Official name: Republic of Turkey

Area: 780,580 square kilometers (301,382 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Ararat (5,166 meters/16,949 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 3 P.M. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,600 kilometers (994 miles) from southeast to northwest; 650 kilometers (404 miles) from northeast to southwest

Land boundaries: 2,627 kilometers (1,632 miles) total boundary length; Armenia 268 kilometers (167 miles); Azerbaijan 9 kilometers (6 miles); Bulgaria 240 kilometers (149 miles); Georgia 252 kilometers (157 miles); Greece 206 kilometers (128 miles); Iran 499 kilometers (310 miles); Iraq 331 kilometers (206 miles); Syria 822 kilometers (511 miles)

Coastline: 7,200 kilometers (4,474 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 11 kilometers (6 nautical miles) in the Aegean Sea, 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles) in the Black and Mediterranean Seas


Turkey is located in the Middle East, with territory in both Europe and Asia. The country shares borders with Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq, Syria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Georgia. It also has coastal borders on the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Aegean Sea. With a total area of about 780,580 square kilometers (301,382 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of Texas. Turkey is administratively divided into eighty provinces.


Turkey has no outside territories or dependencies.


The southern part of Turkey enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with a mean annual temperature of 17°C to 20°C (63°F to 68°F). In Istanbul, temperatures average 4°C (40°F) in winter and 27°C (81°F) in summer. The northern area along the Black Sea is slightly cooler, with a mean annual temperature range from 14°C to 16°C (57°F to 60°F). In the north, winter temperatures average about 7°C (45°F) and summer temperatures average 23°C (69°F). The central plateau region experiences wider daily and seasonal temperature variation, with cold winters and hot summers; annual mean temperatures range from 8°C to 12°C (46°F to 54°F). The eastern region has higher elevations and temperatures there are cooler, with the yearly mean between 4°C to 9°C (39°F to 48°F). Winters can be severe in the east, with 120 days of snow cover and minimum temperatures of -30°C to -38°C (-4°F to 3°F). The average winter temperature in the east is -13°C (21°F) and in summer, the average is 17°C (63°F).

Adequate rainfall of about 58 to 130 centimeters (23 to 51 inches) occurs along the Mediterranean coast and the western coast of the Aegean Sea. The region bordering the Black Sea is also well watered, with annual rainfall in the range of 71 to 220 centimeters (28 to 87 inches). The Taurus Mountains along the Mediterranean prevent rain from reaching the heart of the country, which is therefore much drier, with annual rainfall between 56 to 71 centimeters (22 to 28 inches).


About 3 percent of the territory in Turkey belongs to the European region known as Thrace. This region shares borders with Greece and Bulgaria. It is separated from the Asian portion of Turkey by a series of waterways that connect the Black Sea with the Aegean Sea. The rest of the country is located in Asia, mostly on the peninsula of Asia Minor, which is the westernmost extension of the continent. This region is also called Anatolia, or simply Asiatic Turkey.

Turkey's terrain is structurally complex and divides into five regions: the Black Sea region in the north; the Sea of Marmara region in the northwest; the Aegean Sea region in the far west; the Mediterranean Sea region in the south; and the Anatolian Plateau region in the country's center. All of the regions share a generally mountainous terrain, and many large lakes and rivers appear throughout the country.

Turkey is located on the Eurasian Tec-tonic Plate; however, the southern borders of the country rest atop the boundaries with the Arabian Tectonic Plate and the African Tectonic Plate. There is also a major fault line beneath the northern part of Asia Minor. As a result of its geological location, the country is subject to a very high level of seismic activity. The tremors cause massive damage to buildings and numerous deaths and injuries, especially if they occur at night during the winter months. The most earthquake-prone region centers on an arc that stretches from the general vicinity of the Sea of Marmara to the area north of Lake Van (Van Gölü), on the border with Georgia and Armenia.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Turkey has coastlines on four different seas: the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. The northern coast of Turkey is on the Black Sea, an inland body of water that separates Europe from Asia. The Black Sea contains calm waters that are free of tides and dangerous marine life. Called the "Hospitable Sea" by the ancient Greeks, the Black Sea is only half as saline as the Mediterranean Sea and has gentle sandy slopes, making it ideal for swimming.

The Mediterranean Sea, which lies on Turkey's southern coast, is an almost completely landlocked sea. It links to the Atlantic Ocean at its western point through the Strait of Gibraltar and to the Red Sea at its southeastern shore though the Suez Canal. The Aegean Sea to the west of Turkey is an extension of the Mediterranean.

The Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi) is a small inland sea that is situated between Asiatic and European Turkey. It has a surface area of about 11,350 square kilometers (4,382 square miles).


The term "Middle East" was coined by western Europeans as a geographic designation for those countries of southwest Asia and northeast Africa that stretch from the Mediterranean Sea to the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, including nations on the Arabian Peninsula. This area was considered to be the midpoint between Europe and East Asia, which was usually called the Far East. In a cultural sense, the term sometimes includes all the countries in the region that are primarily Islamic. In this sense, the Middle East includes the countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as some of the North African countries that border the Arabian Peninsula.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Dardanelles Strait (also known as Çanakkale Boğazi) connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea in the west, while the Bosporus Strait (also known as Istanbul Boğazi or Karadeniz Bogazi) connects it to the Black Sea in the northeast. The great city of Istanbul (formerly known as Constantinople and Byzantium) is located on the Golden Horn (Haliç) estuary of the Bosporus. These two straits and the Sea of Marmara itself are what separate Europe and Asia.

Along the Aegean Sea coast are a number of inlets, including the Gulf of Edremit. This protected gulf encloses clear Aegean waters. The shores lining the gulf feature sandy beaches surrounded by olive groves. The Gulf of Antalya indents the middle of the southern coast and the Gulf of Ịskenderun marks the southeastern edge of Asia Minor.

Islands and Archipelagos

There are numerous islands off the western coast in the Aegean Sea, but almost all of them belong to Greece. One of the few exceptions is the island of Gökçeada (Ịmroz). Turkey's largest island, located not far from the Dardanelles, is covered with pine and olive trees and surrounded by sparkling clear water. There is also an archipelago of nine small islands in the Sea of Marmara, where wealthy Turks have summer homes.

Coastal Features

There are narrow coastal lowlands along the Black Sea and Mediterranean coasts. The Aegean coastline is extremely irregular, with dramatic mountain faces rising perpendicularly from the sea and many islands just off shore (most of which belong to Greece). The Gallipoli Peninsula extends southwest from Thrace to form the northern side of the Dardanelles.


The largest lake in the country, Lake Van (Van Gölü), is situated near the border with Iran. It covers an area of about 3,713 square kilometers (2,545 square miles). Other lakes in this eastern region include Ercek, Cildir, and Hazar. Turkey's second-largest lake, the shallow and salty Lake Tuz (Tuz Gölü), lies in central Anatolia directly south of Ankara. Lakes Akşehir and Eber lie west of Lake Tuz. Further to the southwest, in the Taurus Mountains west of Konya, are Lakes Beyşehir and Eğridir. Lying around the Sea of Marmara are numerous small lakes, the largest of which are Kuş, Ulubat, and Iznik.


The Temple of Artemis was built around 550 B.C. in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, which is now a part of western Turkey. In Greek mythology, Artemis (known as Diana to the Romans) was the daughter of Zeus and goddess of the hunt and of the moon. The temple at Ephesus constructed in her honor was one of the largest and most complex temples built at that time. The foundation was about 61 meters (200 feet) wide and 122 meters (400 feet) long, with a large marble sanctuary containing over 106 columns, each one about 18 meters (60 feet) tall. Fire destroyed the temple in 356 B.C. but it was later rebuilt on the same site; this second temple also burned in 262 A.D. Sculptures and other surviving artifacts are currently owned by the British Museum in London. The foundation site still remains mostly intact. Along with the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, also located in Turkey, the Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Turkey has extensive wetlands, most of which provide protected habitat for birds. The most important wetland area forms part of Kuscenneti National Park near Lake Kuz, where the habitat supports more than 225 bird species and an estimated three million individual migratory birds. Kuscenneti was established as a national park in 1959. Eleven other parks protect wetland bird habitats.


The Euphrates (Firat) River has its source in eastern central Turkey. With a total length of about 2,800 kilometers (1,750 miles), it is the longest river in Turkey and in all of the Middle East. The Euphrates flows west initially, then curves south, crosses the Taurus Mountains, and enters Syria. It eventually flows southeast through Iraq and into the Persian Gulf. There are two large reservoirs on the Euphrates in Turkey, the Keban and the Atatürk. The Tigris (Dicle) river also has its source in Turkey, somewhat farther south and west than that of the Euphrates in the Taurus Mountains. It follows a southeasterly path and soon exits Turkey for Iraq, where, hundreds of miles later, it joins the Euphrates shortly before reaching the Persian Gulf.

The longest river that flows completely within Turkey is the Kizil (Kizilirmak, Halys) with a length of about 1,355 kilometers (847 miles). It follows a twisting path through central Anatolia. It forms a broad half-circle just east of Ankara, first flowing southwest and then curving all the way to the northeast to empty into the Black Sea at the headland of Bafra. Other rivers that empty into the Black Sea are the Yeşil in the east and the Sakarya in the west. The Çoruh River, renowned for its whitewater rafting, rises in the mountains of eastern Turkey and reaches the Black Sea through neighboring Georgia.

The Gediz and Büyükmenderes Rivers flow westward to the Aegean Sea in Anatolia. The Maritsa River also empties into the Aegean in Europe and marks most of Turkey's border with Greece. The Seyhan, Ceyhan, and Göksu rivers flow southward into the Mediterranean Sea. Lying 76 kilometers (47 miles) south of Kayseri is the Kapuzbasi waterfall, which features a 70-meter (230-feet) cascade that is fed by seven underground springs.

Southwest of the Sea of Marmara region lies Gönen, where hot springs bubble from deep underground, reaching the earth's surface at about 82°C (180°F). Gönen has been the site of therapeutic mineral baths since the fifth century. In and around Bursa, thermal springs and therapeutic baths may also be found.


There are no desert regions in Turkey.


The Ergene Plain is a lowland region in Thrace that extends along rivers that discharge into the Aegean Sea or the Sea of Marmara. There are many grassland areas in Anatolia. To the east and south of the Sea of Marmara, fertile plains stretch from west to east, following the flow of the Gediz and Bakir Rivers. Grassland plains reach an elevation of about 899 meters (2,967 feet) around Lake Tuz (Tuz Gölü). Relatively flat land is also found to the east of Konya and south of Ankara. A fertile broad valley lies west of Lake Van, centered on Mus.

Slightly more than 10 percent of Turkey is covered by forest, most of which lies in protected national reserves or parks. Forests are found in the mountainous areas near the Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. Small pine forests are found in central Anatolia, but the most common forest type is oak.

There are regions of moderate hills in Thrace and in the region along the eastern border with Syria.


Except for a relatively small segment along the Syrian border that is a continuation of the Arabian Platform, Turkey is part of the great Alpine-Himalayan mountain belt. The intensive folding and uplifting of this mountain belt during the Tertiary Period was accompanied by strong volcanic activity and intrusions of igneous rock material, followed by extensive faulting in the Quaternary Period. As a result, mountain ranges can be found throughout most of the country.

The most important mountain range in the south is that of the Taurus Mountains (Toros Dağlari). They run along the entire Mediterranean coast and extend far inland to the border with Iran. They also include many peaks of over 3,048 meters (10,000 feet). Smaller mountain ranges surround the Taurus on all sides, including the Aydin, Nur, Tahtali, Karagöl, and Mardin Mountains.

Another series of mountain ranges runs along the northern coast on the Black Sea. Principal among these are the Köroğlu, Küre, and Pontic Mountains. In the Marmara region of the northwest, the highest peak is Mount Olympus (Ulu Dağ), which rises to 2,543 meters (8,392 feet) and provides a center for winter sports. Further east, the mountains rise as high as 3,931 meters (12,897 feet) at Mount Kaçkar (Kaçkar Dagi).

The nation's highest peak is the extinct volcano Mount Ararat (Buyuk Agri Dagi), which rises to 5,166 meters (16,949 feet) in the far east near the border with Iran. To its southwest is a 3,896-meter- (12,857-feet-) high peak known as Little Mount Ararat. A plateau of lava covers the territory between the two peaks.


In about 353 B.C. , the Greek architects Satyrus and Pythius built a huge white marble tomb in the ancient city of Halicarnassus to hold the remains of King Mausolus (a ruler of the Persian Empire) and his wife Artemisia. It was designed and built to stand about 135 feet tall with a beautiful ornamental frieze (a decorative band or border) sculpted around the top. The grandeur and beauty of Mausolus's tomb became so well known throughout the ancient world that the word "mausoleum" began to be used to indicate any large decorative tomb. In the fifteenth century, an earthquake caused serious damage to the tomb. The structure was eventually dismantled and several of its sculptures are now installed in the British Museum in London. The foundation of the building remains near the modern city of Bodrum, Turkey. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.


In the central Anatolian region, the Melendiz River has eroded the Ihlara Valley to produce a deep canyon. The walls of the canyon have been carved to form Byzantine chapels, featuring many frescoes. Dwellings and tombs have also been found hewn into the rock. In a nearby region known as Cappadocia, early Christians chiseled villages into the canyons and lived there in hiding to avoid persecution. Archaeologists have uncovered five complete underground settlements here, all of which have been preserved and are open to the public. These rock sites of Cappadocia have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


The large, central Anatolian Plateau is wedged between the northern and southern mountain ranges. It is composed of uplifted blocks and downfolded troughs, covered by recent deposits and giving the appearance of a plateau with rough terrain. This plateau is the heartland of the country, with altitudes rising from west to east from 600 to 1,200 meters (1,980 to 3,960 feet). Except in the northwest, the mountains act as formidable barriers between the coastal regions and the plateau. The plateau is crossed by many rivers and also contains several large lakes.

In the tourist center of Ügrüp, between Lake Tuz and Kayseri, exposed rock has eroded into strange monolithic formations called fairy chimneys. These resemble mushrooms, inverted cones, and obelisks; various civilizations throughout history have further shaped the fairy chimneys to provide living space.


Twenty-two dams and nineteen hydroelectric stations along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers distribute irrigation and electricity throughout the country. The largest is the Atatürk Dam, which stands at 184 meters (604 feet) high and 1,820 meters (5,971 feet) long. The Atatürk is one of the tallest dams in the world, as well as one of the largest earth and rock fill dams.

The Bosporus Bridge, which crosses the Bosporus Strait at Istanbul and connects the continents of Europe and Asia, is one of the world's longest suspension bridges. Completed in 1973, the bridge spans 1,074 meters (3,524 feet). Ancient writings indicate that there may have been a type of bridge constructed at this same crossing as early as 512 B.C. ; if this is true, that structure would have been the first intercontinental bridge in the world. In 1988 a second bridge, Bosporus II, was built at a narrower point on the strait, north of the first bridge.



Facaros, Dana. Turkey. London: Cadogan, 2000.

Karpat, Kermit H., ed . Ottoman Past and Today's Turkey. Boston: Brill, 2000.

Kinzer, Stephen. Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.


Allen, Thomas B. "Turkey Struggles for Balance." National Geographic , May 1994, 2-36.

Web Sites

Embassy of Turkey. http://www.turkey.org/countryprofile/ (accessed April 18, 2003).

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