Turkey: "best" guide book


Nov 15th, 2009, 10:52 PM
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Turkey: "best" guide book

I am in the earliest stages of planning our first trip to Turkey, so I will be doing a lot of reading on this forum.

Does anyone have a nomination for the "best" guidebook for Turkey? I usually like Fodors and Frommers. My wife and are not Lonely Planet types.

We are in our late 50s. Well travelled, adventurous. Three of four star lodgings (not two or five). Prefer lodgings with local flavor, rather then 300-room international chains.

I see Rick Steves has gotten some good press here for his Istanbul guide.

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Nov 16th, 2009, 12:02 AM
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I really like the DK "Eyewitness Travel Guides". Beautiful presentation. Informative enough although some argue other publications have more. I collect them as a memento for any destination I visit.
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Nov 16th, 2009, 12:12 AM
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I used the DK Eyewitness guides for Turkey last year. It was fine. I tend to travel with the Eyewitness guides and the Rough Guide (which I think is an awesome series), but might be too Lonely Planetish for you. The Rough Guide has lots of history and logistics I find helpful.

I love Istanbul. Also, I'm sure you will do the standard stuff, but also make sure to go to this chuch.

I had an extra day in Istanbul and posted on this forum what I should do, since I had done a lot and people said to go to this that church. So worth it.
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Nov 16th, 2009, 01:07 AM
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There are some things that you cannot find in a guide book.
Also, most trip reports are on frequently visited well known touristic places. If you have limited time and wish to see the most popular and 'must see' destinations trip reports plus DK should be sufficient.

If you have some extra time and would like to also do a trip of discovery, here's a planning perspective:

- Get the names of the areas which appear interesting from the book and a geographic/historical map of Turkey.
- Check potential/probable weather conditions at those areas for when you plan to visit. There are a number of web sites which will give monthly averages by major cities.
- If you are interested in antiquity, decide on Roman, Byzantine, Neolithic, Hittite, Lycian, Seljuki, Christian, etc. and visit the areas richest in those.
- Natural beauty, forests, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, exotic eco-systems abound in Turkey. But they appear in different areas. Eastern Black Sea is a large area of great natural beauty, whereas the small village of Cirali on the Mediterranean, to the West of Antalya is another but much smaller eco-system.
- The alien landscapes combined with antiquity and also early christian history of Cappadocia is unique in the world.
- Ephesus, Pergamom, Perge, Termessos, Aphrodisias, Miletus, Anemurium, Tlos, Phaeselis, Troy, Heraklia, Alacahoyuk, Hattusas, Hasankeyf, Ani, Sardis, etc. are major antique cities in different stages of excavation, and most are far apart from each other.
- Living but old cities like Mardin, Amasya, Safranbolu, Kastamonu, Urfa, Kars, Iznik (NIcea) are also far from each other.
- Anatolia has a hodge-podge of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The lifestyles, the cuisines, the traditional clothing, the accents and sometimes the language or the level of modernity of the regions are all quite different. I f you are interested in the cultural variations, then you should travel to different regiona and not to the touristic areas alone.
- For antiquity, the best books are by John Freely, rather dull but very informative.
- Also, check flights, and try to come up with an idea of how much you are willing to drive. I strongly recommend driving because it will give you the flexibility to pick alternatives and to visit places away from the standard tourist haunts.
- If you are not willing to drive, you have two major options: The first is investigating the various general tours to find out which ones cover where you want to go. The second is to fly to various destinations and take local tours at each destination.
- I do not recommend bus travel because you will lose too much time and it will be more tiring. Otherwise inter-city busses are quite luxurious and comfortable. Especially major companies such as Varan, Ulusoy, etc.
otherchelebi is online now  
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Nov 16th, 2009, 03:08 AM
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We only went to Istanbul and absolutely loved it. We used the DK Eyewitness Guide and Lonely Planet Guidebook. They were both good for different reasons. The DK books are just great to look at before, during, and after your trip. The Lonely Planet book had much of the same info but was easier to handle, carry, etc. I also had an older Passports, "Essential Istanbul".
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Nov 16th, 2009, 03:28 AM
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You sound just like us in terms of travel style. I didn't use it, but we met a number of people who had sworn by Rick Steves' guide. I got a lot of my information from internet sites and some Lonely Planet info was helpful as well. Also, read carefully whatever advice otherchelebi gives you; he's a wealth of information!

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Nov 16th, 2009, 05:29 AM
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In general, my opinion is that the DK Eyewitness travel guides are the best, but they are heavy to lug around.
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Nov 16th, 2009, 07:33 AM
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Before our Sept/Oct trip to Turkey I had bought every Turkey
guide I could find and hands down the very best one was the
CADOGAN guide. If you want historical background along with
the usual information well-written and up-to-date this is the
one for you. The authors also have a droll English sense of
humour which is enjoyable!

In fact, all the CADOGAN guides books I've used have been
excellent. They are an English company.

Also used the Rick Steves' Istanbul book - we found it
helpful and current.
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Nov 16th, 2009, 01:16 PM
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Wow! Thanks for lots of great advice, and within only 18 hours after my post. I have never heard of several of those guidebooks, so I will expand my reading from my usual sources.

otherchelabi: No way will we take the bus or be on a tour. I am absolutely willing to drive, but it seems that the country is too big to drive on entire trip. Probably we'll fly and then rent a local car, the connect with a local private guide.

So far, I have no idea where we are going. Of all the places mentioned, Cappadocia and Ist are the only ones I have ever heard of...sooo deep is my ignorance! That's why I have to read some guidebooks so I can post some reasonably intelligent quetions on this forum. Right now I am at the "overwhelmed" stage -exactly how I start planning for every new country! Every single person I have ever known that has travelled to Turkey loved it, so I know we will too.

Thanks! Keep the advice coming.
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Nov 16th, 2009, 01:56 PM
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The Rough Guide is my favorite guide book when you pair it with the eyewitness guides because the rough guide tells you all the cool things you can do and how to do them, and has a lot of history.

Make sure to check out the Turkish Rivera. Here is an outtake from my trip report about it.

I love the Mediterranean because it’s so different than our beaches here. You can see ruins and then go the beach all in the same day. I really wanted to go the beach and I found this nice beach resort named Kas on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. It has the flavor of a beach town but with ton of things to do near by.

This whole area is simply beautiful. And the major road hugs the coastline like roads at Big Sur or the Amalfi Coast and like those places, there are mountains rise up out of the water. There are pine forests on the mountains and rugged rocky sun kissed shores with beaches every once in a while and the water is a beautiful Turquoise.

Kas itself was a nice fishing town and became a nice little tourist town that has not been ruined yet by to many people because it’s 3.5 hours from any major airport. You can walk everywhere and there are good places to eat. I choose this area because of all the activates you can do which I’ll get to in a second. You can even see a Greek island from the shore of the harbor. Most people come and take boat cruises in this area but I did not figure that out until after I got there.

As a note, this area was actually not in fact Greek, but was Lycian and the culture was a little different.

Where I stayed
• Hotel Gardenia
• Reviews -
• Price - $100 a night
• It’s a nice hotel with a great family running it , but given I had to walk up 75 steps to get to my room, I’ll pass on it next time.

• My first day there, I went of to Saklikent Gorge which is the second longest gorge in Europe and a national park. It has huge cliffs and it reminded me of walking the river at Zion National Park, but without the red rock. There is a metal walkway that is attached to one side of the canyon I walked on for a little while as I looked down on the rushing water below. You also can walk up the canyon a little and take a mud bath. By the mouth of the Gorge there are some restaurants by the waters edge that are on platforms that hang out over the river and you can hang you legs over the edge and put your legs in the water. The tables are short and you see cross-legged on cushions. It’s pretty nifty.
• I also went off to Xanthos, which is a Lycian town where I saw a pretty well preserved theater; some ruined buildings with Mosaics on the floor and you could even see some water pipes ruins for plumbing in the buildings. There were also goats wandering around the ruins, which I thought was pretty amusing.
• The last thing I did that day was go off to Pateria beach which is the longest beach in Turkey and go for a dip. There are also some ruins right near the beach and I saw another theater and some buildings. These both were much better preserved than anything I had seen before in Italy, Spain, France, or Greece.
• The next day, I went off and spend the day sea kayaking by Kekova Island. Around 100 BC a town was sunk by an earth quake and you can kayak over the ruins. I went with a group and we spend the day kayaking and swimming.
• I woke up early the next morning and went paragliding from the top of the mountains in Kas, which is parachuting from a mountaintop and then floating down for the next 45 minutes. I never did this before, it’s pretty cool.
• Then, I went off to Myra and saw the Lyican Tombs that are carved into the rock. They look like mini Petras. I’d never seen anything like it. There was also another nice theater there.
• I also went to the Church of St. Nichols where St Nic was a Bishop in the fourth century although this Church was built in the 10th century and has some nice frescos. St. Nic is an important saint for the Russians and you could see that a ton of Russians were there praying to the statue of St Nic and kissing what is thought to be his sarcophagus, though my travel book said his bones are in Bari Italy. It was 110 degrees and all I kept on thinking is St. Nic never saw snow in his life and he would have never seen a white Christmas or reindeers.
• Finally I drove 3.5 hours back to the airport and the scenery was amazing. There were 5000-foot mountains straight out of the sea and pine forests the whole way back.

As a note, a lot of people take a cruise along the coast and I would have done that if I had known it was a option, but I would not have gotten to do as many cool things.

happy travels.
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Nov 16th, 2009, 03:08 PM
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Kas is #1 in my book! We used Lonely Planet and Fodor's. Not being Lonely Planet types does not mean it won't have good info for you. Hotels are one area that it is good for.

We drove from Istanbul to Ankara, Goreme, Antalya, Kas, Marmaris, Ephesus, then back to Istanbul. In about 7 days. The roads are very good, even better than at home. In the east, we did run into a few less maintained, but still paved, roads. We left the main roads a few times
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Nov 16th, 2009, 03:14 PM
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nhulberg, you're in exactly the same situation we were last summer; completely unknown country, starting from scratch. I reached out to Fodor's like you're doing and was told, given the number of days we had, to concentrate on Istanbul, Ephesus and Cappadocia and that's what we did, with a drive down the coast.

How much time will you have there? What are your interests? What time of year will you be there? All of these will help mold your trip. A lot of the fun for me is the planning and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Nov 16th, 2009, 03:56 PM
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I read your Spain trip report and have some idea of what you would like, but will still need to have information on the timing, the duration and subjects/objects of interest you would enjoy in Turkey.

some expansion of my former post: If you rent at locations you fly, you should not need a guide. If you think you should have a guide, he/she will have a car and you would not need to rent a car.

I should also mention that many people come here just to chill out. And there are some terrific beaches, and all inclusive resorts or high quality boutique hotels at very scenic locations, just for that. And most of these resorts will have one or more interesting antique sites nearby for half day and full day trips, by boat, car, jeep or bus.
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Nov 16th, 2009, 04:05 PM
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"Kas is #1 in my book!"

Kas pretty much rocked. I planned this trip in two days and just pulled Kas out of the Rough guide as a place to go because I wanted to Sea Kayak over sunken ruins and it was so awesome. Wish I had more time there.

I'm suprised more people in the US don't talk about the Turkish Rivera
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Nov 25th, 2009, 09:52 PM
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Ellen & Otherchelebi: we will likely have 14 days in Turkey (plus 2 days to get there). Based on the little I know, I'm inclined to go in October -not as hot or crowded as summer, yet still reasonably warm.

Interests: culture, history, , local people, small cities, art, architecture, food

A very low priority is to "just chill". We are active travellers that want to squeeze in all we can. I am sure I would enjoy laying on the sand on a Greek island, reading a book. BUT, I'd much rather explore Cappadocia and read the book when I get home to California.

Galaxygrrl2000: looks like I'll have to see if I can fit in Kas. Sounds nice. The Gardenia Boutique Hotel you recommended sounds like exactly what we like.

Thanks, all, for your patient answers for the newbie!
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Nov 27th, 2009, 08:07 AM
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I got every guide book of Turkey that my library had before my trip and bought the Eyewitness guide and Rick Steves "Istanbul" which was the only one that I took with me. It's small enough and has excellent plans (Chora Museum, Topkapi, Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia...) of the major sites in Istanbul. It is written by two Istanbul tour guides.

The Fodors book is good, but some information is inaccurate. For example, the visa charge is $20, not $29, and at least one photo was mislabeled, as was a city on the map of the Bosphorus (marked as Asia, but it is on the Europe side).

I don't think that there is one "best" guide book, read several and photocopy pages for sites and cities that you'll visit, then toss them before you pack to come home.

Otherchelebi very generously provides excellent information about his home country -- you won't go wrong following his advice.

I visited Istanbul, Antalya, Pammukale, Cappodocia and Ankara and loved every day of my trip. Take the hot air balloon ride over Cappodocia -- it's quite an experience.

I hope you'll enjoy Turkey as much as I did.
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Nov 27th, 2009, 03:32 PM
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Hi Luisah, thank you for your gracious compliment. Now, i have more pressure to write carefully.

Hello Nhulberg, When we did Spain two years before you were there, we went a different route, staying mostly at Paradores, Madrid-Toledo-Cordoba-Sevilla-Malaga, Antiguerra-Granada-Valencia-Madrid, all driving. Enjoyed the adventure and the smaller medieval towns we visited on the route. Did not like the cheap to moderate meals but loved the very expensive ones we had (not too many of the latter) Found the Spaniards habit of tailgating on highways extremely scary and felt like screaming, "Please, we are tourists and cannot play your bull-fighting game."

Coming to your visit, The weather will have become reasonably cool by the third week of September and the high season will have ended in terms of lodging and rental car prices and the crowds. So a good time could be anywhere within Sept 15 to Oct 10. This year October was dry sunny and warm, but it is usually a more rainy month, so i would not recommend delaying your visit too far into October.

It is difficult to visualize how much there is to see and do in Turkey. So you will have to make some choices, hoping that you will get other chances to come to see other spots, sites, areas, etc.

- Istanbul can take anything from a minimum of three full days.
- The largest area of very different natural beauty and alien rock formations, intermingled with ancient and Christian history is Cappadocia. Will need at least two full days.
- Other smaller areas with caves, rock formations, and geological formations mixed with ancient history are, Hasankeyf. Manazan, and Heraklia. These are all in very different areas of the country and only Heraklia can probably be combined with a shorter tour.
check :

- Pure nature, hikes, waterfalls, canyons, white water rafting, forests, mountains, lush vegetation are predominantly on the Black Sea coast and the valleys, mountain passes, and the high altitude summer pasture areas.
This area would be a separate trip of at least ten days.
Check the following prepared by my wife (with sound) if you are interested:

- There are neolithic (BC8,000-BC6,000) sites in Central Anatolia for the deeply interested.
- There are two major Hittite sites Alacahoyuk, and Hattusas (where one of the very first international treaties was found, that between the Hittites and the Egyptian Pharoah.) These are within daily driving distance from Ankara, and can be joined with Cappadocia, if you start early from Ankara airport, getting to Nesehir, Goreme or Urgup by early evening.

- Another note at this stage : the earlier in the year you do this trip, the more daylight you are going to have to visit places rather than playing backgammon with the locals or scrabble with other tourists every night.

- Then, you have Christian Sites, some of which are in Cappadocia and Selcuk, but other significant ones at Antakya and Iznik. Again long distances away.

- The most popular are the sites around or reachable as day trips from Selcuk or Sirince as a base. These are mostly Greek, Roman and Byzantine. You have Ephesus, Virgin Mary's retreat, cave of the seven sleepers, St. John's Basilica, Miletur, Didyma, Prinna, Temple of Artemis, Aphrodisias, Heliopolis, Heraklia. Close to Selcuk is also Kusadasi which has some good hotels at good locations although the town proper has grown too much and not in a very nice way.

Other well documented and recommended areas are:
- Fethiye.Olu Deniz
- Datca/Bozburun
- Kas/Kalkan/Patara/Kekova
- Dalyan/Gocek
- Bodrum

- Antalya/Lara/Belek/Side/Alanya
- Antalya/Beldibi/Goynuk/Cirali/Olympos

- The coast between Silifke and Anamur, which is one of my favourites because there are few tourists, antique sites to be discovered, lonely coves for swimming, and some very interesting caves and sinkholes, as well as the terrific mountain views.

Sorry, i have run out of breath.
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Nov 29th, 2009, 02:02 AM
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I agree with most of the fodorites opinion.
DK Eyewitness seems to be common in all of them.
Lonely planet along with this makes the most perfect guide.
But even both these together lack something.
Fodors forum makes it complete.
( I experienced it in my Spain Portugal trip last year)
I think 'otherchelebi'is the final word on Turkey and is spending a lot of his valuable time in generously sharing his ocean of knowledge. He is doing a great work for the community and has accumilated a lot of blessings from people like me, in his bank-account of deeds. I take this opportunity to thank him. He is better than any guide book or website.

There is one more site that I would love to add.
It's "Best Experiences" give you a good idea about "small must do"things, gather those etheral experiences and enjoy doing what the locals do..
It gives you itineraries for 1/2/3/and more days at each city or town and 1/2/3 weeks itineraries in a prcise format for each country.
It also gives you 3 or 4 walking tours of each city along with the maps.
This tells you what many guide books don't-- where to start from, what to see in the morning/ evening/ week-ends. where to break for a tea or lunch. Where to spend your sunset times and Sunday mornings in a city.

I am planning o visit Turkey in April-May 2010 and will restrict myself to most of the touristy places in my 12 days trip. You can't do more than that in that much time.
I would like to visit a few smaller villages on day trips.

Wish you a great trip.
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Nov 29th, 2009, 05:15 AM
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Well Katie very kindly gave me a new copy of the Fodors 2009 and Mrs Bilbo took it with her last week. Very frustrating as she found the free information on the rough guide site was better that Fodors.

Rough Guide gets my vote
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Nov 29th, 2009, 06:33 AM
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Tom Brosnahan who has written many, many guide books on Turkey has a wonderful personal memoir "Bright Sun, Strong Tea" which I found irresistible.Also his website Turkey Travel Planner is a winner.
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