More than 30 million tourists visited Turkey in 2012, cementing the nation's reputation as one of the world's top holiday destinations – but the staggering numbers should be of no surprise. Whether you are a weary beach bum or the ultimate culture connoisseur, out to splash the cash or in search of cheaper options, this amazingly diverse country has plenty of holiday potential. Even better, with the Turkish Lira still measuring up against most major currencies, there has never been a better time to explore.
Chosen adventure: City break
Immortalised by poets and writers across the centuries, Istanbul is one of the world's most enchanting cities. At its core, the city – once capital of the Byzantine and then Ottoman Empires – is a vision of crumbling fortifications peeking out from between modern concrete buildings, delicate minarets stretching upwards to the sky, and creaky timber-framed houses squeezed together along cobblestone alleyways. The Bosphorus Strait is the city’s beating heart, slicing it in two and separating Asia from Europe. With only a short break up your sleeve, head out onto the water to truly capture the essence of Istanbul.
Cruise the Bosphorus in style and make the most of the majestic, age-old views by chartering a private boat for a sunset trip. Evening cocktail cruises aboard the Zoe Yacht are a particularly sophisticated way to watch dusk fall over the city, with a bartender creating perfectly blended mojitos while you and your friends enjoy 360-degree views of Istanbul's skyline from the yacht's raised flybridge. For dinner, have your table pre-booked at top fish restaurant Poseidon in the fashionable district of Bebek so the yacht can drop you off at the door. Now that’s how to arrive in style.
Istanbul's cityscape can be enjoyed from the water even if you are not flush with cash. IDO ferry buses run cruises up the Bosphorus, leaving twice daily from the Eminönüdock. The one way trip takes 90 minutes to Anadolu Kavağı with a three hour break before the ferry departs for the return journey. If you are really stretched for time there is a shorter afternoon cruise that turns around at Fatıh Bridge and takes two hours in total. Packed to the brim with fellow day-trippers (for the best views, score a seat on the either side of the upper deck), the tour sails its way up the Bosphorus, passing the ornate palaces and wooden yalı (Ottoman summer houses) that cling to the shore. Among the city’s chi-chi dining choices, finding a cheap meal that does not involve pide (Turkish pizza) or döner kebap (lamb shaved from a revolving skewer) can be a hassle. So head to Uçuncu Mevki (18 Öğüt Sokak) in the Beyoğlu district for hearty, wholesome dishes such as ezo gelin çorba (lentil and rice soup) and dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with rice), just like a Turkish mamma makes.
Chosen adventure: Beach break
It may be famous as package-tourism fodder, but Turkey's vast coastline is so much more than the resort towns of Bodrum, Kuşadası and Marmaris. Away from the bustle and the crowds, ancient ruins snuggle into hillsides, secluded bays offer stretches of white sand beach and quaint fishing villages exude a whiff of slow-paced yesteryear.
Those in the know opt for the laidback luxury of Bozcaada Island in the Aegean Sea. This islet is loaded with Mediterranean retro-style, with Bozcaada Town’s whitewashed Greek architecture converted into hip and arty seafood restaurants, cafes and boutique hotels. Inland, the vineyards that swaddle the slopes produce some of Turkey's best wines, while the beaches on the south coast are perfect for topping up your tan. Kaikias Hotel embodies the island's cultured vibe – its interior fusing original art with antiques – and Istanbul's Prada handbag-swinging set have been beating a path to its door since it opened in 2001.
Located on Turkey's Turquoise Coast, Kabak is a dinky hamlet perfect for grown-up backpackers who are still looking for value but over the heady party days. It is all about lazing on hammocks, sleeping in simple bungalows or pitching a tent between the pine trees and a pristine strip of white sand only minutes down the hill. Full Moon Camp is an easygoing spot for chilled out holidays, with rustic wooden cabins and homemade dinners packed with local produce.