Since the first time I visited Turkey as a child, its blend of cultures and friendly locals held me in thrall. As a 12-year-old, the contrast between this exotic land and my home country of Ireland was striking, opening my eyes to a world outside my childhood bubble. Since then I’ve returned many times, amazed at the country’s ongoing transformation as it balances secularism, capitalism and Islam. One thing that’s remained a constant on my visits is Turkey’s amazing ability to surprise. As a history buff, a huge part of the appeal is the country’s many ancient sites. No matter where one chooses to go, there are subterranean cities, imposing hilltop fortresses and significant religious sites. Not every trip needs to be an educational experience and sometimes all that’s desired is a sun-kissed beach—something the Turkish Riviera possesses in spades. This stretch of paradise runs from Bodrum to Antalya, incorporating a number of resort towns along the way. For those interested in visiting this special country, read on as I share some of my favorite destinations, along with a little hotel inspiration.