Category Archives for "Turkey"

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Turkey.



Accomplished divers, head to Kanyön in Kas, an underwater canyon with elaborate rock formations and narrow passageways from 3-23 metres. There’s also a wreck – an airplane from World War II – lying at 50-plus metres. Beginners, even if you don’t make it to these depths, you’re still likely to spot turtles, seahorses and massive groupers.


the Uluburun shipwreck

Kas is also home to two shipwrecks worth seeing – one of which, the Uluburun, dates all the way back to the Bronze Age. Last, make a stop at Amphorae fields to spot ancient urns, vessels and amphorae, unspoiled and untainted since the time they were lost at sea. Diving companies like Bougainville and Naturablue sail to these sites every day. Next, mix things up, and book a day tour onboard a Turkish gulet from Çayagzı to the ancient sunken city of Kekova.


Ruins of Kekova City – Turkey

South Turkey has been an earthquake prone zone for thousands of years, which explains why an entire Lycian city comprised of Greco-Roman architecture broke off from the mainland and exists half submerged and perfectly preserved to this day. Your gulet – stocked with cold beers, bread, olives, cheese, tomatoes, fruit and fresh seafood to grill – will make stops at shallow bays and natural caves where you can free dive and snorkel past schools of parrot fish which inhabit the ruins of a civilization harking as far back as the Byzantine era. A glass bottom offers spectacular views of protected heritage zones and further west, you can dive into shallows that lead to the remains of an ancient chapel beached on shore.

Ephesus – Turkey

One of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world, Ephesus is a fine example of Classical architecture. A Greek city was first established here in around 1000 BC and it soon rose to prominence as a center for the worship of Cybele, the Anatolian mother goddess.

The city we see today was built by Alexander the Great’s successor, Lysimachus, in the 4th century BC. But it was under the Romans that Ephesus became the chief port in the Aegean. Most of the surviving structures date from this period. The city declined when the harbor silted up, but it played an important role in the spread of Christianity. It is said that the Virgin Mary spent her last days nearby, cared for by St. John the Evangelist, and two ecumenical councils of the early Church were held here in AD 431 and 449.



Ruins of Church of St. Mary at Ephesus

Occupying a place of particular significance in the development of Christianity, the Church of St. Mary, located near the entrance to the site, is believed to be the first church in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was here, in AD 431, that the Council of the Church accepted that Jesus, son of the Virgin Mary, was also the son of God. Used as a warehouse in the Roman era, the long, narrow building has been altered overtime and was at one point used for training priests. In the 4th century, it was converted into a basilica with a central nave and two aisles. Later, an apse was created on the eastern wall and, to the western side of the church, a circular baptistry with a central pool was built. Additions dating from the 6th century include a domed chapel situated between the apse and the entrance of the original church



Statue of Artemis in Ephesus Museum

The archeological museum at Selcuk, 2 miles (3 km) from the excavations, is one of the most important in Turkey. It contains many of the remarkable artifacts uncovered at Ephesus since World War II. An entire hall is devoted to Artemis, the Greek goddess of chastity, hunting, and the moon. Other exhibits feature marble and bronze statues, ancient frescoes, and wall paintings, jewels, Mycenean vases, gold and silver coins, Corinthian column heads, tombs, bronze and ivory friezes, and the altar from the Temple of Domitian.


On the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the Macedonian empire—including Ephesus—was divided among his generals. Lysimachus (360-281 BC) was entrusted with Thrace. He soon added Asia Minor, and in 286 BC he took Ephesus, heralding a new era for the city. It was already a strategic trading port, but the receding coastline and silt-filled harbor threatened its livelihood. Lysimachus first dredged the harbor. Then he moved the city to its present site, fortified it with huge walls and renamed it (for a brief time) Arsinoe, after his third wife. The city soon became densely populated and began to prosper.

Private Houses


Murals in the houses opposite the Temple of Hadrian indicate that these were the homes of wealthy Ephesians.

Gate of Hercules


The gate at the entrance to Curetes Street takes its name from two reliefs showing Hercules draped in a lion skin. Originally a two-story structure, and believed to date from the 4th century AD, it had a large central arch with winged victories on the upper corners of the archway. Curetes Street was lined with statues of civic notables.

Commercial Agora


This was the city’s main market place. Three of its four sides were surrounded by a portico that contained shops.

Library of Celsus


Built in AD 114-117 by Consul Gaius Julius Aquila for his father, the library was damaged first by the Goths and then by an eartquake in AD 1000. The statues occupying the niches in front are Spohia (Wisdom), Arete (Virtue), Ennoia (Intellect), and Episteme (Knowledge).


This was adorned with a statue of Priapus, the Greek god of fertility.

Temple of Domitian

This 1st-century temple was the first at Ephesus to be built in honor of an emperor.

Marble Street


This short street, once flanked by columns, is paved with large, uneven marble blocks.

Temple of Hadrian


Built to honor a visit by Emperor Hadrian in AD 123, the relief marble work on the facade portrays mythical gods and goddesses.



Carved into the flank of Mount Pion during the Hellenistic period, this was designed for theatrical performances. Later alternations by the Romans also allowed gladiatorial contests to be held here.


The stage building featured elaborated ornamentation.


This small roofed theater was built in AD 150. It was used for meetings, and as a concert venue.

Colonnaded Street


Lined with Ionic and Corinthian columns, this street runs from the Baths of Varius to the Temple of Domitian.



According to the Bible, Jesus asked st. John the Evangelist to care for his mother after his death. John brought Mary with him to Ephesus in AD 37, and she spent the last years of her life here in a modest stone house. The House of the Blessed Virgin is located at Meryemana, 5 miles (B km) from the center of Ephesus. The shrine, known as the Meryemana Kultur Parki, is revered by both Christians and Muslims and is a place of pilgrimage, especially around August 15 (Assumption).


According to legend, Androklos asked the oracle at Delphi where he should build his city. He was told, “A fish and a boar will show you the place.” When he crossed the Aegean and went ashore to cook a fish, a bush caught fire and a boar ran out. Ephesus was founded on that spot.


1000 BC: The city of Ephesus is founded by Androklos, son of Kodros, King of Athens.
133 BC: Ephesus comes under the rule of Rome. It is made capital of Asia Province.
4th century: The harbor silts up, trade decreases and the city starts to decline.
1869: The first excavations of the city begin. Work continues to this day.


  • a couple of years ago
  • Turkey

Haghia Sophia – Istanbul, Turkey

The “Church of the Holy Wisdom,” Haghia Sophia is among the world’s greatest architectural achievements. More than 1,400 years old, it stands as a testament to the sophistication of 6th-century Constantinople, and had a huge influence on architecture in the centuries that followed.

The vast edifice was built over two earlier churches and inaugurated by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 537. In the 15th century, the Ottomans converted it into a mosque: the minarets, tombs, and fountains date from this period.

To help support the structure’s great weight, the exterior has been buttressed on numerous occasions, which has partly obscured its original shape.



Sultan’s lodge

The interior of Haghia Sophia succeeds in imparting a truly celestial feel. Highlights include the fine Byzantine mosaics, mostly dating from the 9th century or later. The most conspicuous features at ground level are those added by the Ottoman sultans after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, when the church was converted into a mosque. These comprise the mihrab, a niche indicating the direction of Mecca, the minbar, a platform used by the imam to deliver sermons; the Sultan’s loge, a safe place in which the sultan could pray; and the Kursu, a throne used by the imam while reading from the Koran.



The apse is dominated by a large and striking mosaic showing the Virgin with the infant Jesus on her lap. Two other mosaics, unveiled in 867, depict the archangels Gabriel and Michael, although only fragments of the latter remain. Portraits of the saints Ignatius the Younger, John Chrysostom, and Ignatius Theophorus adorn niches in the north tympanum. In a concave area at the base of the dome is a mosaic of the six-winged seraphim. The dome is decorated with Koranic inscriptions (calligraphic roundels) It was once covered in gold mosaic tiles.


When Emperor Constantine I (r. 306-337) chose Byzantium for his capital and renamed it Constantinople, he amassed artists, architects, and craftsmen to build his new imperial city. They came mainly from Rome, bringing with them an Early Christian style. Eastern influences were added to this and a distinct Byzantine style evolved. Churches, once based on a longitudinal design, became centralized — as at Haghia Sophia — with an eastern apse and three aisles. Mosaics depicting angels, archangels and saints, in hierarchical order, covered the interiors and the Virgin Mary would be pictured in one of the domes. Figures were front-on, with large, penetrating eyes, and set against a gold background. Sculpture took the form of small relief carvings, rather than figures. The Byzantines were also sophisticated metalworkers, producing bronze church doors inlaid with silver.


These were originally used by women during services.

Byzantine Frieze

Among the ruins of the monumental entrance to the second church on the site (dedicated in AD 415) is a frieze of sheep.



The church’s splendid Byzantine mosaics include this one at the end of the south gallery. It depicts Christ flanked by Emperor Constantine IX and his wife, the Empress Zoe.


A mosaic of a six-winged angel has recently been uncovered on one of the triangular sections that support the dome.



Visitors cannot fail to be staggered by this vast space, which is covered by a huge dome reaching a height of 184 ft (56 m).

Coronation Square

This square of patterned marble flooring marks the supposed location of the Byzantine emperor’s throne.

Caligraphic Roundels


The eight caligraphic roundels – painted wooden plaques – were added in the 19th century.

Ablutions Fountain


Built around 1740, this fountain is an exquisite example of Turkish Rococo style. Its projecting roof is painted with floral reliefs.

Mausoleum of Selim II


The oldest of the three mausoleums was completed in 1577 to the plans of Sinan, Suleyman I’s imperial architect. Its exquisite interior is entirely covered with Iznik tiles.

Mausoleum of Murat III

The sultan was buried here in 1599. By the time of his death, he had fathered 103 children



Part of the 6th-century church, this now serves as the tomb of two Ottoman sultans.


Crowds often gather around the pillar of St. Gregory the Miracle-Worker in the northwest corner of the ground floor. Moisture seeping from this brass-dad column is believed to have healing powers.


360: Inauguration of the first Haghia Sophia on the site. A bigger church is built in 415; it burns down in 532.
532: Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus are commisioned to build a new church.
1453: After conquering Constantinople, the Ottomans convert Haghia Sophia into a mosque.
1934: Haghia Sophia is secularized and turned into a museum.

  • a couple of years ago
  • Turkey

Topkapi Palace – Istanbul, Turkey

The official residence of the Ottoman sultans for more than 400 years, the magnificent Topkapi Palace was built by Mehmet II between 1459 and 1465, shortly after his conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul). It was not conceived as a single building, but rather as a series of pavilions contained by four enormous courtyards, a stone version of the tented encampments from which the nomadic. Ottomans had emerged. Initially, Topkapi served as the seat of government and contained a school in which civil servants and soldiers were trained. However, the government was moved to the Sublime Porte in Istanbul in the 16th century. Sultan Abdul Mecid I left Topkapi in 1853 in favor of Dolmabahce Palace. In 1924, two years after the sultanate was abolished, the palace was opened to the public as a museum.



The word “harem” derives from the Arabic for “forbidden.” It was the residence of the sultan’s wives, concubines, children, and mother (the most powerful woman), who were guarded by black slave eunuchs. The sultan and his sons were the only other men allowed into the harem. The concubines were slaves, gathered from the farthest corners of the Ottoman empire and beyond. Their goal was to become a favorite of the sultan and bear him a son. Competition was stiff, for at its height a harem had more than 1,000 women. Topkapi’s harem was laid out by Murat III in the 16th century. The last women left in 1909.



Mehmed the Conqueror

Capturing the strategically important city of Constantinople from the Byzantines in 1453 was one of Mehmet Il’s greatest achievements and a turning point in the development of the Ottoman empire. Mehmet (1432-81) was the son of Murat II and a slave girl. He became known as “the conqueror,” not only for taking Constantinople, but also for his successful campaigns in the Balkans, Hungary, the Crimea, and elsewhere. In 30 years as sultan, he rebuilt his new capital, reorganized the government, codified the law and set up colleges that excelled in mathematics and astronomy.



The Topkapi dagger

On display throughout the palace are the glittering treasures amassed by the Ottoman sultans during their 470-year reign. In addition to diplomatic gifts and items commissioned from palace craftsmen, many objects were booty brought back from military campaigns. The kitchens contain cauldrons and utensils used to prepare food for the 12,000 residents, and Chinese porcelain carried along the Silk Route. The Treasury holds thousands of precious and semiprecious stones: highlights include the bejeweled Topkapi dagger (1741), and the 86-carat Spoonmaker’s diamond. Mehmet II’s sumptuous silk kaftan is among the imperial costumes in the Hall of the Campaign Pages In the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle are some of the holiest relics of Islam, such as the mantle once worn by the Prophet Mohammed.



The viziers of the imperial council met in this chamber; sometimes they were secretly watched by the sultan.

Gate of Felicity



This is also called the Gate of the White Eunuchs.



These now contain an exhibition of ceramics, glass, and silverware.

Library of Ahmet III


Erected in 1719, the library is an elegant marble building. This ornamental fountain is set into the wall below its main entrance.

Baghdad Pavilion


In 1639, Murat IV built this pavilion to celebrate his capture of Baghdad. Its walls have exquisite blue- and-white tile work.

lftariye Pavilion


Under the golden roof of this pavilion, Sultan Ahmed Ill awarded g old coins to those who had entertained him during a festival to honor the circumcision of his son s in 1720.



This was a labyrinth of exquisite rooms where the sultan’s wives and concubines lived.


A new sultan would order the execution of his brothers to avoid succession contests. From the 17th century, brothers were spared, but were incarcerated 10 the notorious “Cage,” a set of rooms in the harem.


1465: The Topkapi Palace is completed.
1574: Grand rebuilding to house Murat III’s vast harem.
1640s: The Circumcision Pavilion is built.
1665: A fire destroys parts of the harem and Divan.

  • a couple of years ago
  • Turkey

Gallipoli Peninsula – Turkey

In 2015 the Turks have commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

Essential information:

Population: Province of Çanakkale 502,000

Main town: Çanakkale

Language: Turkish

Major industries: education, tourism, fishing

Unit of currency: Turkish lira (t) but hotels and tours are charged in euros

Cost index: half-day guided battlefields tour €30 (US$42), full-day private walking tour with guide for small group €250 (US$347), 3-star double hotel room €70 (US$98), 0.33c1Efes beer €3 (US$4.50)

Why go ASAP?

Empires, myths and national identities have been forged in this part of the Aegean for millennia. Close to the ancient city of Troy and on the northwestern side of the strategically important Dardanelles Strait, this slender peninsula (known as Gelibolu in Turkish) has seen more than its fair share of invasions, the most recent being the Allied naval attack on the Dardanelles in March 1915 and the landings of Allied troops at multiple locations on the peninsula on 25 April 1915.

Turks see both of these events as important milestones in the development of modern Turkey and are planning plenty of pomp and circumstance to commemorate the 100th anniversary, but this episode of history is perhaps even more important to Australians and New Zealanders, who have been visiting Gallipoli in ever-increasing numbers in recent decades.


Australian soldiers in the support trenches on Pope’s Hill, Gallipoli Peninsula

It might seem strange that so many people – the vast majority young backpackers – are prepared to cross the world to commemorate an unsuccessful military campaign that occurred long before they were born. But what are being celebrated here are values that the Anzacs are said to have had in spades and that are seen by many Aussies and Kiwis as nation-defining: courage, stamina, laconic humour, mateship and a healthy dose of larrikinism.

It might seem strange that so many people – the vast majority young backpackers – are prepared to cross the world to commemorate an unsuccessful military campaign that occurred long before they were born. But what are being celebrated here are values that the Anzacs are said to have had in spades and that are seen by many Aussies and Kiwis as nation-defining: courage, stamina, laconic humour, mateship and a healthy dose of larrikinism.

British, French and Indian troops also fought valiantly here (over half of the campaign’s 57,000 Allied deaths were British, with the landings at Cape Helles being particularly bloody), but until now, few of their countrymen have made the pilgrimage here. This may of course change in this centenary year, as senior British politicians and members of the royal family will be attending commemoration ceremonies, and events are likely to receive considerable media attention.

Festivals &Events:

Turks commemorate the canakkale naval victory (defeat of the Allied fleet in the Dardanelles) on 18 March.


Images of commemoration brought at the Anzac Day

Around Anzac Day (25 April) there will be Turkish commemorative services at the Turkish 59th Memorial and at Abideis, as well as a French memorial service at Morto Bay and a Commonwealth memorial service at Cape Helles.

Life-changing experiences:

History buffs will be in their element here. The Troy Archaeological Park and its brand-new museum hold court on one side of the Dardanelles, and memorials and a whizz-bang interactive museum interpret the battlefields on the other.


Troy Archaeological Park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list

Both can be visited on half-day guided tours offered by a clutch of local companies, but the battlefields deserve more time (think about taking a day-long walking tour as well). A short ferry ride away is the Aegean island of Gokceada, aka ancient Imbros, where hauntingly beautiful abandoned Greek villages await exploration and expansive beaches attract windsurfers from across Europe – we suggest staying here or in Çanakkale rather than in the ugly town of Eceabat.


The Trojan horse statue is one of Çanakkale’s biggest attractions

Trending topic:


Memorial near Anzac Cove – Turkey

Growing interest from Turks, Australians and New Zealanders means that visitor numbers to the battlefields are skyrocketing, and there is growing concern about the adverse impact that crowds are having on the landscape, which is officially protected as the Gallipoli Peninsula Historical National Park. The Turkish memorials in particular can be horrendously crowded on weekends between March and September, and we are sorry to report that tacky souvenir and fast-food stands are imparting an inappropriately carnival atmosphere. Even more concerning has been the widening of roads to accommodate fleets of tour buses, compromising the physical integrity of important sites including Anzac Cove.

  • a couple of years ago
  • Turkey

The Grand BOSPHORUS – Istanbul, Turkey

Sitting on the city’s European shore while overlooking Asia, Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul offers the best of both worlds.

Loaded with elegant Asian design details, you would never guess that the Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul is housed within what once was a tobacco warehouse in the Thirties. Today, the 186 guest rooms and suites are some of the most spacious and sophisticated in the city. Marble bathrooms with heated floors, Bulgari toiletries and views over the hotel courtyard, the Besiktas neighbourhood or the Bosphorus Strait are just some of the rooms’ premium features.


The Grand Premier Bosphorus Room provides unobstructed views of the strait.

It’s well worth dining at the hotel’s four restaurants and bars. 1ST TOO offers all-day dining with cuisine from around the world and a 12-metre-long charcoal grill. Savour deep-fried shrimp rolls or roasted whole Peking duck at Shang Palace, the only authentic Chinese-Cantonese restaurant in Turkey. And keep an eye out for the Kung Fu tea master’s show, an acrobatic display of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Stop off for a nightcap at the Lobby Lounge, or head to LeBar for classic cocktails and an exquisite selection of bubbly.

Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul was also the first to bring CHI, The Spa to Europe, with Asian-inspired healing philosophies to restore balance and harmony. Eight private spa suites come with hammam facilities and organic products for pure pampering; at the fully equipped health club guests can work off indulgent meals. Known for its world-class service, the hotel is also ideally located for accessing Istanbul’s top entertainment, cultural and business hubs.

  • a couple of years ago
  • Turkey

Istanbul Baths: The Turkish Art Of Relaxation

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, a visit to a traditional hammam is luxuriously familiar. Clothes, bags and phones are abandoned and stored in lockers. Bathers are swaddled in woven wraps and escorted into the heart of the bathhouse. The rituals vary slightly, depending on the country you’re in. In Turkey, the experience starts with the regional tradition of stretching out on the gobek last (warm marble “navel stone”). So far, so familiar? Think again. Because over the past 18 months, Istanbul’s newest hammams have inserted boutique hotel bling into the traditional scrub’n soak.

Many of the city’s ancient bathhouses have undergone multi-million-dollar renovations. Others offer personalised beauty treatments and shimmering new spaces for quiet contemplation. Private steam rooms and high-end organic products are the norm, wooing discerning residents and visitors alike. No longer are bathhouses simply a place for locals to doze and gossip. Nor are they merely a quirky activity for tourists to tick off their to-do list. In Western Asia’s most cosmopolitan metropolis, times have changed.

Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami – Streamlined but sumptuous, pared-down yet posh, Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami reopened to the public in 2012 after seven years of meticulous renovations. It’s tucked between the Bosphorus-side districts of Tophane, an area of docklands under arty gentrification, and Karakoy, set to be 2015’s neighbourhood du jour. The bathhouse takes its name from Italian-born Ottoman admiral Kilic Ali Pasa. It was the Pasa himself who commissioned Sinan, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent’s iconic architect, to design and oversee the building of this hammam and its mosque complex in 1580. The result: a historical space that soars to the sky – and offers ultra-modern spa services to boot. Push through the heavy wooden doors and the pampering starts immediately. Spa-goers are greeted with a glass of traditional fruity sherbet, freshly brewed from a family recipe courtesy of the owner’s septuagenarian mother. The complimentary hammam slippers are “Made in Italy”.


Keeping the Turkish cultural atmosphere and architecture, Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami sends its guest to a different world.

“Not only is visiting the hammam good for your skin,” explains Melike Safak, Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami’s youthful sales manager. “It’s also great for relieving stress, increasing circulation and relaxing the muscles. While [bathers here] experience a very old tradition, they also have all the comforts and luxury of today.” And how. Optional hour-long, full-body massages follow the more traditional treatments. Afterwards, bathers are encouraged to stretch out on snowy-white sofas in the lounge area, while attendants serve cups of jasmine tea or freshly pressed pomegranate juice. Copies of Vogue and Conde Nast Traveller (naturally) are on hand. The scene is topped off with a bubbling marble fountain at the centre of the reclining room.

Just outside the spa sits Derya, a small boutique purveying traditional cotton wraps (pestamal), scrubbing mitts woven from natural fibres (kese) and ornate copper bowls – so you can attempt to recreate the experience at home. Note that Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami is women-only from 8am to 4pm, and men-only from 4.30pm until 11.30pm daily.

Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort: Turkey’s Top Luxury Resort By The Sea

Keeping the entire family happy on holiday is no easy feat, but at southern Turkey’s Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort, all age groups will feel relaxed and entertained

For a summer escape that will keep the entire family happy, look no further than the luxurious Regnum Carya Golf Sc Spa Resort. Set on the idyllic Mediterranean shores of the Antalya region in southern Turkey, the luxurious all-inclusive property guarantees an easy, sun-drenched family getaway like no other. Here, you’ll choose from 482 elegantly appointed rooms, or you may fancy trying out one of the 100 golf residences, 15 new villas (complete with private pool), or the jewel of the resort, the Crown Villa. All of these make the perfect choice for those looking for a little more space and privacy.


When you’re not soaking up the sunshine by the turquoise water, or lazing in a beachside pavilion, there are two internationally recognised 27- and 18-hole golf courses to choose from. Alter strolling the lush fairways, why not pop into the Green Door Spa – a tranquil haven where you can relax with indulgent treatments, from traditional hammams to facials.

Children will also be spoilt for choice at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort. Along with a treetop adventure park packed with ziplines and climbing walls, there’s a wave pool, slides and crazy river in the onsite aqua park. Catch up each evening at one of five a la carte restaurants – the all-inclusive resort caters to all palettes with an array of delicious cuisine. It’s relaxation guaranteed, for all the family.

Cappadocia – Ürgüp, Turkey

For Those Who Think They’ve Seen It All, Think Again

A trip to the steppes of Central Anatolia is the next best thing to intergalactic travel, at a fraction of the cost and inconvenience. Centuries of wind and water have sculpted a surrealistic landscape from the soft volcanic terrain: minarets, cones, spires, “fairy chimneys,” and rocky pinnacles in shades of pinks and russet-brown soar as high as five-story buildings and cover an area of about 50 square miles.

Ancient inhabitants of Cappadocia hol­lowed out the tufa cones and cliffs to create troglodyte-style cave dwellings that are still lived in today. A major trade route between East and West, Cappadocia was home to a dozen dif­ferent civilizations. The early Christians arrived in the 4th century, sculpting from the rock domed churches, complete with vaulted ceil­ings, columns, and pews. T

he open-air museum is the site of an ancient monastic colony, once said to have had more than 400 churches, her­mitages, and small monasteries. Today fifteen are open to the public. Some of the simple fres­coes date back to the 8th century, but it’s the rich Byzantine frescoes of the 10th and 13th cen­turies that are the most astonishing.

Modern-day troglodytes must head for the utterly unique and charming Yunak Evleri hotel, a romantic web of tastefully restored connecting caves dating back as far as the 5th century.

Pamukkale – Turkey

A Cotton Castle of Curative Powers Since Roman Times

A freak of nature and a geological fairyland, Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) resembles a series of bleached rice terraces as you approach. The white travertine tiers, joined together like huge water lilies by petrified cotton-candy waterfalls and gleaming white stalac­tites, are the result of hot mineral springs whose calcium-rich deposits have been accu­mulating for millennia.

A popular resort since Roman times, Pamukkale still draws tourists, who are put in a festive mood by the bizarre formations and otherworldly weirdness. It is as dazzling during the day, when they appear pure white, as at sunset, when they pick up the muted pink and purple pastel colors of the sky.

Although proven harmful to the pools – and despite a ruling that will sooner or later be enforced – wading in the 97°F. water is permitted for the time being, though anything other than a splash, a wallow, or a footbath is pretty much out, owing to the fact that most of the pools are only shin-deep.

The otherwise unremarkable Pamukkale Motel is on the site of an ancient sacred Roman bath; sunken pil­lars and architectural fragments litter the bottom of the pool, which is deep enough for swimming.