey, with one of the first coffee shops opening in Istanbul in the 1500s. Turkish coffee is amazing—both thick and syrupy, it is brewed from finely ground beans and boiled in a long handled cezve, poured into tiny cups, and sweetened to taste. You can still find traditional shops that roast their coffee over wood fires, and you won’t miss the screeching steam wand sounds of westernized coffee shops.
Bathe like the Turks
Another essential experience is visiting a local Turkish bath, or hamam. At the Bardakçi Hamam, founded in 1749, men and women bath separately, and treatments typically entail sitting in a doomed steam room, laying on heated marble slabs, getting scrubbed down with abrasive gloves (sounds worse than it feels), followed by a soapy lather rubdown, and a message with scented oils. Full service is about 50 lira, far below the sky high prices found at local hotels. Many claim they’ve never felt so clean and relaxed.
Indulge in the catch of the day
There’s no better follow up to a Turkish bath than a quiet meal with origins from the Aegean sea. The trick to finding great local seafood is to walk down to the ports and chat with local anglers and perhaps share some fishing tales. A plate of cold octopus or cured blue fish will leave you feeling as content as a sultan.
Disclaimer: This is a contributed post.