Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How to Visit Turkey in 12 Days

Turkey! Quickly became one of my favorite countries. It is quirky, diverse, with yummy food and nice people.
Here are some things that we learned along the way. Hope this helps your trip.

Go Beyond Istanbul

While Istanbul one of my favorite cities, there is so much more to Turkey. Whenever we talk about Turkey we wax nostalgic about Cappadocia and the Turquoise Coast the most. Consider extending your trip and getting out of the city.


In heavily touristed areas, the public transportation is usually enough. Likely you will not want a car when visited a big city (driving in Antalya nearly ended our marriage. just kidding, kind of).

  • We relied on public transport for most things. 
  • From the airport- book shuttle via hotel as ours was full for walk in. 
  • Around- public bus to the town above Rose Valley, to underground city. However, I wish we would have joined one of the colored tours (ask your hotel about them). We wasted a lot of time trying to figure out and wait for public transportation.
  • The buses do stop around dark, so prepare your activities to be home by then. 

Turquoise Coast
  • If anything, rent a car for the Turquoise Coast. Public transportation is limiting and these sights are not close to one another.
  • However, don't just stick to a car. Get on a boat!

  • The tram and light rail are really easy to use and got us most places. However, try to have a few tickets on hand. We missed it a couple of times when we were stuck at the ticket booth.
  • Walking. It's a pretty walk-able city, so get good shoes and get out there!
  • To the airport: for an early morning flight, it was easiest for us to book a shuttle through any of the travel agencies throughout the area. 
Turkish Airlines

We LOVED Turkish Airlines, Turkey's national airline. The three times we flew, we were served a meal even on our 50 minute flight (OK, it was a sack lunch, but still!). 

Our flight coming home was cancelled (Thanks for nothing, Air France) so we were rebooked on a Turkish Airlines flight. Upon arrival, we were given a welcome Turkish Delight, a little tin with socks and other toiletries, and unlimited movies. 

Prepare for Rain

And don't expect the cheap $2 umbrellas they sell on the street to last more than one gust of wind.

Dress (and act) appropriately. 

Mosques require a strict dress code. Both men and women must have legs covered. At the Blue Mosque, there are wrap-around skirts (big pieces of fabric) and head scarfs to borrow. Borrowing head scarfs seems like ew, so just carry a lightweight scarf in your bag. You will have to remove your shoes, but they give you a plastic bag to carry your shoes at the Blue Mosque.

We saw many people worshiping while we were visiting the mosques. Be quiet and respectful.

To make your visit more meaningful, read up a little about Islam so you can have an understanding of what you are seeing.

Beware the cats of Turkey

The cats of Turkey! They are everywhere. Sneaking up on you at a picnic, lingering at your feet at a restaurant. We often saw a cat stroll through an outdoor restaurant like he was the maitre de.

The boldest cat we saw even stood on its hind legs and put its paws on the table in an effort to beg.

The strays wandered onto the stage at the G-20 Summit last week. They have no shame!

Have an Open Mind

I had a friend tell me that she didn't like Turkey because she got ripped off at a money exchange. First, one bad experience shouldn't dictate how you feel about an entire country (keep trying to tell myself that about Jordan). And, you guys, why do people keep doing this? Exchange rates at a cash exchange are the worst! Use an ATM. :)

But seriously, Turkey was so different than any other place we have ever visited. We tried to learn and embrace, and we truly fell in love.

12-Day Turkey Itinerary

We had only had 12 days in Turkey. With an extra couple of days, we would have likely gone to Ephesus. The more I learn about a place, the more things I want to see. So I eventually had to stop reading about Turkey so I could alleviate some of the travel FOMO I was experiencing.

Day 1: Cappadoccia
Arrive in Cappadoccia in afternoon
Book shuttle through hotel.
Explore and relax.
Dinner at Seten Restaurant. Delicious! Get a reservation.
Stayed at Turquaz Cave Hotel

Day 2: Cappadoccia 
5 a.m. Hot Air Balloon ride with Butterfly Balloons
Gerome Open Air Museum
Hike through Rose Valley
Public transportation ends early, so plan accordingly

Day 3: Cappadoccia
Underground City
Arrived via public bus.

Day 4: Turquoise Coast
Overnight bus to Antalya (a nightmare, bite the bullet and fly instead)
Rented a car and visited the Lycian Tombs in Myra and flaming mountain at Mount Chimaera
Arrive in Kas
Stayed at Lantana Apartments

Day 5: Turquoise Coast
Boat tour along the coast- hotel helped us book
We bough snorkel gear but shouldn't have. The fish to see weren't that great.

Day 6: Beach hopping along the Turquoise Coast
Kaputas Cove
Patara Beach
Stayed at Yacht Club Hotel

Day 7: Turquoise Coast
Lazing around the beach at Oludeniz

Day 8: Pamukkale
Bus ride to Pamukkale, buy tickets anywhere in Fethiye
Stayed at Hotel Sahin- basic but great location

Day 9: Istanbul
Early flight to Istanbul
Visited Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Underground Cistern
Stayed at Airbnb apartment. Bit of a walk, but nice.
Get $25 off your first stay with Airbnb here.

Day 10: Istanbul
Bosphorus Cruise- check the forecast and schedule on sunniest day
Strolling around Istanbul before dinner

Day 11: Istanbul
Topkapi Palace
Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent
More shopping

Day 12: Istanbul
Grand Bazaar
Spice Market
Taksim Square
Istikal Street
Galata Tower

Day 13: Fly home!
Seems like most flights to the States leave first thing, so we booked a shuttle that left at the unearthly hour of 3:30 a.m.

As always, I love to talk about travel. Comment below or email me at stephaniefbenson {at} gmail {dot} com.

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