Turkey 2015-Happy B-day to Me

Aug 21st, 2014, 12:06 PM
  #1  
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Turkey 2015-Happy B-day to Me

I've decided to celebrate my birthday in Turkey, where I've always longed to go and have booked my flight to Istanbul leaving IAD March 24th, 2015 (12:30am) arriving Istanbul same day (4:25pm overnight nonstop flight). I was hoping to fly directly to Cappadocia on the same day but all of the low fares (what I consider low) were sold out, which is not a bad thing since I would use that time to explore IST a bit and sleep off my jet lag and thus get a fresh start to Cappadocia the next day the 25th, where I'll stay until the 28th, leaving IST for Kayseri at 9:30 am arriving at 10:50. I'm hoping to celebrate my birthday with a hot air balloon ride (26th) if the weather cooperates and I get over my fear of heights so I can have a memorable birthday. From reading many comments and I know the weather pretty much dictates whether the balloons will take off or not, so I've taken that very much into consideration.

Now the plan is to find a hotel(s) to overnight in Istanbul and which I can also use on my return from Cappadocia on the 28th, leaving IST on April 1, 2015. Also looking for a hotel in Cappadocia. My budget for hotels are about 60-80 euros per night.

I'm also hoping that the weather cooperates, which I know no one cannot predict, especially in March, but I would very much like to do some light/moderate hiking in the Cappadocia area. On my return to Istanbul, my interest is to leisurely sightsee without a need to rush and see everything. I plan on visiting Turkey again, so rushing to see everything is not a priority.

I will come back with specific questions once I've had a chance to narrow down my hotel searches. In the meantime, any recommendations you have would be most appreciated.

I'm female and traveling solo, not that it matters.

Thanks in advance,
jdc
jdc26 is offline  
Aug 21st, 2014, 12:34 PM
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I can heartily recommend the Kelebek Hotel in Goreme:
http://www.kelebekhotel.com/rooms.php
The breakfast alone would bring me back there, but everything was stellar.
I also really liked the Hotel Peninsula in Istanbul:
http://www.hotelpeninsula.com/rates.htm
Even though it is only one night, you may wish to stay in different sections of Istanbul on your two stays.
yorkshire is offline  
Aug 21st, 2014, 04:44 PM
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@yorkshire, Thank you very much. Do you think whichever hotel I choose for my first night and also my final 4 nights in Istanbul, would store my luggage until I return from Cappadocia? Or is there a luggage holding area in Istanbul? I don't plan on carrying too much, but would also want to take only what I need for Cappadoca.

jdc
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Aug 21st, 2014, 05:00 PM
  #4  
kja
 
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Because it can take a while to get to/from the airport in Istanbul -- not to mention claiming your luggage, checking in/out, getting back to the airport early ... you might give some thought to flying straight to Cappadocia even if you do have to pay a bit more than you had hoped. If I understand your plan, NOT going straight on would mean that you have only two full days in Cappadocia, and it sounds like an extra day would better match your hope for a hot balloon ride and to hike a bit in the area. Just a thought!

In Goreme, I was very well satisfied with the Arch Palace Hotel, which still gets excellent reviews.
http://www.archpalace.com/en/index.html

In Istanbul, I was pleased with the Hotel Sapphire (Safir), which also still gets excellent reviews:
http://www.hotelsapphire.com

BTW, I also visited Turkey as a solo female traveler -- delightful place!
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Aug 21st, 2014, 05:25 PM
  #5  
kja
 
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Oh -- and when debating that extra cost for the flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia, don't forget to consider the costs of getting to/from the airport in Istanbul and the difference in hotel prices in Cappadocia and Istanbul.
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Aug 21st, 2014, 05:26 PM
  #6  
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kja, Thank you. I've already booked my flight to leave for Cappadocia on the 25th, but I suppose I can do like you suggest and pay extra to leave up arrival. I will inquire.
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Aug 21st, 2014, 05:28 PM
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@kja, btw, a coworker have also stayed at the Hotel Sapphire and highly recommend it as well.
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 03:23 AM
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An update:

Turkish Airlines rocks. They were so kind in refunding my reservation departing IST for Cappadocia on the 25th and re-booking so that I can depart on the 24th. That way I won't have to overnight in IST. It will definitely be a long day for me, but I'll be on vacation so no worries.

I'm booked at Hotel Sapphire for my stay in Istanbul from 28th Mar- 1st Apr and am awaiting response from a few inquiries made in Cappadocia. So all and all my itinerary is coming together nicely.

jdc
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 05:25 AM
  #9  
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I'm a vegetarian, would I have any problems in Istanbul?
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 06:40 AM
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Another vote for the Kelebek in Goreme, an absolute gem!

We stayed at the Uyan in Istanbul, about 100m from the Blue mosque, with a lovely terrace restaurant, breakfast with gorgeous views of the Blue mosque, Aya Sofya and the sea of Marmara. Ask for discount for cash payment, plus extra 5% for Rick Steve. They also have free airport transfer for stays of 3 nights. [email protected]

We're vegetarian too and had absolutely no problems at all anywhere in Turkey, you should do well. Do check out one of our fellow Fodorites link to vegetarian food, you'll find loads of ideas, enjoy

http://ashwinbahulkar.wordpress.com/...ocia-and-urfa/
geetika is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2014, 06:51 AM
  #11  
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@geetika, Thank you so much that is wonderful to know. I will check Ashwin's blog.

Kelebek has responded to my inquiry and we're fine tuning a few things. If I opt for the cash payment for the discount, do I wire them the funds?

Did you do a balloon ride? They mentioned that they can book with Butterfly, but if I find them too expensive, they can recommend others.
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 08:02 AM
  #12  
kja
 
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Glad you were able to re-arrange the flights!

Re: balloons -- here's what I wrote in my trip report:
"For my balloon ride, I chose a deluxe tour with Kapadokya Balloons and it not met, but exceeded, my expections!

"I based my selection on 3 considerations. If what I learned in advance is correct, then:
(1) Kapadokya is the best-established hot air balloon company in the area and the one with the best safety record.
(2) Kapadokya has more take-off/landing sites than any company with the possible exception of its “daughter” company; more take-off and landing sites mean that the company has a better chance of being able to respond to unusual weather, so it is more likely to be able to take off and to take off on time and more likely to be able to stay aloft for a long time.
(3) A hot air balloon ride of any length and with any company was a splurge by my standards, and as a splurge, I decided that I would rather pay the extra for the longer ride in a smaller basket – I didn’t want to land after spending a lot of money, only to wonder whether the extra cost would be worth it.

"I was VERY, VERY pleased with my choice. The time seemed to fly by! (No pun intended.) I couldn’t believe that it had been nearly 2 hours when we landed, and it seems I would have missed so much if the ride had been only 1 hour long. I had read one comment that people who take a 2-hour ride end up with sore feet from standing that long, and I had worried a bit about that because my feet no longer endure just any old treatment with grace. But I didn’t notice any discomfort and didn’t hear anyone else complain. Too, I managed a 6-hour hike later that day, and although my feet hurt a lot at the end of my hike, I don’t think it had anything to do with the balloon ride!

"Being in a small basket definitely contributed to my enjoyment: There were 12 of us in 2 rows; each of us had an unobstructed position at the outside of the basket and we could all easily see in other directions (which wasn’t really necessary because the balloon turned frequently). There was noise on occasion as our pilot heated air to adjust our altitude, but when he wasn’t doing that, we could easily hear him when he spoke about what we were seeing or when one of us asked him a question. And we had plenty of time sailing silently over some of the most amazing landscapes imaginable. And as an example of our pilot’s skill, he landed the basket squarely on the flatbed truck that the company sent.

"Bottom line: My hot air balloon ride was amagnificent experience and it was, IMHO, worth every penny."
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 08:41 AM
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@kja, thanks again. I read your trip report in awe and wish I had the same amount of time that you had, then I would've followed in your foot paths. I've sent Kapadokya Balloons an inquiry.

I see that you hiked the Ihlara Valley and thought it "very beautiful". What are your thoughts on the Soğanlı Valleys?
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 06:27 PM
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kja
 
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Thanks for the kind words about my trip report! I was very fortunate to have had a nice chunk of time to spend in Turkey and was happy to be able to share some of my wonderful experiences with others.

I loved both the Ihlara and the Soganli Valleys! There were some similarities -- both are lovely valleys with rock-hewn churches that still hold traces of murals. But there were also some differences: The Ihlara Valley is edged by impressive rock walls, many of which seem nearly vertical and are quite high. The valley is wide enough that I didn't find it oppressive, just awesome. In contrast, the Soganli Valley is edged by softer hills that rise to the mesas that top them. Most of the rock-hewn churches in the Ihlara Valley -- at lest the ones I saw -- were carved into the cliffs. Those of the Soganli Valley included some that were carved into the hillsides and some carved into more-or-less "free-standing" hills a bit away from the sides of the valley. One cannot drive in the Ihlara Valley; there is a road through the Soganli Valley, although it gets very little traffic -- just people going to parking lots from which they can explore the valley. And that's another difference -- to visit the Ihlara Valley, you can enter at one of maybe 4 places; then you descend and have a LONG walk to get to one of the other exits (or, of course, you can go in a way and then turn back). The "main" walk takes several hours. (Only one entrance -- the one at Belisirma -- is at valley-level.) So depending on how you are getting to the Ihlara Valley, you'll also need to make sure you know where you need to be and when you need to be there to get back, and if climbing stairs is a challenge for you, make sure you plan to end at Belisirma. The Soganli Valley isn't as large (I don't think), and there are several parking lots along the valley floor from which the paths climb. The parts I visited did not entail any particularly steep or long up-hill stretches. If you can visit both, go for it! If not, I hope these comments help you decide. Oh, and keep an open mind -- the Ihlara Valley is subject to some rockfalls during winter / early spring, and so is sometimes closed. I think the Soganli Valley is less likely to be closed, because it doesn't have the cliffs that Ihlara does.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 04:12 AM
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We did the balloon tour with Urgup Balloons, a little cheaper than Butterfly, we were about 20-22 people.

As kja says the pilot landing the basket on the flatbed truck was just amazing. I loved the Ilhara valley hike, about 2-3 hours, the rock formations are simply magnificent.

If possible do make time for the visit to Kelebek's organic farm for breakfast, unfortunately we couldn't fit it in
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Aug 25th, 2014, 07:09 AM
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Just another assurance you will find delicious vegetarian food in Istanbul--and even in Goreme I ate very well! The clay pot stews found at many restaurants come in a vegetarian version.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 03:24 PM
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Thanks geetika and yorkshire.

I'm tentatively booked at Kelebek and will definitely visit their organic farms for breakfast. I've taken kja's recommendation and decided to go with Kapadokya Balloon to celebrate my birthday and chose the deluxe flight which carries less passengers.

I haven't decided on anything in particular to do with my 4 days in Istanbul and will wing it. I've only considered possibly doing a walking tour, so any recommendations would be appreciated.

jdc
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Aug 25th, 2014, 04:02 PM
  #18  
kja
 
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I don't think you'll regret the balloon ride -- what a great way to celebrate your birthday!

Re: Istanbul -- with only 4 days, you will need to be selective. You might want to think through some of your priorities in advance, just so you don't run out of time before seeing the things you most want to see. FWIW, I found the Rough Guide particularly helpful.
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