We are back from our 18-day Turkey trip by May 29.
We had such a wonderful time feeling exceptional safe and relaxed throughout our entire trip.
(…Luckily our trip ended before the heat of protestors’ act in Istanbul.)
What's beyond its striking beauty in nature and history was that
although it seemed a much less modern and less well-developed country,
people appeared very happy, warm, self-content, sincere and friendly,
they believe what they believe yet respect others,
they cherish the beauty of their motherland,
their life seemed quite simple and harmonious.
Wherever we visited in the short 16 days, the big city or the small towns,
I was emotionally touched by their genuine hospitality and honesty,
their offer of help seemed not always driven by money,
rather, by good deeds from heart…
the authentic beauty of human nature
that I found more treasurable in our modern life.
We are a mid-age couple who
love nature, arts and photography,
interested in experiencing different culture and life
and some easy-moderate outdoor adventure
in low-mid budget range.
For this trip, because of many unknown factors and open choices on itineraries,
I spent about two months searching and planning,
it turned out that my biggest effort ever did payoff.
First and foremost,
I want to thank all Fodorers who responded to my questions and helped for my planning,
especially Kja, Paragkash and Croesus.
Yes, Cappacocia is a must!
Yes, hot air balloon ride in a sunny morning is a must!
And Cappacocia was the highlight of our Turkey’s trip indeed.
Our itinerary turned out quite satisfied for the 16 days in Turkey:
1. An international flight to Istanbul, 2-night (you need some time to adjust before going to next stop), stayed in Niles hotel in old city (25 euro hotel pick up), though a small room, it’s very neat, offered very good service and very good breakfast, easy to walk to Blue Mosque etc. around the area.
2. Pegasus flight to Kayseri for Cappadocia (Many people take night buses but it’s too long for me). We managed a morning flight so we had time wondering around after arrival on the same day (paid 60 euro for hotel drop off to Gokcen Airport that was one hour away, and 50TL airport pick up to get to our cave hotel in Goreme). We stayed in Canyon View hotel for 3-night, felt like home, the owner’s family were genuinely kind, friendly and helpful. The nearest local Saray Halk Lokantasi restaurant cooked very homey tasty meals. On first day, we did hot air balloon ride in the morning and local wondering by foot on the hill in the afternoon, stunningly beautiful views. The next day we used our hotel private guide (offered at a cost of a day’s car rental) to drive us around Goreme area at easy and flexible pace, turned out very efficient for those typical scenic stops, saved us time and energy finding the road and spots.
3. Sunexpress flight to Izmir in the morning, rent a car and stayed at Sulcuk (Tuncay Pension) for 2-night, nice garden yard, small room, great location, easy walk cross street to the small town center. Visited Ephesus Park, Saturday market (a fun event!) and Sirince town.
4. Drive to Pamukkale, stayed one night at Sunrise Aye hotel right next to the park, a very nice relaxed place, tasty homey lunch at the family run hotel. We walked to the park and wandered till after sunset, fun and beautiful!
5. Drive along D400 to Fethiye for 2-night, stayed in Paradise Aya hotel, great room, exceptional beautiful garden and pool on the hill, what a view! The manager and his assistant were so sweet and helpful. They would provide details on planning your time and driving around. We did short hike nearby, drove down to the quite pebble beach, drove a little more around for some other beach and historical sites, did paragliding which was our first-time fun adventure, stopped by Tlos, visited Saklikent Gorge on the way to Cirali.
6. Drive along D400 to the low-keyed, relative quiet town Cirali for 2-night, numerous small hotels lined up along the narrow winding road off the D400, we stayed in Ozge Bungalow hotel near the end of the road, close to the pebble beach which was extremely quiet in late May, solitude and neat.
7. We dropped off the car at Antalya airport, take Onurair flight to Istanbul at noon time to the near Ataturk Airport (use Explorer when book from Onurair site, Firefox didn’t work for me), stayed in Portus House Karakoy for 4-night, small room, no elevator, but great location, easy to ferries, metros and the main shopping street. We visited Prince islands (ferry 1.5 hr one-way), took the 1.5 hr Bosphorus cruise circling in Istanbul Strait, visited the Spice Bazaar, Modern art museum (the creative videos exhibited in many little dark rooms were somewhat unique and interesting to me) and Topkapi palace (we missed it on day two for it closed on Tuesdays). We also took a ferry and a long bus to Sile, a black sea beach town in Asia area for a quick look (3-4 hour one-way with 82 stops unexpectedly!!), not worth the long ride at all for our short visit.
Another not-so-good experience we had was at the fast food stands cross the Grand Bazaar and the bus station. Once we stopped by a food stand looking at a kebab dish, the waiter convinced us to stay, and said it was 7 TL. We sat down, ordered a large size ( it might be 14 I thought), turned out billed 32 TL, when I asked, I was told because we sat down to eat. Our total meal cost less than 70 TL, but billed tip 7 TL (normally 1-2TL would do as you wish for a simple meal like this), in addition, the waiter asked more for himself. Compared to elsewhere we visited in Turkey, I found it a ‘polluted spot’ with unusual dishonesty. But in general, though the sellers were pushing to sell in the main tourist area, they usually wouldn’t go further if you simply walk away.
Here to share some of our experience and tips that may help for the first-time visitors:
1. About the rental car and driving:
I planed to pick up the car from Izmir airport and drop off at Antalya airport. I booked an auto diesel compact car through economicarrental.com. A few days later, I got notified that it was from Almira and someone would meet us at the airport.
When we arrived, we were told by the airport staff to wait outside of the airport building. When we couldn't find our guy, we were directed to the open area parked a few big buses next to a parking garage. I ended up went to some local businessman who didn't understand much English but took quite some time to call the rental office and located the guy who seemed awaiting right outside of the airport. After we went with our guy to the rental office, I was told that they didn't have auto diesel car available. We ended up taking the non-diesel one, the gas rate for the car was about 4.75 YTL/liter.
Because we’d have a flight from Antalya after the car drop-off, I was told that someone would meet us at the airport to pick up the car. On the day we approached the Antalya airport, we found we had to enter the pay gate to get to the departure entrance. We seemed a bit earlier so I had the airport staff’s help to call the rental office. He came five minutes later, examined the car, asked for 7 TL to prepay him for the gate fee and then he drove the car away.
2. About driving on the road:
Main roads from Izmir to Antalya were with clear signs just like in USA, easy to drive and follow.
Since there seemed just one main road going along the coastline you won't get lost until you get off it. It's hard to see the street signs even you may have a good map in hands. The best way is to stop at any hotel or a restaurant to ask. People were always trying their best to help even the language might be a barrier. And you will get to your destination eventually!
Considering of the only one main road along the way, I simply printed out some google maps for finding the way to our hotels. We got lost several times when entering a town or city going for a round-about as instructed. But since there was just one main road, once we asked and made sure the right direction, we were hardly off the track.
In Istanbul city, it’s another world, the roads seemed packed and jammed most of the time especially from late afternoon till late evening. Although there are public metro and buses, it's different from some other countries in Europe. You’d better use hotel pick-up and drop-off if you do have some luggage with you. When we flew from Antalya and arrived in Istanbul around 4pm, we got to our hotel at 6pm with a very skillful driver hired by the hotel fishing through narrow streets, moved inch by inch periodically, what a struggle! (It took half hour to get to the airport the morning we left from Istanbul though).
3. About Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar and food:
In Istanbul, we went Grand Bazaar in old city for some portion (too many stands in the ‘maze’), not knowing about the quality and price thinking that I may only buy some spice and candy, I did just window shopping. Before we left Istanbul, we visited Spice Bazaar, I sort of found out that all the vendor’s stuff seemed coming from same source so it seemed waste your time looking around hoping to find some ‘personalities’ there. Though stuff in Grand Bazaar seemed relative ‘pricy’, to me that it had better quality and some ‘personalities’ compare to Spice Bazaar. I wish to go back to Grand Bazaar to get something but ended up I didn’t find time for it.
Compare to Greece, Turkey has more varieties in food, not mainly kebabs or pizza, it has stewed dishes with veges too. All very healthy, less salt, less seasoning, less grease, more like home-cooked, but most of them too simple flavor-wised that it's hardly a 'cuisine'. The hotels’ food seemed not much different from the streets’, unlike some modern countries, hotels’ would be relatively higher-rated in terms of quality and price. What I disliked the most was that they put non-fresh fried potato sticks and lettuce strings without any sauce in almost every dish, regardless it goes with the dish or not. But I like the delicious thin pancake the old lady made, grilled chili peppers and ayran (a sour milk drink) very much, which seemed typical Turkish stuff.
Many times before I go to a new place, I wish to get first-hand tips needed for my plan and preparation. Here I'm sharing what I had, though it's limited to my personal experience, knowledge and it may not apply to all similar situations, hope it'd be still helpful in someway for your trip plan.
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We are back from our 18-day Turkey trip by May 29.