The Most Authentic Places to Escape to in Turkey that Will Make You Feel Like a Local
Whether it’s the pristine beaches, jaw-dropping natural landscapes or historic cities that draw you to Turkey, you’re sure to have an incredible family trip. Highlights of the country include Istanbul, the only city in the world to straddle two continents. Cappadocia, where a warren of underground villages and cities have to be seen to be believed. Finally, there’s Fethiye, one of the country’s premier beach locations, popular with families across Europe. But what if you want your children to experience Turkey the way the locals do? Here are some of the best places to visit and experiences to enjoy in Turkey for a truly authentic adventure.
Relax in a Hamam
A Hamam is a traditional Turkish bathhouse, and many working examples can still be found throughout the country. Usually constructed from marble, a Hamam is an architectural masterpiece, befitting of the experience of bathing in such a location. A typical Turkish bath involves being scrubbed with warm soapy water by a member of staff of the same sex as you. There is lots of steam and usually a relaxing massage at the end, perfect for relieving the stress we build up during our busy lives. Prudish western visitors may find the idea of public bathing to be somewhat horrifying, but it is a staple part of Turkish culture and a must-try if you’re after authentic experiences in the country.
Head to Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar
“You mean the Grand Bazaar”, I hear you say. Not if you’re after a more authentic day of bartering and sightseeing in Istanbul. As wonderful as the city’s Grand Bazaar is, it is a little too touristy these days. The Spice Bazaar is similarly as atmospheric, but also retains more of the traditions and ancient charm than its more famous neighbour. With around 85 different shops and stalls, visitors to the Spice Bazaar will be able to haggle with the local merchants for sweets, jewellery, dried nuts and yes, you guessed it, spices. Why not see who can grab the best bargain.
Pay your respects to Ataturk
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is one of the most famous names in Turkish history. The founding father of the Turkish Republic, he ruled the country from 1923 until his death in 1938 and was a crucial figure in the Turkish struggle for independence. Many Turks still travel to the capital, Ankara, to pay their respects to this hero of their country. Ataturk’s mausoleum is known as Anitkabir and is a monument befitting a man of his stature. Any visitor to the Turkish capital simply must join the throngs of both Turks and travellers who come to Anitkabir to pay their respects.
Unwind on Cirali Beach
Turkey’s tourism industry is crucial for its economy. As a result, entire towns, such as Fethiye and Marmaris have developed rapidly to cater for the demand from foreign travellers for hotels, restaurants, bars and beaches. But for the locals, there are some more quiet hidden gems where they can enjoy a day at the beach whilst avoiding the crowds. One of the best of these is the shingle Cirali Beach, located around an hour from the city of Antalya. The beach is hidden in the middle of nowhere, located close to the ruins of Olympos and near a WWF-protected reserve where endangered loggerhead sea turtles’ nest. Cirali Beach boasts turquoise waters and few amenities, which combined with its remote location, means you are likely to be amongst the only people on the beach at any one time. No loud motor boats, plastic sun loungers or pulsating music to bother you.
Tuck into Baklava in Gaziantep
Baklava is famous around the world; this Turkish sweet treat being made from layered pastry with a filling of chopped nuts and honey. The south-eastern city of Gaziantep is probably Turkey’s Baklava capital, and it even has its own variety of Baklava (using pistachio) which is protected by the European Commission! But the city is nowhere near the tourist trail, and there are plenty of establishments in more popular destinations, including Istanbul, where the dessert is available. Karakoy Gulluoglu is probably the most famous place in the city where you can try it. Offering authentic Turkish Baklava with a variety of different fillings, it is popular with locals and tourists alike.
As a huge destination for European summer travellers, it is little surprise that you sometimes have to look a little harder for authentic experiences in Turkey, to really delve into the country’s culture amongst all the beach resorts and luxury hotels. But there are plenty of examples to be found. Whether haggling inside a traditional market, sampling the local cuisine or hanging out on the hidden beaches known only to locals, there are numerous ways you can make your trip to Turkey extra special.