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Turkey Experts: Need Itinerary help - mostly with order of trip

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Hi, so nice to see familiar names on the Turkey board. Trip Reports from Ian, Michael and kja had been so helpful for our Sicily trip last year and I have already read yours and others on this board and TA for Turkey.
We are (probably) off to Turkey end of May for 2.5 weeks.
We have already set our basic itinerary, partly based on having moved around too much in Sicily last year. So, we're planning 5 nights in Istanbul, 4 nights Cappadocia and 6 or 7 nights on the Mediterranean Coast. We really want some built-in downtime on this trip.
I am a bit put off by all the flying, even though from all accounts the flights are very easy. It's just a lot of them in two weeks!
We are down to two basic plans after charting all the possibilities using the LAX/IST nonstop flights. We also put a priority on making our life easy and not having early morning flights. We originally wanted to end with beach time on the coast, but couldn't figure out a scenario that didn't force us to return to IST for our last night -- and didn't want one more unnecessary stop.

PLAN A -- Arrive in IST and connect directly to Cappadocia (4 nights), then fly to Antalya via IST (the direct flights are unfortunately one day weekly and at at 11 p.m.) -- spending most of a day traveling. Rental car to Kas or Cirali or combo of both (6 or 7 nights), return rental car to Antalya, fly to IST and end there after 5 nights.
Advantages: Easy end to trip, catching flight home from IST.
Disadvantage: VERY long first travel day -- getting to Cappadocia after 10 p.m.
Not sure: Usually like to begin trip in big city, not sure about ending in IST. Maybe a good thing?

PLAN B -- Arrive in IST and stay for 5 nights. Fly to Antalya, rent car for coast 6 or 7 nights, fly to Cappadocia (via IST) for four nights. Leave Nevshihir (closer airport) 9 a.m. flight connecting in IST for 12:45 flight home.
Advantages: Starts in IST (I think that's an advantage)
Disadvantage: I'm always worried catching a connecting flight home, but it's all on Turkish Airlines and 2 hour connection time. Last morning would be 7 a.m. hotel pick up -- not exactly the way to end a vacation that's supposed to be restful and easy.

PLAN C -- Just bite the bullet and start and end in IST, either dividing our time in the city or just staying the final night near the airport.

Any thoughts? or other suggestions?
Once we get this pinned down i will have more specific questions, but the one we are really grappling with is Cirali vs. Kas. I say just divide the nights and stay in both! DH doesn't want an additional stop. Cirali intrigues me -- remoteness, roll over on to the beach, etc., but lodging not so upscale. Kas sounds great -- but I'd like to combine it with the more off-the-beaten-path Cirali. Again, thoughts?

Thanks to all who take the time to respond! Greatly appreciated.

PS. We realize Ephesus is not included. We saw a LOT of ruins in Sicily last year and also figure we can see Ephesus from a cruise ship when we are even older than we are now (60's). And, as previously indicated, keeping stops to a minimum is a priority for this trip. We're a bit gun-shy after being sick all over Sicily last year.

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    I suppose you want to visit the stunning archeological places around Antalya: Perge, Aspendos, Side (must not fear any comparison with Ephesos), Termessos and around Cirali (Olympos, Phaselis, Demre, etc.).
    If, on the contrary, you want to go to a nice beach only, you don't need to travel all the way from Urgup/Goreme to Antalya. You can just go down to Mersin - Kiskalesi, a much shorter bus ride, and fly back from Adana airport.

    BTW: the beaches of Kas are nothing to write home about. I prefer Olympos by far. If you like a remote sandy beach, you may check Adrasan as well: a few small hotels with beach chairs and umbrellas, some restaurants and some villas of Western expats. Daily boat trips to neighbouring beaches.
    Frequent minibuses from Antalya bus station to all these places.

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    Not sure if I can offer anything definitive, but here are a few thoughts:
    I liked splitting my time in Istanbul (with an easy flight to Cappadocia in the middle) because we were able to do intensive sightseeing the first leg and then relax and explore upon our return. I realize that is not as appealing with two destinations in the middle. Also, Cappadocia is so tourist friendly (not at all in a bad way), that starting there would not be so bad. It is the long day of travel that concerns me.
    Did you check flights to both Kayseri and Nevsehir for Cappadocia? It's that flight through Istanbul that is really tripping me up. I also hate early morning departures, but for getting out of Istanbul that seems to be unavoidable.
    I was hoping to visit the Med coast this spring, but it did not work out. I was going to fly into Antalya and out of Fethiye, which did not seem like a bad drive from Kas.
    You've probably already checked all of these options, but figured I'd mention. Regardless, it will be an amazing trip!

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    WOW. Great responses so far.
    @neckervd - Hadn't heard of Kiskalesi for beach time. Looked it up and there don't seem to be any really well reviewed hotel options. Not as adventurous as i was in my youth! I had explored flying to Izmir from Cappadocia since there are so many direct flights, but Cesme/Alicati just didn't seem to "ring my bells" the way Kas or Cirali does. Am aware of lack of beach in Kas. We would use pool or swimming platforms, but enjoy the area and the town atmosphere, and then really relax in Cirali. (It might not even be warm enough to swim in early June!) I had seen Adrasan as well -- just not as much info as there is about Cirali, partly because of destination expert Carrie on TA who really provides loads of info on Cirali (and owns a hotel there).

    @yorkshire -- which flight thru IST is tripping you up? The long day of travel between CAP and Antalya? Or the long travel day to get to CAP when we arrive? I have searched all flight options! At IST if we go directly to CAP we have 3.5 hour layover -- wouldn't want it much tighter to go thru customs, get visa, etc.
    We are lucky that if we depart from IST at the end of the trip the nonstop to LAX is at the very respectable hour of 12:45 p.m., making that option appealing.

    Thanks already -- looking forward to more observations.
    Fodors never lets me down.

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    Alison (ADL, Sinai on Wilshire?):

    You will get many educated answers to your questions, so I'll do what I usually do...contribute some "familiarization" pics for Turkey since I do not do TR's. Spent a month driving Turkey and had been assigned to the Turkish Airforce several years before that. Turkey is there for you to enjoy!
    Stuart Tower

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    Hi Stu,
    It's me. I emailed you directly. Hope you have the same email address as you did five years ago -- the last time we corresponded directly.
    Your pics are, as always, a joy to behold.

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    Hey Alison,
    I live in Istanbul and I had been to Antalya so many times. You can spend your 3 nigts in Cappadocia not much more.
    At the end of May both Istanbul and Antalya are gorgeous. If you like swimming and sun you can spend 2 days more in Antalya.
    Kaş, Kalkan, Olimpos and Adrasan are gorgeous places. You should stay in Kalkan and go around these places by renting a car.

    In Istanbul, you should visit Bluemosque, Ortakoy, Prınce Islands. I can recommend what you can do in both Istanbul and Antalya. Also recommend places to stay. My background is related to travel :)

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    A few thoughts :

    1. Easing into your plan A:

    Consider returning car at Dalaman rather than returning it to Antalya. Shorter and nice drive with interesting sites en route.

    Sea temperatures between Antalya and Fethiye should be about 20-21 degrees C. or 68-70 F beginning of June. Not that warm for me but very pleasant for DW.

    2. Plan B : I would hate to add a connecting flight to IST-LAX. Just the thought would keep me away from Turkey forever.

    3. I like Plan C because the season will not have fully started and we always enjoyed flexibility.
    Sandwich both Cappadocia and the Med in between to give you time to digest Istanbul or to masticate -:) This way, you can reduce Cappadocia to 3 nights if you wish and add another one to Istanbul or to the Med or
    Drive down to Mersin, Kizkalesi, Silifke to continue through Anamur to Side, returning the car at Antalya. This will give you warmer seas, some good and less visited antique sites as well as natural wonders and excellent beaches.

    There are a few hotels with own beaches at Tasucu, past Silifke. Tne name Orfoz comes to me but I am not definite. You may also get a few pointers from my trip report here called "From Denver to Virtuous" Virtuous being the English translation of Erdemli town, next to Kiz Kalesi.

    4. Cirali and Kas are two totally different locations.

    If you're considering Cirali, the hotels there are not higher grade than Kizkalesi, Erdemli or Tasucu hotels and lower than Side, Belek, Kas, notwithstanding the friendliness of my friend Carrie and her husband Rustems delicious food.

    I would compare Cirali to the small villages on Datca peninsula rather than Kas which has more of a life to it.

    Please check my "Fumbling Family..... trip reports and the recent trip report of Yestravel and her husband also for Kas, Datca, etc.

    We have always found driving very rewarding between Cappadocia and Southern Turkey, having taken four different routes and never minded the time spent en route, especially with so many brown signs leading to little known interesting sites and lovely food stops appearing unexpectedly.

    You can ask more detailed questions if you wish, from Olba, Alahan, heaven and Hell and Manazan caves to Ermenek or Villa Rhapsody to Tlos.

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    By the way, I have to say that I suspect Stu has plagiarized some of those photographs from the National Geographic and the brochures of the Turkish Board of Tourism. I even saw three that appeared on Aduchamps facebook page. -:)

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    @otherchelebi, I did my homework and looked up your suggestions. I had never even heard of the Datca peninsula -- which looks lovely, but is even more complicated to get to than Cas or Cirali.

    I absolutely know Kas and Cirali are completely different. DH wants more upscale -- i am intrigued by the remoteness of Cirali. Hence, a possible compromise to split the time at the coast. If we only go one place on the coast, may go for Cirali because it's closer to Antalya airport.

    If we were leaving from Kas we could consider Dalaman airport.

    I had read yestravel's excellent report already and re-read it. Was glad to see she liked the peninsula in Kas as that's probably where we would stay to get our "upscale fix."

    Your other suggestions for other coastal places require a "road trip" -- and that is exactly what we do not want for this trip. It's also not an "off the beaten path adventure" trip - have done plenty of those in my past.

    However, maybe we should reconsider flying CAP to Antalya. The drive is 7 to 8 hours, plus time to get to Kas or Cirali. I think much too much for a day but we could spread over two days. Where to break up? (not interested in Konya)
    However, that defeats the purpose of having only three destinations.

    I have read your many posts -- and now have ready your wonderful TR's. Thanks so much for all you provide to this forum!

    I await everyone's further thoughts. Thanks!

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    Thanks for the kind words, alison!

    Here are my thoughts:

    Personally, I prefer plan A. IME, you will be exhausted upon arrival anyways -- why spend time getting from the airport to a hotel in Istanbul when you can go straight to Cappadocia? As you say, you'll need to be in Istanbul the night before your flight anyways, so you'll save a chunk of time that you otherwise spend unnecessarily getting to/from the airport and checking into/out of a hotel. And I actually PREFER having my biggest city at the end of a trip -- I feel better able to manage the transportation and crowds and take advantage of all the opportunities of a city by having already had time to get sense of the language and customs. And I've had some time to relax, so I'm ready to "return" to the energy of a city. Just a personal preference, though.

    However you end up ordering things, I must add that I thought Istanbul really deserved at least 6 full days. BUT of course, it depends on your interests.

    I trust you've already seen my descriptions of Kas and Cirali -- if not, check on my trip report; I think it's near the end in response to a question. I really enjoyed Kas -- easy to get into/out of, not far from a number of very enjoyable sites, nice to walk around, some good restaurants.... Although spending a night in Cirali worked well for me (because I wanted to see the Chimera and was moving along the coast anyways), I personally can't imagine spending much time there unless you have children and want a pleasant place to be away from it all. It struck me as more of a hippy-style hangout, which isn't necessarily bad if that's what you want. It is (as I recall) at least 15 minutes along a VERY twisty mountainous road from the main turnoff from the coast -- and that turnoff is quite a ways from anything else. Then, depending on where you are staying, you might have another 10 or 15 minutes drive to your lodging. At least that part is along a fairly flat and reasonable straight (and not very interesting) road, but you still have to be very alert as there are children and cyclists and people walking into or across the road with apparent disregard for cars. And BTW, in my very short time in Cirali, I didn't even see the shore, which was out of sight of the road.

    If you decide you prefer staying somewhere remote, neckervd's suggestion of Adrasan is not bad -- it does have a pleasant beach. There again, you are quite a way (15 or 20 minutes) along a twisty, mountainous road from the main turnoff, but at least once you are there, you are there! Adrasan is pretty tiny, though, so Cirali might give you more dining options.

    BTW, there is what seemed to me to be a gorgeous beach close to Kas, not too far to the east and down a ridiculously long set of stairs.

    One other thought -- I loved Antalya. It is even larger than Kas, so I understand that you might not find it suitable for your interests, but you might give it another look.

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    @kja, while you were responding, i was reading your review of your hotel in Beysehir on TA! What did you think of the drive from Capadoccia to Antalya? Were you happy with breaking it up that way? We really don't want a road trip, but having a car in CAP and on the coast may be the way to go and maybe we should consider this drive over 2 days. Your input appreciated.

    Also, appreciate your observation about starting in CAP and ending in IST. I kinda feel the same way -- we'll be miserable when we land no matter what! But I don't like arriving anywhere after 10 p.m. and if we wanted to rent a car don't think we would want to drive from Kayseri to Goreme (or wherever we stay) late at night. Did you hae experience with the roads in CAP late at night?

    and, finally, realize not much to do in Cirali. That's the idea. Wake up, roll out of bed to breakfast, roll to sun loungers at beach, bike to village, take a walk, read a book. I have read enough of your trip reports to know that's not YOUR style!! We want to "mix it up" this trip with some pure relaxation along with all the sights and culture.
    thanks for your input!!

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    The drive through Beysehir to Antalya suited my interests well -- I had already moved west of Goreme when I started, wanted to visit some places en route, and I wanted to see the old wooden mosque in Beysehir. That said, I think that the option otherchelebi describes -- the route that takes you south from Goreme to Mersin and then west along the coast -- might suit you better if you do decide to drive. Check it out!

    If you do decide to go through Beysehir, then note that (a) Beysehir is much more of a city (with all the difficulties of traffic and parking and finding directions) than my guidebooks had led me to expect and (b) there are multiple routes from Beysehir to Antalya, including at least one that is primarily along a multiple-lane expressway and at least one more scenic, but slower, more challenging, and often unmarked set of roads through the mountains. (I wanted the latter, and that is, indeed, the route I took -- but with more than a share of unexpected adventures!) At least when I was there, there were roadsigns in Beysehir directing one to Antalya, but without saying by which route. Be sure you know which way you want to go before following any of those signs!

    I did not drive around Goreme after dark. You might want to check whether your hotel -- or a hotel that you would find suitable -- offers transportation from the airport to the hotel and then, the next day, to a car rental agency. Given the competition among hotels and the fact that this dilemma is faced by many people who travel to the area, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are such options.

    I'm glad you were able to place my comments in the context of our differing travel styles -- vive la différence! :-)

    If you haven't already done so, do look into Adrasan -- it is a lovely beach and might actually suit your interests that Cirali.

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    BTW: I just check the web-site for the hotel in which I stayed in Goreme, the Arch Palace. According to its web-site, they will arrange airport transfers for 20 TL per person each way. I found them extraordinarily accommodating, and if the hotel seems to suit your needs at all, I think it would be worth contacting them about options for arranging a rental car or transport to a rental car agency.

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    I mentioned four routes driving from Cap to Antalya.

    One, I gave as an alternative.
    Second was the one KJA took. This is the best known and most popular among TA crowd also.

    Third and fourth go through Karaman, South of Konya and include a short detour through the valley housing the Manazan caves, a hidden gem.

    Then, the longer route, going down through Mut to Silifke requires an overnight at Tasucu or Silifke but gives you the fabulous heaven and hell sink hole and asthma cavern sights, in addition to the Alahan monastery on the way down to the coast.

    The final route goes through Ermenek and down to Anamur through some very scenic mountains. Again, a night at Ermenek will get you to Side or even to Cirali the next day.

    I agree that these are adventurous but none of those who took my advice before complained. As long as you do not start with similar health pissues to your Sicily trip, these are one of a kind holidays which are difficult to replicate in terms of combination of Safety-History-Road quality-Nature-Accommodation-Food-Cost in other parts of the world.

    We are adventurous although I am almost 70. We had planned a Hurghada-Luxor, Egypt trip for mid December which we had to postpone due to the 3 weeks needed to get Egyptian visas for Turkish citizens. That trip would have involved traveling in and through rather dangerous spots, but would have made us feel like characters in Spielberg films.

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    Beaches between Kiskalesi and Anamur:
    mostly frequented by Turkish people, no package tourists from Western Europe and almost nobody from overseas.
    The area counts among the warmest of Turkey. It's very easy to go there thanks to the airport of Adana.

    Kas HAS some beaches:

    1. Limanagzi Beach. The Limanagzi beaches are about 3km opposite Kas. There are no cars here and theses beaches can only be reached by a hiking trail (which starts after the big pebble beach) or by small fishing boats that go back and forth from Kas harbour for the price of about 10 TL (go and back). All beaches have restaurants and cafes near the water’s edge.

    2. Kaputas beach A beautiful sand beach located on the main Kas- Kalkan coast road; this is the most spectacular beach in the area and is only a 20-minute dolmus (minibus) ride. Mini buses depart from Kas’s bus station and run regularly.

    3. Kalkan Beach (neighbour village)
    To the left of and at the entrance to Kalkan harbour, Kalkan's white pebble beach is very popular with visitors and locals. The water is incredibly clear, and often calm, making it very good for swimming and snorkelling. Toilet and changing facilities are available just behind the beach, and sunbeds/umbrellas can be hired at a very reasonable rate. There are harbour front restaurants, shops and cafes all within 2 minutes walk of the beach. Kalkan beach enjoys late evening sun, and is a lovely place to watch the yachts and gulets returning back to harbour in the early evening.

    4. Patara Beach
    Patara beach is around 20 minutes from Kalkan by car or the Dolmus services (5 ot 6 YTL each way) that run from Kalkan. Part of a national park, it is a key biodiversity area, rich in birdlife and the breeding ground of the endangered loggerhead turtle (caretta caretta). Luckily the beach has been declared off-limits for development because of the turtles, they are nearing extinction and protection of their nesting sites on the Turkish coast is very important. The beach is closed after sunset from May to October to give the turtles peace in which to lay their eggs as it is the second most important turtle nesting beach in Turkey.
    Parking at the beach is free (as of 2012) and a boardwalk leads from the car park across the sand to the sea. This sandy beach, has many shells at it's shore line and is good for swimming, although care needs to be taken with currents. At 12km long, it is a lovely place to walk, with sand dunes and mountains providing a very scenic back drop.
    Voted as one of the top beaches in the world by Times Online in 2005, a visit to Patara beach also enables visitors to look around the major Roman and Lycian historical ruins just 15 minutes walk behind the beach.
    Even in the height of summer it is never crowded. The absence of development and no water sports means that it is always peaceful. There is a café at the end of the boardwalk that sells snacks and drinks, and hires sunbeds and parasols.

    There are tons of buses and minibuses between Antalya, Kumluca and Kas, with connecting minibuses to Cirali Olympos and Adrasan. Travel in the whole area is well organized and it's far away from any adventure. Antalya airport and Dalaman airport are more or less of equal distance to Kas.

    Datca/Kinidos is a nice place, but not along your itinerary.
    Furthermore, the seawater at Datca will be colder than at Lycia, Pamphylia or Cilicia.

    "and, finally, realize not much to do in Cirali"
    There are tons of antique places in the surroundings, for the case you should be interested in.
    Cirali/Olympos lies along the well known Lycian Way hiking trail with tons of hikers in June.

    But if you prefer a all inclusive resort, you should rather go to Antalya, Kemer or Side.

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