Take Time To Explore Turkey's Unique Culture

23 April 2019
Alamy Stock Photo
Adventure, culture and relaxation – the republic has all that you need for a perfect romantic getaway

With a history dating back 4000 years and geography straddling Asia and Europe, Turkey makes for a unique cultural journey. From jaw-dropping beaches and rugged mountains to buzzing city-centres and centuries-old historic towns, this is a country worth your time. But more than that, Turkey is proving to be the ultimate couples’ destination, too. Whether you’re looking for a honeymoon hotspot, a romantic getaway or simply a place to relax and recoup with your significant other, here’s how to nail an all-in-one trip.

Go big in Istanbul

With a population of 15 million, the Turkish capital is a bustling city at heart, and for tourists and travellers, a hub like no other. Having served as a focal point for empires through the ages, Istanbul is an eclectic adventure.

It’s amongst the very best cities in the East, a coming together of glittering mosques, colourful markets, and a modern set that’s defining a fresh, influential and emerging culture.

You’re spoilt for options to rest your head. There’s a Soho House outpost that feels at once true to the institution’s London roots, yet unmistakably Turkish.
For hotel of choice? The W Instanbul. Prepare to be wowed by the rooms, amenities and overall atmosphere. (We have a working theory that, yeah, that W stands for ‘wow’.)

Kick up your feet or get active, exploring the historic neighborhood of Akaretler – an upscale slice of the city filled with a neverending array of restaurants, cafes and galleries.

Istanbul - Alamy Stock Photo

For inventive Anatolian cuisine with quite possibly some of the best views in the world, eat at the renowned Mikla restaurant – voted No. 44 in the World’s Best 50 Restaurants list. Enjoy the quaint ambiance and fine-dining offerings and the perfect spot for a discreet dinner date.

Peak Istanbul is the collision of unwavering tradition and brash modernity. For the full-on moment of romance, lean toward the former and close things out with a boat tour on the Bosphorus – the strait separating Europe from Asia.

Opt for a sunrise or sunset package and soak in the beautiful surroundings by dawn or dusk. Trust us on this one: the day’s bookends are the perfect times to experience Istanbul at its very, very best.

Take the high road to Cappadocia

Cappadocia is surreal. You might think that anywhere that files ‘fairy chimneys’ under its list of attractions will subscribe to that notion, but even so, this place takes some beating.

From the bucket-list hot air balloon ride, to the heart-swelling colour scheme of burnt reds and scorched yellows, to the aforementioned chimneys – they’re natural rock formations, now you’re asking. This is an experience you don’t forget in a hurry.

Cappadocia doesn’t restrict itself to mid-air moments, however. Stay at Kelebek Special Cave hotel (yes, cave). It’s one of the many underground options in Cappadocia and you’re encouraged to embrace the experience. If you’re still unsure, here are the highlights: luxury cave suite, great food and traditional hammam bath treatment. Let’s call it the classic Turkish triple threat.

Once you’ve come to ground, make a booking at Lil’a restaurant. Here, traditional Turkish cuisine meets the contemporary flavours of a region influenced by an array of different cultures and civilisations. The menu is packed with organic ingredients sourced from local farmers, too, which boosts local regeneration projects while packing astonishingly good flavour. Really, it’s a moment to relax in one of the most idyllic locations in the region.

To walk it off, get your hiking boots on. For the moments you’re not in the sky or underground, the region offers some trails to get happily lost on. Aim for the Ihalara Valley, Ürgüp and Göreme for some of the best Cappadocia has to offer.

Get swept up in Alaçatı

If great food, pristine beaches butting heads with the Aegean and colourful backdrops entice you, then the vibe-driven town of Alaçatı should be on your list. This is a popular weekend spot for the rich and famous looking to fly under the radar – think what the Hamptons is to New York – and as such, you should come here expecting to unwind in style.

If you visit, aim for a boutique accommodation like Alavya. This once popular outdoor cinema-turned-hotel offers guests a tranquil, peaceful stay in a collection of six restored historic houses. A stunning stone-built settlement, here you can do yoga on the terrace or go for a dip in your private pool for maximum couples’ relaxation points.

Alaçatı - Almaty Stock Photo

Hailed as one of the best dining experiences in Alaçatı, Agrilia is renowned for its unbeatable location, on-point ambiance and out of this world menu. Book a table and retire to the tree-filled courtyard for braised beef and beetroot puree, or perhaps just to snack on calamari. Either way it’s you living your best life (while eating your best food).

Now let’s be clear, this is a town that inspires you to strip back and relax. To do nothing and feel good about it. But if you can manage it, go for stroll. Just a wander around the bougainvillea-shrouded cobbled streets is an experience worth savouring – whether on your own or as a duo.

Beach life at Bodrum

Situated on a peninsula stretching into the Aegean Sea, Bodrum has enjoyed a real buzz  in recent years, thanks to its Mediterranean-like backdrop, dreamy weather, pristine beaches, and no shortage of grand architecture.

When visiting Bodrum, a stop-off at Yahsi Beach is a must, even if the beach isn’t your natural habitat. The picturesque stretch of coastline from Cesme to Alanya is known as the Turkish Turquoise Coast – all crystal-clear water, it’s truly a sight to witness, with Yahsi Beach its crown jewel.

Stay at the all-new The Bodrum Edition. Redefining luxury in the Turkish Riviera, Edition Bodrum is an elegant, boutique-driven hotel with rooms including private pools, balconies looking out to the Aegean Sea, and lush gardens just ripe to wander.  If you’ve stayed at an Edition, you know what to expect: immaculate detail, discreet service and on-point interiors.

When in town, make a beeline for Zeytin Altı; a Turkish restaurant off the beaten track offering delicacies such as mezze, gözleme (stuffed flatbreads) and fresh seafood, with Turkish coffee. It’ll equip you well for the night ahead. You see, no trip to Bodrum is complete without partaking of the legendary nightlife. Many of the city’s renowned bars and clubs are open all night long, so head out late and take life at a leisurely pace – the locals will approve.

Go trekking in Antalya

Antalya truly embodies the notion of serenity, something that you’ll come to experience pretty quickly in this gorgeous gateway to Turkey’s southern Mediterranean region.

Antalya - Almaty Stock Photo

Pitch up for the night at Olympos Mountain Lodge (you’ll need a car for this one), located just on the outskirts of Antalya in the Beydağları Coastal National Park. Set amid a forest of pine and cedar trees in Turkey’s high country, you’ll find a rustic, charming stay combined with iMac-esque mountain views and one of the region’s finest hiking trails – the 509km-long Lycian Way.

When the trail goes dry, maintain the view by booking a table at Nejak Balik: a true hidden gem in the heart of Antalya. With a legendary seafood menu, this is the perfect spot for those looking to bridge the gap between casual and fine dining – a space you really should capitalise on.

However, when you are travelling with a partner and looking to take things to the next level (we’re talking proposal or perhaps, apology), then a visit to Düden Waterfalls comes highly recommended. A picnic overlooking a waterfall is the play here, and much like Antalya itself… it delivers.