Tips for Excursions

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Tips for Excursions

Trabzon

Getting here: Fly to Trabzon from Istanbul.

How much time? Two days let you see Trabzon and Sümela; with another one or two days, you can also go to Çamlıhemşin.

Getting around: We recommend flying in. If you just want to see Sümela you can take a tour from Trabzon; it's possible to get around with regional buses, but you'll save time and see more if you rent a car

When to go: May–September is the best season. There is less rain, and the area, particularly the Kaçkar Mountains, is blissfully cooler than the rest of Turkey, though the coast can be quite humid. Fall in the mountain forests can be especially beautiful.

By yourself or with a guide? It's easy to explore Trabzon on your own and then take a day trip to Sumela. Touring the Kaçkar Mountains is best done with a guide.

Kars, Mt. Ararat, and Lake Van

Getting here: To save time, fly to Kars from Istanbul and then fly back from Van (or the other way around).

How much time? Four or five days are enough. If you have more time, stay an extra night in Van and do one of the side trips along the lake. If you have less time and only want to visit one city, two days are enough.

Getting around: Intercity buses are an option, though you might want to rent a car for more comfort and the freedom to explore at your leisure.

When to go: Because of their altitude, Kars and Van are usually pleasant in summer, though the sun can still be quite strong. May and June, when the area is especially green and covered with wild flowers, are good months to visit. Winter is cold and dreary in Turkey's east, and from late October to early April many sites are inaccessible because of snow.

Top sights: The ruins of Ani, Doğubeyazıt's fantastic Ishak Paş Sarayı, the island church of Akdamar in Lake Van.

By yourself or with a guide? You may want a guide for a visit to Ani, the area around Mt. Ararat, and for some of the sites around Lake Van.

Diyarbakır, Mardin, Midyat, and Hasankeyf

Getting here: Fly in and out of Mardin or Diyarbakır from Istanbul or other Turkish cities.

How much time? Three to four days will give you enough time to see this area. With extra time, spend another night in Mardin or Midyat.

Getting around: You can reach the major towns by minibus, but to get to the remote monasteries and churches you will need to rent a car or take a taxi.

When to go: Summer can be oppressively hot, with temperatures over 100°F, and winter is cold and damp, so the best time to visit is in spring (late April through early June) or fall (September to early November).

Top sights: The bazaar and side streets of Mardin, the exquisite stone homes of Midyat, and the monasteries of Deyr al Zaferan and Mor Gabriel. The walls of Diyarbakır and ruins at Hasankeyf, beside the Tigris, are also memorable.

By yourself or with a guide? Touring by yourself is a good option, since distances are short and much of the excursion is really about walking around old towns and soaking up the atmosphere. You may feel more comfortable exploring the back lanes of Diyarbakır with a guide.

Gaziantep, Mt. Nemrut, and Urfa (Şanlıurfa)

Getting here: Fly in and out of Gaziantep or Urfa from Istanbul or other Turkish cities.

How much time? Three or four days are enough time to see this area; with extra time, spend another night in Gaziantep to try another of the city's great restaurants.

Getting around: We recommend flying, then renting a car, although it’s possible to get around on intercity buses.

When to go: Summer can be oppressively hot, with temperatures over 100°F. Winter is cold and damp and Mt. Nemrut is inaccessible because of snow. The best time to visit is in spring (late April through early June) and fall (September–early November).

Top sights: Mt. Nemrut, the Zeugma mosaics in Gaziantep, the carp pools in Urfa, and the mysterious early civilization of Göbekli Tepe.

By yourself or with a guide? It's easy to see this area by yourself, though you might want to take a guided tour of Mt. Nemrut from Gaziantep.

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