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The sun sets over the Istanbul skyline in Turkey.

Sidling up along the magical Mediterranean coast is tenacious Turkey, a young country famous for having one foot in the East and one foot in the West. Founded in 1923, this country may be young, but the land it inhabits is home to some of the world’s oldest history.

Culture

Turks are proud of their country and they will waste no time giving you a thorough history with questionably accurate details. If, however, you decide to sit down for a cup of coffee and listen to what your new Turk friends have to share, you’re guaranteed to have made new friends for life. One famous Turkish proverb accurately describes the Turkish people with saying, 'A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship.'

We weren’t exaggerating above either; Turkey quite literally has one foot in the east and one foot in the west, seeing as it straddles the line between Europe and Asia. In the more northwestern areas of the country you’ll find European influences among the people and in the Southeastern areas, you’ll notice a stronger Asian influence. It is the best country to visit when you want to experience both Europe and Asia.

The official language in Turkey is Turkish and can be a difficult language to learn if you aren’t accustomed to it. In this country, many of the younger generations know English, but are not necessarily fluent. As you travel farther outside large cities, finding locals who can speak or understand English becomes more and more rare. So, when you are touring the area, be sure to have a phrasebook with you so you can at least point and gesture as you try to communicate.

If you have a background in German, Dutch, or French, due to migration, you can likely find at least one person in even the most rural areas that can speak one of these languages. So, if learning Turkish isn’t an option for you, brush up on your high school German and you’ll have a leg up over others.

Seasonality

Turkey is roughly three times the size of the United Kingdom and has an even larger diversity in terrain. With five major sections of the country, each has its own particular climate and fluctuations. With such diverse temperatures and climates all around this region, you will have to significantly adjust your packing choices depending on where you are visiting and what time of the year you plan to visit.

Aegean Region

Right along the Mediterranean coast, you can expect this area to have those nice Mediterranean temperatures with a warm ocean temperature of 23-28 degrees between May and October. In the winter, the temperatures will be mild and some rain can be expected.

Sea of Marmara Region

For areas like Istanbul, right around the Sea of Marmara, you will find very warm summers with hardly any rain and fairly cold winters with a fair amount of snow around the coastal areas. The water temperatures in the summer are a bit chillier than the Mediterranean, hovering around 20-24 degrees, leaving the swimming season only in the very warm summer months. The snow that does appear along the coastal areas won’t be as dramatic as some of the other regions of the country.

Black Sea Region

This is the rainiest part of the country, where you’ll be treated to warm, humid summers and cool, damp winters. If you were planning to head to the Black Sea for some beach fun, you may want to look elsewhere. Do come to this region to check out the Chorokhi River, though, considered one of the world's best rafting rivers.

Interior Areas

In areas like Ankora, you can generally expect hot summer days with cooled-down summer nights. The winter is harsher with cold and snowy weather, especially the farther East you head. The Far East areas of the country will have heavier snow fall and the northeastern areas will have cool, rainy summers rather than the sunny, warmth of the Mediterranean.

Southeastern Areas

Down near Syria, these areas will have a more desert-like climate with temperatures typically looming around 40 degrees in the summer and with occasional snowfall in the winter. Please be advised that travel to this area is considered very dangerous by Smartraveller and should be avoided. They suggest exercising a high degree of caution for your entire trip in Turkey due to the threat of terrorism attacks, but especially for any part that borders Iraq, Iran and Syria.

Travel Tips

Take a few precautions before heading off to Turkey to save yourself from a heap of trouble when you get there. Consider travel insurance as a back-up plan for this international holiday as well. You’ll get a bunch of benefits and added protection for a small payment.

Visa Requirements

In order to visit this country, you will need to obtain an e-visa. It will be good for 90 days and you can easily obtain one from the Turkish government’s e-visa website.

When Not to Visit

Turkey is primarily an Islamic country, meaning that there are many holidays throughout the year when traffic and travelling here can become a major inconvenience. It may be best to avoid these times and book your holiday for a different time when travel and accommodations will be more flexible and available.

Ramadan

The Islamic holiday of Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims worldwide observe this holiday as a fasting holiday. During this time, Muslim people do not eat or drink from dawn until sunset, so you may notice that many restaurant owners will close their establishments to take trips or make repairs to their shops. This could cause some inconvenience during travel, especially in rural areas. However, in the larger cities you should not have a problem with this, many restaurants will still be open and as a visitor you will not be considered rude to eat during the fasting period of the day. Be aware though, you should refrain from eating or drinking in public as it may be offensive to some.

Kurban Bayrami

Also known as the Feast of Sacrifice, this celebration lasts for three days and may cause for booked hotels and much traffic, especially in larger cities. It is best to avoid this time if you don’t like traffic. However, if you want an interesting, authentic experience of the Turkish culture, jump right in.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Giuseppe Milo</em>