Turkey was fast becoming a favourite destination for Brits until, despite being a democratic state showing no signs of trouble, it somehow became associated with the riots in North Africa and some of the Arab countries.
Recent assurance from the Turkish Tourist Office has quelled fears and with fierce competition between full-service British Airways (www.ba.com) and Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com), prices for flights from Heathrow to Istanbul’s main airport, Ataturk, have fallen. Budget airlines Easy Jet (www.esayJet.com) and Pegasus (www.flypgs.com) also fly to Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gokcen with fares from under £200 return.
Famous for its key position on the global map, firstly as Byzantium, then as Constantinople, and finally under its current name, Istanbul is a vibrant city with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, overlooking the waters of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Its spectacular location, striking Ottoman mosques, Byzantine churches and bustling bazaars can’t fail to impress.
Visit the Sultanahmet old town, where the city's Egyptian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman heritages are clearly visible, steam in one of the area’s Turkish Baths and haggle in the The Grand Bazaar where you can find anything and everything in the 4,000 shops within 60 streets. The Blue Mosque, the museum of Santa Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, heart of the Ottoman Empire for nearly four centuries, are all stunning.
An unusual and cheap option (£25) is to take a four-hour ‘Home Cooked Istanbul Urban Adventure’ tour organized by Intrepid (www.urbanadventures.com), which includes a meal with a local family and the chance to play backgammon in a teahouse. Enjoy!