advertisement
  • Blue Mosque (Istanbul): This landmark mosque assumes a stance of authority over Sultanahmet Park. Just under the dome, hundreds of stained-glass windows sparkle like jewels. The blue of the mosque actually changes to yellow, orange, and red, depending on the time of day and the entrance you choose to use.
  • Ayasofya (Istanbul): When faced with the dome of this masterpiece, it's tempting to mimic the actions of Mehmet the Conqueror almost 600 years ago and drop to your knees in a gesture of utter humility. The sensation is increased by the low level of filtered light that finds its way in, temporarily blinding you to everything except the source of illumination.
  • Topkapi Palace (Istanbul): Perspective check -- this was once somebody's house. Actually, it was the home of a whole lot of people -- up to 5,000 at a time, all in the service of one man. Six hundred years of Ottoman history, and it's all behind these grand ornamental gates.
  • Istanbul Archaeology Museum (Istanbul): This is one of those must-see museums that all too many overlook. It's actually the largest museum in the country, chronicling in stone both the life of Istanbul and of Byzantium's emperors. Recovered artifacts date back to 6000 B.C. (as of the time of this writing) and proceed through the centuries. A separate building houses the Museum of the Ancient Orient, exhibiting artifacts obtained during the course of the Ottoman period.
  • St. Savior in Chora (Istanbul): An empire's devotion to the faith is mirrored in the opulence of the finest preserved collections of Byzantine mosaics just about anywhere.
  • Ephesus Museum (Selçuk): Not all of the treasures of Ephesus were smuggled out of the country to end up in Western museums. There's certainly enough here to keep you busy for a while; the explanations are succinct and the labeling clear. Now you'll finally know the story behind those omnipresent souvenir statues of the little god Bes.
  • Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum: The only one of its kind, the Underwater Archaeology Museum displays the vast findings from the discovery of a pre-14th-century shipwreck, made all the more amazing, because when divers stumbled on it, all they were looking for were a few sponges.
  • Underground Cities of Derinkuyu & Kaymakli: In Cappadocia, not everyone got a room with a view -- at least not if your life was at stake. These multilevel cave cities, thought to date back to the 2nd century B.C., have supported up to 20,000 people at once in times of danger and religious persecution (though some speculation puts the number closer to 60,000). Clamber through the surprisingly intricate warren of passageways and living quarters where entire villages thrived in safety and darkness for months at a time. But claustrophobes beware -- it's very dark and sometimes very snug.
  • Open-Air Museums of Zelve & Göreme: When you live amid a landscape composed primarily of porous volcanic tufa, it doesn't take long before you realize, "Hey, I could make a great house out of this stuff." In Göreme, you'll see cave churches decorated with stunning medieval frescoes; the ingenious structures at Zelve are more a window into daily living, troglodyte-style.
  • Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (Ankara): It's rare that a museum has the material to catalog a culture's backbone from beginning to end -- but here, it happens. Looking for prehistoric cave paintings of Cappadocia's volcanoes? Got it. How about detailed archives of commerce from 2000 B.C.? Got that, too.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.