Even now, we meet people who are surprised to learn the country of Turkey excels in tourism and foreign real estate sales. From eastern regions to Aegean and Mediterranean coastal plains, this incredibly diverse country is nothing short of spectacular. Yet, Turkey remains off the radar for many people who have bought into stereotypes or are confused about geography. Get ready though, because anyone that is prepared to give the country one try, can expect an intriguing journey that will surprise and delight them.
With that in mind, we have written this introduction guide to Turkey to help anyone considering veering away from traditional tourism and expat hotspots like Spain. Whether you plan to visit for the first time or are looking to buy property for a summer home or permanent living, this article will prove why Turkey deserves your attention.
About The Country of Turkey
1: History and Where the Country Began
Turkey's history can be traced back to the dawn of civilisation. The Anatolian Peninsula, where modern Turkey is located, was home to settlements dating from the 6th century BCE. Then, the Hittites, an Indo-European people, established a powerful kingdom in central Anatolia around 1600 BCE.
Greek and Roman Influences: The Hittites eventually yielded to the Assyrians and later the Phrygians, Lydians, and Urartians. However, Greek Colonists made an indelible mark on Anatolia. Ionian city-states along the western coast thrived, and cities like Ephesus and Miletus became centres of Greek culture and learning. The 4th century BCE conquests of Alexander the Great brought Anatolia under Greek control. Later, Anatolia joined the Roman Empire in the 6th century.
Byzantine Empire: Emperor Justinian I ruled the Eastern Roman Empire, also called the Byzantine Empire. But the 6th century saw Nomadic Avars establish themselves in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. The 11th century witnessed the Seljuk Turks gradually expand their territory westward into Anatolia (modern-day Turkey).
Ottoman Empire Glory: In the 13th century, a tiny Anatolian principality emerged and would dominate Turkish history for centuries. The Ottoman Empire was founded by Osman I around 1299 in northwestern Anatolia. A pivotal moment was the capture of Constantinople in 1453 by Sultan Mehmed II, marking the end of Byzantine rule. The Ottomans expanded into Anatolia, the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East, becoming a multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire.
Ottoman Decline and World War I: The 18th century saw significant change encompassing much of modern-day Turkey. The Ottoman empire reached its zenith in the 16th century under Suleiman the Magnificent but had suffered military defeats, territorial losses, and internal strife. World War I proved catastrophic for the Ottomans, who sided with Central Powers and suffered defeat. The empire was dismembered, and Western Asian remnants were divided among the victorious Allies.
2: The New Republic of Turkey is Born
Amid the aftermath of World War I, a visionary leader emerged: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Leading the Turkish War of Independence, Atatürk successfully repelled foreign forces and abolished the Ottoman monarchy. 1923, he formed the Republic of Turkey, with Ankara as the capital. Atatürk initiated sweeping reforms to modernise and secularise Turkey. He introduced a new legal system, replaced the Arabic script with the Latin alphabet, and granted women voting rights. The legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is still deeply ingrained in modern Turkey's political and cultural identity.
3: Is Turkey in Asia or Europe?
Perhaps the most confusing question, we are asked is whether Turkey is in Asia or Europe. Well, the country is in both. Much of Turkey's landmass, about 97%, is in western Asia, while a smaller portion, approximately 3%, lies in southeastern Europe. Istanbul, which is Turkey's largest city, straddles the Bosphorus Strait and serves as a natural boundary between the two continents. European Turkey is called East Thrace, while the Asian portion is Anatolia or Asia Minor.
East Thrace, also known as Turkish Thrace or simply Thrace, is part of Turkey that lies west of the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara, bordering western and northern Greece, Bulgaria, and the southern Dardanelles Strait. East Thrace's diverse economy includes agriculture, industry, and commerce. The region's fertile soil supports wheat, sunflower, and tobacco crops. Asia Minor forms western Turkey, surrounded by the northern Black Sea, southern Mediterranean Sea, west Aegean Sea and mountainous regions of eastern Turkey. This is where much of the tourism industry happens.
4: Seven Geographical Regions of Turkey
Marmara Region: Home to Turkey's economic and cultural heart, Istanbul, the Marmara region covers the northwest part of the country and features the Marmara Sea, Bosphorus Straits and Golden Horn. For investors in Turkey, this is the go-to place because the location on the edge of Europe opens up even more possibilities and opportunities. As home to Istanbul, the Marmara region is also the top destination for tourism, education, health, and business.
Aegean Region: Moving southwest, we arrive in the Aegean Region, where history and nature intertwine seamlessly. Ancient cities like Ephesus and Troy beckon history enthusiasts, while the natural landmark terraces of Pamukkale are one of Turkey's top tourist attractions. The Aegean is also a hotspot for many expats and foreign property buyers looking at places like Izmir, Kusadasi, and Altinkum. The Bodrum peninsula is also famed for hosting famous celebrities, royalty and high-flying business people for decades. On the Bodrum peninsula coastline, there are often mega yachts sailing around.
Mediterranean Region: Heading south, we reach the Mediterranean Region, a haven for sun-seekers and history buffs alike. Antalya, with stunning beaches and Roman-era ruins, is a popular destination. Antalya refers to the city centre and the larger province covering the eastern Mediterranean. This is Turkey's number one spot for beach tourism. Hence, the region attracts many expats and those looking to buy summer holiday homes. Another prominent destination on the Med coast is beautiful Fethiye.
Anatolia: Venturing inland, we find Central Anatolia, a region steeped in history and natural wonders. The otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia, with fairy chimneys and cave dwellings, testify to nature's artistry. The ancient capital of the Hittites, Hattusa, and Turkey's modern capital, Ankara, glimpses into the country's historical and contemporary significance.
Black Sea Region: Turkey's Black Sea region, called Karadeniz (meaning Black Sea in Turkish), borders the Black Sea to the north and Eastern Anatolia and Central Anatolia regions to the south. The region encompasses rugged mountains, rolling plateaus, and fertile valleys. The climate, characterised by high levels of precipitation, results in humid subtropical climates. This abundant rainfall contributes to lush greenery and makes the area ecologically diverse. Locals, often called "Karadenizliler" or "Laz," are known for their warm hospitality and strong sense of community.
Eastern Anatolia: Mount Ararat, Turkey's highest peak, stands tall here. Ancient sites like Ani, once a thriving medieval city and bustling Erzurum city, glimpse into the region's historical significance. Eastern Anatolia is also home to Turkey's largest lake. Notable towns and places to visit include Kars, once occupied by the Russians and Van, which produces Turkey's best breakfast.
Southeastern Anatolia: Southeastern Anatolia, a region where history intertwines with the legendary Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, features amazing places like ancient Harran, with unique beehive-shaped houses, and Gobekli Tepe, the world's oldest known temple complex. Three main cities stand out here, including Gaziantep, once famously occupied by the French; Sanliurfa, believed by Muslims to be the birthplace of the prophet Abraham; and Mardin, featuring the old district architecture.
5: Government and Politics
Turkey operates as a parliamentary republic with a complex political landscape. The President of Turkey serves as the head of state and is elected by popular vote. As of 2023, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the head of government, held the office, and he has played prominent roles in Turkish politics for many years.
Turkey’s unicameral legislature called the Grand National Assembly (Turkish: Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi) consists of 600 members (deputies) elected through proportional representation systems. The assembly is responsible for making and passing laws. Several political parties exist in Turkey, including the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Republican People's Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).
Presidential elections are held every five years. In 2017, the central government held a constitutional referendum transitioning from a parliamentary system with a prime minister to a presidential one. Turkey's central government's foreign policy has evolved, with active involvement in regional issues like the Syrian Civil War, European Union relations, and NATO membership.
6: Demographics and Population
Turkey's population is estimated to be around 82-84 million people, making the country highly populous compared to countries in Europe and the Middle East. Turkey's majority ethnic group is Turks. Kurds are Turkey's most significant ethnic minority and primarily live in southeastern regions. Turkey is also home to various ethnic and religious minorities, including Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians. Additionally, large expat communities live in places like Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya and other areas along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Turkey really is a meeting point of cultures from across the globe.
Many Turks are Muslim, with many adhering to Sunni Islam and speaking the official language of Turkish. Turkey's relatively young population, sees many residents under the age of 30, and residing in urban areas. Significant cities like Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir are among Turkey's most populous and economically important cities. Education is compulsory for children between 6 and 18, and Turkey's mixed healthcare system includes public and private healthcare providers. Healthcare services have been expanding and improving in recent years.
7: Turkish Cuisine Across the Country
Turkish cuisine is renowned for diverse flavours, drawing influences from various regions and cultures due to Turkey's historical position between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. From the Sis kebab to the doner kebab, traditional Turkish breakfast, and various delicious breads, like simit, Turkish cuisine will delight when you spend time in this country. Soups are big business in Turkey, and many soup kitchens are open 24 hours. Do try mezes before your main meal. They are appetisers like hummus, stuffed grape leaves (dolma), yoghurt-based dishes, and various seafood options.
Desserts include Baklava, Kunefe, and, of course, for sweets, the traditional Turkish delight. Contrary to beliefs, Turkish coffee is only drunk occasionally, whereas Turkey is one of the world's biggest tea consumers. The northern, eastern city of Rize is the tea capital. Also, try Ayran, a blend of yoghurt, water and salt. Lastly, if you head to the coastlines, fresh fish and seafood factor in heavily in daily dishes.
8: UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey
Turkey is a historical region full of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These sites glimpse Turkey's ancient civilisations, architectural marvels, and breathtaking landscapes. Göreme National Park in ancient Cappadocia features spectacular fairy chimneys, cave dwellings, and rock-cut churches. These ancient dwellings, some dating back to the 4th century, tell stories of early Christian communities.
Historic Areas of Istanbul encompass iconic landmarks, including the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. As you wander through the winding streets of Sultanahmet, be immersed in this vibrant city that once served as the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Venturing southwestern Turkey, we encounter Hierapolis-Pamukkale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with stunning terraces of white travertine terraces filled with mineral-rich thermal waters. Journeying back, we arrive at Hattusha, the ancient Hittite capital in central Turkey. Other UNESCO World Heritage sites include ancient Ephesus, Xanthos and Letoon, Troy, Aphrodisias, and more.
9: Music in Turkey
Music has been an integral part of Turkish culture for centuries, with influences ranging from ancient Anatolian civilisations and the Islamic world. Classical music is central to Turkey's musical heritage, known as Türk Sanat Müziği (Turkish Art Music). This genre, characterised by intricate melodies and poetic lyrics, has Ottoman origins.
Explore the vibrant folk music of Anatolia, Thrace, and the Black Sea, each with distinct rhythms and instruments. Dive into traditional Turkish instruments like the saz, kemençe, and darbuka, and learn how their unique sounds contribute to Turkish music. Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, profoundly impacted Turkish music. Explore spiritual dimensions of Turkish music, as expressed through whirling dervishes' sema ceremonies.
As Turkey entered the modern era, popular music evolved to incorporate new influences and genres. Trace the evolution of Turkish pop music, rock, hip-hop, and electronic music. Discover the magic of events like the Istanbul Jazz Festival, the Konya Mystic Music Festival, and the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival. These gatherings showcase Turkey's commitment to preserving musical heritage while embracing innovation.
10: Major Cities of Turkey
Delightful Istanbul: Begin in Istanbul, Turkey's largest and most iconic city. Nestled on the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul bridges two continents, Europe and Asia and testifies to Turkey's rich history and diverse culture. European Istanbul features the country's top historical landmarks like the Hagia Sophia and Ottoman Blue Mosque. Aside from that, many global real estate investors head to Istanbul to cash in on the large, lifestyle developments being built on the outskirts of the city.
Intriguing Ankara: Ankara, the country's capital, differs significantly from Istanbul. Located in Anatolia, Ankara city portrays modernity and political significance. From the once-sleepy provincial town into a bustling metropolis and Turkey's political centre, Ankara is the heart of the country. Although Ankara doesn't rank highly on tourism routes, cultural gems include the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and its castle. In addition, Ankara also earns fame for prestigious universities and educational facilities.
Beautiful Izmir: Izmir, perched on the Aegean Sea, is Turkey's third-largest city and gateway to the stunning Turkish coastline. The name refers to the main city centre and the province famed for coastal resorts like Alacati and Cesme. Historically, Izmir always led Western trends in Turkey but lost this reputation to Istanbul. Still, the city attracts many working expats and retirees from around Turkey who want to experience Aegean charm. (More about major cities in Turkey.)
11: Economic Growth of Turkey
Turkey's rapid growth over the past few decades was remarkable, transforming the country from predominantly agricultural into a dynamic emerging market. Economic growth is seen in several industries, from the national airline carrier of Turkish Airlines to tourism, medical health, fashion and architecture.
Turkey's economic transformation began in 2001 when the government implemented structural reforms called the 2023 Vision Plan. But Turkey's young and growing population drives economic growth, and extensive labour forces contribute to increased production and consumption, making Turkey an attractive destination for foreign investors.
Turkey invested heavily in infrastructure projects, including transportation, energy, and telecommunications. Construction sectors experienced growth, driven by projects like Istanbul New Airport, high-speed rail networks, and urban development initiatives.
Turkey's tourism industry also experienced steady growth, attracting millions of visitors annually. Despite impressive growth, Turkey faced economic challenges, including currency volatility, high inflation rates, and a large current account deficit. But Turkey's original vision plan to diversify international markets withstood the impact. Turkey's economic diversification efforts have also extended to technology and digital sectors, with Istanbul attracting tech entrepreneurs and investors.
12: Constitutional Court of Turkey
Turkey's Constitutional Court (Türkiye Anayasa Mahkemesi) is a high-level judicial institution that interprets and upholds the Turkish Constitution. The court is a crucial component of Turkey's legal system to protect Turkish citizens' fundamental rights and freedoms. The court also reviews legislation passed by the Turkish Grand National Assembly (the country's parliament) to determine if the government complies with the Turkish Constitution.
Turkey's Constitutional Court is composed of 15 members, including a president. These judges are appointed by various authorities. The Republic President appoints three members, the Court of Cassation (high Court in Turkey) and the Council of State appoint six members, and the Grand National Assembly appoints four.
Turkey's Constitutional Court is an independent and impartial institution. Judges are selected on qualifications, experience, and legal expertise. A significant feature is the individual application mechanism, which allows Turkish citizens to directly apply when they believe their constitutional rights have been violated. This mechanism enables citizens to seek redress and protection of fundamental rights.
13: Turkish Armed Forces and Conscription
Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri in Turkish) is the unified military organisation responsible for Turkey's defence and security. As the region's largest and most powerful armed force, they play crucial roles in safeguarding Turkey's national interests and consist of three main branches: Turkish Land Forces (Kara Kuvvetleri): Turkish Naval Forces (Deniz Kuvvetleri): and the Turkish Air Force. Turkey's Armed Forces operate under unified command structures led by the Chief of General Staff (Genelkurmay Başkanı), the highest-ranking military officer responsible for coordination.
Turkey maintains conscription, and military service is compulsory for male citizens between 20 and 41. Length of service varies on levels of education. In addition to conscripts, Turkey's professional soldiers serve as career military personnel. Turkey also belongs to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and has participated in various NATO missions and operations.
More About Turkey
So, we hope have shown you Turkey is a global player in tourism and real estate. As the world’s 37th largest country, it is impossible to sum it all up, in one article. But our blog that talks about Turkish history, culture, food and places, as well as investing in property will be of use. In that case, the following articles will be helpful.
Many tour agencies sell around-the-country tours, and in addition, people travel independently to explore sites like the Greek city of Ephesus, the beaches of Antalya and the historical landmarks of Istanbul. Additionally, we discuss top places to visit in Turkey here and why they stand out. Otherwise, if you are looking at monetary gains, this article about investment in the country of Turkey will be of use.
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