Please help me explore Turkey!

Dec 5th, 2011, 06:07 PM
  #1  
kja
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Please help me explore Turkey!

I’m in the very early states of planning a trip to Turkey and am feeling completely overwhelmed—there is WAY too much I want to see and do in a 3 week, or even 3.5 week, journey! And the things I’m most interested in seeing, at least at this early stage of planning, are so widespread that I’m not even sure what kind of route makes sense.

A bit about me:
• I enjoy art, architecture, museums, churches/mosques, castles, picturesque villages, lively city streets, ruins, parks and gardens, natural scenery, brief stops in markets (mostly to take a few pictures), food and wine, and the chance to see and experience other parts of the world.
• I don't particularly like shopping, but buy gifts for family and friends while away.
• I’m not seeking beach time (although I’ll probably spend a few hours walking along a beach somewhere) and I’m not seeking relaxation (I’m sure I’ll do plenty of that over dinners). Instead, I hope to take full advantage of the time I have to see and experience things.
• I don’t like getting up at the crack of dawn, but will do so if necessary to see or experience something that I would otherwise miss. For example, I suspect that I’ll get up at awful-‘o-clock-a.m. for a balloon ride over Cappadocia.
• I want my trips to include widely divergent experiences, and I try to make each trip as different from my last few trips as possible (which were, in reverse order: western France; northern China; Croatia and other areas that were once part of Yugoslavia; and the Yucatan penisula/Chiapas).
• I don’t mind changing lodging frequently, even every night or so.
• I’m open to various means of transportion between locations, although I prefer to keep my ecological footprint as small as possible. Bus and train are usually my 1st choice, unless doing so is not possible in a timely way. I’ll consider flying, given that this journey could involve some distances that would be prohibitive by surface transportation. As a solo traveler, I generally find driving less appealing than public transportation because it is difficult to watch the road, navigate, and see the scenery all at once. On the other hand, I greatly appreciate the flexibility a car provides, so I’m definitely open to renting a car for those segments of my trip when having one’s own vehicle will clearly enhance my ability to see things in a timely way.
• I’m a woman and will be traveling solo.
• I usually prefer to visit things at my own pace, but will join a group tour for a day or half-day if doing so makes it easier to visit specific places.
• I’ve never been to Turkey and don’t speak Turkish, but will do my best to learn at least a few basics before I go. (I’ve already started Pimsleur’s lessons).
• I expect to take this trip next May. As noted above, I’m aiming for 3 to 3.5 weeks.

I think Turkey fits my criteria for my next trip exceedingly well. Let me know if you disagree!

My “must-sees” include (in alphabetical order): Cappadocia & the Goreme Valley, Ephesus, Istanbul, Kas and nearby locations, and Pamukkale.

My other high priority sites include

• Ankara (mainly for a museum or two)
• Antalya and nearby sites
• Bogazkale (for Hattusa)
• Divrigi
• Edirne
• Gobekli Tepe
• Konya
• Nemrut Dagi
• Safranbolu
• Trabzon (including the monastery in Sumela and perhaps a day trip into the mountains)
• And one or more caravanserai.

There are many other places that have also caught my interest, but that I currently expect to include/exclude depending on whether they fit with my main itinerary.

So, what should I skip? What should I add? Is there a route that makes most sense (even if it involves "skipping around" to take advantage of flight options)? What types of transportation should I consider for specific segments? Any and all comments are welcome. Thanks so much in advance!
kja is offline  
Dec 5th, 2011, 07:30 PM
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Kas..do a boat cruise to the Lycean ruins, glass bottom boat..neat views of amphora, underwater ruins, and swimming in ocean. Just west of city is 'secret' beach.

think about Ilhara valley for hike to cave churches

Ankara..go see Ataturk's mausoleum

Lots to do in Istanbul..bosphorus cruise, markets, lot starting from Hagia area, hamman,etc..
Michel_Paris is offline  
Dec 5th, 2011, 07:32 PM
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Kenya was one place the females in our group changed to bit more conservative clothes
Michel_Paris is offline  
Dec 5th, 2011, 11:07 PM
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kja, good to have you finally posting your questions and thank you for all the information you gave.

I am afraid you will continue to be overwhelmed by responses, but that is part of the fun. You already have an idea of the likes, dislikes and experiences of many previous visitors and posters here so you can piece most info together to something that will suit you best.

I will think a little and try to come up with an itinerary or two based on your wish list that will be as es economical as possible time and money wise and consider your transportation mode preferences.

May is an excellent time to visit. Good weather, ease of lodging, fewer tourists, long days, lovely Spring colors,
good cherries and green plums.

One question, what made you include Divrigi?

Another one: Must you go to Nemrut? this is time-consuming, risky and possibly over-rated in comparison to ther places you could visit otherwise.

Finally, Edirne is either a long day of bus trips or an overnight and again can be replaced by other border towns like Borcka in connection with Trabzon or Antakya in connection with Urfa and Gobeklitepe, to your advantage. And for Ottoman architecture, Istanbul has more than enough examples of Sinan and others. (Check a review of Godfrey Goodwin's book on the subject)

A second final thought before I go to the office, it is always a good idea to learn the language but if you can order the book, Landscapes of My Country" (I hope I remember correctly right now although I reviewed it on Amazon) by Nazim Hikmet, you will get such a great insight into the Turkish mind that you will breeze through the country with much more enjoyment. And the book is freat fun.
otherchelebi is offline  
Dec 6th, 2011, 04:36 PM
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If you like historical ruins, you may want to consider Pegamon and Troy. I took a package tour that pretty much covered the major tourist sites of Turkey. My trip report below has photos on what was on view so you can see if the sites interest you.

Ronald
http://memories-of-turkey.blogspot.com/
ronaldkwok is offline  
Dec 6th, 2011, 07:35 PM
  #6  
kja
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I love this forum! Ask and receive!

Michel_Paris – You are confirming any number of my aspirations!
• I definitely hope to see some Lycean ruins from Kas, and am glad to hear that the glass-bottomed boats are worth it. They sure sound cool!
• Hiking the Ilhara valley to see cave churches sounds like something I should look into a bit further. Someone said the footpath up and down involves 465 steps – argh! Does that sound right??
• Ataturk’s mausoleum is definitely on my list for Ankara if I do, in fact, go there.
• I suspect I’ll devote at least 4 or 5 days to Istanbul – so much to see!
• And thanks for the warning about Konya – I would far prefer being too conservatively dressed than discover that I am inadvertently causing offense or discomfort!


otherchelebi – thank you so much! You are asking exactly the kind of questions that will help me come up with a great plan. You are incredibly generous to think about my interests, ask thoughtful questions, and help me narrow my options (as you have done with so many visitors to Turkey). In reponse to your specific questions:
• Like many places on my wish list, I first learned of Divrigi through the UNESCO World Heritage list. I know that being listed is not always a signal that something is worth visiting, but a google image search also turned up reason to believe that its architecture and carving are impressive. But maybe not enough to justify the time? It does seem a bit out of the way!
• Nemrut is NOT a “must” and your description – time consuming, risky (!?), and over-rated – make it seem like any easy skip!
• Edirne also sounds like a place I can skip on this trip – I was most interested in the Selimiye Mosque, but if it is sufficiently redundant of other mosques I will or can see, spending the time to get there doesn’t make much sense.
... AND if I skip Divrigi, Nemrut Dagi, and Edirne, I have a much more feasible list of destinations, right? Now that is progress!
... BTW, I ordered Nazim Hikmet’s book - teşekkür ederim!


ronaldkwok – Thanks for the recommendations and for sharing your photos! You seem to have a great knack for using your camera to capture part of the breadth of your experience, from people and places to flowers and insects. I’d be interesting in hearing more about your experiences of Pergamom and Troy:
• Having seen the amazing Pergamom Altar in Berlin, I’m not sure what I’ll think of seeing the site without it. Were you aware of its absence?
• And Troy seems to get incredibly mixed reviews, everything from complete pans to utter raves. Please tell me more!!!
kja is offline  
Dec 6th, 2011, 09:39 PM
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You may want to read my trip report; click on my name to find it.
Michael is offline  
Dec 7th, 2011, 02:59 AM
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For visiting some Seljuk Hans (caravanserais), this is a good website - http://www.turkishhan.org/visiting.htm

Since you'll be in Cappadocia, I'd recommend Ağzıkara Han and Sultan Han (Aksaray). And Sarı Han near Avanos is only a few miles from Göreme.
Croesus is offline  
Dec 7th, 2011, 07:10 AM
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We went in August and the landscape after leaving Goreme was a bit brown, then we came to a road that headed down inot the Ilhara valley, through a tiny ramshackle village. As we drove down, greenery, and lushness. We parked at the main lot. There is another entrance to the valley where you walk down into the valley, we were driving.

The hike itself is more of a saunter along a tiny stream. Occasionally a rock or tree would cause you to deviate from the path, but very flat. Only real climbing is when you go up side of cliff to get to churches/caves. We visited two and headed back. Once back, lunch. We spotted a platform built over the stream, with oriental carpets covering the 'floor' We decide to eat there and had a nice fish meal. On a hot day..quite divine.

In Kas we stayed at Kas Otel. About a 5 min walk from the core. Owner is one who arranged our boat cruise. Hotel was small and our room had no windows, just a large opening with views out over the Med. Hotel is right on Med, with diving board/steps into the ocean. They also have a nice outdoor restaurant overlooking the water. For whatever reason, Kas enchanted me, and I keep it as one of my 'go back one day' places.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Dec 7th, 2011, 09:04 PM
  #10  
kja
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Micheal: Thanks for making sure I saw your report! I had already read it, taken lots of notes, and found much inspiration in your words and pictures. In fact, I believe you were the source of my reference to the 465 steps in the Ilhara Valley mentioned above (except that I should have said down, then up, rather than up, then down). It sounds like Michel_Paris identified a way to explore that valley without so many stairs – yes! Given that you recommended a visit to this valley despite the stairs, I am definitely considering it, especially if an easier walk is possible!

Croesus: What a great link – thanks so much! Sari Han and Sultan Han were among the caravansarai (sp?) that I had, at this early point in my reserach, flagged as potential targets, so I appreciated your endorsements. I look forward to learning more about the other caravansarai you mention and perusing the web site.

Michel_Paris: Thanks so much for following up with me!
• You give me hope for the Ilhara Valley! Much as I would like to think I might still manage ~500 stairs, I would hate to commit to it in advance. So I’m delighted to learn that I might be able to visit this gorge – which sounds both beautiful and fascinating – without risking bodily harm or prolonged suffering - outstanding! So now I can try to come up with priorities for the cave churches or just play it by ear – all while watching out for a lovely restaurant on a platform over a stream. Sounds perfect either way!

• Your comments on Kas are compelling. I suspect that many of us have enjoyed all sorts of locations, but then there’s that much, much smaller set of places that truly enchant us. In my limited experience, one can’t always tell in advance, or even until sometime much later, what those places are. Still, my sense is that there’s a better chance that one will find a place enchanting if other expderienced travellers have identified it as enchanting a while after their visit than if not. Kas is on my list of must-sees, and I’m confident I will enjoy it. And I will definitely see what I can learn about the Kas Otel – thanks for mentioning it!
kja is offline  
Dec 7th, 2011, 10:35 PM
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It sounds like Michel_Paris identified a way to explore that valley without so many stairs – yes! Given that you recommended a visit to this valley despite the stairs, I am definitely considering it, especially if an easier walk is possible!

I believe that the best churches are close to the stair access. The other is a couple of kilometers on a path that is anything but flat.
Michael is offline  
Dec 7th, 2011, 10:36 PM
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the other access is a couple ...
Michael is offline  
Dec 8th, 2011, 02:01 AM
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Here's a map of the Ihlara Valley - http://www.atamanhotel.com/ihlara.html

The steps go down from the Visitor's Centre which is marked as "ENTRANCE RESTAURANT PARKING", you can also start from the village of Ihlara. The restaurants in the river are at Belisırma where there is also access to the valley.

I think that most tours drop you off at the visitor's centre and you walk the few kilometres down to Belisırma where you are collected (although I'm not entirely sure about that).

When I did it, I was dropped off at the visitor's centre and I walked all the way to the bridge at Yaprakhisar which is 8 kilometres, it took me 2hrs 15mins (I only looked at a couple of churches and just stopped for an ice cream at Belisırma).
Croesus is offline  
Dec 8th, 2011, 02:26 AM
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travel.state.gov Turkey crime entry safety info

journeywoman.com goturkey.com good info.

pretty safe in tourist areas many thieves touts scammers

not much different than Mexico.Odds are you will be fine

but might consider budget tour with tucantravel.com or similar

If budget is good affordabletours.com

Travelzoo.com has some packages with Sceptre inclusing air

for a coule of weeks sales insluding air from US $1200 all in

Awesome value might look at that.
qwovadis is offline  
Dec 8th, 2011, 02:32 AM
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$1299 -- Turkey Escorted Trip w/4-Star Hotels & Nonstop Air
See Troy, Istanbul's famous mosques & Ephesus at $300 off
Feb. 15; +$50-$100 March 7 or 20

travelzoo.com has this one with friendlyplanet.com

great value also
qwovadis is offline  
Dec 8th, 2011, 06:12 PM
  #16  
kja
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Michael - Thanks for clarifying!

Croesus – Another great Web site – thanks! I’ll add the map and information - and your comments - to my study materials.

qwovadis – Thanks for the link to the journeywoman site – looks like some very useful info! (The mention of “Natashas” reminded me of some of my experiences in Eastern Europe in the mid-90s.) I appreciate the info on tours, but at this point in my life, I am thoroughly committed to solo travel. As I mentioned, I’ll join a tour for part or all of a day if doing so makes seeing certain cites substantially easier, but that’s really the most I’m willing to consider. I love the freedom that comes with traveling by myself!
kja is offline  
Dec 15th, 2011, 08:01 PM
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We spent 3 weeks in Turkey about 5 years ago. One of the travel sites that was very helpful was http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/i...ays/index.html

The coastal highway and mountains were breathtaking and the wild flowers were in bloom when we were there in May.

We thought Troy could definitely be skipped. There is a fake horse on the site and not a whole lot to see. Pergamon was wonderful and we had the ruins all to ourselves. Another surprise was the ancient ruins at Side which is a short distance from Antalya and which is rarely mentioned in the travel guides. We also loved the ruins at Aphrodisias, Aspendos, Perge, Didyma & Priene. Be sure to visit the town of Sirince, just a short distance from Ephesis.

While we rented a car, the bus system in Turkey is said to be quite good and most visitors travel that way. The Turkish people were very helpful and while we could not always speak to them, they always made an effort to help and we communicated with hand signals. We took the overnight train from Istanbul to Ankara and found that to be comfortable.

Sorry for the rambling...it's late at night. Turkey was one of our favorite trips. I'm sure you will enjoy it.
dgunbug is offline  
Dec 15th, 2011, 09:17 PM
  #18  
kja
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dgunbug - Thanks so much for commenting!

I'm glad you mentioned the wildflowers - I remember the wildflowers in Sicily during a trip I took in May some years ago, and had been hoping I might encounter the same kind of thing in Turkey. Wildflowers in season are one of those things that IMO can enrich even an otherwise thoroughly wonderful journey!

I'm glad you singled Side out - a friend visited it 20 or so years ago, and when I saw her pictures recently, my interest was most definitely piqued. And to have Pergamon to oneself - what an amazing experience that must have been! Even with just a few others, I can't imagine I would end up with my feared reaction ("oh, its missing its altar"); instead, I can only imagine thinking: "OMG, this is where that altar came from."

I have taken note of the other sites you mention, all of which are on my radar screen. I'm finding it SO hard to narrow down my list of places to see! I'm leaning toward considering Troy an only-if-I-have-spare-time site (though I waiver, especially because I can't imagine having spare time), and am trying to decide priorities among the others - which to consider "musts" and which to fit in as possible. Do you remember how much time you spent seeing these sites? Any further insights will be welcome! So many things to see, so little time.... (But I feel SO lucky to see any of it!)

Thanks, too, for recommending the turkeytravelplanner Web site. I had come across it and have taken some notes from it; it's good to know that it proved helpful.

Please don't apologize for rambling - I love hearing people's memories of travel. It sounds like you had some very wonderful experiences of both places and people (and everyone seems to comment on the kindness and warmth of the Turkish people they encountered). Feel free to follow up with many further "rambles" about your time there.

And now I'm the one who is rambling - sorry about that!
kja is offline  
Dec 16th, 2011, 08:33 AM
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We loved renting a car as it gave us great flexibility, however, the driving was endless along mountainous passageways. I would not recommend renting a car if you are on your own. We were really surprised at how much we enjoyed Kusadasi and we stayed there merely as it was conveniently located on the road back to Istanbul. The shopping area, full of restaurants too, was really enjoyable to stroll around for an evening. I would give Gallipoli and Troy a pass, although you have to go right by there to return to Istanbul.

The most beautiful wild flowers that we saw was in Cirali, a real surprise. If you check out the forum connected to the web site I provided, you will find more information on this location. Unfortunately, it is a bit out of the way and I'm not sure if buses can get you there. It is a beach resort with ancient ruins just off the beach. There is also a chimeria (sp?) which is supposed to be really interesting but we tried finding it on our own and had difficulty. Once we found the site it was very late and there were no people around. You must climb steep steps and we were afraid of the climb due to my knee problems and also because our flashlights were failing on us. We turned back before reaching the fires.

We visited Didyma, Miletos and Pyrene all in one day and enjoyed all three sites. The ancient ruins of Myra, in the city of Demre were very interesting if you are interested in seeing Lycian tombs and a hillside necropolis.

Behramkale was another town that was a real surprise, but also out of the way. We drove down a narrow mountain road to this small seaside town. There is only one road in and out of town and it runs directly through the restaurants lined up on the shoreline. It was just beautiful. No ruins, but just a time with beautiful views. I believe it is the island of Rhodes that is off its shore.

Be sure to check out the forum attached to the website I gave you. It helped us immensely in planning our trip.
dgunbug is offline  
Dec 16th, 2011, 08:35 AM
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Of course Ephesus is a must site, although quite honestly, I may have enjoyed the other sites less traveled as we were alone with many of the ruins (or at least there were far fewer people). But Ephesus is spectacular. Do try to get to Side. It took us by surprise - we were not expecting ruins adjacent to the beach. Wear or bring a bathing suit.
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