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The wide range of activities offered in Turkey is guaranteed to offer something for every visitor whether you’re interested in long-distance hiking, skiing, river rafting, paragliding, diving or simply watching a game of football among some of the world’s most passionate fans.

    Football is enormously popular in Turkey with most Turks being loyal to one of the three major Istanbul teams: Galatasaray, Beşiktaş or Fenerbahçe. The town of Trabzon, on the coast of the Black Sea, is the only exception as people support the local team, Trabzonspor, which is a worthwhile competitor of the three major Istanbul teams.

    Local football talent is significant with many Turkish players being sold to English, German and Spanish teams, while the managers of Istanbul giants are frequently recruited from foreign countries with inconsistent results. Turkish teams usually include many international players from Africa and South America. Galatasaray is the first Turkish team to win the UEFA Cup where most teams fail to qualify for the Champions League.

    From September to May, matches are usually played on Friday evenings, Saturday afternoons/evenings and Sunday afternoons. Tickets for provincial team games are quite easy to get and can be purchased on the day at the grounds; they cost as little as TL10. However, the prices increase significantly for tickets to major team matches. The games are generally broadcast and shown on large screens in bars where the atmosphere, particularly for derby games, is intense and lively.

    Football violence is fairly common, but most visitors are not likely to be caught up in this.  

If you’re an experienced hiker and don’t mind carrying your own tent and food with limited facilities, you’ll be spoiled by choice of the wild ranges of mountains in Turkey. Mountain exploration is a true adventure of unspoiled countryside, true rural Turkish hospitality, that compensate the lack of decent mountain maps. Parallel to the Black Sea, the alpine KaçkarDağları is the number one location for trekking. Several operators offer organized expeditions there. The limestone Toros (Taurus) ranges - particularly the lofty Aladağlar mountains south of Cappadocia – are the second best choice.

    For high-altitude mountaineering, visitors can climb the volcanoes of Turkey’s central plateau, which all offer fantastic summit views. The 5,137m Ağrı Dağ, or Ararat on the eastern borders of Turkey is renowned, but its location makes it necessary to apply for a special permit. If you’d prefer a location with no expense or bureaucratic requirements, the 3,916m Erciyes Dağı offers equally exhilarating climbing and Turkey’s second-highest volcanic peak, Süphan Dağı (4,058m), is resplendent in the isolated north of Lake Van. The spectacular Cilo–Sat Mountains, south of Lake Van, are currently closed to visitors as a result of continuous fighting between Turkish security forces and the Kurdish separatists.

    Unlike other countries, Turkey’s climbing trails have no alpine huts so you need to take your full camping gear for any mountain treks you may have planned. Only Istanbul and Ankara have high-qualitymountaineering shops. Similarly, it can be hard to locate water on the limestone Toros volcanoes, trails are seldom marked and not always present and detailed maps are difficult to get.

    In an emergency, the local jandarma will be dispatched and AKUT, a Search and Rescue Association, has eight established centres across western, southern and central Turkey but excludes the popular Kaçkar range.

If you prefer to organize you own hikes, you can find information about trails through the KaçkarDağları and a choice of walks on Bursa’s Uludağ and along the Turquoise Coast, but it’s advisable to book through a travel company instead.

    Large-scale maps for trekking in specific areas are almost non-existent except for long-distance trails and the Kaçkar Mountains. Trekking in Turkey has satisfactory maps for popular trekking areas, but the book is now only available secondhand since it is out-of-print.

    Though few tourists associate skiing with Turkey, it is increasing in popularity and the piste is worth a visit between December and April. Skiing in towns like Erzurum or Bursa, that are close to resorts, is both easy and cheap.    Located above Bursa, Uludağ is Turkey’s most famous ski resort with easy and intermediate runs. Unfortunately, the slopes are often misty and the snow becomes slushy after February. Snow conditions in Davraz, near İsparta, are usually more dependable. There’s also a resort with sufficient  accommodation available in the lake town of Eğirdir. However, Kartalkaya, near Bolu – which is halfway between Istanbul and Ankara - is nearly equal to the facilities offered at Uludağ. It has also had enough snow in the last few years to offer decent skiing and has many red and black runs. Palandöken, near Erzurum, has a top lift that goes over 3,000m, offers the longest season due to the best snow and it is the training ground for the Turkish national team. In addition, it has a T-bar, three chairlifts and a 3km gondola car that services a variety of blue and red runs. Tekir Yaylası on Erciyes Dağı near Kayseri offers almost equally powdery snow and a long season with a top lift of 2,770m. Sarıkamış, near Kars, has a top lift of 2,634m and offers only a few predominantly red and blue grade runs serviced by two chairlifts and one T-bar.

    Waterskiing and parasailing are offered by the majority of medium- to large-sized resorts. The Bodrum peninsula is popular with windsurfers and kite-surfing is commonly centred on Alaçatı, near Çeşme.  The indented coastline, islets and clear, shallow of Kaş, a resort on the southwest Mediterranean, it is best explored by sea kayak.

White water rafting is as exciting as kayaking but requires no real skill. It’s very popular on the Dalaman River near Fethiye and the Köprülü River near Antalya, but the dam-threatened Çoruh in northeast Turkey is best and offers top-notch river conditions for more serious rafters. Canyoning is another freshwater activity in which you abseil down waterfalls, jump into plunge pools and explore gorges. Numerous operators organize these tours in Kaş.

Take your explorations beneath the water’s surface as you experience the variety of wrecks, caves, fish and reefs in the warm and crystalline waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Scuba diving is offered by numerous operators in Kaş, Kalkan and, further west, in Bodrum, Marmaris and Fethiye. You can also hire gear at these places.

    Geyikbayırı is a mere 25km from the gateway of Antalya and it is the best starting point with the 500 bolted routes that move up the grandiose cliff. Numerous camping facilities and wooden chalet-style places offer accommodation in the forest with more beach level climbing options available from nearby Olympos’s beach resort.

    Finally, the plunging valleys and bizarre sculpted rocks of Cappadocia offer some of the world’s most incredible landscape. Drift over this incredible wonderland in a hot-air balloon or try paragliding from the mountains between the resorts of Kaş or Ölüdenizif you’re in search of more adrenaline producing activities.


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