World Travel Guides


Turkey - Off the beaten track


Shepherd and his flock on the hills near Afyon in the North Aegean Region

Gallipoli Peninsula

Today the Gallipoli battlefields are peaceful places covered in scrubby brush, pine forests and farmers' fields, but this strategic peninsula has held the key to Istanbul for a millenium. Momentous battles have been fought here, including the 9 months of ferocious combat between Atatürk's troops and the Allies in WWI. Gallipoli is a fairly large area to tour, especially without your own transport (it's over 35 km (22mi) from the northernmost battlefield to the southern tip of the peninsula). The two best bases for a visit are Çanakkale on the eastern shore, and Eceabat on the western, from which several companies run tours. Talk to other travellers before choosing a tour, as some guides tend to rush their charges around. The great battles of Gallipoli are commemorated each year during March (usually from the 12th to 19th) and it can be a bit tricky getting a hotel during this time. Ferries run from Eceabat, 45km (28mi) south-west of Gelibolu, across the Dardanelles to Çanakkale.

Harran

Harran, in Kurdish southeastern Anatolia, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited spots on earth. The hills around the town are surrounded by crumbling walls and topped with ruined buildings and it all looks so deeply ancient that it's not hard to believe Abraham was one of Harran's early inhabitants. There's a fortress on the eastern side of the town, and some good mosaics in the 8th century Ulu Cami (a mosque).

Today's residents, some of whom still live in quaint beehive-shaped mud houses, get by on a mix of farming, smuggling and the sniff of wealth as water starts to filter through from the vast Southeast Anatolia Project (a dam). There's not much in the way of accommodation in Harran; most visitors base themselves in Urfa, 37km (23mi) west, which has good bus connections to the rest of Turkey.

Troy

When amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated Troy in 1871, the pants of classical studies boffins around the world became decidedly damp. Up to this time, Homer's Iliad was assumed to be based on legend, but post-digs, Troy becomes the Homeric city of Ilium, site of an epic battle between the Achaeans (Greeks) and the Trojans in the 13th century BC. Excavations by Schliemann and others have revealed nine ancient cities, one on top of another, dating back to 3000 BC. Troy VI (1800-1275 BC) is the city of Priam and the one that engaged in the Trojan War.

For afficionados this is all amazing, but unless you've read the Iliad, or have a keen appreciation of archaeology, you may find little of interest in Troy. Apart from a hokey replica of the Trojan horse, there's little to catch the amateur eye. That said, this is the site of one of the world's grandest tales, so soaking up the atmosphere should be just about enough. Troy is a 30km (19mi) dolmus ride from Çanakkale, which is linked by buses to most Turkish cities.

Valley of the Fairy Chimneys - Cappadocia

Many Cappadocian valleys boast collections of strange volcanic cones, but the ones near Aktepe in northern Cappadocia are the best-formed and most thickly clustered. Most of the rosy rock cones are topped by flattish, darker stones of harder rock which sheltered the cones from the rain which eroded all the surrounding rock. This process is known to geologists as differential erosion but you can just call it kooky.

Uçhisar, to the southwest, is dominated by the Kale, a tall rock outcrop riddled with tunnels and windows, and visible for miles around. There's a pleasant walk to Göreme along the signposted Dovecote Valley, where the rockface is riddled with holes cut to attract nesting pigeons and their valuable fertiliser-providing droppings. Nevşehir, southwest of Göreme, is the main transport hub for this region: buses from all over the country stop here.



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