An Intro to This Marvellous Country
Any first-time visitor who wants to learn more about Turkey is in for a pleasant surprise. To the outside world, the vast country may seem like a nation of kebab lovers, who love riding around on camels.
Yet, by-pass typical stereo types that are often wrong and delve under the surface into everyday living. This is where you will discover an incredibly intriguing country full of diversity and authenticity.
From people to places, a mass of quirky and unknown facts will peak your interest, and to get started, our introduction will also cement any burning desire to visit the country.
Basic Facts About Turkey
Language: Turkish which is a phonetic language (read more here )
Currency: Turkish lira (read our money tips for tourists here )
Time: Turkey is in the eastern European time zone making it GMT +3, however they do not adhere to daylight savings time, so are GMT +2 from March to October.
Power: Standard voltage is 220V, and they use Type F, two-prong power sockets, so check whether you need an adaptor.
Capital: Ankara (Formerly Istanbul until 1923)
Fun Geographical Facts
Often called the bridge between east and west, Turkey’s position and status on this globe are about much more than that. It covers 783,000 square kilometres that would take a lifetime to explore properly.
This land space breaks down into seven geographical regions including the black sea, Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean, central Anatolian, eastern Anatolian and south-eastern Anatolian Each one of these regions is unique and differs regarding climate, topography and flora and fauna.
This diversity from the flat Aegean plains and the central Anatolian lunar landscape to the steep, northeast Kackar mountains often makes people feel like they are visiting two different countries.
Other things to know include….
- It is the 37th largest country and spans two continents, making it a transcontinental nation.
- It is surrounded by three seas; the black, Mediterranean and Aegean, and has 7,200 kilometres of coastline.
- Eight countries border Turkey including Armenian, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Provinces of Turkey
To govern the country, Turkey breaks down into 81 different provinces, of which some are more famous than others for specific reasons. Istanbul, Izmir, Aydin, Mugla and Antalya are renowned tourist regions, while Trabzon enjoys worldwide demand for its hazelnuts and Rize is the tea production capital.
Gaziantep produces delicious pistachios nuts, while Turks go crazy for pure, authentic honey from Artvin. The list goes on, and aside from displaying intense diversity, discovering the claim to fame of each region is a fantastic way to learn about Turkey.
Turkey’s dominant religion is Islam. However it is not compulsory, and you will meet a mixture of while practising and non-practising Muslims. Five times a day, mosques perform the call to prayer, but many Turks only attend on Fridays, which is their holy day. Turkey has many historical mosques and tourists, whether Muslim or not, are widely encouraged to visit them, on the condition they adhere to dress standards.
People: Population and Ethnicity
Turkey is experiencing a population growth that currently stands at 78 million people but thanks to its historical timeline, the population has an incredibly diverse mix of ethnic groups, and meeting locals can be an exciting experience.
Ethnic Turks are the majority, while in the southeast, a large part of the population are Kurds. Heading to the North-coast, Laz communities trace their heritage back to Georgia, while Hemsin locals identify with Armenian.
Along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, some locals also have Greek heritage. Wherever you go in Turkey, conversations with locals reveal even more diverse heritages of this great country.
Culture, Traditions and Lifestyle
Naturally, thanks to Turkey’s diverse population, lifestyles vary from region to region. People living in the remote plateaus of the north-east are more self-reliant and live off the land, while residents of big cities like Istanbul enjoy a vibrant shopping and nightlife scene, fast food outlets and work in white collar jobs.
However, some cultural themes unite the whole of Turkey and can be seen wherever you go. The first is the importance of family. Turks are family orientated and have profound respect for the elderly, as well as children with their air of innocence. Food is also a gift from Allah, and many Turks enjoy sitting down for family dinners.
Turks also firmly believe in hospitality and view strangers as friends, hence why many tourists remark on the friendly and welcoming nature of Turks. Lastly, every day, thousands of glasses of sweet, black tea are served every day in homes, tea houses and gardens as well as places of work. It is a cultural part of daily life that every Turk practises. ( Read more about a Turkish culture and traditions in here )
Unravel the History
While the Ottomans often appear in books about Turkey’s history, its historical timeline is much more in-depth than that. Before the Ottoman era, other empires including the Byzantines, and Seljuks ruled triumphantly over these lands.
Lycians were also dominant on the Mediterranean coast as seen in their many ruined cities dotting the famous Lycian way. While Ionian Greeks built towns like Miletus, and Priene in Aegean Turkey, and the Hittite capital still stands in the central Anatolian region.
Let’s not forget conquests by Alexander the Great and the Persians, as well as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who in 1923 founded the Republic of Turkey that we know it as today. Anyone interested in history, will most certainly love learning about Turkey’s historical timeline but one place that is an excellent introduction and worth visiting is Istanbul.
As the largest city, Istanbul is a hub of business but its mass of things to do, and points of interest have made it the top tourism hub and most visited destination in the country. Many first-time visitors tour the Sultanahmet district that is home to the old city part and includes historical landmarks such as the blue mosque and Hagia Sophia.
When it comes to learning about Turkey, Istanbul is the most perfect introduction, and you can read more about the city, in our articles here.
Alternatively, you may also find the following articles of interest
- Our A to Z guide of Interesting facts about Turkey.
- First-time visitors will love these useful apps for travelling around Turkey.
- The country also has a large expat population. Find out which districts they prefer for living the Turkish dream.