Everytime I hear someone mention that they’re going to Turkey, I feel compelled to tell them to go beyond Istanbul. I have written multiple emails / FB messages listing out the top things to see and do in Turkey, so I think it’s time to write a blogpost that I can refer to, instead. So, here’s what you do if you can spend more than a week in Turkey.
1. Istanbul – this is a no-brainer. But remember that there’s more to Istanbul than the obvious suspects like the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar. There’s more.
2. Ephesus – if you are a fan of history, this has to be on your list. And please, remember to go see the one remaining column of the Temple of Diana at Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. (Pro tip – stay at Nazar Hotel. The owner used to own a travel agency in Istanbul and knows a LOT!) Also make sure you go on the trip to Serinje this little village nearby – they have the most amazing fruit wine.
3. Pamukkale – you may be wondering what places to pick, and which ones to drop when you plan your trip. Pamukkale can NOT be missed. Spend a few hours there (during the day time), but you absolutely must see the travertines (just Google this, and you will know what I’m talking about). I’ve seen pictures, and I can assure you the reality beats every photo hollow. I am not a natural beauty type person AT ALL (as anyone who knows me even a teeny bit can tell you), but this is still top on my list of places you must visit before you die. While you are there, remember to eat at Mustafa. The food was good, but what really got me was how the owner described the food – “My wife she make everything. She is the best cook I have known.” I also recommend staying at Kervansaray.
4. Antalya – there are many beaches in Turkey (including Fethiye which is known to be a party place). We chose to visit Antalya because of how our travel was planned. The Mediterranean sea is gorgeous, and I would definitely suggest breaking your Turkish journey with a beach visit amidst all the sight-seeing!
5. Cappadocia – the very first issue of Lonely Planet India featured an image of hot air baloons flying over the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, and that was when I knew I just HAD to go there. The hot air baloon experience is one more of those things that is even better in reality than it is in the most perfectly Photoshopped image. I also recommend the city tour of Cappadocia that allows you to explore the natural landscape. Make sure that you stay at a cave hotel while you are in Cappadocia. There are many options ranging from the super fancy to the more affordable Hills Cave hotel. When you make your reservation, ask them to also arrange the hot air balooning for you.
And, if your curious about how to get to each of these places, this is what I recommend:
Fly into Istanbul –> Fly to Izmir (near Ephesus) –> take a bus tour to Pamukkale (ask Nazar Hotel about this) –> take a bus to Antalya –> take an overnight bus to Cappadocia –> fly to Istanbul.
I loved the public transportation in Turkey, and I will highly recommend it!
There are many more places to see in Turkey that I didn’t get to, but I think this is a pretty solid itinerary (it took us 12 days). Here’s hoping you see more of Turkey than just Istanbul!