See Whirling Dervishes in Turkey

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. This week he delights in the mystical dance of the whirling Dervish.

Whirling Dervishes, Turkey

In the Islamic world the thirteenth-century Sufi poet Celaleddin Rumi, better known as Mevlâna, is all but considered a saint. Followers of the great mystic are world-famous for their unique whirling dance, through which Mevlâna believed that union with God was possible.

When can I see the whirling dervishes in Turkey?

These whirling dervishes gather in Konya, Turkey between 10 and 17 December to dance and pay homage to their master in the city where he is buried.

What happens during the Mevlana Festival?

Witnessing the ritual dancing is a stunning experience. Fuelled by kettledrum and reed flute, groups of Dervishes perform their time-honoured trance-like, whirling ritual. Right arms are extended to receive blessing from God as the dancers’ robes swirl around them.

The event is one of Turkey's greatest festivals and is hugely popular. If you can't get a ticket to see the main display you should be able to catch some dancing away from the main venues during the festival.

Things to see and do in Konya

The Mevlâna Museum, which is more of a shrine to Mevlâna, can be visited year-round. Konya’s museums and Ottoman heritage make it one of Turkey’s most popular destinations. It is often visited on an itinerary including the remarkable landscapes and troglodyte houses of Cappadocia.

The city is a long train ride from Istanbul but a great jumping off point for adventures further east. Turkey remains an excellent-value destination and is a bargain compared to travel in western Europe.

Planning your trip to Turkey

Tourism Turkey is a great source of tourist information, but the best place to get the Turkey lowdown is Turkey Travel Planner.

© 2009 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd