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One of the key highlights of visiting Turkey is the vast array of souvenirs available. These keepsakes not only reflect rich Turkish culture and history, but also its unique landscapes and artistic competences. From intricately woven Turkish carpets and rugs, colorful Iznik ceramics, meticulous calligraphy artworks to authentic Turkish tea or collectable Turkish delight boxes, each souvenir tells a fascinating story. The famed “evil eye”, a blue and white talisman believed to ward off bad luck, is another popular pick. Local spices, traditional musical instruments, leather goods, and high-quality textiles are other must-haves. These souvenirs serve as tangible memories of one’s immersive experience in this vibrant nation.
Turkish Bath Towels
Turkish bath towels, also known as ‘Pestemals’, boast a rich tradition dating back to Ottoman era bathhouses. Woven from Turkish cotton, renowned for its long fibers and superior absorbency, these towels are lightweight, fast-drying, and surprisingly versatile. They often feature intricate designs and vibrant colors, reflecting Turkey’s cultural aesthetics. Ideal for travel due to their compactness, Turkish bath towels make a practical, yet uniquely authentic souvenir from Turkey.
Turkish delight, or ‘lokum’, is a timeless sweet confectionery deeply rooted in Turkey’s culinary history. The delectable treat consists of a sugar and starch gel base infused with a variety of flavors, such as rose, mint, pomegranate, and lemon. Often adorned with chopped nuts, like walnuts or pistachios, Turkish delight is typically dusted with powdered sugar or desiccated coconut. Luxurious and visually appealing packaging makes lokum an irresistible souvenir, offering visitors a taste of Turkey’s rich flavor profiles and enduring dessert-making traditions.
Spices in Turkey hold a revered place, owing to the country’s heritage as a critical point in the ancient Spice Route. From vibrant Grand Bazaars to local markets, you’ll find an abundance of high-quality, fragrant spices such as cumin, sumac, paprika, saffron, and the distinctive pungent ‘Urfa’ and ‘Maras’ peppers. Turkish spices are renowned for their aromatic profiles and potency, playing a pivotal role in iconic dishes like kebabs, pides, and baklava. These aromatic gifts offer an authentic taste of Turkish gastronomy, making them a popular souvenir amongst food-loving travelers.
Rugs and Carpets
Turkish rugs and carpets represent centuries-old weaving traditions embodied in stunning, intricate designs. Each piece is a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of Turkish weavers. These rugs come in an array of patterns, colors, and sizes, often telling a regional or cultural story. Hand-knotted from pure wool or silk, they exhibit superior durability, making them more than just floor coverings – they become cherished heirlooms. Despite their higher price point, the aesthetic appeal and enduring quality of Turkish rugs and carpets make them highly sought-after souvenirs.
The Nazar Boncugu, often termed as the ‘Evil Eye’, is a ubiquitous symbol in Turkey, believed to offer protection against negative energies or ill-will. Traditionally blue and white, these glass talismans are found in various sizes, gracing everything from jewelry to home décor. Their distinctive design features concentric circles or ‘drops’, representing an ‘eye.’ Each handmade piece is not only a spiritual charm but also a memento of Turkish cultural beliefs and artisanal excellence. The Nazar Boncugu remains a meaningful and popular Turkish souvenir.
Hookah pipes, or ‘Nargiles’, are emblematic of Turkey’s social and leisure culture, traditionally used for smoking flavored tobacco. Turkish hookah pipes are recognized for their intricate designs and superior craftsmanship, often featuring ornate details with glass, brass, or clay components. They range from small, portable models to grand, floor-standing versions. Despite transitioning into a largely decorative item in many homes, the hookah pipe remains an iconic symbol of turkish culture, making it a unique souvenir for those wanting to capture a slice of Turkish tradition and artisanship.
Turkish tea, known as ‘Çay’, is an integral part of Turkish culture, symbolizing hospitality and conversation. Grown mainly in the eastern Black Sea region, Turkish tea is a type of black tea consumed without milk. Traditionally served in tulip-shaped glasses, the strong brew is often softened with beet sugar cubes. Whether at breakfast, after meals, or during social gatherings, tea-drinking is a daily ritual in Turkish life. As a souvenir, Turkish tea, alongside the distinctive tea glasses, offers a taste of this deeply rooted cultural tradition.
Turkish gold jewelry embodies centuries of artisanal heritage, featuring complex designs inspired by Ottoman and Byzantine aesthetic elements. Skilled craftsmen employ ancient techniques to create these pieces, often detailed with precious stones. Offering a range of styles from intricate festive pieces to minimalist everyday wear, Turkish gold is appreciated for its high purity, often exceeding 18 carats. It’s not only a symbol of beauty but also a financial asset in Turkish culture. Turkish gold jewelry thus offers visitors a souvenir that’s both a piece of art and an investment.
Turkish coffee is a long-standing element of Turkish culture, recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Made from finely ground coffee beans, it’s known for its strong, rich flavor and the unique method of preparation in a small pot called a ‘cezve’. Traditionally served in small cups with a glass of water and a piece of Turkish delight, the coffee leaves a thick, mud-like sludge at the bottom, often used for fortune telling. With its distinctive taste and heritage, Turkish coffee offers a taste of the country’s cultural tradition and hospitality in a cup.
A Turkish tea set is a beautifully crafted representation of the country’s age-old tea culture. Comprising of tulip-shaped glasses, saucers, a teapot often made of copper, and sometimes a tray, these sets reflect the aesthetic harmony of old-world charm and modern functionality. The teapots usually have two stacked kettles, used to simultaneously brew strong tea and boiling water to dilute it. The glasses, traditionally clear to admire the tea’s color, can also feature ornate designs. A Turkish tea set, combining both unique design and cultural significance, is a cherished souvenir or gift from Turkey.
Cappadocia pottery represents Turkey’s rich ceramic heritage, with roots dating back to the Hittite era. Skilled craftsmen from the region have preserved ancient techniques, utilizing local red clay and natural minerals for their creations. The pottery, characterized by its intricate patterns, earthy colors, and fluid motifs, often showcases themes inspired by nature and history. Cappadocia is particularly renowned for its wine jugs, called “küp”, and ceramic plates. Collecting Cappadocia pottery not only supports local artisans but also provides a tangible connection to Turkey’s ancient art, making it a meaningful souvenir or decorative piece.
Turkish soap, well-known for its natural ingredients and mesmerizing fragrances, is derived from a long tradition of soap-making. Often made from olive oil, Turkish soap is prized for its moisturizing and soothing properties. The famed ‘Hamam’ or Turkish bath soaps include properties like goat’s milk or clay for skin health benefits. The city of Edirne is renowned for its sweet-smelling rose soaps. With zero chemicals or synthetic additives, Turkish soap is a testament to the country’s tradition of utilizing natural resources for personal care. As a souvenir, it provides a wholesome and fragrant experience of Turkey.
Musical instruments serve as tools to create melodies and rhythm in different musical cultures worldwide. They are classified into families based on how sound is produced; these being strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and keyboard. Each instrument, from the smooth tones of a violin or a saxophone, the resonating beats of a drum, to the harmonious chords of a piano, contribute distinct elements to a musical piece. Traditional instruments like the sitar or didgeridoo add unique flavors of their cultural origins. Through their variety and richness, musical instruments breathe life to the universal language of music.
Turkish lanterns, or “fanoos”, are integral to Turkish art, bringing a warm, oriental ambience to spaces. Crafted by skilled artisans, these lanterns often feature colorful stained-glass pieces held together by a typically brass frame in intricate, geometric designs. Inspired by Ottoman and Byzantine art, a diversity of shapes and sizes are available, with the most popular being the pendant or tabletop styles. When lit, the lantern’s radiant colors reflect beautifully to create a magical play of light. As a treasured memento or gift, Turkish lanterns provide a bit of the country’s rich artistry and warm spirit.
Pashmina and Scarves
Renowned for craftsmanship, Turkish pashmina and scarves are a testament to Turkish textile heritage. Crafted from high-quality fabrics including silk, wool, or a blend with cashmere, Turkish scarves guarantee comfort, warmth and versatility. Whether designed with traditional motifs, contemporary patterns or hand-embroidered details, these accessories seamlessly blend aesthetics with functionality. The city of Bursa, famed for its silk production, offers an array of luxurious silk scarves. Pashminas and scarves are an integral part of Turkish attire and purchasing one not only adds a touch of Turkish fashion sense but also supports local artisans.
Baklava is a quintessential Turkish dessert, loved for its decadent layers and sweet taste. Made from layers of thin, flaky phyllo pastry interlaid with a mix of finely chopped nuts – typically pistachios or walnuts – and bound with sweet syrup or honey, baklava is supremely indulgent. Each region of Turkey offers a unique take; for instance, Antep baklava is renowned for its green pistachio filling. Baking baklava is often a ceremonial affair, representing hospitality and tradition. Enjoyed on special occasions or as a daily sweet, baklava remains an unmissable delight in Turkish cuisine.
Turkey’s leather industry is one of its most enduring and recognized, offering an extensive range of high-quality goods. From jackets and boots to bags and belts, Turkish leather products are sought after for their superior craftsmanship, durability, and timeless appeal. Cities like Istanbul and Izmir are home to numerous shops selling exquisite leather items, many acknowledging traditional methods, yet infused with contemporary style. A particular specialty is the traditional “Yemeni” leather shoe. Whether they’re fashion accessories or functional items, Turkish leather goods merge quality with alluring aesthetics, making them a valuable addition to any collection.
Turkey, especially the region of Gaziantep, has a rich history in pistachio farming, earning the country fame as a leading global producer. Turkish pistachios, or ‘Antep Pistachios’, are bright green, flavorsome, and treasured for their unique sweetness. These’s nuts inculcate into traditional and modern culinary creations, such as the renowned baklava and many other appetizing Turkish dishes. Celebrating its cultural importance, an annual Pistachio Festival is held in Gaziantep, drawing food enthusiasts worldwide. Buying Turkish pistachios supports local farmers and provides a special gastronomic encounter with this vibrant nation’s rich food culture.
Turkey is one of the world’s major olive oil producers, with its Aegean region particularly known for high-quality, flavorful varieties. Turkish olive oil, made predominantly from Ayvalık and Memecik olives, is cherished for its distinct flavor profiles ranging from mildly fruity to pungently peppery. It is a staple in Turkish cuisine, used in dressings, cooking, and even baking. The quality of Turkish olive oil owes much to traditional harvesting methods, ensuring perfect ripeness and minimal damage. Buying Turkish olive oil not only adds depth to culinary explorations but supports the country’s century-old olive farming tradition.
Turkish ceramics are emblematic of the country’s vivid, artistic heritage. Iznik pottery, named after a town in western Anatolia, is particularly esteemed. Characterized by intricate designs, vibrant colors, and the prominent use of cobalt blue and turquoise, these ceramics epitomize Ottoman-era artistry. From decorative plates, bowls, and tiles to ornamental vases, Turkish ceramics often feature motifs of natural elements like flowers, trees, or mountains. Each piece, often handmade, embodies traditional craftsmanship, making it a meaningful souvenir and a beautiful addition to any space. Purchasing these ceramics supports the country’s vibrant artistry community.
Raki, often termed as ‘lion’s milk’, is Turkey’s signature anise-flavored spirit and an integral part of its social and culinary traditions. Typically double-distilled from grapes, and flavored with anise, raki is a potent, clear liquid that turns milky-white when diluted with water. This transformation signifies its role as a facilitator of conversation and bonding, commonly enjoyed during lengthy ‘raki sofrasi’ meals amidst mezze and fish dishes. Its unique taste puts Turkish cuisine into sharper focus, providing a window into the nation’s vivacious culture. Enjoying raki in Turkey promises an authentic, unforgettable experience.
Backgammon, or ‘Tavla’, is a beloved pastime in Turkey and beautifully crafted backgammon sets are commonly found across the country. These sets combine artistic expression and functional design, offering eye-catching elements such as mother-of-pearl inlays, intricate wood carving, and rich coloration. Whether forged from olive wood, walnut, or more exotic materials, each set tells its own tale of craftsmanship and tradition. Some are small and travel-sized, others large and intended for display. Buying a Turkish backgammon set not only offers a chance to revel in Turkey’s gaming culture but also supports its local artisans and tradecraft.
Book Your Trip
Book your flights: Find cheap flights using Google Flights, Skyscanner or Kayak. To get travel deals sent straight to your inbox, sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights or Jack’s Flight Club. Use the Hopper app for their AI powered price change predictions.
Booking your accommodation: I use Booking.com to book all my hotels. Their Genius loyalty program allows you to earn reward credits no bookings and 10%-20% off hotel prices. You can also try Google Hotels and TripAdvisor to search prices across a variety of sites. Agoda is the best site for booking hotels in Asia.
Travel on a budget: Staying in hostels is a great way to meet people and is best if you’re on a budget. You can find plenty of awesome hostels with Hostelworld.