HalalBooking Guide to Halal Tourism in Turkey
Turkey is in the top ten destinations for tourist arrivals worldwide and has become one of the most popular countries in the world for halal holidays. Turkey has many natural advantages. It is a vast country with a dramatic landscape, which is almost as varied as her history. Situated on the two continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey has a stunning coastline stretching for over 8,000 kilometres, bordered by sea on three sides. The lush Black Sea is to the north, the Aegean to the west and the Mediterranean to the south.
Exceptional Choice of Halal-friendly Hotels
Turkey has been one of the most enthusiastic adopters of the halal tourism concept. If you are looking for a halal-friendly beach holiday, Turkey should definitely be top of your list! Some of the world’s best “Islamic hotels” are in Turkey’s Antalya region, specifically in the resort of Alanya, and there are also halal-friendly hotels on Turkey’s Aegean coast in resorts such as Marmaris. In fact there are more types of halal hotel in Turkey than you can possibly have imagined – golf, spa, even ski hotels… Turkey has them all!
Halal-friendly Beach Resorts
In Turkey, some of the best halal hotels boast luxury accommodation and amenities such as women-only beaches, swimming pools and spas. There is no alcohol served at all, all food is halal and entertainment is tailored to Muslim families. It is, therefore, no surprise that Alanya’s halal-friendly resorts such as Wome Deluxe, Adin Beach Hotel, Modern Saraylar and Adenya Resort are some of the most popular choices on HalalBooking.com. Angel’s Marmaris, set on its own private bay in the area of Turgut, outside Marmaris, is another popular choice with families looking for a halal hotel. Turkey has a great climate, with the season for beach holidays lasting from April to the end of October. Winters on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast are mild, so the Antalya region is popular all year round.
Halal-friendly Wellness and Spa Hotels
Turkey is home to over one thousand thermal springs or kaplica. These natural, warm, thermal springs contain minerals and are used for healing spa treatments, in combination with rehabilitation and physical therapies. One of the most famous of these is Pamukkale – literally translated as ‘cotton castle’ – named for the white travertines, formed by rich mineral deposits left on the hillside, by the warm natural spring waters which congregate in pools on the terraces. It was these thermal springs which lead the Romans to build the spa town of Hierapolis nearby. The ruins of its ancient baths, temples and theatres can still be visited today. Those who want to try the famous spring waters for themselves, can book a stay at the well-known spa wellness hotel Pamukkale Termal Ece Otel. In fact, there are thermal springs throughout Turkey, with excellent halal-friendly wellness hotels in some of its most popular spa centres such as Afyon, Kizilcahamam near Ankara, the Black Sea coast and Yalova. Set close to the eastern coast of the Sea of Marmara, Yalova is easily reached by ferry from Istanbul. It is renowned as an area of great natural beauty, and its lush, green setting surrounded by forests, mountain plateaux and waterfalls, definitely enhances the thermal spa experience. Of course, Turkey is famous as the home of the hamam or Turkish Bath and visitors can enjoy a range of treatments and therapies, in spas which have separate sections or times of operation for men and women.
Halal-friendly Ski Hotels
You may not know that Turkey is an extremely mountainous country, with an excellent snow record, making it perfect for skiing. It has a number of world-class ski resorts, the longest established of which is Uludag, 36 kms from Turkey’s first Ottoman capital of Bursa. It is easily accessed by the Bursa Teleferik (cable car), the world’s longest lift, which offers magnificent natural views of Bursa. It is a pretty, alpine-style resort with tree-lined pistes at a height of 1750-2543 metres. It is a great resort for beginners, and is home to what is probably the world’s first halal ski hotel, the Bof Uludag Ski Resort, which is alcohol-free and the perfect base for a family skiing holiday. Palandöken, in south-eastern Anatolia, has the distinction of boasting Turkey’s highest ski area, reaching up to 3,125 metres. It also has Turkey’s longest run, which is some 12 kms long. Erciyes, is another popular ski holiday destination, renowned for its fine powder snow. Its highest peaks are capped with snow all year round. The Ramada Resort Erciyes is an alcohol-free halal ski hotel, with separate indoor pool and spa facilities for women only. Green Park Kartepe is conveniently situated in the mountains around 100 kms south east of Istanbul. Its picturesque, tree-lined runs best serve beginners and intermediate skiiers and the resort is set at 1650 metres.
Halal Golf Hotels
The heart of Turkish golf is the Mediterranean resort of Belek. It is home to world-class golf courses in a stunning location. Its many internationally renowned golf courses will appeal to keen golfers who will be spoiled for choice - these include the National Golf Club, Titanic Golf Club, Antalya Golf Club, and Carya Golf Club. Belek, is an ideal base for sightseeing trips to visit the historical places in the surrounding area. Belek is also famous for its golden sandy beaches which are set on the clear Mediterranean, with a backdrop of stunning mountain scenery. Belek is where you will find Turkey’s first halal-friendly golf hotel, the Altis Resort Hotel and Spa. It is alcohol-free and is perfect for golfers and their families, with a range of spa facilities, pools and beach areas with dedicated times or areas for men only and women only. It also enjoys a range of children’s facilities and plenty of sporting and leisure amenities to entertain guests of all ages.
Halal-friendly City Hotels
We have a good choice of city hotels in popular Turkish centres such as Istanbul, and Ankara and Antalya, which are popular with business and leisure travellers alike. Some offer facilities such as alcohol-free areas and separate facilities for women. To find out more about what to see and do in Istanbul, read our guide on Halal Holidays in Istanbul. Staying in an Antalya city hotel is a great option for those who wish to combine a few days shopping and sightseeing with a beach holiday.
Turkey is a great choice for a family holiday, and staying in a villa provides flexibility for those with young children. Our halal-friendly villas cater for larger family groups and the swimming pools are completely private and not overlooked in any way, ensuring 100% privacy in the swimming pool and sunbathing area. In Turkey it is easy to buy halal food which makes self-catering a convenient option, as well as being great value for money.
What to Expect as a Muslim on Holiday in Turkey
Although officially a secular state, 99% of Turkey’s population is Muslim and a casual observer on the street, will see the whole spectrum from very secular, through moderate to very conservative Muslims. Great care is taken by the private business sector and local authorities to ensure that all food available is halal food.
Even though alcohol is widely available in Turkey, recently there has been an increase in the number of establishments, which are completely ‘dry’, and serve no alcohol at all. This has coincided with the increase in Turkey’s popularity with those seeking an Islamic holiday.
Turkey is a liberal country which protects the freedom to worship and does not impose religious observance. Its beach resorts in particular welcome tourists from all cultures and countries, so it is common to see women in bikinis on public beaches alongside those in burkinis.
Turkey has a rich tradition of hospitality and visitors – or guests as locals prefer to call them – will be overwhelmed by the kindness shown by local Turkish people. Even the smallest village has a mosque, so wherever you choose to visit, you will find no difficulty in finding somewhere to pray. There are more than 80 thousand mosques in Turkey, with more than 3 thousand in Istanbul alone.
Turkish people love children and will make children feel welcome wherever you go, which makes it a wonderful country to visit as a family.
Halal restaurants in Turkey
It is not common practice for eating establishments in Turkey to have an official halal certificate, however, you can be sure that the overwhelming majority of establishments only serve halal food. This means that any meat you eat in Turkey has been slaughtered and prepared according to halal principles. This is the same whether it is local meat, or whether it has been imported. In fact, even large international fast food chains only sell halal meat products.
There are only a very few establishments, catering solely to tourists, serving ‘English breakfasts’ or similar, which may contain non-halal meat products – it should be easy to spot these and they will only be in very touristy resorts. No restaurant serving Turkish cuisine would ever serve non-halal meat.
If you are not sure about anything, then just ask – Turkish people are friendly and not easily offended, so they won’t mind questions.
The tasty Turkish cuisine is sure to be a highlight of your holiday. A traditional Turkish meal will start with soup and meze, which are small dishes of hot and cold starters, including fresh vegetables prepared with olive oil or stuffed with minced meat and rice, dips or flaky filo pastry filled with ‘white’ (feta) cheese. Main courses could be succulent kebabs, which might be chicken or lamb, rich stews or freshly-caught fish. Be sure to save room for the desserts – delicate milk puddings or honey-soaked pastries, such as baklava.
Although many restaurants do serve alcohol, it is possible to find establishments in any city or resort which are alcohol-free. Traditional kebab or chicken restaurants generally do not serve alcohol, and nor do those which serve the local flatbread pizza, known as pide or the famous lahmacun, a thin piece of dough topped with minced meat (Turkish pizza). Just ask if you are not sure, or look for a sign saying ‘alkolsüz’. You can also ask at your hotel or check online review sites to find alcohol-free restaurants close to where you are staying.
A feature of any town will be the traditional ‘tea garden’ or ‘çay bahçesi’, which will typically be alcohol-free. It’s a great place to enjoy a glass of Turkish tea or a refreshing soda in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Historic Sites and Islamic Culture in Turkey
One of the big highlights of any holiday in Turkey is the treasure trove of historic remains that you will find all around you. Whether you are visiting a city such as Istanbul or a beach resort such as Alanya, you will find many fascinating places to visit.
The history of Turkey stretches back to 6500 BC, which is the date of the first human settlement which was found in Çatalhöyük in central Anatolia. Turkey has been home to three empires: the Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman Empires. The city of Constantinople, or Istanbul as it is now known, was chosen as the capital of the Roman Empire, and was, eventually, also chosen by the Ottomans as their capital city, having first settled in Bursa, and later Edirne.
Turkey was home to two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Temple of Diana at Ephesus and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, in what is present-day Bodrum. Many of Turkey’s Roman ruins are very well preserved. If you’re staying in the Antalya region then a visit to the ruins of the ancient cities of Side, Perge or Aspendos are sure to be a highlight. On the Aegean coast, Efes (Ephesus)is spectacular, with its painstakingly restored Roman villas and magnificent theatre.
The founding of the Ottoman state by Osman Bey in 1299, was the start of Turkey’s Islamic heritage. In 1453 Mehmet the Conqueror, Fatih Sultan Mehmet, famously conquered the city of Istanbul, bringing the Byzantine era to an end. At the pinnacle of its military success, the Ottoman Empire stretched from Budapest to Azerbaijan, taking in Persia, Syria and the entire coast of north Africa, spanning three continents.
Unmissable Ottoman Sights
Bursa is just a short ferry ride from Istanbul and was the first Ottoman capital. Bursa is home to some wonderful Ottoman monuments, including the famous Yeşil (Green) Mosque. Commissioned in 1412, it is the first mosque where ceramic tiles were used extensively as interior decoration. Another attraction is the Bursa Grand Mosque (Ulu Cami), which is one of the most important monuments to be seen in Bursa, which carries traces of Seljuk carving art and is a landmark of early Ottoman architecture built in 1399. Bursa is also home to the tombs of Sultan Osman Gazi and his son Sultan Orhan Gazi, founders of the Ottoman Empire.
The second Ottoman capital, Edirne, is home to the mosque, which the great Ottoman architect, Sinan, described as his masterpiece. The Selimiye Mosque has an awe-inspiring dome, which is some 31.5 metres in diameter.
Istanbul was the third and ultimate Ottoman capital. Istanbul is one of the most magnificent cities in the world, its historic heritage providing the backdrop to this buzzing, modern metropolis. Straddling two continents, Istanbul boasts a diverse and rich culture and over 3000 years of history. Leave the present day behind and take a wander around Old Istanbul, in the wonderful World Heritage-listed Sultanahmet District, where the city first sprang to life and find yourself immersed in a truly unique and magical atmosphere. Get an insight into the lives of the Ottoman Sultans in Topkapi Palace (their main residence from 1478-1853), which became home to the Islamic treasures of the entire Ottoman Empire. Discover the wonders of the Hagia Sophia and its unique decorations from the Byzantine and Turkish periods. Pray in the magnificent Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) which was constructed 1609-1616 and is famous for the exquisite, blue Iznik tiles on its walls.
Spend an afternoon at one of the world’s most famous souks, the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı), which is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Wander through its 61 covered streets with over 4,000 shops and discover finely woven carpets, leather, pottery, exotic spices and glittering jewellery, and find real antique rarities.
Take a boat tour on the Bosphorus, enjoy the refreshing breeze as you survey the unique skyline of this magnificent city from the water. Visit one of the nine Princes Islands (Kızıl Adalar), a popular destination for tourists and Istanbulites alike to escape hectic city life for a day. Enjoy the silence on these car-free islands and take a tour of Büyükada on a horse-drawn carriage or a bicycle.
Pay a visit to one of the other glorious mosques such as a Eyüp Sultan Mosque which hosts the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, the standard-bearer for the faith and a trusted companion of the Prophet Muhammed.
Visit the beautiful Fatih Mosque in the Fatih district of Istanbul named after Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror who conquered Constantinople in 1453.
Equally worth a visit is the Süleymaniye Mosque which is the second largest mosque in the city and built on the order of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent.
In the Beşiktaş district a must-see is the beautiful Dolmabahçe Palace which was built by the order of Sultan Abdulmecid I in 1856 and served as the royal residence from then on. To find out more, read our article on Halal Holidays in Istanbul here.
Must-see Cultural and World Heritage Sites
Turkey has an impressive 17 sites which are inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. These include sites which are of cultural and Islamic significance, such as the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, the first Ottoman capital of Bursa, and the impressive Great Mosque and Hospital of Divrigi in eastern Turkey, considered a masterpiece of Islamic architecture, which was founded by Emir Ahmet Shah in 1228-29.
Ancient archaeological sites such as the ruins of Troy, Hierapolis (near Pamukkale), Aphrodisias, Ephesus and Pergamon are well worth visiting, and easily accessible from coastal resorts.
Somewhere unique is the region of Cappadocia, which is known for its other-worldly lunar landscape of strange rock formations and underground cities, with rock churches established by the early Christians. You can even stay in a charming cave hotel! It is well worth visiting either as a two centre holiday with Istanbul or as part of a cultural tour of Turkey.
The beautiful Ottoman wooden mansions and public buildings of Safranbolu are a fascinating open-air museum. Stop off en route to the lush Black Sea coastal region, which is surprisingly green and mountainous, with its high mountain plateaux and dramatic forested peaks, dropping away to the sea. The Black Sea is at the heart of Turkey’s agriculture with tea plantations and abundant crops of fruit and nuts. Fishing is also important to the region - make sure you try the delicious anchovies, which are caught here.
The bustling, port city of Trabzon is a great base from which to explore the Black Sea Coast region. Once the medieval Empire of Trebizond, it is now a modern, cosmopolitan city and an important trading post with Russia and the CIS countries. Pray at the beautiful 13th century Aya Sofya Mosque, a peaceful spot in a seaside setting, surrounded by palm trees. It was originally built as a church, and is one of the best-preserved Byzantine buildings of its period. Its interior is covered in beautiful, brightly coloured frescoes. Make time to visit the breath-taking Sümela Monastery, 46 kms south of Trabzon, perched dramatically on a sheer rock face, 270 metres above a deep gorge. Also close by is the beautiful mountain lake of Uzungöl - sample the delicious local trout and enjoy the views of lush meadows and stunning mountain scenery.
Turkey is without doubt one of the world’s leading destinations for halal tourism. Turkey has it all - whether you are searching for a city break in Istanbul or Ankara, a beach resort, golf, spa or ski hotel. We can help you find the best halal hotel in Turkey for you and your family. Search our wide selection of halal hotels in Turkey.