Also known as Asia Minor, Anatolia, Turkey refers to the Asian part of Turkey, the plateau that juts out between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean sea. According to Wikipedia, the term "Anatolia" covers most of modern Turkey, with 97 per cent of Turkey's area located in Anatolia. An Anatolian peninsula map would reveal that the other three per cent is located in Europe, specifically the Balkan peninsula. This area of Turkey outside of Anatolia, called Thrace, includes Istanbul and over 10 per cent of Turkey's total population.
Prehistoric, Ancient and Recent History
The history of Anatolia is rich and dates back thousands of years. Ancient Anatolia can be witnessed at Gobekli Tepe, in southeastern Anatolia, where archaeologists have unearthed massive, seven-ton stone pillars believed to date back to 9000 B.C., if not earlier. Smithsonian Magazine explains that the evidence discovered at this site, predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, suggests one of the earliest religious sites built by humans. Arranged in rings and carved elaborately, Gobeklitepe's findings represent a monumental undertaking for the people that built them, Smithsonian points out, especially considering that the ruins predate evidence of farming and animal domestication in the area.
Wikipedia helps outline the later history: After prehistoric times, Anatolia, which included the indigenous people the Hattians and the Hurrians, was colonized by the Akkadians, and later the Assyrians. The Hittites established dominion in Anatolia around the 17th century B.C., and subsequent groups that wielded power in Anatolia afterwards include the Arameans, the Luwians, the Cimmerians and the Scythians. In later years, Anatolia became part of the Persian, Greek and Roman empires, absorbing those cultures and languages into its fabric. The Seljuk conquest in the 1070s brought the Turkish language and the Islamic religion into the nation with an influx of Seljuk Turk migrants, colouring the culture of Anatolia as we know it today. After Mongol domination, the Ottoman Turks came to power, with Ottoman Anatolia becoming obsolete after World War I with the 1922 elimination of the title of Sultan.
To explore the vast, historic region, many visitors take advantage of Anatolia tours of Turkey that offer stops in cities like Istanbul (split between Thrace and Anatolia) and into Ephesus, Pamukkale, Cappadocia, Kas, Olympos, Antalya and more. It would be impossible to visit all of Anatolia's highlights in just one trip, with each region offering a different, diverse experience.
The Western Anatolia Experience
To the west, areas like the Marmara and Aegean regions provide a coastal experience, with frequently balmy weather in the southern regions and snow in the north in winter. The Anatolian menu in these areas may seem even more Greek than cuisine in other regions, with rice preferred over bulgur and plentiful seafood. Whether you're hoping to take in the hustle and bustle of Istanbul or soak in a mud bath, this area provides plenty of things to do.
Traveling Eastern Anatolia
To the east, the Toros and Black Sea mountains provide a beautiful landscape and a terrific location for mountaineering and skiing. Visitors may enjoy Lake Van, sample kebaps and baklava, or explore the towns of Diyarbakir and Gaziantep. Close to Syria, eastern Turkey is close to Syria, Iraq and Iran, and travellers should check with their respective department of state to ensure that travel to those areas is not discouraged by the government.
Central Anatolia for Travelers
Central Anatolia is a dry plateau of Turkey full of beautiful natural features, like Cappadocia's stunning gorges, fairy chimneys and mountains. Here, traditions like carpet-weaving and pottery are valuable to locals, and history is well-preserved in underground cities and cave dwellings. Visitors to Cappadocia, in particular, may opt for a hot air balloon flight in one of the world's most popular ballooning destinations.
Visiting Northern Anatolia
Visitors to Anatolia's northern Black Sea region can take in the beautiful, wild forests and try hunting, fishing or rafting. The coastline boasts a robust fishing industry, with agriculture also forming a big part of the local economy. Akcaabat meatballs, cheesy kuymak and hamsi (anchovy) pilaf are a few delicacies recommended to visitors.
The Southern Anatolia Experience
The southern, Mediterranean part of Anatolia, including cities like Antalya and Fethiye, contains ancient history like the Tlos site, as well as a balmy coast perfect for sailing on a traditional blue gulet cruise. Called the "Turquoise Coast," southern Turkey's coastal region is a must-see for ocean lovers.