Why Turkey Should Be on Any History Buff’s Bucket List

Morgan Garrett

Nestled between the Mediterranean and Black Sea is the beautiful and historical country of Turkey. The capital, Istanbul, is in the far west of the country and sits on the banks of the Bosporus Strait. The little strip of water separates Europe from Asia. This beautiful city boasts gorgeous architecture, stunning sunsets, and delicious cuisine. Along with all the beauty, Turkey is one of the best places for any history buff to add to their bucket list.

The original Turkish lands were once the ancient regions of Thrace and Anatolia. Throughout the centuries, it transitioned to the Byzantines, the Ottoman Empire, and finally became the Republic of Turkey in the 1920’s. This rich history is still very alive and represented throughout Turkey, and this country holds some of the most intact and well-preserved ruins around the globe.

During my time in Turkey, we spent several days in Istanbul, traveled down to the coast of Ionia, and finally to central Turkey to visit the lunar landscapes of Cappadocia. While in Istanbul there are several sites that are must see as well as plenty of smaller places to explore and discover off the beaten path.

While in Istanbul you should make sure not to miss the following sites:

  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque – also known as the famous “Blue Mosque” this beautiful architectural masterpiece is one of the city’s most highlighted sites. The 6 minarets make it an icon for Istanbul. Remember that you should be conservatively dressed and shoe removal will likely be required.
  • Hagia Sophia – This gorgeous basilica dates to the Byzantine period. The inside walls are coated in colorful and historical mosaics and should not be missed! There is also some great and safe street food around this area that I highly recommend trying.
  • Topkapi Palace – this Ottoman sultan palace is not only structured masterfully but also full of historical significance! Guided tours can provide you with a full background of the Ottoman treasures here.
  • Basilica Cistern – This spooky, underground, historical figure was once the main underground water source for Romans during their rule over the region. The magnificent marble columns are breathtaking!
  • Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar – Both shopping meccas are a must do during your time here! The colors, smells, and sights are something you will never forget and a great place to try traditional Turkish snacks and spices and buy souvenirs!

While it is a bit of a hike away from Istanbul, I can’t stress enough how amazing the ruins of Ephesus are. This beautiful ancient city was created in the 10thth century BC during a period of Greek migration. For the best and most unobstructed views hire a guide to take you at sunrise before it opens to the public. While it may be a bit costlier, it really makes a world of difference to see it in the quiet and at your leisure. While in the ruins be sure not to miss these specific places:

  • Library of Celsus
  • Temple of Artemis (one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world
  • The “terrace houses” from the Roman period
  • The amphitheater
  • Harbor road
  • Temple of Hadrian
  • The Gate of Augustus
  • Tomb of John the Apostle
  • House of the Virgin Mary

If you wanted to take a few extra days and travel to Cappadocia, the best way there is by plane. There aren’t many museums, but the entire landscape is a museum. The Gorme Open Air Museum is a great example and will provide you with a better understanding of the dwelling places and some of the rock formations that reside here.

Turkey is a beautiful country rich in history, culture, food, and architecture. If you are looking for a unique trip full of religious sites, historical ruin, gorgeous landscapes, and spicy, rich foods then Turkey is a great option for you!  As always, happy traveling!