Turkey is a large country located in both Europe and Asia, bordered by eight countries, including Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Azerbaijan. Turkey has a long and rich history, and with that comes plenty of facts about Turkey to know and put it your back pocket next time you hear “Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople.” (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, type that phrase into YouTube and give a listen).
Turkey has a rich cultural and historical background, with evidence of human habitation in the region dating back to prehistoric times! The country has been ruled by many empires throughout history, including the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the modern Republic of Turkey. Because of this Turkey has many historic landmarks, cultural treasures, and a very rich heritage.
Whether you’re traveling to Turkey, want some cultural awareness, or need some facts about Turkey for education, we’re going to fill you in on a few.
Fun Facts About Turkey
1. Turkey has a Long History of Agriculture
There have been many theories as to where agriculture started but today’s consensus among historians is that it started about 11,000 years ago in ancient Turkey.
This theory is based on evidence found that indicates ancient people in those times were planting crops, such as wheat, in the south-central region of the country.
2. Santa Clause is Turkish
It is common knowledge that Santa Claus departs the North Pole every Christmas to deliver presents to the children of the world.
However, he was actually born in Turkey – one of the most surprising Turkey facts. Also known as Saint Nicholas, he was born in the 4th century in the southern region of the country. So yes, he was a real person believed to have been laid to rest in Italy.
3. That’s one Long Coastline!
At 1,175 kilometers long, the Turkish coastline is among the top 20 longest coastlines on the planet. This coast, which stretches along the Black Sea, is as diverse as any other part of the country. In the east, you have romantic cities, such as Trabzon, and medieval attractions. In the west, you’ll find the most scenic areas of Turkey’s coast.
4. Turkey is Home to a Very Big and Very Old Shopping Mall
It’s officially known as The Kapah Carsi but you likely know it as the Grand Bazaar. This huge shopping mall first opened in 1455 in Istanbul and grew to become one of the largest shopping areas in the world. With almost 100 million visitors a year, it’s one of the most visited attractions on earth!
5. Underground Transcontinental Adventure Anyone?
Situated beneath the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul’s Marmaray Intercontinental Commuter Rail Line crosses 76.6 kilometers from Halkali to Gebze, allowing visitors to travel underground from one continent to another.
6. An Important Aviation Hub
It’s a major city, a major tourist attraction and a strategically located city with easy access to points in both Asia and Europe. All of these factors make Istanbul a very important hub in the aviation world. All major airlines worldwide fly from the city and Turkish Airlines alone flies to more than 260 cities around the world.
7. A Land of Many Tongues
As if learning Turkish, the country’s official language, isn’t hard enough, if you want to be the best possible communicator when visiting Turkey, you’ll need to learn how to speak many other languages. The vast majority of people speak Turkish, but other languages you will hear in Turkey is Kurdish, Arabic, Zaza, Laz, Armenian, and Greek.
8. Tulips come from Turkey
Since they originated in Turkey, it only seems natural that the Tulip would be the country’s national flower. But wait…don’t tulips come from Holland? Well, it turns out it was actually Turkey who introduced the pretty flower to Holland and the rest of Europe in the 1600s.
9. A Country on Two Continents
Turkey is a big country, but did you know that 95% percent of its landmass is on the continent of Asia while the other 5% is in Europe? Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two continents!
10. Sweets from Birth to Death
It’s no secret that Turks love their sweets but just how much is likely more than you thought! Turkish tradition is life starts with something sweet and ends with something sweet. This is why new mothers receive sweets to welcome their little one into the world. Sweets are also served at funerals to celebrate the life of the person being mourned.
11. Coffee could lead to Divorce
Only several hundred years ago, a woman could request a divorce and be granted one if her husband failed to adequately supply her with good, quality coffee.
In those days, something as simple as coffee and something we take for granted today because it’s so widely available was considered both essential and a luxury.
12. Lovers of Tea
If you thought that England had the most tea lovers in the world, guess again. Turkey consumes more tea than any other country on the entire planet, which is one of the most interesting facts about Turkey.
Some say it’s five to ten cups a day on average while others say it’s three to four cups but either way, that’s a lot of tea! Over 90% of Turks claim to drink tea every day.
13. A Youthful Country
With a median age of only 31.5 years and almost a quarter of the population under the age of 14 and half under 30, Turkey has one of the youngest populations of all nations.
14. A Turkish Influence
While it was first used in Asia, Turquoise made its way to Europe via Turkey and the gemstone was widely used there for many things including amulets. It is this Turkish influence that gives the gem the name we know it as today.
15. Ankara or Istanbul?
If you thought Istanbul was the capital of Turkey, you would be on par with what most people think but you would also be wrong. The real capital of Turkey is Ankara. Prior to 1923, when Istanbul was known as Constantinople, it was the capital.
16. So Many Mosques
Turkey as a whole has more than 82,000 mosques. As if that doesn’t seem amazing enough, the city of Istanbul is home to 3,000 of those mosques alone. The Hagia Sophia, is the most popular place to visit in Istanbul.
17. A Watery Goodbye
It may seem strange to you but this odd way of bidding farewell to someone is quite common in Turkey. It involves throwing a bucket of water as the person leaves. And no, it’s not a way of washing the memory of the person away but quite the opposite; it is to wish the departing person a happy return someday soon.
18. A Breeding Ground for Sea Turtles
When most people think of sea turtle nesting areas, they think of the Caribbean, Central America, or South America. However, Turkey also has a sea turtle nesting area at Iztuzu Beach just outside of Fethiye for endangered loggerhead turtles. Each year, more than 300 nests appear between May and October. The area is an excellent mix of conservation and tourist attraction meaning you can observe the turtles without disrupting them.
19. Coffee for Royalty Only
Imagine not being able to have your morning coffee because it was reserved for only certain members of society. Hundreds of years ago, the popular drink was introduced but only the elite in society could enjoy it.
20. An Underground Refuge
The Cappadocia region of Turkey is famous today for hot air ballooning but centuries ago, it was a welcome refuge for Christians escaping the Roman Empire. They hid in underground cities and caves which you can visit if you’re ever in the area.
21. A Unique National Sport
While soccer may be the first sport that comes to mind when you think of Turkey’s national sport, this title actually belongs to the sport of oil wrestling.
As one of the oldest sports in the country, many Turks look forward to watching these matches which see fighters douse themselves in oil or grease before the match.
22. Wine certainly has its Place in Turkish History
It’s currently the 4th biggest producer of grapes on earth so it’s only natural to assume that Turkey is also a huge wine producer. Actually, the country was one of the first producers of wine and that production goes back close to 6,000 years!
23. Hazelnut Paradise
If you’re like me and never really had any clue where those delicious hazelnuts in your trail mix come from, you might be surprised to learn that around 75% of the world’s hazelnuts come from Turkey.
The favorable weather conditions and ideal land suitable for production are some of the main reasons why Turkey is able to produce so much of the nuts.
24. The Ark on Mount Ararat
According to experts in the field, it is now believed that Noah’s Ark landed on Mount Ararat. Why it is thought to have landed there is anyone’s guess, but it could have something to do with the incredible scenery, diverse landscape and high location away from any flooding.
25. A World First
It sounds unbelievable but Gobekli Tepe in Turkey is the remnants of a very old temple believed to be the world’s first with stones dating as far back as 13,000 years. The age and condition of this temple make it one of the most incredible archeological sites ever found.
26. A Popular Souvenir
In Turkey, you can find many unique souvenirs to take home to friends and family but the one that stands out more than any other souvenir is the Evil Eye or Nazar Boncugu as it’s known locally.
This stone constructed from molten glass, iron, and copper represents a tradition that is more than 3,000 years old and has been a best-seller among tourists for years. Whether it is due to its said powers that provide protection from negative energy to anyone who wears it or because of the way it looks, the souvenir stands the test of time.
27. Lucky Number 40
Prophet Mohammad received the Quran at age 40 and Jesus wandered the desert for 40 days and this is why Turks of both major religions in the region believe that the number 40 is truly lucky. It is also believed that if you say something 40 times, it will eventually happen.
28. An Ancient Place of Worship
Historians now believe that the Grotto of St. Peter near the ancient city of Antioch, known today as Antakya, is the oldest Christian church and place of worship in the entire world. It was started and created by Simon Peter who was one of Jesus’ disciples. If you visit this area, you can visit the church and see some of the ancient features that still exist today.
29. Turkey is a Very Popular Tourist Destination
If you’ve never considered traveling to Turkey, you’re a minority in the world of international travel! Believe it or not, the country is the sixth most visited destination in the world and each year, over 50 million people come to Turkey to enjoy a vibrant culture, world-class historic sites, beautiful scenery, and incredible weather.
30. It’s officially illegal to wear a Fez in Turkey
On paper, it’s illegal to wear a Fez in Turkey because, to some people, the red, tasseled hat represents the Ottoman Empire. It was banned and made illegal in the 1920 but if you decide to walk down the streets of Turkey wearing a Fez, you likely won’t get arrested, but you may get some strange looks!
31. Turkey is a Mountainous Country
Yes, there are coastal areas, sandy beaches, sprawling farmlands, and stunning valleys but Turkey is also home to some great mountain ranges. In fact, dozens of peaks are high enough for snow and to be home to resorts that specialize in cold weather activities. Mount Ararat is the most famous and tallest mountain in Turkey at just over 16,000 feet.
32. Camels are not Native to Turkey. Who Knew?
Yes, camels are everywhere in Turkey. You’ll see them around tourist areas mostly and it wouldn’t be unusual to see some at the holiday resorts around the region. However, the animals are not native to the country.
Camels thrive in desert environments and there are no deserts in Turkey. The likely reason for camels becoming so entwined in Turkish culture and tourism is the fact that ancient convoys headed to Africa and Asia passed through Turkey along the way.
33. Once Known by another Name
One of those facts about Turkey that most might know is that Istanbul has not always been known as Istanbul. BUT Constantinople wasn’t the only other name it went by either. Prior to the year 324, it was known as Byzantium.
We hope you enjoyed these fun facts about Turkey! See below for more facts around the world!