Turkey's hidden gems
1. Black Sea highlands
This is a region overlooked not only by tourist from abroad but also by the Turks themselves. Most travellers simply drive along the jagged coastline and hardly make time to see the real life further inland where you'd find yourself above timberline and clouds. Here in the highlands, the weather is ever-changing. It could be bright and sunny one moment and densely foggy the next, so pack well if you don't want to be caught out.
The fun really starts in mid-June, where most locals move from the coastal areas up to the summer pastures to escape from the heat and humidity. If you take your time to discover the ancient paths on foot, you'll come across distinctive ethnic groups such as the Cepni and the Sal who remain faithful to their authentic dress codes. For three times across the summer months, these ethnic groups gather on the highlands to dance, drink, and feast. On these days, they gather as one and forget all their differences. Adding to the festive atmosphere are cows — decorated in colourful tassels — grazing in the fields.
2. Hiking in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a unique region made even more so with the existence of its storied Byzantine history. Here, you'll find rock-cut churches dating from the 3rd to 12th centuries hewn out of tufa and decorated with frescoes.
In recent years, Cappadocia has become a mecca of sorts for hot air balloon rides. On a busy day, you might spot over 100 balloons in the air. However, there are also plenty of hiking and moutain biking routes for those who prefer to stay closer to the ground. Don't forget to bring your camera. There are plenty of postcard-perfect moments to capture here.
3. Blue voyage onboard a gulet
I have sailed on various sea vessels ranging from junks to luxurious private yachts, but none can beat the feel of cruising on a good Turkish gulet. To explore the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean shores, simply hop onto this traditional sailing yacht handcrafted from pine, mahogany, and teak. Spacious fore, aft, and side decks coupled with air-conditioning and advanced nautical equipment have been added to her ancient design to ensure you journey in comfort.
You'll typically find a three- to five-man crew consisting of a captain, cook, first mate, and deckhands who'll take care of all your needs. Gourmands will not be disappointed: The seafood here is fresh and served Mediterranea style, while fruit and vegetables abide by the seasons. Besides watersports such as waterskiing or snorkeling, visits ashore can be made if you wish to go hiking or explore ancient sites. For a leisurely trip, set aside five days so you can truly soak up the simple pleasures a gulet can afford.
About Aydin Kudu
Aydin Kudu is the co-founder of travel company Turkish Moon and a fellow at the Shackleton & Selous Society. The distinguished tour guide, photographer and award-winning documentary filmmaker has led tours all over Turkey since 1987 and is currently National Geographic's local expert.