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Trip Report Turkey trip reviews (Istanbul, Ephesus, Cappadocia) and tips

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We returned from our trip last week—we went to Istanbul, Ephesus, and Cappadocia. Spring definitely seems to be an ideal time to visit Turkey! Anyway, here are my reviews—if you want to see photos and/or read a more detailed account of our trip, check out my posts at (to read in sequence, start at the bottom and scroll up)

Istanbul (we stayed at two different hotels during our time there)
Raymond Hotel- Good location, small rooms, noisy street (at least during the weekends), avoid Room 106 and adjoining numbers—these rooms are located within earshot of the hotel restaurant
Alaaddin Hotel- good location (very close to the Sultanahmet station), small rooms, quiet save for the roosters
If you’re into Goya, there’s currently a Goya exhibit at the Pera Museum
Sakip Sabanci Museum- We took the ferry to Sariyer (follow Rick Steves’ advice and get to the ferry 30-45 minutes in advance so you can try to get a seat) went to the Sadberk Hanim Museum, took the 25E bus to Sakip Sabanci Museum, and then caught another bus heading back towards Taksim. There’s a Rembrandt exhibit at Sakip Sabanci and the views of the Bosphorus along this area are really nice but traffic was pretty bad when we went (on a Sunday) so the ride back towards Taksim was quite slow and the bus crowded. If you do go, make sure to get an Istanbulkart since the buses don’t accept cash. If I had to do it over again, I would have gone to Princes’ Island.
Hippodrome Restaurant- a solid choice in Sultanahmet
Cigdem Pastanesi- good pastries in Sultanahmet
Lokanta Maya- popular restaurant near Istanbul Modern, make sure to order the mucver, my monkfish dish was a bit oversalted but the rice side is very good
Istanbul Culinary Institute- I ordered their fish entrée which was perfectly cooked, good stuffed grape leaves
Meze by Lemon Tree- I don’t understand why people rave about their mezes—the ones we tried were not that good, we ordered the seafood with bulgur and the fish in that dish was completely overcooked (keep in mind the restaurant, which can get quite crowded, was empty when we went too), the monkfish entrée was ok, I can’t say that I would really recommend this place
Helvetia Lokanta- like an extension of someone’s kitchen, very good food, when we ate here we were surrounded by locals
Datli Maya- good winter salad and pizzas, charming space
Akdenisz Hatay Sofrasi- good mezes (get the kisir), try to pre-order their famous chicken (or lamb) baked in salt, bonus if you like shopping- they’re right across the street from Historia Shopping Mall
Ciya Sofrasi- I can’t recommend this restaurant strongly enough, worth the ferry ride

One thing that needs to be worked on in my opinion is transportation between the closest airport (in Izmir) and Selcuk (the town where most people stay in)—there are only 4 or 5 trains daily between Izmir and Selcuk and the only other options appear to be taxis or private transfers which are kind of expensive
As far as length of time goes, I had originally planned on spending two nights in Selcuk but Selcuk is quite small and, unless you rent a car, you’re pretty limited in what you can do if you go through things like Ephesus pretty quickly. We ended up leaving Selcuk a day early and spending the afternoon in Izmir. There are a ton of attractions in Izmir but there’s enough to keep you occupied for a day and the waterfront area is nice.
Ephesus tip—go there early! We got there before 9 and had significant sections to ourselves
Urkmez Hotel (Selcuk)- charming hotel, friendly staff (the friendliest of the hotels we stayed in in Turkey), good breakfast
Oglakcioglu Park Hotel (Izmir)- nice hotel, spacious rooms, central location
Mehmet and Ali Baba House- the owner is very friendly and the food quite good
Hotel Bella- mediocre food but nice views from this rooftop terrace restaurant

Sultan Cave Suites- nice hotel, nice room and reception area, good location with nice views and their hotel is probably one of the best in town!
Manzara Restaurant- nice view, so-so food
Anatolian Kitchen- freshly baked bread, good grilled chicken wings
Seten Restaurant- restaurant situated within Sultan Cave Suites, well appointed, good service, very good food, try the wedding soup
Zelve Open-Air Museum- basically requires a taxi to if you don’t have a car rental but we thought it was worth it—it was empty when we went, which was a refreshing contrast to Goreme Open-Air Museum. Plus, Pasabag, which is another noteworthy attraction, is a walkable distance away.
Turkish Heritage Travels- they were extremely responsive to all my e-mails which I appreciated. We booked our Izmir airport and our airport transfers to/from Goreme with them as well as their Cappadocia Undiscovered tour and a hike of Rose Valley with a private guide. I thought the Cappadocia Undiscovered tour was pretty good but a highlight of our time in Cappadocia was the Rose Valley hike. Our guide, Jules, was very good and the landscapes and views along Rose Valley are really nice.

As I mentioned previously, for photos and more details, check out my blog!