While tourism numbers worldwide plummeted in 2020 and 2021 because of covid, the number of Americans visiting Turkey in the first half of 2022 is up 76.8% over the same period of 2019 before the pandemic struck.
“This is an extraordinary and exciting result,” says Yalçın Lokmanhekim, the General Manager of TGA, Turkey Tourism Promotion and Development Agency, underscoring not only Turkish tourism’s recovery from the pandemic, but also highlighting how Americans are vacationing in Turkey in record-breaking numbers.
“At the beginning of 2022, we set our aims to reach and surpass the numbers of 2019 by welcoming 42 million visitors and garnering 35 billion dollars in revenue,” says Lokmanhekim. “Thanks to the incredible season we’ve had, we have recently revised these figures to 47 million tourists and 37 billion dollars in revenue.” In the January-July period of 2022, Turkey had 26 million visitors, achieving a rise of 128% compared to the same period of 2021. In July, 6 million tourists visited Turkey, which indicated a rise of 53% compared to July 2021. “The numbers of the said period show how close we are to reaching the goals we set for ourselves,” says Lokmanhekim.
One of the trends Lokmanhekim is seeing is that the visitor stay is longer, with this year’s average being 10.8 days.
The top destination in Turkey for Americans is the city of Istanbul. Travelers often combine Istanbul, an urban destination, with the unique landscapes of Cappadocia in the east of the country.
Istanbul has long since been a draw for American travelers, not only for its attractions but also its cuisine. So it’s considered quite an accomplishment that Istanbul is slated to become the 38th destination to be judged part of the world’s most prestigious culinary destinations by the Michelin Guides. The red-covered Michelin guidebooks are considered the bible for food enthusiasts. Says Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, “This interest of the Michelin organization in the İstanbul food and drink sector demonstrates that Turkey is at the forefront of gastronomy tourism. The Michelin Guide will move our businesses, which stand out with their originality, diversity, sustainability and creativity, to the global stage with an entirely new seal of approval.”
Expressing his enthusiasm for the addition of Istanbul to the Michelin family, Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides said, “The Michelin Guide’s inclusion of Istanbul will present the city to gourmets around the world. Fueled by ancient traditions and young, open-minded and creative talents that shape an original taste identity, Istanbul’s culinary scene amazed our team.” The selection of the first Istanbul restaurants recognized Michelin will be announced in October.
The diverse and multicultural Turkish dishes and international cuisine found in Istanbul merges Mediterranean and international delicacies. In the Ulus district, fine-dining restaurants are found on rooftops and terraces with impressive views of the Bosphorus Bridge and skyline. This is the place to go for a night out or a celebratory dinner.
Tucked away west of the Galata end of Istiklal Caddesi, hip restaurants surrounded by contemporary art galleries serve Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine in the form of mezze dishes (small dishes of a variety of foods). In Galata and even in the apartment floors of Yeniköy, not far from the waterfront, are cozy eateries offering seasonal menus, Turkish coffee and local beer.
In Beyoğlu there are a plethora of award-winning restaurants some of which have been featured in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The culinary excellence here is inspired by the philosophy of “new Anatolian cuisine”, which combines traditional produce, culture, and techniques with a modern perspective.
In the Etiler district, highlights include Peruvian-Asian fusion cuisine with occasional hints of the Turkish tradition. Restaurants that incorporate international fusion can be found in Suadiye and Caddebostan.
After several days in the bustling city of Istanbul, many travelers make their way to the moonscape region of Cappadocia, southeast of Ankara, famous for its unique geological features called fairy chimneys.
Over time, as the landscape was eroded, basalt stones remained and formed conical structures which were used to create dwellings, castles, and even entire underground cities. The local people referred to these unique rock formations as fairy chimneys.
Popular activities here include a hot air balloon ride at dawn, which depart from the trails around Göreme region and offer amazing views of the land of the fairy chimneys.
Another unique experience is staying in a cave hotel—some of the region’s troglodyte dwellings have been turned into luxurious boutique hotels. These hotels offer a feel of the region’s unique architecture while providing all the modern amenities.
Horseback riding is also a great way to explore Cappadocia—horses can navigate through the picturesque valleys of Meskendir and Güllüdere and can navigate where vehicles cannot enter, around fairy chimneys and among village vineyards.
Hiking is also quite popular here. Some of the more popular trails including the Valley of Pigeons near Göreme, the Love Valley, the Rose Valley and the Sword Valley. These trails weave through villages with historic churches as well as nature and necropolises.
The town of Avanos is famous for its tradition of pottery-making and travelers can take part in a workshop with master potters giving guidance. Handicrafts, Turkish carpets and other unique items can be found through the Cappadocia region—for travelers to learn about and purchase.