Turkey is a large peninsula that bridges the continents of Europe and Asia and is surrounded on three sides by the Black Sea to the North, the Mediterranean Sea to the South, and the Aegean Sea to the West.
Turkey borders eight countries: Bulgaria to the northwest, Greece to the west, Georgia to the northeast, Armenia, Azerbaijan (the Nakhichevan exclave), and Iran to the east, Iraq and Syria to the southeast.
Turkey's area, including lakes, occupies 779,452 sq. km (300,948 square miles) of which 755,688 sq. km (291,773 square miles) are in Southwest Asia and 23,764 sq. km (9.174 square miles) are in Europe. Turkey's size makes it the world's 37th largest country (after Mozambique).
The European section of Turkey, in the northwest, is Eastern Thrace (in Turkish: Trakya), and forms the borders of Turkey with Greece and Bulgaria. The Asian part of the country, Anatolia (also called Asia Minor and in Turkish: Anadolu), consists of a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains, in between the Koroglu and East-Black Sea mountain range to the north and the Taurus Mountains to the south.
Eastern Turkey has a more mountainous landscape, and is home to the sources of rivers such as the Euphrates and Tigris, which eventually empty into the Persian Gulf; the Kizilirmak (Red River), which empties into the Black Sea, and is the longest of the country (1,150 km / 715 miles) entirely within Turkey. The Buyukmenderes River, called the Meander in ancient times, drains western Anatolia into the Aegean Sea. The river’s slow progress through many loops and bends gave rise to the term meander in English.
The country is a home to one of the most magnificent lakes – the Lake Van and the Mount Ararat, Turkey's highest point, at 5.165 nesters (16,946 feet). The mountain is considered sacred by many people and is believed to be where Noah beached his ark after the great flood.
Turkey is geographically divided into seven regions: Marmara, Aegean, Black Sea, Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, Southeastern Anatolia and the Mediterranean, which were originally defined at the country's First Geography Congress in 1941. These seven regions are subdivided into twenty one sections, which are further split into numerous areas as defined by microclimate and bounded by local geographic formations.
Regions are merely for geographic, demographic, and economic purposes, and do not refer to an administrative division. As such, borders of geographical regions do not overlap with the borders of the administrative provinces.
The Mediterranean and Aegean shores of Turkey experience long, hot summers and mild, rainy winters. Istanbul averages 0°C in January and 23°C in July. Average annual precipitation totals 697 millimetres (27.4 inches), most of which falls in December and January.
Along the central Anatolian plateau, a continental climate prevails, with hot summers and colder winters. The plateau receives only about half as much precipitation, but it is more evenly distributed throughout the year.
The eastern highlands experience even longer and colder winters. Along the Black Sea, the climate is mild and rainy. Southeast Anatolia records the country’s highest summer temperatures, averaging more than 30°C in July and August.
Annual precipitation averages about 400 mm with actual amounts determined by elevation. The driest regions are the Konya plain and the Malatya plain, where annual rainfall frequently is less than 300 mm. May is the wettest month, whereas July and August are the driest.
The uneven north Anatolian terrain running along the Black Sea resembles a long, narrow belt. This region comprises approximately one-sixth of Turkey's total land area. As a general trend, the inland Anatolian plateau becomes increasingly rugged as it progresses eastward.
Turkey's varied landscapes are the product of complex earth movements that have shaped the region over thousands of years and still manifest themselves in fairly frequent earthquakes and occasional volcanic eruptions.
Turkey is one of the most earthquake prone areas on Earth and has suffered from 13 earthquakes in the past 70 years. The North Anatolian Fault extends hundreds of miles from the Sea of Marmara in the western part of the country to the Eastern Anatolian Highlands. The fault moves back and forth about 20 cm (8 inches) a year.
On August 17, 1999, a 7,4 magnitude earthquake struck north-western Turkey, killing more than 17,000 and injuring 44,000.
The Bosphorus and the Dardanelles Straits owe their existence to the fault lines running through Turkey that led to the creation of the Black Sea. There is an earthquake fault line across the north of the country from west to east.