Best Turkish islands
2. NICE TROY
Alone under a high 3, 000-year-old wall, with only a wild tortoise for company, I stood in Troy, the setting for the greatest story ever told, outside the Bible. It was easy to conjure up those fabled warriors, Achilles, Ajax and Odysseus, the Greek soldiers tumbling out of that huge horse (see the replica at the entrance) and the wondrous beauty Helen, who triggered the siege.
Enough of Troy’s ancient masonry survives to suggest that, whatever actually happened here, this was once a tremendous place. Close by are the Dardanelles, the narrow, history-rich neck of water dividing Asia and Europe.
And on the other side, the dignified calm of the Gallipoli peninsula and its beaches, scene of the doomed Allied campaign in the First World War. Combine the two in a day trip.
3. SEEK CHIC
Bodrum is one of Turkey’s most select resorts, at the foot of the west coast. By day, handsome ranks of white stucco houses with blue window frames shimmer on a green hill, bursting with bougainvillea, overlooking a dazzling blue bay.
By night Bodrum basks in the glow of the lit-up St Peter’s Castle, built by the Knights of
Rhodes with pieces of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which stood nearby. Today the castle houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, displaying riches recovered from wrecks – some 3, 000 years old.
Bodrum has a marina fit for the South of France, swanky hotels and high-decibel nightlife, complete with prowling paparazzi. But there’s perfect peace in the 15-mile-long peninsula to the west, with ancient terraced fields dotted with beehives.
There are thrilling glimpses down to islands, capes, inlets and quiet villages with
welcoming waterside restaurants.
Myths and legends: Relive history with a visit to Troy, site of the greatest story ever told outside the Bible
4. BRIDGING CONTINENTS
Istanbul, where two continents meet across the Bosphorus, is the European Capital of Culture for 2010.
The ancient city is crammed with blockbusters from 2, 500 years of history. There are Greek and Roman remains alongside the mystique, power and glitter of the Byzantine
and Ottoman empires. The short ferry trip from Kadikoy in Asia to Eminonu in Europe (the best way to the centre from Sabiha Gokcen airport, used by easyJet) gives a perfect view of the old city, dominated by the Ottoman Topkapi Palace, the vast dome of the Aya Sophia (once the greatest cathedral in Christendom) and the fabulous Blue Mosque.
The flip side of the city’s flat-out commotion is the nearby car-free Princes’ Islands, 45 minutes by ferry.
5. SUPER SOUTH
Antalya, in Turkey’s deep south on the Mediterranean’s Turquoise Coast, is a resort doubling as an open museum, refreshed with springs gushing down from the Taurus
Mountains. The old quarter is a tight swirl of red-roofed houses, threaded by narrow, cobbled streets.
It sits above the marina, site of an old Roman port. The triumphal arch, honouring a visit by Emperor Hadrian, still stands. Greek, Roman and Byzantine antiquities litter the coast and the mountains above.
There are easy day trips to ancient sites such as Perge, Side and Aspendos. My pick is the high and impregnable mountaintop city of Termessos, one of the few places to resist Alexander the Great. The Lycian Way, a 320-mile path between Antalya and Fethiye, is one of the world’s finest long walks.
Chic: Bodrum offers castles, white stucco houses and a beautiful marina
6. LAZY DAYS
Top of my list of Turkish holiday experiences is a lazy, bay-hopping jaunt by boat round the coast. The south and south-west coasts are the very best locations, and day (or shorter) trips are available from most resorts. They follow roughly the same magical formula. Sail for a bit. Then drop anchor for a swim in some empty cove, followed by lunch aboard.