Turkish delight: all you need to know about Turkey

Travel trends are forever evolving; travellers are more attracted to visiting destinations that were previously less explored. With over-tourism in certain areas on the rise, many travellers are opting for the road less travelled, or rather, less mainstream, but which offer major city attractions and beauty.

Turkey is the embodiment of such a destination.

Over the years, the country has seen an increase in tourism, with tons of South Africans (couples, families, and groups of friends) choosing Turkey as their holiday of choice. A direct flight (with Turkish Airlines) from SA will get you to Turkey in just under 10 hours, making it super easy to reach.  Although you may have overlooked this country in the past, there are many reasons it should move up on your bucket list. According to Trading Economics, the number of foreigners visiting Turkey increased 38.48% year-on-year to 1.461 million in January of 2018.

Similarly, travellers are also leaning more towards experiential tourism which is oriented towards local culture immersion, connecting with the community and developing a deeper understanding of the destination beyond sightseeing and checking countries off the bucket list.

Take it from Jono Bruton, founder of online South African surf brand, Dead Reckoning who recently spent some time in Turkey.

One way Jono immersed himself was to eat with the locals:

“Don’t get caught up in the hotel vibe and eat at the hotel restaurant or at touristy places. Food can be expensive that way and you are looking at about R350 for a really small piece of really bad steak. Go out and explore the back roads, especially if you are staying near the Blue Mosque in Fatih, there are really cool market stalls and buffet type eating establishments that locals chow at and you will get a better meal with a great vibe for R50.”

This is a great budget friendly tip to make your hard-earned Rands go a long way!

Obtaining a visa for Turkey is a breeze. Since the application is done online, there’s no endless paperwork and you get to skip the spiraling queues at the embassy. South African passport holders visiting Turkey on holiday can simply fill out an online application, submit, wait for email confirmation and print your e-Visa. It really is that easy!

With the barriers to entry eliminated, you are probably tempted to start packing.

Well, you should. No matter what kind of traveller you are, Turkey has something for everyone from solo adventures to family vacations. Hit two birds with one stone. Istanbul, the capital of Turkey, is split in the middle between Europe and Asia. Opened in 2013, the Marmaray metro line makes it possible to cross the two continents underground all while in one country. More buck for your money wouldn’t you say?

A bonus point is Istanbul’s efficient transport system.  There are metro trams, trains, buses and ferries that can all be paid for on one single card which you can purchase at the arrivals in the airport. It’s like a Gautrain card except you can go everywhere on any mode of public transport at a fraction of the cost of the Gautrain. The metro trains here are fast and efficient; every two minutes a new train stops, and entry is about R10 which will take you however far you need to go. You may be tempted to catch a cab if you get a bit lost and can’t find the rail stops but keep in mind, cost and time for this as traffic is heavily congested, so try avoid having to catch cabs or Uber vehicles (yes, Uber works in Istanbul).

While you’re there, be sure to visit the Hagia Sophia – once a church and a mosque.  Hagia Sophia is one of the most beautiful museums in the world housing mosaics, calligraphy and tiles. Turkey is also home to the world’s oldest mall dating back to the 15th Century. Lose yourself in the maze that is Grand Bazaar with over 5000 shops spread over 60 streets.

A huge part of travelling and experiencing a new culture is exploring the local cuisine. In the case of Turkey, the choices are limitless; from sweet desserts such as Turkish delights, to savoury dishes and of course, coffee! The combination of flavours, spices and ingredients are blended together to form dishes historically influenced by cultures including the Greeks, Ottomans, middle eastern and Balkans. If you are in Istanbul, street food is pretty much a way of life. Why not indulge in the ever popular kebab which is made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, Turkish cuisine is a feast for all senses.

It is said that Turkish coffee is not a flavour but rather an experience. It takes a lot of skill to brew a great pot of coffee. Not only do you get to indulge in the rich flavours and aroma, but once you’re finished, the host usually turns your coffee cup upside down to study the grounds and read your fortune.

Art fanatics are in for a real treat, because Istanbul boasts a vibrant and exciting art scene. The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) has organised the Istanbul Biennial since 1987. The contemporary art show enables a dialogue between artists and the audience through the work of the artists instead of a national representation model. The Istanbul Biennial takes place every two years and is ranked amongst the top in the world.

Traveling to Turkey as a family? There is no better selling point to the kids than visiting Santa’s alleged place of birth. An all-inclusive holiday package from Club Med will ensure that all your needs are catered to. Palmiye Hotel is a haven of peace and tranquility and is one of Club Med’s most beautiful resorts. It is an ideal family destination with something for everyone from the age of four months old.

Now all that is left is for you to contact us (or visit our boutique in Design Quarter), book your all-inclusive holiday, pack a bag and jet off! Turkey is truly a destination where you widen your world.