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Convince me to go to Greece and Turkey

Old Dec 15th, 2007, 06:33 PM
  #1  
PJK
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Convince me to go to Greece and Turkey

We love traveling on our own and have made many trips to Europe with the help of Fodorites. We are considering a tour trip to Greece and Turkey. While I am sure there is no reason to use a tour, I am intimidated about going to these locations on my own. I can't decide whether or not to spend the extra money and do a tour (with cruise included) or go back to Italy or France or Germany on our own. I particularly want to see Ephesus and Athens, and I just can't convince myself to go there on my own. Should I branch out or go back to an area of Italy or France that I have not seen? PJK
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Old Dec 15th, 2007, 06:40 PM
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I went through this exact same thing about 5 years ago. Originally I posted here asking advice on several tour groups. But it was the responses received here that made me understand it would be NO MORE difficult to travel Greece and Turkey on my own than Italy or France. I was glad we did. Piece of cake. We even ended up renting a car and driving much of Turkey and found it an absolute delight for driving and much easier with less traffic and better roads and signage than much of Italy or France.
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Old Dec 15th, 2007, 08:08 PM
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We spent three weeks in Greece and Turkey this summer. It was a wonderful trip, and we did it mostly on our own, with one or two arranged day trips ( Ephesus, and a walking tour of Istanbul). I used a fabulous website, Turkeytravelplanner.com to help in some of the initial planning stages.

Through that website, I found ANKER TRAVEL, based in Kusadisi. I used that agency to help with transfers to and from Izmir Airport and a guided tour of Ephesus. I would highly recommend them,( ask for CEYDA) although there are plenty of other agencies recommended on Turkeytravelplanner.com , as well as a poster here ( Murat at PROPERTRAVEL.com,) who would probably be very helpful, too.

I would skip the Mediterranean Coast ( we were in Kusadisi, Bodrum, and Marmara) which seems to cater to large package tours and yacht owners. We found it very disappointing.

Definitely visit Cappadochia, which we missed since it didn't fit with our itinerary. I've heard it's one of the highlights of any Turkish trip.

Athens can be done easily on your own. I would recommend visiting for a few days ( you really don't need more than that unless you're planning day trips to Delphi and other places) so that you don't backtrack. There's plenty of info available here on the forum, as well as recommendations for reputable travel agencies, if you want to go that route. One that gets mentioned a lot here is FANTASY TRAVEL.

Anyway, my suggestion would be:

Fly into Istanbul

Then to Cappadochia

Izmir

Athens

Home

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Old Dec 15th, 2007, 11:47 PM
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Greece is no more difficult than Italy. It is a beautiful place. In addition to Athens, have you considered visiting one or more of the islands? We went to Santorini, which was a very easy flight from Athens, and it was an extremely easy place to visit.
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 12:33 AM
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Many on this forum are intolerant of frank criticism of their pet places, so smarter folks than I may be holding their tongue. But Athens is in no way a waltz in the park like Italy tends to be - you can read confirmations in many guidebooks how it is one of the more gruelling destinations in Europe.

You can get from A to B and check off items on your travel trophy list there, but it won't likely give the same floating on air feeling as when you go from one French or Italian transcendant eating experience to another amongst sublime architecture, gardens, relatively less concerned about traffic safety or petty crime.

Now I can just sense those knees jerking to come to the defense of these places, but keep in mind that the O.P. was not burning with desire to visit these places at whatever the drawbacks, but was on the fence. Most visitors leave Athens in a big hurry for the islands, but the O.P. showed no interest for that. I prefer Italian islands anyway, which at least have shade, and can see a lot of Greek ruins in southern Italy.

BTW I am not a luxury seeker, with plenty of time in places like Algeria, Burma, India, etc. but I went with realistic expectations. I think we should strive to give realistic advice, and know that our own enthusiasm for a place may have caused us to overlook things that will loom larger to a more typical non-fanatic. So either go with your eyes open, or look harder into nearby alternatives, or join a cruise that mixes and matches.
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 01:08 AM
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YES, these are just as easy to do on your own, perhaps easier.

There is no easier country to travel in than Turkey...as the level of hospitality there is unbelievable. They cherish their tourists and go to amazing lengths to make you happy. Everyone seems connected in Turkey so each hotel can help you with the next or anything you want. We did not book anything in advance, including the world class boutique hotel Esbelli Evi and we traveled in high season.

Americans have lots of false illusions about Turkey, but it is safe and easy and a delight. We were nervous before going since we travel with a young child, but found it a piece of cake. Greece is also extremely easy.

Ephesus is wonderful and there are soooo many fantastic ancient sites in Turkey worth seeing. We focused on ancient sites in Greece and Turkey and spent months there last summer, so you might want to check out our blog for ideas.

http://www.soultravelers3.com/

Go to the blog and click on archives for tons of details and pictures that will inspire. We did not mean to spend so much time there, but it was so wonderful , we found it very hard to leave.

Athens is less wonderful, ( crowded, smoggy city), so I would spend less time there. Of course you would not want to miss the ancient sites and archaeology museum there ...which is a great start to other places that you will see.

Don't miss Satorini....since it is a one of a kind. Chania in Crete and Rhodes were also highlights for us in Greece as well as Delphi and Olympia.

I would spend more time in Turkey than Greece if my time was limited. Don't miss Cappadoica, a small cruise or bareboat in the Turquoise coast is well worth doing ( but DO miss Kudasi, Marmaris etc as someone else said) ...but Fetiye and Olympia etc wonderful. The many small islands that only can be seen by a boat are much better than Capri.

Western Turkey is much more European than most people realize, so every luxury is there. We spent a week near Ephesus as there is a lot to see there & worth it if you have the time. One day is not enough.

Pamukale, Pergaman, Troy and Aphrodisias are fantastic if you are into ancient sites. We were there in high season and had much of it to ourselves.

Istanbul of course is a must see...it is a gorgeous city that reminded me of SF in many ways ( minus the ancient sites of course).

You will also save lots of money on this trip as Greece and Turkey ( especially Turkey) are much cheaper than Italy or France for the most part.

Go for it!
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 01:24 AM
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<can see a lot of Greek ruins in southern Italy

That is true and you can see lots of ancient sites all over Europe, which we have done.

That said, the BEST ancient sites ( other than Pompeii which is great but a little dicey with all the wild dogs and filth) are in Turkey... and then Greece.

We came early when it opened and on a non-cruise boat day and even had Ephesus all to our selves for a while and finished before any crowds came. I was shocked because it was high season! It is fabulous and the whole area very rich in sights.

We had Aphrodisias all to ourselves even in high season. A beautiful site and great museum in a park like setting.

Pergamum was also interesting and not crowded as was Troy. Knossis was great late in the day.

We also got to talk to and watch working scientists, archaeologists and advanced degree students working at Ephesus , Troy, and Aphrodisias which was priceless for us.






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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 02:02 AM
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<transcendant eating experience

We have had that in Italy and France, but we also found that in Turkey and Greece!

I guess we posted around the same time viking. I see your points, but I guess I do not agree. Perhaps that would be true if the OP had only been to Provence or Tuscany, but it sounded like she has traveled some.

I would not spend a lot of time in Athens, but crime is no worse there than in Rome or Naples or Paris. I thing all 4 of those cities are about equal in "ease" and "risks". Large cities in foreign lands where someone does not speak the language can all be intimidating.

If you stay in the area where most people do in Athens, you can walk to most of the ancient sites and it is a pleasant area with good food and things to watch like the changing of the guard.

I did not get the impression that the OP just wanted to see Athens, but it was just one area that she was interested in for a trip to Greece and Turkey. Most likely she will do like most and just spend a few days there.

Greece and Turkey are no more my pet places than Italy or France...I love them all! Her title says it all to me...convince me to go to Greece and Turkey.

We have spent lots of time in France and Italy and various places in Europe ( and elsewhere) and we found Turkey to be one of the easiest and much more European than some European countries. I did not know that until I went. Western Turkey is more modern than much of Greece.

Sounds like you do not like Athens and I concur, but it is still worth a few days to see the gorgeous acropolis etc and no worse than Rome/Naples/Pompeii in my mind as far as negatives.
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 05:43 AM
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I agree w/ what's been said about Athens. I've visited a few times, and while it's certainly not one of my favorite cities, it's fine for a day or two at the end of a trip to Greece.

As already mentioned, Athens is smoggy and broiling hot in the summer. On top of that, many Greeks are still heavy cigarette smokers so eating out can be unpleasant at times, esp. if you're allergic.

Even for a first trip, a couple of days should be more than enough before escaping to one of the amazing islands.

BTW- I've never felt unsafe in Athens. Just take the same precautions you'd take in any other European or major U.S. city.

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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 05:54 AM
  #10  
tn
 
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I cannot offer much insight into Turkey, but I would echo some of the thoughts of others here regarding Greece. Personally, Greece is one of my favorite places on the planet and I frequently encourage people to go there. I recently convinced my sister to take her honeymoon there and she and her husband loved it. My travel experience in Greece was not difficult and I did not find it difficult to be in Athens. The ruins in Athens were highlights on the trip. But outside of the ruins and museums, Athens itself is not a great attraction and you shouldn't plan on spending more than two days here. The islands are wonderful, and there is much history to explore elsewhere in Greece. But to your specific question, I would not be any more inclined to do a tour here if that was not your traditional choice when traveling. It is no more difficult to do and see what you want than it is in France, Italy or Germany.
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 07:37 AM
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PJK:

I enthusiastically second every motion on Turkey made by WTnow in posts above. She's a very savvy lady with an unique and adorable daughter (and I suppose, nice husband) on a trip around the world. Lisyen to her...she's going it in depth and has no qualms about combining the good and the bad of it all.

We drove thousands of miles on two similarly in depth trips into Turkey, seemingly before it had become so popular. Driving is a breeze with absolutely no traffic in the countryside...cities are anothe matter! The Turks are helpful, very warm and friendly...you won't get lost.

I won't say more...just re-read WT (stands for World Traveler) and strongly consider Turkey on your own....as the very knowledgable Pagraig also says above, it's every bit as easy as France and Italy, etc.

Happy travels...

Stu T.

PJK: I have a dozen or so scanned photos, (pre-digital days) which I would be hapy to share with you...I think I can get them into an "album", if so, I'll place them here.

Stu T.
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 07:39 AM
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Error in my post...meant to say "NeoPatrick" rather than "Padraig"
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 01:31 PM
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The only thing to watch out for in either country is the thieving gypsies. The locals could not be friendlier or more helpful. Do it yourself.

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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 01:54 PM
  #14  
GBC
 
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Beginning in April, we traveled about twenty days on the Greek mainland and ten more in the islands. It was great and no more difficult than Italy or France. I say go and if you would enjoy Italy or France on your own, go on your own to Greece.
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 02:52 PM
  #15  
PJK
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Thank you for the input. After the holidays, I will start reading books and web sites in earnest. No doubt I will be back to ask more and more questions.

I only mentioned Athens since it is a key city, but I will not plan to stay there more than a couple of days in order to see the main sights.

The main reason I am considering a tour is that we have a friend who leads tours and who is an English professor (who is knowledgeable in many areas of literature) and a Bible scholar. He hires local guides (may be required to, I'm not sure) but would also be able to add a lot himself. His trip is the first two weeks of April. Seems like good timing for weather.

Still not sure if I want to be on a tour, though. We enjoy being independent travelers. Two other couples with whom we are friends are going on the tour, and the whole tour group will be limited to 16. In a group that small, we could perhaps have some of the benefits of traveling with friends without the pitfalls. We would feel free to go off on our own when we want but would have some folks we know to socialize with part of the time as well.

Thanks so much. PJK
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Old Dec 16th, 2007, 03:29 PM
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I was also unsure of how to go about booking a trip to Greece, including ferries and hotels on
the islands, as the ferry schedule was not available yet for my dates. Although I always have booked my own trips, I used an agent in Athens for this trip and it was so easy from then on. Greece was one of our top trips and we are hoping to get to Turkey next.
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