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Top ten destinations

Commemorating the centenary of the 1915 Gallipoli ANZAC campaign, many New Zealand travellers will be visiting Turkey in 2015. Explore beyond Istanbul to the eastern regions of the country, which are fascinating and largely unvisited by foreign tourists. You'll find excellent food and a warm welcome from the predominantly Kurdish population. Concealed within Diyarbakir's slate coloured jumble of laneways and alleys is the fascinating Dengbej Evi (Dengbej House). Kurdish elders have resurrected the ancient art of Dengbej, where men take turns to sing a capella stories to the generous and vocal support of others. Don't leave town without trying the local specialty of kaburga dolmasi (lamb stuffed with rice and almonds). You'll need a friend or two to get through it.2: SanliurfaNowhere does ancient history as well as Sanliurfa. Past inhabitants include the prophet Abraham, it was conquered by Alexander the Great, and the archaeological site of Gobekli Tepe lies northeast. First unearthed in 1995, the compact circle of Neolithic megaliths is around 12,000 years old about seven millennia older than Stonehenge and is reputed to be the world's first temple. Back in "Urfa", a state of the art museum showcases centuries of history, and the old town's Gumruk Hani caravanserai is best experienced by combining coffee and backgammon with the locals. Bring along your "A Game".3: Mt NemrutAlmost 2000 years ago, a megalomaniacal local king ordered the installation of giant statues atop a remote 2150m high peak. What was originally an ego driven funeral mound is now a sunrise and sunset destination for travellers in knock off bvlgari rose gold earrings a new millennium. Wrap up as the summit is chilly even in summer, and from October to April there's a good chance of snowdrifts on the winding mountain road from the dusty town of Kahta. The Turkish spring from April to May is the best time to see bright red poppies carpeting the valleys.4: HalfetiOnly revealed at the last downhill moment on a minibus journey from Gaziantep or Sanliurfa, Halfeti is best visited on a weekday. That way you'll bypass the weekend Turkish visitors drawn to this spectacular riverside town. Charter a rustic wooden boat to travel to the heritage fortress of Rumkale before moving on to the partially submerged village of Savas, abandoned after being flooded by the nearby Birecik Dam. A solitary minaret emerges from a submerged mosque, and ancient cave houses stud the cliffs above the waters. Consider staying overnight in Halfeti's comfortable Socrates Pension to experience the best of the town once the daytrippers have left.Photo / Brett Carol Atkinson5: AniLocated in northeastern Anatolia on the border with Armenia, the abandoned city of Ani is testament to the changing tides of history. Once a commercial hub on the Silk Road and important enough to rival Byzantium (Istanbul) and Rome, the ruins of Ani now punctuate a desolate and exposed plateau. Several of the cathedrals, mosques and churches are well preserved, and swallows swooping through soaring naves reinforce the fragility of history. Reflecting more recent times, the nearby city of Kars flaunts grandiose Russian mansions from the early 20th century.6: VanIf you ask "What's for breakfast?" in Van, expect a long and very tasty answer. The city near Turkey's eastern border with Iran is crammed with cafes specialising in the most important meal of the day. After a leisurely session eating bvlgari gold earrings copy local cheeses, chilli studded scrambled eggs, warm flatbread and honey, plan your local exploration to include stunning lake and mountain scenery, restored Armenian churches on remote islands and the famed Van cat. A few of the unique breed with different coloured eyes can usually be found mooching around the historic Van Castle.7: Ishak Pasha Palace, DogubayazitIn the days of the overland hippy trail from London to Kathmandu, Dogubayazit aka "Dog Biscuit" was the last Turkish stop before Iran. It's still a dusty outpost fake bvlgari earring of scant charm, but wonderfully close to one of Anatolia's most spectacular and romantic buildings. In a starkly beautiful canyon above Dogubayazit, the Ishak Pasha Palace combines Seljuk, Ottoman, Persian, Georgian and Armenian influences, testament to the shifting borders this region has experienced over the centuries. Active types visiting Dogubayazit from June to September should allow an additional four days to climb nearby Mt Ararat, the legendary location of Noah's Ark.Photo / Brett Carol Atkinson8: GaziantepTell an expat Turk you're headed to Gaziantep, and they'll probably start salivating. The city is renowned as Turkey's foodie capital, with around 200 baklava shops, restaurants turning out seasonal kebabs with local truffles, and a wholly addictive dish called katmer. Gossamer thin filo pastry is layered with sugar, clotted cream and chopped pistachios and transformed into the lightest crepe you'll ever eat. Fortunately, Gaziantep's labyrinthine bazaar encourages lots of walking. The city's other unmissable attraction is the Zeugma Mosaics Museum, where the highlight is the enigmatic "Gypsy Girl" mosaic.9: MardinThe honey coloured stone mansions of Mardin cascade down a castle topped mountain with views of the Plains of Mesopotamia, and are now being reopened as boutique hotels. Mardin's narrow main street is a bustling collage of silversmiths, restaurants arrayed across multiple levels and stalls selling fragrant organic soaps. Local dishes and mezze have a strong Middle Eastern influence, and Mardin is an excellent base to explore centuries old Syrian Orthodox monasteries and the poignant village of Hasankeyf. The sleepy settlement on the banks of the Tigris River is going to be flooded by the massive Ilisu hydro electricity project in a few years' time, so be quick.Photo / Brett Carol Atkinson10: Kurdish homestaysBook a night in a Kurdish homestay near Sanliurfa through Nomad Tours Turkey. You'll be put up in comfortable village houses, with the warmth of the host families and the excellent local food a real highlight. Look forward to zesty cheese and zingy yoghurt from the families' fat tailed sheep, and freshly baked flatbread and gzleme (savoury Turkish crepes). From Istanbul, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Jet and Onur Air make regular flights to major cities in eastern Turkey.Getting around: If you're a confident driver, renting a car is a good way to explore the area. Road conditions are predominantly very good and traffic is relatively light outside of imitation bvlgari women earrings urban areas. Turkey's bus service is efficient and modern, and regular departures link cities and towns. Small groups can do a guided tour with Eastern Turkey Tours, based in Van.

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