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jeverett Sep 22nd, 2019 01:21 PM

Turkey Itinerary for 2 Weeks in Dec & Jan
 
Hi guys,

I have booked my flights to Istanbul, arriving December 26th at 5:00pm and departing Istanbul on January 9th at 10:30am via KLM. I'm trying to decide where to go in Turkey besides Istanbul so I can book some accommodations.

What are some cities and sites that would be suggested in winter. I am thinking about what places can be reached via day trip from Istanbul, and what places I would need to spend the night(s) and book accommodations.

Intend to spend AT LEAST a week in Istanbul. What are some good neighborhoods in Istanbul to stay? Looking for vibrant, walkable neighborhoods that give good sense of Turkish life that aren't super touristy. I was thinking maybe staying a few nights on the European side and then a few on the Asian side for some contrast.

Then thinking about places like Izmir, Ephesus, Ankara, Cappadocia, Bursa, Pamukkale, et al. How easy are some of these places to reach by train from Istanbul? What would be an ideal itinerary for two weeks to include some of these places?

I figured two of these places (maybe three) in addition to Istanbul would be ideal, and done sequentially to make travel easier to make it back to Istanbul for the flight home (or starting with these places and ending with Istanbul). I'm interested in history, and cities with vibrant culture with strong food and coffee scene. And just interested in adventure and unique experiences. I am working with a medium range budget (i.e. not backpacker, but budget conscious and splurging here and there).

I appreciate all ideas and suggestions. Thanks!

kja Sep 22nd, 2019 03:02 PM

You might want to search this board for posts on Turkey, including both planning threads and trip reports. You'll see that there was a thread very recently about where to stay in Istanbul.

And you might want to get a good guidebook, where you would learn things like how to get from place to place. Or you can use rome2rio.com. That way, you would learn that there is no way to get to Cappadocia by train, although a combination of trains and buses might work.

A week is a reasonable amount of time to spend in Istanbul, which holds an incredible array of treasures. IMO, Izmir and Bursa are interesting, but not in the same league as Cappadocia, Ephesus, or Pamukkale. I don't know what those locations would be like in winter -- another thing you could learn in a decent guidebook.

Good luck!

jeverett Sep 22nd, 2019 03:25 PM

Thank you. Perhaps you could suggest a good guide book for Turkey and Istanbul.

kja Sep 22nd, 2019 03:26 PM

I thought the Rough Guide provided excellent coverage.

jeverett Sep 22nd, 2019 03:30 PM

Thanks!

kja Sep 22nd, 2019 03:33 PM

Turkey is fascinating. Enjoy your planning!

BDKR Sep 23rd, 2019 08:17 AM

I am thinking about what places can be reached via day trip from Istanbul, and what places I would need to spend the night(s) and book accommodations.

There isn't much in daytrip distance from Istanbul. Edirne and Bursa may be possible on daytrips with an early start, but that involves hours of bus travel both ways and with sunset around 4-5 pm that doesn't give you much time and both of these cities need a full day.

" Looking for vibrant, walkable neighborhoods that give good sense of Turkish life that aren't super touristy. I was thinking maybe staying a few nights on the European side and then a few on the Asian side for some contrast."

I don't think it's worth to divide your time between 2 locations. There isn't much contrast between the European and the Asian sides, the Bosporus is only a geographical divide, not a cultural one.

In another recent topic on Istanbul a local travel expert recommended Kadiköy:

"A third lively location, definitely Turkish middle class, (even cheaper than Cihangir which has a Bohemian atmosphere) very lively, lots of shops, lots of eateries. lots of people is Kadikoy, on the Asian side but accessible by very frequent ferries from four different quays
on the European side."

I don't think it's worth to spend half of your time in Istanbul of a 2 week trip. Istanbul is a great city with tons of sights and things to do and spending a week or more isn't much hardship, but Istanbul is still only a tiny fraction of Turkey and chances are that whenever you return to Turkey(I hope this won't be your last trip) you'll arrive to Istanbul. I mean you don't have to try seeing all of Istanbul on your first trip, leave some great sights for the next time too.

" Then thinking about places like Izmir, Ephesus, Ankara, Cappadocia, Bursa, Pamukkale, et al. How easy are some of these places to reach by train from Istanbul? What would be an ideal itinerary for two weeks to include some of these places?"

While most of these places are not easy to reach by train from Istanbul, it is quite easy to travel between them. The most logical route would be:

Istanbul
Bus or ferry+bus to Bursa
High-speed train from Eskisehir to Ankara(connection with shuttle bus from Bursa)
Bus from Ankara to Göreme(main base for Cappadocia), you probably have to change buses in Nevsehir
Bus from Nevsehir to Denizli(city next to Pamukkale), this is a long trip and it may be worth to break it in Konya for a night
Train from Denizli to Selcuk(small town next to Ephesus)
Train from Selcuk to Izmir, fly or take bus back to Istanbul

This would be at least 10 days, with 3-4 days left for Istanbul.

In addition to guidebooks I recommend this site: www.turkeytravelplanner.com

kja Sep 23rd, 2019 03:19 PM


Originally Posted by BDKR (Post 16990393)
The most logical route would be:

Istanbul
Bus or ferry+bus to Bursa
High-speed train from Eskisehir to Ankara(connection with shuttle bus from Bursa)
Bus from Ankara to Göreme(main base for Cappadocia), you probably have to change buses in Nevsehir
Bus from Nevsehir to Denizli(city next to Pamukkale), this is a long trip and it may be worth to break it in Konya for a night
Train from Denizli to Selcuk(small town next to Ephesus)
Train from Selcuk to Izmir, fly or take bus back to Istanbul

This would be at least 10 days, with 3-4 days left for Istanbul.

Gosh, I would hate that trip! So much time in transit for so very little time in any of these interesting locations -- but YMMV, and maybe it will provide some options worth considering.

jeverett Oct 19th, 2019 04:15 PM

Thanks for the advice and proposed itinerary. I've read through the Rough Guides guidebook on Turkey, and read quite a bit on websites like Turkey Travel Planner. I have a proposed itinerary with places I want to visit and approximately how long I would stay in each. I just wanted to post it here before I start booking hotels and transportation between cities. Two considerations I'm trying to factor in are 1) how winter weather could affect getting around the country, and 2) what areas are maybe not as great to visit in winter or are mostly closed (i.e. towns on the Aegean coast). Guide books and what I've read have not gone into how itineraries could and should be tailored to the season.

Also, I am not wanting to spend a lot of time on buses and such, especially when winter weather could delay or complicate things. I decided picking three places to stay and exploring around those areas would be ideal. Selçuk as a base to see Ephesus, Parmukkale, and surrounding area. Göreme as a base to explore Cappadoccia. And Istanbul to see, well, Istanbul. Here's my tentative itinerary:

Dec 26th - Arrive in Istanbul at IST and fly on to Izmir. Pick up rental car in Izmir and drive to Selcuk.
Dec 27th - 29th
Selçuk - explore Ephesus and surrounding sites with day trip to Parmukkale. I was also interested in visiting Izmir, the Cesme peninsula, Priene and Aphrodisias on this leg of the trip. I know three days doesn't give me time to see it all, and I would consider adding a 4th day.

Dec 29th - Take evening flight from Izmir to Kayseri

Dec 30th - Jan 2nd - Goreme and Cappadoccia - I factored in 4 days for this area, but may also just do three days and add a day to either Istanbul or the Aegean coast leg.

Jan 2nd - Take evening flight from Kayseri to Istanbul

Jan 3rd - Jan 9th - Istanbul, with possible day trip to Bursa. I definitely want to explore Istanbul a little more in depth than just seeing the main sites, and get off the beaten track into some of the less touristy neighborhoods. To do that, I feel like I need 6-8 days here given the enormity of the city.

Depart morning of Jan 9th from SAW airport for home

I had considered driving to Cappadoccia from Parmukkale, or using transit combination of train and bus to get from Selcuk to Cappadoccia. Given the potential for winter weather as I trek inland, it seems flying is the best option to get between these places and then renting a car to explore the surrounding areas. And an overnight bus ride to Cappadoccia does not sound restful to me. I've done the overnight train thing previously and I arrive at my destination just exhausted. Lastly, places I would love to visit, but I think I'm going to leave out for this trip are Konya, Antalya and Ankara, unless someone can convince me these are must-visits on a first visit to Turkey.

I would love to get some feedback on my itinerary, and possible recommendations that I'm overlooking, or whether I'm overthinking the winter travel bit. Thanks for any ideas or recommendations.

jeverett Oct 19th, 2019 04:20 PM

One other thing I have had some concerns about is the potential for any difficulty getting into Turkey as an American, given the current geopolitical climate. I am also an employee of the American government (I work as a public benefits specialist - nothing political) and have been a little worried that this might complicate entry into Turkey. I have already obtained my Turkish e-Visa. Can anyone comment or provide any insight on this?

kja Oct 19th, 2019 04:42 PM

I'll leave it to otherchelebi and other experts to comment on the weather and current, uh, "issues."

I think your plan generally looks good and think you should be able to see some fascinating places. Just one thing:

Please wait a day or two before picking up a rental car! Although many people are not aware of it, there is mounting evidence that driving with jet lag is just as dangerous -- to yourself and others -- as driving drunk, and nothing you can do will prevent the microsleeps (which you might not even notice) that are the apparent culprit. Seriously -- NOT a good idea, no matter whether you sleep on the flight; no matter your prior experience; no matter whether you consume caffeine, whatever! Accidents after crossing multiple time zones might not be common, but when they occur, they can be deadly to you and to innocent others.

You had originally suggested staying in two different neighborhoods in Istanbul. If still interested in doing that, you could easily do that and pick up a rental after a first few days in the city. Or you could take public transportation to Bursa for a couple of nights, and then pick up a rental car there.

BTW, if you haven't already seen it, you might find some useful information in my now old trip report:
https://www.fodors.com/community/eur...turkey-938594/

BDKR Oct 19th, 2019 06:59 PM


Originally Posted by jeverett (Post 17003057)
One other thing I have had some concerns about is the potential for any difficulty getting into Turkey as an American, given the current geopolitical climate. I am also an employee of the American government (I work as a public benefits specialist - nothing political) and have been a little worried that this might complicate entry into Turkey. I have already obtained my Turkish e-Visa. Can anyone comment or provide any insight on this?

Nothing to worry about!

Bon voyage!

kja Oct 19th, 2019 07:38 PM


Originally Posted by BDKR (Post 17003120)
Nothing to worry about!

jeverett: You might want to wait until otherchelebi, our resident expert on Turkey (he lives there and also has relatives in the U.S.) comments. BDKR lives in Hungary and might not be well positioned to provide insights on your particular question. JMO.

BDKR Oct 19th, 2019 10:25 PM

What kind of potential difficulty do you imagine?

Perhaps you've seen the anti-Turkish propaganda movie Midnight Express?

You got your Turkish visa. Turkey is not like the USA where the immigration officers are questioning and scrutinising you and may even turn you back despite your valid visa or ESTA. In theory this can happen anywhere, even in Turkey, but in practice the immigration process is a routine and if you're coming from a rich country like the USA all they check if your passport and visa are valid, they look at your face, no questions asked, they stamp you in and off you go, it takes 10 seconds once it is your turn. I never ever heard of any tourists turned back from Turkey. You'll be just one of the 40 million tourists visiting Turkey and they're happy that you're coming.

I don't think you need to live in Turkey to know this. I visited Turkey 6 times.

The only reason you could expect to get in trouble is if you had Gülenist connections, but than you would know it by yourself that going to Turkey is a bad idea.

jeverett Oct 20th, 2019 08:23 PM

kja-

I really enjoyed your trip report, and it gave me some additional ideas for a proposed alternate itinerary (below). I think these are both solid itineraries, but would love some final input before I book accommodations. Thanks for everyone's help, and, yes, my worries about any issues entering Turkey have eased.

ITINERARY A
Dec 26 - arrive in Istanbul; P.M. flight to Izmir, stay in Selcuk
Dec 27 - Selcuk/Ephesu
Dec 28 - Parmukkale/Aphrodisias day trip
Dec 29 - Priene/Miletus/Didim day trip; evening flight from Izmir to Kayseri
Dec 30 - Cappadoccia (haven't decided on rental car or not; thinking of Kelebek or Artemis Cave Hotel)
Dec 31 - Cappadoccia
Jan 1st - Cappadoccia
Jan 2nd - Drive to Ankara - see Hattusa/Alaca Hoyuk en route; drop rental car in Ankara
Jan 3rd - Day in Ankara; evening train to Istanbul
Jan 4th - Istanbul (considering Witt Istanbul Suites in Cihangur district)
Jan 5th - Istanbul
Jan 6th - Istanbul
Jan 7th - Istanbul
Jan 8th - Istanbul
Jan 9th - Fly home via KLM from SAW

What I like about this itinerary is it's more diverse and I get a wider to see more of the country, and I get to see Hattusa and Ankara. I do love road trips, but a bit hesitant given the time of year to do too much overland travel.

ITINERARY B
Dec 26th - Arrive Istanbul; fly to Izmir, stay in Selcuk
Dec 27th - Ephesus/Selcuk
Dec 28th - Parmukkale/Aphrodisias day trip
Dec 29th - Priene/Miletus/Didim day trip
Dec 30th - Cesme Peninsula/Alicoti; drop rental car off in Izmir and evening flight to Kayseri
Dec 31st - Cappadoccia
Jan 1st - Cappadoccia
Jan 2nd - Cappadoccia
Jan 3rd - Morning flight to Istanbul; explore Istanbul
Jan 4th - Istanbul (thinking of staying at Witt Istanbul Suites in Cihangir district)
Jan 5th - Istanbul
Jan 6th - Istanbul
Jan 7th - Istanbul or possible day trip to Bursa
Jan 8th - Istanbul
Jan 9th - Depart via KLM from SAW airport

The part of this itinerary I'm still unsure of is whether or not to invest a day in the Cesme area and visiting Alacati. I'm very interested in visiting this area, but wasn't sure if Alacati and the surrounding area shutters down for the winter or not. Knowing whether it's still worthwhile in winter months would go a long way in making this an easy decision. What I also like about this itinerary is there is less reliance on overland travel during winter, and more time in Aegean coast and Istanbul. I really wanted to see more of Istanbul besides just the main tourist sites and have some time to get off the beaten path there.

kja Oct 20th, 2019 08:39 PM


Originally Posted by jeverett (Post 17003706)
kja-

I really enjoyed your trip report, and it gave me some additional ideas for a proposed alternate itinerary (below). I think these are both solid itineraries, but would love some final input before I book accommodations.

I'm glad you enjoyed my trip report, and I thank you for mentioning it!

Unfortunately, I am not competent to comment on the differences between your proposed itineraries, particularly because time of year could easily make a difference. If otherchelebi doesn't respond in the next day or so, please consider reaching out to him. I think he accepts PMs; if not, try adding a post to his latest thread on travel to Turkey:
https://www.fodors.com/community/eur...ature-1671598/

And consider booking rooms that can be cancelled in advance. :) See booking.com

BDKR Oct 21st, 2019 03:27 AM

Pamukkale and Aphrodisias may be too much for 1 day trip in winter. Perhaps you could spend the last night in Pamukkale(visiting Aphrodisias en route) and fly from Denizli to Ankara.

As an alternative to the flight Izmir-Kayseri, you could take the Izmir-Ankara night train. https://www.seat61.com/Turkey2.htm#Ankara_to_Izmir

I'd spend less time in Istanbul, perhaps 3 days, adding the 2 extra days to other destinations. It's much better to enjoy Istanbul when it is not so cold and wet as in winter, when the gardens of the Topkapi Palace are blooming, when you can mingle with locals in the parks, take a boat trip to the Islands and up the Bosphorus, etc. Use this winter trip to check out the highlights which are the least crowded at this time and return to see more of Istanbul on your next trip to Turkey(I'm sure this won't be your last trip)

Hattusa is not exactly between Cappadocia and Ankara. Should you go there I'd spend the night in the village next to the ruins. You should check the weather before going there. It's a vast and remote site and in case there is lots of snow I think it'll be difficult if not impossible to drive/walk around the site.

I see that you're most interested in the antiquities, but you may consider a trip to a historic Ottoman Turkish town after all those ruins. The advantage of a city is that a visit is less dependent on the weather. I'm thinking of Safranbolu.

https://www.goturkey.com/en/destinations/safranbolu


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