The lands of Turkey are located at a point where Asia, Africa and Europe are closest to each other, and straddle the point where Europe and Asia meet. Geographically, the country is located in the northern half of the hemisphere at a point that is about halfway between the equator and the north pole, at a longitude of 36 degrees N to 42 degrees N and a latitude of 26 degrees E to 45 degrees E. Turkey, as a country roughly rectangular in shape, has a width of approximately 550 kilometers and a length of approxiamately 1500 kilometers.
Because of its geographical location, the mainland of Anatolia has always found favor throughout history, and is the birthplace of many great civilizations. It has also been prominent as a centre of commerce because of its land connections to three continents and the sea surrounding it on three sides.
The actual area of Turkey inclusive of its lakes is 814,578 square kilometers, of which 790,200 are in Asia and 24,378 are located in Europe.
The land borders of Turkey are 2,949 kilometers in total, and coastlines (including islands) are another 8,333 kilometers. Turkey has two European and six Asian countries for neighbours along its land borders.
The land border to the northeast with Georgia is 276 kilometers long; to the east with Armenia is 328 kilometers long and that with Azerbaijan (Nakhichevan) is 18 kilometers long.
The land border to to the southeast with Iran is 560 kilometers long; to the south with Iraq is 384 kilometers long, and that with Syria is 911 kilometer long, which took its present form in 1939, when the Republic of Hatay joined Turkey. Turkey’s borders on the European continent consist of a 203-kilometer frontier with Greece and a 269-kilometer border with Bulgaria.
Turkey is generally divided into seven regions: the Black Sea region, the Marmara region, the Aegean, the Mediterranean, Central Anatolia, the East and Southeast Anatolia regions.
The uneven north Anatolian terrain running along the Black Sea resembles a narrow but long belt. The land of this region is approximately 1/6 of Turkey’s total land area.
The Marmara region covers the area encircling the Sea of Marmara includes the entire European part of Turkey, as well as the northwest of the Anatolian plain. Whilst the region is the smallest of the regions of Turkey after the Southeast Anatolia region, it has the highest population density of all the regions.
The most important peak in the region is Uludag (2,543 metres), at the same time it is a major winter sports and tourist centre. In the Anatolian part of the region there are fertile plains running from east to west.
The Aegean region extends from the Aegean coast to the inner parts of western Anatolia. There are significant differences between the coastal areas and those inland, in terms of both geographical features and economic and social aspects.
In general, the mountains in the region fall perpendicularly into the sea and the plains run from east to west. The plains through which Gediz, Kucuk Menderes and Bakircay rivers flow carry the same names as these rivers.
In the Mediterranean region, located in the south of Turkey, the western and central Taurus Mountains rise up closely behind the coastline. The Amanos mountain range is also in the area.
The Central Anatolian region is exactly in the middle of Turkey and gives the appearance of being less mountainous compared with the other regions. The main peaks of the region are Karadag, Karacadag, Hasandag and Erciyes (3.917 metres).
The Eastern Anatolia region is Turkey’s largest and highest region. About three fourths of it is at an altitude of 1,500-2,000 metres. Eastern Anatolia is composed of individual mountains as well as of whole mountain ranges with vast plateaus and plains.
The mountains: There are numerous inactive volcanoes in the region including Nemrut, Suphan, Tendurek and Turkey’s highest peak, Mount Agri (Ararat), which is 5,165 metres high.
At the same time, several plains extend along the course of the River Murat, a tributary of the Firat (Euphrates). These are the plains of Malazgirt, Mus, Capakcur, Uluova and Malatya.
The Southeast Anatolia region is notable for the uniformity of its landscape, although the eastern part of the region is comparatively more uneven than its western areas.
Turkey is surrounded by sea on three sides, by the Black Sea in the north, the Mediterranean in the south and the Aegean Sea in the west. In the northwest there is also an important internal sea, the Sea of Marmara, between the straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus – important waterways that connect the Black Sea with the rest of the world.
The mountains in the Black Sea region run parallel to the coastline and the coasts are fairly smooth without too many indentations or projections. The Black Sea coastline in Turkey is 1,595 kilometers and the salinity of the sea is 17%.
The Mediterranean coastline runs for 1,577 kilometers and here too the mountain ranges are parallel to the coastline. The salinity level of the Mediterranean is about double that of the Black Sea.
Although the Aegean coastline is a continuation of the Mediterranean coast it is quite irregular because the mountains in the area are perpendicular to the Aegean Sea. As a result, the Aegean Sea coast is over 2,800 kilometers long. The coastline faces many islands.
The Marmara Sea is located totally within national boundaries and occupies an area of 11,350 square kilometres. The coastline of the Marmara Sea is over 1,000 kilometers long; it is connected to the Black Sea through the Bosphorus and to the Mediterranean through the Dardanelles.
Most of the rivers of Turkey flow into the seas surrounding the country. The Firat (Euphrates) and Dicle (Tigris) join together in Iraq and flow into the Persian Gulf. Turkey’s longest rivers, the Kizilirmak, Yesilirmak and Sakarya, flow into the Black Sea. The Susurluk, Biga, and Gonen pour into the Sea of Marmara, the Gediz, Kucuk Menderes, Buyuk Menderes and Meric into the Aegean, and the Seyhan, Ceyhan and Goksu into the Mediterranean.
In terms of numbers of lakes, the Eastern Anatolian region is the richest. It contains Turkey’s largest, Lake Van (3.713 square kilometres), and the lakes of Ercek, Cildir and Hazar. There are also many lakes in the Taurus mountains area: the Beysehir and Egirdir lakes, and the lakes that contain bitter waters like the Burdur and Acigoller lakes. Around the Sea of Marmara are the lakes of Sapanca, Iznik, Ulubat, Manyas, Terkos, Kucukcekmece and Buyukcekmece.
In Central Anatolia is the second largest lake in Turkey: Tuzgolu. This lake is shallow and very salty. The lakes of Aksehir and Eber are also located in this region. As a result of the construction of dams during the past thirty years, several large dam lakes have come into existence. Together with the Ataturk Dam lake which started to collect water in January 1990, the following are good examples: Keban, Karakaya, Altinkaya, Adiguzel, Kilickaya, Karacaoren, Menzelet, Kapulukaya, Hirfanli, Sariyar and Demirkopru.
Although Turkey is situated in a geographical location where climatic conditions are quite temperate, the diverse nature of the landscape, and the existence in particular of the mountains that run parallel to the coasts cause significant differences in climatic conditions between regions. While the coastal areas enjoy milder climates, the inland Anatolian plateau experiences extremes of hot summers and cold winters with limited rainfall.