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Check your Midnight Express stereotypes at the door - Turkey is a rapidly modernizing country with one foot in Europe and one in the Middle East. It's not all oriental splendor, mystery, intrigue and whirling dervishes but it is a spicy maelstrom of history knocking up against a fast-paced present.
The Turkish people have an unrivalled reputation for hospitality, the cuisine is to die for, the coastline is a dream, and many Turkish cities are dotted with spectacular mosques and castles. And while costs are rising, Turkey remains one of the Mediterranean's bargain-basement destinations.
TURKEY TOURS & TRAVEL:
ISTANBUL Tours, Travel and Activities
Straddling the Bosphorus, its skyline studded with domes and minarets, Istanbul is one of the truly great romantic cities. Its history tracks back from Byzantium to Constantinople to its place at the head of the Ottoman Empire. Today it hums as Turkey's cultural heart and good-time capital.
In this sprawling, continent-spanning city you can tramp the streets where crusaders and janissaries once marched; admire mosques that are the most sublime architectural expressions of Islamic piety; peer into the sultan's harem; and hunt for bargains in the Grand Bazaar.
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ANKARA Tours, Travel and Activities
When Ataturk moved the Turkish capital from Istanbul to Ankara in 1923 he turned his back on the Bosporus, the spectacular Ottoman mosques and the Topkapi Palace. Modern Ankara has its inviting quarters - most notably the citadel area, which gets better by the year - but in the eyes of most visitors it will always play second fiddle to Istanbul.
Originally called Angora, Ankara once flourished on the trade in the fine, soft hair of Angora goats. Today, its prime concern is government - it's a city of ministries, embassies, universities, medical centers and some light industry.
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ANTALYA Tours, Travel and Activities
Set on the Gulf of Antalya (Antalya Korfezi), this burgeoning city commands a superb position overlooking a sweeping beach towards the soaring Bey Mountains (Beydaglar?). Sophisticated, liberal Antalya has all the amenities of big city life - fine museums, restaurants, bars and clubs - but has also preserved the charming old quarter of Kaleici, whose walls once repelled raiders but now serve to keep traffic out of its narrow streets and courtyards.
Though always a busy port (trading with Crete, Cyprus and Egypt), Antalya has grown explosively since the 1960s.
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IZMIR Tours, Travel and Activities
Although it has a dramatic setting around a bay backed by mountains, most of Izmir is modern, which makes it a hard city in which to fall in love with at first sight. Give it a chance and you may find Turkey's third-largest city growing on you. However, for most people it will be a place to skip through as quickly as possible.
Nowadays, the sea-facing Kordon is a great place for jogging, cycling, walking the dog and just plain lounging about, while the northern district of Alsancak is being steadily restored, its lovely old Chios-style houses metamorphosing into inviting restaurants and bars.
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KUSADASI Tours, Travel and Activities
About 13mi (20km) from Selcuk is Kusadasi, which, at first glance, is as much of a shameless tourist trap as any cruise-ship port. In summer, it becomes swollen out of all recognition with package holiday-makers from Europe.
However, outside high season it is a laidback town with some lovely beaches and stunning views. A room at a nice pension with a rooftop terrace makes a great base for excursions to the ancient cities of Ephesus, Priene, Miletus and Didyma. Plus, the nightlife is cheesy but full on, and the city's taxi fleet includes a number of very cool, bright-yellow 1960s Chevrolet Impalas.
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MARMARIS Tours, Travel and Activities
Marmaris is an important port city and a tourist destination on the Mediterranean coast, located in southwest Turkey, in the Mugla Province. Marmaris' main source of income for the city is tourism. As opposed to Bodrum, Alacati or similar Turkish coastal towns, its traditional architectural tissue has been less vividly preserved due to a construction boom of the 1980s, but Marmaris still retains its charm due to the exceptional natural beauty of its location. The district's population is estimated to reach 300,000-400,000 people during the tourism season.
It is also a major center for sailing, possessing two major and several smaller marinas. It is a popular wintering location for hundreds of cruising boaters. There are regular ferry services to the Greek island of Rhodes, and large cruise ships call at the port.
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