Turkey occupies a rectangular-shaped peninsula of land at the crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa; home to countless civilizations and a crossing point between the continents over several ages.
A vast country 814,578 square kilometres or 314,510 square metres in area with a beautiful coastline stretching 8333 km or 5187 miles, it is approximately 3.5 times the size of the UK. It is situated on two continents – 3% in Europe (Thrace) and the remainder of the landmass, including Anatolia, in Asia – and Istanbul is the only city in the world straddled on two continents, separated by the Bosphorus strait, which runs from the Black Sea through Istanbul and into the inland Sea of Marmara which flows through the Dardanelles and out to the Aegean. Turkey is bordered to the north by the Black Sea (Karadeniz), to the west by the Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi) and Aegean (Ege) and to the south by the Mediterranean (Akdeniz).
Due to its position and the fact that Turkey is at the meeting point of three different climatic zones, it is home to a tremendous variety of landscapes and plants so being a paradise for travellers and naturalists. There are dense forests in the northern Black Sea and the southern Mediterranean regions, coastal plains on the western Aegean; mountain pastures inland, deserts to the southeast and lakes throughout the country.
Turkey is separated into seven geographical regions, which are, in order of size: East Anatolia, Central Anatolia, Black Sea, Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara and Southeast Anatolia.
Turkey is also a very mountainous country, with an average altitude of 1,132 metres and the tallest peaks in the east with Mount Agri (Ağrı Dağı) the highest at 5165 metres. This mountain is a snow-capped inactive volcano and is said to be the resting place for Noah’s Ark. The North Anatolian Mountains run along the north of the country parallel to the Black Sea, whilst the Taurus Mountains (Toros Dağları) sweep along the Mediterranean in the south.
Lakes and Rivers
There are a large number of lakes in Turkey; most notable is Lake Van, the largest natural lake at 3,713 square kms, covering as much area as an inland sea. Dam lakes are also a common site in Turkey. The country’s longest river is the Kızılırmak, which flows into the Black Sea and is 1355 km long. The Euphrates (Fırat) and Tigris (Dicle) both originate in Turkey and flow through other countries before reaching the Persian Gulf.
Having a complex geological past has left some wondrous traces on the landscape, most notably the white, lunar rocky fairy-chimney forms of the Cappadocian countryside and the white travertine terraces of Pamukkale which literally means cotton castle. This varied landscape is also reflected in the crops grown in the different parts of the country: tea to the northeast, hazelnuts to the north, olives and tobacco to the west, wheat inland and fruit throughout, to name just a few.