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Trip Report Some Observations on a Fantastic Journey through Western Turkey

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I loved my time in Turkey!!!

Many thanks to all who helped me plan my recent trip to Turkey, whether by responding to my questions or by sharing information through other posts – you all contributed to what was, for me, a fantastic journey and a very successful itinerary.

In lieu of a trip diary, I offer some observations. Please feel free to ask questions at any point; I’m no expert, but I will at least offer my opinion based on my limited experience.

Basic info:
• This was a 25-day trip, mostly by car, through western Turkey.
• I’m a solo independent female traveler.
• This was my 1st visit to Turkey.
• Before the trip, I learned just a few very basic Turkish words and phrases.
• I reserved all of my lodging in advance.

Here’s the itinerary I actually followed:

Days 0-1: Flight, arriving in Ankara in the evening – 1st of 2 nights in Ankara
Day 2: Explore Ankara
Day 3: Pick up rental car, drive to Boğazkale, explore Yazılıkaya and Hattuşa -- night in Boğazkale
Day 4: Drive to and visit Avanos and Sarihan on my way to Göreme – begin exploring Cappadocia – 1st of 2 nights in Göreme
Day 5: Explore Cappadocia – hot air balloon and a very long hike
Day 6: Ürgüp, Mustafapaşa, Keşlik Monastery, Taşkinpaşa, and a brief hike through part of the Soğanli Valley before driving to Güzelyurt – 1st of 2 nights in Güzelyurt
Day 7: Hike the Ihlara Valley from Ihlara to Belisirma; backtrack (by car) to visit Kaymakli, and briefly roam the town of Güzelyurt
Day 8: Visit Ağzikarahan, Sultanhani, and Çatalhöyük on the way to Beyşehir -- night in Beyşehir
Day 9: Explore Beyşehir, drive to Antalya (taking the “old” road through Derebucak), with stops in Aspendos and Perge – 1st of 2 nights in Antalya (after a delightful Turkish bath)
Day 10: Explore Antalya
Day 11: Visit Termessos, take cable car from a bit south of Kemer to the top of Mt. Olympos and back down, and visit Phaselis on my way to Çıralı; visit the Chimaera (Yanartaş) -- night in Çıralı
Day 12: Visit Adrasan, Arykanda, and Myra on my way to Üçağız -- night in Üçağız
Day 13: Glass-bottomed boat ride to Kekova and thereabouts; visit Xanthos and (briefly) the beach at Patara; go to an explore Kaş -- night in Kaş
Day 14: Drive to Pamukkale; explore Hierapolis and the travertines -- night in Pamukkale
Day 15: Take a brief dip in the Sacred Pool before heading to Aphrodisias; drive to Selçuk – 1st of 2 nights in Selçuk
Day 16: Explore Selçuk and Ephesus
Day 17: Drive to Bergama to visit Pergamon’s Acropolis; drive to Iznik -- night in Iznik
Day 18: Explore Iznik; drive to Bursa, return rental car, and begin exploring the city -- night in Bursa
Day 19: Continue exploring Bursa, then take ferry to Istanbul – 1st of 6 nights in Istanbul
Day 20 – 24: Explore Istanbul
Day 25: Flight home

I had wanted an itinerary that would maximize the diversity of my experiences, and I loved the incredible mix of things I encountered on this trip! Although otherchelebi was correct in warning me that I could not be or see all things on this trip, I did experience most of the things he included on his list of the things from which I would have to choose – basically, I did everything except see “every place mentioned in major guide books.” (I managed to see quite a few of the mentioned places!)
• (from other’s list): I pursued interests in architecture and archeology and history; had some wonderfully memorable adventures (and misadventures); found many photographic opportunities; enjoyed nature and natural sights; experienced some engaging and memorable interactions with locals; took long drives and long hikes (which were, in both cases, sometimes as long as planned and sometimes, quite inadvertently, much longer, but all worth every moment); and spent some time as a slack-jawed tourist.
• I also ate well (savoring a variety of delicious foods, including some that were new to me); visited colorful markets (not just the covered markets of Istanbul and Bursa, but also many small local markets and food stands); admired some awesome works of art created from ancient through modern times; attended some very enjoyable performances (including the sema, folk and belly dancing, and the Ottoman Military Band); met myriad cats who not only allowed, but actually invited, my attentions; and discovered how thoroughly relaxing a Turkish bath can be.

That’s a lot of diversity!

And it didn’t stop there – there was also incredible diversity within each of these various domains. The natural scenery alone was so diverse that I feel like I visited a dozen (or more) countries on this one trip – I saw high treeless plains and high plains with trees and deep lush valleys and rugged mountain ranges and snow-capped volcanoes and mountain-edged seas of impossibly turquoise hues and the varied incredible blues of the Bosphorus and lake-side marshes complete with water fowl and that doesn’t even count the unique topography of places like Cappadocia or Pamukkale or so many other places. The only largely common elements were that they were gorgeous, filled with wildflowers, and topped by some of the most dramatic skies I have ever seen. WOW!

The ancient ruins I visited were also wonderfully diverse. I had worried that they would seem similar enough to blur into each other. Not so! There were (of course) some overlapping features, and I could see, and was glad to be able to identify, some things that were more common to (say) primarily Hellenistic sites than to primarily Lydian-Lycian sites, but I was also well aware of unique elements that set each site aside from the others.

I could go on ….

Bottom line: I was thrilled by the diversity of things I saw and experienced on this trip! My sincere thanks to all of you who helped me plan this journey.

Additional comments to follow….

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