Turkey is a Middle Eastern country cloaked in mythology and mystery. It has a long history of association with Ancient Rome, Europe, and many Western countries and has been a center for trade for thousands of years.
Because Turkey has always been a crossroads for traders from all over the world, the country has learned to embrace many different cultures, languages, and tastes.
If you are thinking about traveling to Turkey, you will be surprised at the deep mix of the old and the new that exists in this intriguing country. Here are 25 interesting facts about Turkey that can illuminate your understanding of this fascinating travel destination.
25 Fun Facts About Turkey
1. Turkey spans both Europe and Asia
Turkey is the only country that spans two different continents. Ninety-five percent of Turkey lies in Asia. Five percent lies within what is considered European territory.
2. The City of Istanbul Was Once Called Constantinople
Named after the emperor Constantine, who was the country’s first Christian leader. He gave the city his name in 330 when he made it the capital of the country.
Constantinople was a center for trade, arts, and culture, welcoming people from all over the world. Over the period of history, the city has had a number of different names. Its current name was initiated in 1930.
3. Turkey Is A Parliamentary Republic
Turkey has a presidential republic form of government, with a president, a parliament, and a Constitutional Court.
Every citizen over the age of 18 can vote. Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and has been an ally of the United States for many decades.
4. Turkey Has Great Diversity
Turkey has an estimated 47 ethnic groups. They include both Muslim and non-Muslim groups. As a result, Turkey has a very diverse culture, with both Eastern and Western influences. Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the country.
5. Turkey’s Cuisine Incorporates Many Flavors
If you enjoy a mix of flavors from many cultures, Turkey offers many delights. The country’s cuisine reflects its Ottoman roots, as well as Balkan, Armenian, Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Arab and Persian influences.
6. Be Prepared to Love Turkish Music
Turkey’s history as a crossroads of trade extends to its development of music in the country. Turkish music has absorbed influences from ancient folk culture to modern western rap. The various mixes and contributions can often yield surprising results.
7. Turks Are Very Patriotic
You will not hear many Turkish people making harsh criticisms of their country. They prefer to see the best in their nation and actively express their patriotism. You will see Turkish flags everywhere.
8. Santa Claus Was Born in Turkey
St. Nicholas, on whom the persona of Santa Claus is based, was born in what is now part of the southern region of Turkey. His generous spirit of helping the needy was the basis for the Santa Claus mythology.
9. Turkey Has Two Different Sites That Are Part of the Seven Wonders of the World
The country of Turkey has not just one, but two sites that are listed as part of the 7 Wonders of the World. They are the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus at Bodrum.
10. Turkey is the Site of the Mediterranean’s Largest Turtle Nesting Site
Iztuzu Beach, located in southwestern Turkey, is an important breeding ground for loggerhead turtles, which arrive every May and October to lay eggs. Visitors come from around the world to see the hatching of the baby turtles and their struggle to make their way out to the sea.
11. Turkey Introduced Tulips to the World
The exact origin of the tulip flower is unknown, but the Ottoman Empire that resided in Turkey had a particular love for this unique bloom and introduced to the rest of Europe, after which, it became very popular in countries like the Netherlands.
12. Turquoise Originated in Turkey
Although you may think turquoise came from the American Southwest because of its popularity there, turquoise actually originated in Turkey. In fact, the stone got its name from the country.
13. Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom, Used to Be the Largest Cathedral in the World
Hagia Sophia served as a mosque, a museum and a church at various times in its history. It was the largest cathedral in the world until a Spanish cathedral was built to surpass it.
Today, travelers from around the world come to appreciate the Byzantine architecture and beautiful mosaics in this important UNESCO World Heritage site.
14. Although Turkey Has a Secular Government, Muslim Customs Are Part of the Cultural Landscape
As a result, visitors should be aware of the local customs and should avoid showing too much skin, be ready to remove shoes before entering mosques, and women should have a head covering on hand for entering some tourist spots.
15. Turkey is the World’s Largest Producer of Hazelnuts
If you love the flavor or hazelnut creamer in your coffee or enjoy a Nutella sandwich, you should be aware that the hazelnuts in these products probably came from Turkey. The country produces about 73 percent of the world’s supply.
16. Archeologists Believe Agriculture Began in Turkey
The changeover from a hunter-gatherer society to an agriculture-based community is believed to have begun in Turkey about 11,0000 years ago.
17. The Turkish People Are Friendly and Curious
The Turks are accustomed to visitors and businesspeople from all over the world and are eager to make them feel comfortable in their country. They often ask pointed questions about your background and status to help them understand your needs.
18. The City of Troy Is the Site of the Mythological Trojan War
Troy is an ancient city with important archeological value and can be easily visited during your trip. It was the setting of the Trojan Wars mentioned in literature.
19. Turkish Ice Cream Is a Cultural Experience
Many stalls and carts sell Turkish ice cream, dondurma, which is a bit different than the western ice cream you’re probably used to. The antics of the ice cream vendor are part of the entertainment, so make sure you experience this Turkish tradition.
20. The Turkish Culture Reveres Their Elders
The Turks give special consideration to their elders and always speak to them with the utmost respect. You will often find them kissing the hand of the elder as a sign of respect.
21. Turkey Has Lots of Geographical Features
The Turkish landscape is varied and interesting, with mountains, plateaus, low-lying plains, lakes, rivers, sandy beaches, volcanoes, hot springs and geological parks. They all offer a wide range of activities to enjoy.
22. The famous Tigris and Euphrates Rivers Lie in Turkey
The famous Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, where the earliest human civilizations were born, lie partly in Turkey, and in fact, the Tigris River originates in the mountains of Turkey.
These waterways have always been critical to the ecology, agriculture and transportation in the region.
23. Istanbul’s Underground Railway Is the Second Oldest in the World
Built in 1875, it is a historic, rubber-tired funicular that is fully underground and connects two stations. The London Underground is the only older railway of its kind.
24. In the Bible, Noah’s Ark Was Said to Have Landed on Mount Ararat, in Eastern Turkey
Mount Ararat is a compound volcano, consisting of two peaks. Greater Ararat is the highest peak in the country. It is a center for tourism and was made a national park in 2004.
25. Camels Are Not Native to Turkey
Although you may see camels everywhere in the country, they are not native to Turkey. In fact, because Turkey was such a crossroad of trade for many regions of the world, traders who used camels often came to Turkey, and they became a normal part of the commercial culture.
There’s even a camel wrestling festival that occurs annually in an area along Turkey’s Aegean coast.
Frequently Asked Questions About Turkey
Is Turkey a safe country to visit?
Yes, Turkey is very safe to visit. Millions of visitors arrive in Turkey by land, sea and air each year. However, as with all big cities, you should take normal travel precautions with your money, bags and valuables.
The Turkish government recommends avoiding the area around the Syria border, due to ongoing conflicts that occur there.
Do I need a visa to visit Turkey?
Yes, you will need a visa to visit the country of Turkey. You can purchase a visa through the Turkish government site or at the Ataturk Airport.
Will I need to speak Turkish to communicate?
In most major cities and resort towns, English is spoken. However, if you plan on visiting rural areas, you will need a local guide to translate for you.
What’s the best way to get around in Turkey?
Turkey has an extensive bus system that serves the country and its visitors well. You can pay more for a luxurious motor coach ride that offers snacks and toilet breaks, or any of the small minibuses that can get you around the city and to nearby areas.
Always ask the approximate cost before you agree to a ride.
Are women expected to wear veils in Turkey?
Turkey is a modern, westernized nation that upholds the rights of women. However, as a Muslim country, Turkey does expect a certain level of modesty in women’s dress, though veils are not required.
Clothing that covers the body from neck to below the knee is generally a good idea. Women are generally expected to wear head coverings when visiting religious places.
Can I use my credit card in Turkey?
Yes, many businesses in Turkey accept credit cards. In fact, many travelers use their credit cards to get local currency at the best rates. Be aware that you will need to bring the card you used to book reservations in advance in order for it to be properly processed.
What immunizations are needed to travel to Turkey?
It is recommended to update all regular immunizations, such as for chickenpox, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, measles-mumps, rubella, polio and shingles. In addition, you should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid and COVID-19.
Over to You — Book Your Trip to Turkey Today!
Turkey is a country that is both exotic, yet eerily familiar, and visitors from around the world always seem to enjoy its many attractions and amenities. With so many things to see and do, what are you waiting for?
Book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Turkey has to offer. Happy travels!