While it may sound like a tourism brochure clichÃ©, Turkey really is a curious mix of the west and the east—you may swear you were in a Balkan country or in Greece when in northwestern and western parts of the country except that Byzantine-influenced churches are substituted with Byzantine-influenced mosques, which are indeed partly inhabited by people from Balkan countries, who immigrated during the turmoil before, during, and after WWI, while southeastern reaches of the country exhibit little if any cultural differences from Turkey's southern and eastern neighbors. Influences from the Caucasus add to the mix in the northeast part of the country. It can be simply put that Turkey is the most oriental of western nations, or, depending on the point of view, the most occidental of eastern nations.
Perhaps one thing common to all of the country is Islam, the faith of the bulk of the population. However, interpretation of it varies vastly across the country: many people in northwestern and western coasts are fairly liberal about the religion being nominal Muslims sometimes to the point of being irreligious, while folk of the central steppes are far more conservative don't expect to find a Saudi Arabia or an Afghanistan even there, though. The rest of the country falls somewhere in between, with the coastal regions being relatively liberal while inland regions are relatively conservative as a general rule. The largest religious minority in the country are the Alevites, who constitute up to 20% of the population and who subscribe to a form of Islam closer to that of the Shiite version of Islam and practice Shamanistic rituals of ancient Turks. Other religious minorities—the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Jews, Syriac Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, the latter of whom mainly settled in Turkey within the last 500 years from Western European countries—once numerous across the country, are now mostly confined to the large cities of Istanbul and Izmir, or parts of Southeastern Anatolia in the case of the Syriac Oriental Orthodox. Despite its large Muslim majority population, Turkey officially remains a secular country, with no declared state religion.
There is evidence that the bed of the Black Sea was once an inhabited plain, before it was flooded in prehistoric times by rising sea levels. Mount Ararat AÄrÄ± DaÄÄ±, at 5,165 m, is the country's highest point and legendary landing place of Noah's Ark, lies in the mountains on the far eastern edge of the country.
Turkey was founded in 1923 from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Soon thereafter the country instituted secular laws to replace traditional religious fiats. In 1945 Turkey joined the UN, and in 1952 it became a member of NATO.
Turkey offers a wealth of destination varieties to travellers: from dome-and-minaret filled skyline of Istanbul to Roman ruins along the western and southern coasts, from heavily indendated coastline against a mountainous backdrop of Lycia and wide and sunny beaches of Pamphylia to cold and snowy mountains of the East, from crazy "foam parties" of Bodrum to Middle Eastern-flavoured cities of Southeastern Anatolia, from verdant misty mountains of Eastern Black Sea to wide steppe landscapes of Central Anatolia, there is something for everyone's taste—whether they be travelling on an extreme budget by hitchhiking or by a multi-million yacht.
The climate in Turkey has a vast diversity depending on the diverse topography and latitude.
Aegean and Mediterranean coastal areas enjoy the typical Mediterranean climate. There is hardly a drop of rain during the sunny and hot summer May to October. Winters are mild and rainy in these regions, and it very rarely snows at coastal areas, with the exception of mountainous areas higher than 2000 metres of these regions, which are very snowy and are frequently not passable. The water temperature in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas is warm during the long summer season May to October which constitutes the swimming season and fluctuates between 23Â° and 28Â°C from north to south.
The region around the Sea of Marmara, including Istanbul, has a transitional climate between an oceanic climate and a semi-Mediterranean climate, but it does rain, albeit not a lot, during the very warm summer as showers which tend to last for 15-30 minutes. Its winters are colder than those of the western and southern coasts. Snow is common at coastal areas, although it doesn't stay on the ground for long and is limited to only a few days every winter. The water temperature in the Sea of Marmara is also colder than the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, with the water temperature reaching only between 20Â° and 24Â°C during the summer June, July and August and the swimming season is restricted to those summer months.
The Black Sea region has an oceanic climate thanks to the protective shield effect of Caucasus mountains with the greatest amount of precipitation and is the only region of Turkey that receives high precipitation throughout the year. The eastern part of that coast averages 2,500 millimeters annually which is the highest precipitation in the country. Summers are warm and humid while the winters are cool and damp. Snow is common at coastal areas, although it doesnât stay on the ground for long and is limited to only a few days every winter, though mountains are very snowy as it is expected to be and are frequently not passable, there are glaciers around the year in the highest zones. The water temperature in the whole Turkish Black Sea coast is always cool and fluctuates between 10Â° and 20Â°C throughout the year, and is even less suitable for swimming during the summer than in the Sea of Marmara.
Most of the coastal areas have a high level of relative humidity during most of the year which makes hot weather feel hotter and cold weather feel colder than it actually is.
Interior areas like Ankara, generally have hot summers though the nights are cool enough to make someone who is wearing only a thin t-shirt uncomfortable outdoors and cold and snowy winters. The more easterly the location is, the colder the winters are and the heavier the snow is. The northeastern part around Erzurum and Kars is the only inland area which has cool and rainy summers.
The southeastern region near the Syrian border has a desert-like climate, temperature is frequently above 40Â°C during summers with no rain. Snowfall is occasional in winter.
The savvy traveler should remember that when traveling into, in or around Turkey there are several holidays to keep in mind as they can cause delays in travel, traffic congestion, booked up accommodations and crowded venues. Banks, offices and businesses are closed during official holidays and traffic intensifies during all of the following holidays so do your research before you visit. Do not be put off by these holidays, it is not that difficult and often quite interesting to travel during Turkish holidays, simply plan ahead as much as possible.