20 Fascinating Facts about Turkey
Did you know that Turkey is part of both Asia and Europe? Or that Noah's Ark landed on a Turkish volcano? Read all that and more below, where we’ve collected 20 fascinating facts about Turkey that will surprise you. Before we get started, we have summarised the latest COVID-19 measures in place in the country.
COVID-19 Measures to Consider on Holiday in Turkey
Turkey is accessible to tourists from the UK, but visitors will have to quarantine for 14 days when they are back home. In the country, cafes, restaurants and museums are open, as are parks and beaches. Face masks are required in many public places and also on public transportation. Social distancing rules apply everywhere, and thermal imaging cameras are utilised in some hotels.
If you have specific questions, please refer to the GOV.UK website and the relevant Turkish authorities.
20 Fascinating Facts about Incredible Turkey
1. Istanbul is on two continents
Let's start with a classic: Istanbul lives on two continents. The city is separated by the Bosporus, a strait, and thus consists of a European and an Asian part. Overall, 95% of Turkey is in Asia, and 5% is in Europe.
2. Ankara, not Istanbul, is the capital of Turkey
Many people assume that it is Istanbul that is the capital of Turkey, but actually, it is the city of Ankara that is the capital. Istanbul just happens to be Turkey’s largest city. Ankara has been an important trade centre throughout Turkey’s history and has grown to become a significant trading, art and cultural hub.
3. The original name of Istanbul is "Byzantium"
The name "Byzantium" has Greek origins and refers to Byzas, the founder of the city. In 324, it was renamed to “Constantinople”, and in 1930 it was changed to Istanbul.
4. The story of Santa Claus originated in Turkey
Born to wealthy parents, Nicholas was a Christian saint and Greek bishop of Myra, who was born in Patara. Once his parents died, he received a large amount of wealth, which he would give away to the poor and needy. Legend has it that he would drop bags of gold coins down the chimneys of houses, and provide fruits to children. His good deeds spread through Europe, and locals began integrating it with their myths and legends.
5. The Turks love tea
Although you may know Turkey for their coffee, 96% of the population drinks at least one cup of tea per day. Turkish tea is robust, and they serve it in small tulip-shaped glasses. Make sure to try all their extraordinary tea flavours during your travels.
6. Turkey has a young demographic
Turkey has the EU’s largest young population. The average age in Turkey is around 31, and only 9% of the country’s population is over 60.
7. Istanbul (Old Constantinople) was founded on seven hills
Similar to Rome, Istanbul was built on seven hills. However, this wasn’t a coincidence; the Byzantine Empire built the city that way to declare them as the new Rome. All seven hills are historically significant and studded with impressive mosques and gorgeous palaces.
8. The name "turquoise" actually comes from Turkey
Turquoise means ‘Turkish stone’. The beautiful mineral came to Europe from the Orient via Turkey and is one of the oldest gemstones in history. They were first used as amulets by Turkish soldiers.
9. The national sport of Turkey is oil wrestling
Also known as grease wrestling, oil wrestling is one of the oldest sports in Turkey. When wrestling with oil, the fighters douse themselves with oil beforehand and then face their opponent.
10. There are 82,693 mosques in Turkey
Turkey is home to some of the most beautiful mosques in the world, as about 99% of all Turks are Muslims. One of the most breathtaking mosques in Turkey is the Sultanahmet Mosque, popularly known as the ‘Blue Mosque’ in Istanbul.
11. Turkey is the largest producer of hazelnuts
Turkey supplies approximately 75% of the world’s production of hazelnuts and is thus one of the pillars of the Turkish export market. Mainly due to its favourable weather conditions for hazelnut production, hazelnut fields stretch along the Black Sea coasts of Turkey.
12. Turkey has an impressive self-sufficient agriculture
Agriculture is the main occupation of the majority of the Turkish population, as almost half the country consists of agricultural land. Historians believe that many agricultural systems originated in Turkey. Due to its fruitful soil, favourable climate and plentiful rainfall, in terms of food production, Turkey is one of the few self-sufficient countries in the world.
13. The Turks love their bread
In Turkey, almost every meal comes with fresh bread (ekmek), and the best part of the meal is soaking up the juices and oils of other dishes with your bread. The giving of ekmek is significant in Turkey because, in Islamic belief, bread sustains life. Due to this, bread is never wasted.
14. There are more than 30 ethnic languages in Turkey
Although Turkish is the official language of the country, more than 30 other languages are spoken regularly, including Arabic, Kurmanji and Zazaki to name a few.
15. The "Evil Eye" is the best-selling souvenir
The “Nazar boncuğu”, or “evil eye”, is a stone made from molten glass, iron and copper. A 3000-year old tradition, it is worn to protect the wearer from evil forces. The belief is that the blue colour of the stone has the power to shield from negative energy.
16. We owe coffee to the Turks
Although coffee doesn't come from Turkey, the Turks brought coffee to Europe in the 16th century. When in Turkey, try their classic mocha coffee, brewed in a cezve, a small copper pot.
17. Turkish women could leave their husbands for coffee
Yes, you read that right. A few hundred years ago, Turkish women had legal grounds to get a divorce if their husbands couldn’t provide them with something as essential as coffee.
18. The Grand Bazaar has more than 3000 stores
The “Kapalı Çarşı” in Istanbul dates back to the 14th century and is now a labyrinth of 61 streets with around 3000 shops - definitely worth a visit.
19. Istanbul Airport is a major aviation hub
All airlines fly to worldwide destinations from Istanbul. Turkish Airlines alone flies to more than 260 destinations.
20. Noah's Ark allegedly landed on Mount Ararat
Many believe that Noah's biblical ark arrived on the Ararat volcano. The mountain is beautiful to look at and is home to incredible natural diversity. It’s one of the highlights of the country, so make sure to check it out when you visit.
Flights from the UK to Turkey
Here’s another bonus fact: Turkey is the 6th most visited travel destination in the world. Every year around 50 million visitors visit the country to explore its exciting culture, delicious delicacies and warm weather.
If you want to discover the stunning country, check our flight deals to Turkey!
Small print: This year, travelling is significantly challenged by COVID-19. Please review our worldwide travel advice and local regulations for your travel destination before planning any trip.