For sheer variety, it's hard to beat Turkey (officially the Republic of Turkey). A country is best measured by its many people, landscapes, and cultures. It is a land of vast open spaces, massive mountain ranges, fertile valleys, rugged coastlines, fast-growing cities, sleepy villages, seaside resorts and remote beaches.
Countless waves of invasion, rebellion, and immigration have shaped a country whose cultural depth and breadth may surprise visitors as they venture not just through the major cities, but across the country.
Turkey overflows with historical sites and archaeological wonders, all set in a diverse and beautiful landscape. The Mediterranean coast is dotted with well-preserved Greco-Roman cities like Pergamum and Ephesus, while the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia include cave churches and underground cities.
Although the status of a capital is far from it, Istanbul is the beating heart of the nation. The city is an archive of cultural influences over the centuries, hosting Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques and palaces. However, it is not a relic. Cafés, bustling bazaars, hamams (public baths), and nightclubs are all bustling with activity.
However, Istanbul is only one piece of Turkey's vast puzzle. Beach lovers can spend balmy sunny days in the popular resorts of Bodrum, Marmaris and Izmir along Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.
The unexpected capital, Ankara, may be less of a rarity, but its location in central Anatolia makes it worth a visit for a few days, if only to witness the contrast between the city's modernity and the surviving citadel. Aside from Istanbul's European sensibilities, Ankara also offers an opportunity to gain insight into other aspects of Turkish culture.
However deep its roots may be, Turkey today is a strong and dynamic society, navigating cultural, economic and political change while striving to retain the best of its multicultural heritage and time-honoured traditions. Arguably, this is what makes it so rewarding.