10 REASONS TO TRAVEL TO TURKEY THIS SUMMER

1. Many of the best attractions are completely free.

Explore the sensory overload that is Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. Look up to take in the intricate tile work of the Blue Mosque. Admire the baklava, dripping with honey, piled three feet high in window displays on bustling Istiklal Caddesi. Or beach-hop along the Mediterranean from sophisticated Bodrum to turtle-inhabited Iztuzu; Brit-crazy Fethiye to secluded Patara; resort-heavy Antalya to the endless sandy expanse of Alanya. You won't spend a lira.

2. You can stuff your face with summer's bounty for pennies — without leaving your beach towel.

In Turkey, the street food comes to you. Whether you're sprawled under an umbrella in Bodrum or joining the locals for a nightly picnic in Izmir's seaside Kordon park, you can't escape the musical call of the street vendors. Start with a cone of sesame- and honey-glazed peanuts, then move on to midye dolma — stuffed mussels and the roasted-corn-on-the-cob cart.

3. Your summer vacation photos will double as indisputable evidence that you've been to Mars.

There's no other way to put it: Cappadocia is wildly out of this world. The Star Wars-meets-Flintstones landscapes of soft, twisted rock makes for incredible hiking. Wander long enough in any direction and you'll find fresco-decorated cave churches almost 1,000 years old.

Start the day early with a hot-air balloon ride at sunrise. Later, hike down the Gulludere (Rose Valley) to the abandoned cave village of Cavusin, scramble up the towering rock formations of "Love Valley," and then take shelter from the heat of the day in the cool relief of your cave hotel.

4. Turkish cuisine is reinventing itself, thanks to hot young chefs.

Fresh, delicious ingredients have always been central to Turkish food, but the newest generation of chefs in the country have turned the tradition to obsession, treasure hunting around Turkey for the finest regional products. Their creations have benefited extraordinarily.

5. Turkey will prove you've been exfoliating wrong your whole life.

You don't know clean, silk-like, summer skin until you've had your earlobes, pinky toes, and everything in between doused in citronella-scented bubbles and scrubbed down by a heavy-handed attendant armed with a gritty goat-hair kese. And this all goes down while lying on a heated marble pedestal in the middle of a 16th-century hammam.

6. Locals will welcome you into their kitchens.

You want to know what's in the kofte? The waiter will happily bring you out back to the kitchen to meet the chef. Wondering how baklava is made? The woman selling it in Izmir's massive Bostanlı Bazaar won't speak much English, but she'll happily pantomime the day-long production for you.

And in Eastern Turkey, you can trade in the hostel for a homestay. That's where you'll get the best cooking lesson from the ultimate Turkish chef — a mom. Imagine rolling sarma with grape leaves picked off the very arbor you're sitting under.

7. You can visit the most impressive historical sites around Turkey.

Turkey's location at the meeting point between Europe and Asia has given rise to an incredible history as waves of people, states, eras, and empires have left their mark on the coastline and mountains, the people and culture. Turkey may have more ancient ruins that pretty much anywhere else. You can visit Gobeklitepe, Ephesus, Goreme National Park, Hierapolis, Troy, Aphrodisias, Pergamon, Xanthos, Hattusha, Nemrut Mountain and Historic Areas of Istanbul.

8. You might not be expecting it, but yes, Turkey has waves too.

None of Turkey's shores touch open ocean, but at Alacati on the Aegean, Alanya on the Mediterranean and Kerpe on the Black Sea, some crazy Turks are riding the waves. They are small communities where you'll learn that there's a certain subculture of Turks who are constantly checking weather reports and will jump in the car at a moment's notice to jet to a remote seaside town where waves are going off, however briefly.

9. You can travel to Pamukkale. Walking through the calcium deposits and mineral springs of Pamukkale is like being in an alternate universe, where snow is warm and water glows neon.

These naturally formed, terraced thermal pools have been a destination for relaxation and recuperation since the 2nd century — and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988.

10. You can go on your very own"blue voyage".

The gulet is a two- or three-masted sailing vessel traditional to Turkey's Mediterranean coast, particularly around Bodrum and Marmaris. In the mid-20th century, gulet cruising became popular among local and visiting artists and writers — today, there's no shortage of Blue Voyage operators who can take you out on a multi-day cruise, on ships that resemble floating boutique hotels, within a landscape of pure turquoise.