Turkey Take Two
My first visit to Turkey was in the summer of 2005 when I arrived by boat on the second half of a Greek Islands cruise; it was short and sweet and gave me just a taste for what this incredible country has to offer.
First stop was Istanbul, which we did in one extremely full day. We pulled up along the Bosphorus and were immediately hit with excitement as we sailed into a harbor whose skyline was dotted with both modern buildings and ancient mosques. In that one day, we visited the major attractions, including Topkapi Palace, the Haiga Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, and of course, a carpet shop.
The second Turkish stop on our cruise was to discover Ephesus; spectacular ancient ruins that did not disappoint. It’s a must-see on anyone’s Turkish bucket list. The site is actually quite large, so ensure you give yourself enough time to explore the entirety of this incredible place. All in all, my first trip to Turkey was short, rushed, and overwhelming, but it showed me just enough to know I needed to go back!
The opportunity to return so recently presented itself with a family wedding being held this past summer in the South of Turkey. It was an easy decision to add on a few other spots, but with only two weeks’ vacation, the hardest thing was deciding where to explore! Here’s what I chose:
A small town beautifully located on the Aegean Sea. It’s a 2.5 hour drive from two different airports (Dalaman or Antalya) or an overnight bus from Istanbul. There are no shortage of hotels, resorts, and villas to stay in, though you’ll spend 90% of your day outside, so I wouldn’t be too picky.
My Kas Highlights:
- Leisurely floating in the warm, inviting, and crystal clear Aegean Sea
- Enjoying a boat ride to visit ruins along the Lycian Way, including the sunken city of Kekova
- Watching the guys in our group enjoy an authentic Turkish shave
- Participating in a traditional Turkish henna ceremony before the wedding
On my second trip to Turkey, there was no way I was missing Cappadocia; a region famous for its other-worldly landscapes, dotted with fairy chimneys and dramatic valleys. I spent three full days here from my base in Goreme to ensure I didn’t miss a thing.
My Cappadocia Highlights:
- The sunrise hot air balloon ride that delivers incredible views and photo opportunities like I’ve never seen! This is an absolute must-do
- Spending my nights sleeping in a beautiful cave hotel
- Exploring the hidden chapels in the Goreme Open Air Museum
- Hiking along the river in the Ilhara Valley
- Enjoying traditional clay pot kebabs with a glass of local Cappadocian wine
- Ending a busy day of touring with an authentic Turkish bath
After spending only one day in Istanbul and barely scratching the surface, I built in another two full days in the city this time around. Istanbul is almost always the starting/ending point for tours through Turkey. If you enjoy the culture and chaos that big cities have to offer, be sure to build in a few extra days in Istanbul.
My Istanbul Highlights:
- Revisiting the Haiga Sofia and the Blue Mosque; both are majestic and historic and certainly deserve a second viewing
- Wandering through Sultanamet (old city); exploring the textiles district, bazaars, school campuses, cafes and restaurants
- Exploring the ‘other side’ of Istanbul; the Taksim area delivers remarkable and historic spots such as arcades (now secret passages for locals), statues/monuments, and architecture and hotels with historic significant as this was once last stop of the Orient Express. Mix that history with uber-modern rooftop patios, high end shops and art galleries, as well as excellent cuisine, and you’ve got a dream place to explore
- Getting my fortune told with Turkish coffee grinds and tarot cards
- Sipping a cold Efes (local beer) on a patio overlooking the Bosphorous
- Visiting some of the less popular, but still very impressive and fully functioning Mosques. Be sure to bring some pashminas to cover up
- Sampling fresh Turkish delight
Turkey is a fabulous destination for every traveller because of its diversity. Just on my short two week trip, I enjoyed pristine beaches, historic ruins, active hiking, and bustling modern cities – there is something for everyone. I very much look forward to my third trip to Turkey…stay tuned!
October 11, 2013