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Turkey Back

Travel the Silk Road from Istanbul

Turkey is a rapidly-modernising secular state - it has its religious roots firmly entrenched in Islam, however the religion does not dominate the culture as it does in some of Turkey's neighbours. The Turks are friendly to visitors, the cuisine is a savoury surprise, and the cities are dotted with majestic old buildings. Turkey's topography ranges from Mediterranean coast to the high rugged mountains of Eastern Turkey. The country combines stunning scenery, immense history and wonderful beaches.

Turkey's largest city is the exotic land of Istanbul - once the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, and then the centre of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul is a bewildering city packed full of archaeological sites and culture. It is home to the fabulous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Topkapı Palace. There are restaurants, galleries, bars and clubs that scatter across the city, and of course home to the bewildering Grand Bazaar and several traditional Turkish bath houses.

Cappadocia's 'fairy chimneys'

In the heart of Cappadocia is the town of Göreme. Known as the Enchanted Valley, this is a fantastic region of cones, needles and columns fashioned by nature from erosion of the rock. It is honeycombed with caves scooped out to make churches and dwellings that are known as fairy chimneys and castles.

The most interesting are the rock chapels and frescoes of Göreme, the monastic complex of Zelve and the fairy chimneys of Avcilar. Nearby are the remains of underground cities used by the Early Christians to avoid persecution, the most extensive of which housed up to 50,000 people at any one time.

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