Inspiration for all

With much of Turkey’s rich historic and cultural wealth scattered throughout the country in a virtual playground of open-air wonders, kids won’t even notice they’re being exposed to the learning experience of a lifetime.

So let the family loose to scramble over the marble remains of Pergamum, up the colossal steps of the Great Theatre of Ephesus, across the vast garden courtyards of Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace, into the belly of the model Trojan Horse at Troy, or around the regally crowned tombs dotting the length of the Mediterranean.

They’re sure to be enchanted poking around the courtyards, students’ quarters and prayer spaces in the preserved Selçuk and Ottoman caravansaries that dot the old Silk Road. Watch them explore the underground warren of corridors, chapels, warehouses and living spaces that comprise the underground cave cities of Cappadocia, or climb around the Fairy Chimneys inhabited by Christianity’s earliest communities of monks as you secretly take video of their enthusiasm. Going to ground not your thing? Then ride the wind above the Cappadocia’s captivating landscape in a hot air balloon and relish the fairy chimneys, the pastel hued valleys and vineyards from above.

In Demre, along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, slip your kids an early Christmas present by taking them to the birthplace, and as tradition has it, the final resting place, of St. Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus.

If water – be it at the beach, the pool or a waterfall, is the common denominator that makes a family vacation a success - then in Turkey, you’ll be overwhelmed by choice.

One of the quintessential experiences of the Turkish Mediterranean is the Blue Voyage, a full day or week-long excursion that traces the mountainous shoreline and scenic cliffs of Southwestern Turkey. Where else can you allow your children to choose among a selection of treats from the traveling ice cream boats while you laze starboard on your very own vessel?  Or to identify the forgotten remains of the mysterious Sunken City on a glass bottomed boat?

A short river cruise up the marshy Dalyan Delta gets you and your clan access to the healthy hilarity of slathering yourself in a sulfur-rich mud bath, just minutes from the breeding grounds of Loggerhead sea turtles and public beaches of Iztuzu. You can picnic at the twin harbors of ancient Knidos or the trio of harbors at Phaselis while swimming amidst toppled, unexcavated chunks of archaeological stones and earthenware shards.  Challenge your kids to a swim beneath the icy waterfalls of Kursunlu, Düden and Manavgat, or in the frigid stream at Saklikent Gorge.

Your kids may want to experience a quintessentially family fun time at Adaland, located in Kusadasi. As the largest water park in Europe, Adaland is a marine-centric playground offering three, fantastic aquatic destinations rolled into one. Choose from Aquapark, one of the top fun-filled water parks in the world; Dolphinpark, a family show featuring the antics of dolphins and seals; and Seapark where kids of all ages can swim with the fish or get (safely) up close and personal with the crocodiles.

Take the whole family to the enchanting CottonCastle that gives Pamukkale its name, then walk along the snow-white travertine pools before taking a dip in the mineral rich water surrounded by tumbled temple ruins at the Sacred Pool.

If active pursuits are more your family’s style, consider kayaking or rafting the gushing rivers of Antalya or Dalaman, or go horseback riding down the sprawling beach through ancient Patara or in the wind swept valleys of Cappadocia. Jeep safaris into mountain villages and to still unexcavated  archaeological sites take you off the beaten path. Then there are Turkey’s network of hiking trails, routes through magnificent countryside that follow the ancient tracks taken by St. Paul, Alexander the Great, King Midas, the Turkish historian Evliya Çelebi or Atatürk as he led an army to Turkish Independence.

Those venturing only as far as Istanbul have a wealth of options too. Consider strolling through Turkey’s centuries at Miniaturk, where you and your children can tower above the105 Turkish monuments in miniature, and thus cover destinations you may have otherwise missed, all in one afternoon.

Or take a cruise up the Bosphorus, the artery that slices right through Europe and Asia. You will be following in the wake of Jason and the Argonauts, viewing marble palaces, imposing castles and seaside villas. Or explore what’s beneath the waves vicariously at Turkuazoo. At Istanbul’s giant aquarium and research center, you can take the underwater safari, an 87-yard moving walkway that provides a porthole into the activity along the ocean floor, or your kids can feed the sharks (and other fish).

Inspire your children’s imagination at the Istanbul Toy Museum, a vibrant extravaganza of more than 7,000 antique and collectible toys and miniatures curated by the Turkish poet and novelist, Sunay Akin. Or encourage your budding scientist at the Museum of Energy, where hands-on exhibits allow your little ones to have fun while generating their own science experiments.

Shopping is an activity guaranteed to hold your child’s attention, particularly when the setting is a centuries-old han or bedesten and certainly in the Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth of utilitarian passages, narrow archways, and domes, with a wide range of things to buy.  Your kids will be mesmerized by the glitter of gold, silver and glass and enchanted by the pleasurably exaggerated attention raining down on them by local shopkeepers. Indeed, Turks love children.

If all else fails, you can still eat your way through the cultural riches of the country, sampling the regional varieties of the Turkish cuisine. There’s homemade bread right out of a communal village oven in Ayvali Village, fresh trout farms that double as parks at Yaka Park, eateries where you grill your own bounty in a meadow over a coal fire in Kayaköy. To please the palates of the whole brood, why not sign up for a cooking class or culinary tour at the Istanbul Culinary Institute or at any one of a number of organizations offering a kitchen window into Turkey’s stomach.

It’s Turkey’s wealth of options and the Turkish people’s natural affection for children that promise to make your stay in Turkey the most memorable family vacation you’ll ever have.