Turkey Travel Tips: 2010
Ancient cultures, delicious food, and warm, sunny beaches: We love and Turkey! What tips do you have for your fellow travelers to the East Mediterranean?
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My husband and I felt we just had to comment on the most enjoyable and reasonably priced tour we had of Kusadasi.
We had arrived on the 18th of June with Royal Caribbean. Ertunga was waiting for us at the port with and air-conditioned car, most welcomed in the heat, and his very polite, courteous and safe driver.
We had arranged a private tour because I have difficulty walking for extended periods; well to be honest I have to take a break after only 10-15 minutes. I was concerned that it might present a problem, but Ertunga was most understanding. We had an amazing and relaxing tour of Ephasus. The pace at which Ertunga showed us around was never rushed. His knowledge of the history of that amazing place was very informative and told in a way that was enjoyable and not stuffy. He also gave us time to wander around by ourselves allowing us to soak up the atmosphere. The itinerary for the tour had been chosen by us and included a visit to the House of the Virgin Mary. An amazing place, that gave me an overwhelming feeling of serenity and calmness. We were fortunate enough to be there as the priests celebrated Mass. Of course we could not have visit Turkey without going to a carpet factory, or to be more precise, a Carpet Weaving Cooperative. You can see how the carpets are made; starting with how the silk is extracted from the silk worms to the skill employed by the girls weaving the carpets. We also have a lovely meal, with of course the chance to sample the local wine.
A "secret" place I would highly recommend you ask Ertunga to take you to, the top of Ataturk Hill. You will see the most amazing views of the Kusadasi bay and Pigeon Island.
Oakland, ca USA Tue 12/28/2010
Turkey Highlights in 3 Small Itineraries in just 3 weeks
My wife and I spent three weeks in Turkey this past July. A great itinerary for those who enjoy culture and history could include: - 4 days in Istanbul - enough for most of the tourist highlights. Like Rome, the majority of sites are concentrated or easily accessed by public transportation. Best if you stay in Sultanahmet. - fly to Izmir for a week around the Aegean, rent a car for Pergamon, Selcuk (much more than just Ephesus), historic sites south to Didyma and east to Parmakkule - Last 10 days - drop the car off in Dalyan, bus to Marmaris (optional Rhodes visit), over to Fethiye and few days Blue Cruise to Olympos ending with a couple days in Antalya in the old harbour area to relax. Fly back to Istanbul for North Americans.
Awesome, even without Cappadocia!
You don't need a guide, Turks are super friendly, a clean safe country, great shopping and English is commonly spoken. Plus the last great bargain in Europe! And so much more to see... we'll be back.
London, ON Canada Mon 12/13/2010
Turkey hotel, restaurant, sites, tour guide and driver recommendations for Istanbul, Ephesus, Bodrum, Fethiye, Cappadocia
My partner and I travelled for 14 days in Turkey in October-November 2010. Below are some of the best hotels, restaurants, sites, tour guides and drivers encountered during our trip. We're listing only the things you might not find in a guidebook or on the web[INVALID]experiences and people we found particularly wonderful.
During our trip US $ 1 = TL (Turkish lira) 1.40. So 15 TL is about $10.
The weather was reasonable, though a little cold and moist sometimes. But we liked the smaller crowds and better deals off-season. It had been colder and wetter the week before we came.
If any of the phone numbers or email address have been stripped from the version you're reading, please see the full text at http://faculty.washington.edu/swittet/Turkey.
* Arrived Istanbul, walked a bit, slept in Sultanahmet (Old Town). Spent next day sightseeing in Old Town. * Spent two nights in Cappadocia, then back to IST for a night. We had a guide and driver in Cappadocia. * Five nights on the Aegean Coast: two nights outside Ephesus (in Sirince), a night in Bodrum, two nights in Fethiye. We had a driver only. * Four nights in Beyoglu (Istanbul New Town). Walked a lot. Also travelled by tram, ship, and subway.
Normally I make all travel arrangements on my own, but this trip was complicated (a lot of far-flung places were on our list, it was clear we'd need a car and I didn't want to drive) so we worked with an agency. I contacted Lale Aran, co-owner of SRM Travel (www.srmtravel.com). Phone +90 (216) 386 7623. (to call from inside Turkey: (0216) 386 7623) firstname.lastname@example.org laleATsrmtravelDOTcom
You may know Lale from the Rick Steves TV shows or podcasts. She and her husband wrote the RS Istanbul guidebook. Lale had many good ideas for an itinerary that worked, places to see, and places to stay. I highly recommend SRM if you don't want to arrange everything yourself. Plus, Lale can get cheaper domestic flight tickets in-country than foreigners can on the web (and you probably won't want to wait until you're in Istanbul to book tickets).
Our Old Town hotel was not memorable, so I won't mention it. But when we returned from the coast, we moved across the Galata Bridge and up the hill to a hotel in the New Town, a block from Istiklal Street, in a happening district with lots of interesting restaurants.
Hotel: Pera Suites Me?rutiyet Caddesi Orhan Adli Apaydin Sok. No:17/A Tepebas? 34430 +90 (212) 252 50 50 email@example.com infoATtheperasuitesDOTcom ? www.theperasuites.com
We stayed in a Junior Suite, which is a studio apartment with small kitchen. The price was reasonable and the location excellent with restaurants, bars and clubs and small shops close by (Pera Suites are a block from the famous Pera Palace Hotel if you're looking on a map). The area is lively at night and even though the windows are double-paned, there is a hole in each for ventilation, so every word (and shout and late night song) rings clear. It helped to block the vent hole with pillows and to run the air con for white noise. The other challenge at Pera Suites is language (if you don't speak Turkish). The staff are very friendly and want to be helpful, but they have limited English and aren't able to assist with directions or information or recommendations. But they try their best! We recommend the place, especially if you are noise-tolerant (or are usually out making noise).
Food: You can get many variations of Turkish and regional food around Istiklal and in the other nearby neighborhoods. You will find surprisingly few restaurants offering other cuisines (Thai, Chinese, Italian, French, etc.) We saw a few Chinese restaurants.
By chance we had some of our best foodie experiences a block from Pera Suites, at Enstitu, the restaurant of the Istanbul Culinary Institute. The food was fantastic and the value was great. Both meals we had at Enstitu were much better than at trendy Leb-y-Derya restaurant nearby, but at half the price. (Also, unfortunately, without the great Leb-y-Derya view). The Enstitu staff are friendly and helpful, led by manager Gila Birman. Enstitu is near the Pera Museum and is open for lunch and dinner, closed Sunday.
Enstitu Mesrutiyet Caddesi No. 59 Phone 0212-2512214 www.istanbulculinary.com/eng/enstitu/restaurant
Nearby, across from the Tunel upper station, we stumbled on KV (kah-ve, or coffee) who offered a great Turkish buffet lunch for TL 14.50. This was a very good deal in a pleasant setting. They also have a la carte dishes, coffees and drinks.
KV Tunel Gecidi No. 10 Phone 0212-2514338 www.kv.com.tr
On the side streets outside the Spice Market we found the best lokum (Turkish delight) and nice cheeses, nuts and other foods.
Our guide in Cappadocia was Deniz Turgut, a licensed free-lancer who often works with SRM. Deniz has a wealth of knowledge and radiates a wonderful, positive energy. We spent three days with her and felt that we had become good friends. She taught us as much about today's Turkey as she did about the ancient monasteries. When a detailed question stumped Deniz, she researched it at home[INVALID]very helpful! Deniz also arranged lunch with a village family who have recently opened their home for meals. There is no restaurant signage, it's their house, and we sat on the veranda with a lovely view while the kids played nearby. Food was great! We highly recommend seeing Cappadocia with Deniz. And if you get in touch, please mention that you heard about her from Scott and Gary.
Deniz Turgut Licensed guide in English and Spanish +90 (532) 587 47 24 firstname.lastname@example.org ozbucakdenizAThotmailDOTcom
Hotel: We stayed at the new cave hotel SRM is building in Mustaphapasa village, near Goreme, called Sinassos Villas & Cave Suites. They have finished six rooms, and are building more now. Our rooms were charming, spacious, comfortable and quiet. There is a common area with a computer and wifi. Breakfast is at the historic "Old Greek House" next door. SRM hasn't launched a website yet (contact Lale for reservations):
Sinassos Villas & Cave Suites Sahin Caddesi, Vezir Sokak No: 1 Mustafapasha +90 (384) 353 5020 through 5022 email@example.com laleATsrmtravelDOTcom
The Old Greek House hotel and restaurant is charming. The mom grows the herbs, rolls the dolmas, makes the jams. Mustaphapasa is a nice town and interesting to explore.
Yes, go up in a balloon: Everyone told us that, and now we repeat it too. While ballooning is pricey (~US$220 each for a less crowded, longer ride), seeing Cappadocia from the air is worth it. We flew with Deniz's husband, co-owner of Butterfly Balloons. Mustafa did a great job (we saw everything, then landed in the bed of the truck) and he is entertaining too. I understand that he has a travel agency, so Mustafa can probably help with lots of things.
Mustafa Kursad Turgut Butterfly Balloons Phone: +90 (384) 271 30 10 firstname.lastname@example.org mustafaATbutterflyballoonsDOTcom www.butterflyballoons.com
We didn't book a guide for our tour down the Aegean Coast, but we wanted a driver. I was concerned that there might be some language challenges, because Lale couldn't guarantee a driver with strong English. But to our delight, Nuri was great! His self-taught English is extensive and once again we made a local friend. Nuri would ask hotel staff about sights to see in the area and helped us access Turkish food options we wouldn't have found otherwise.
As a driver he was safe and courteous and like Deniz, Nuri shared a lot about his life and events in Turkey. He works for Ertur, an agency in Kusadasi. You could write Nuri directly, or ask for him through the Ertur website. Again, if you get in touch, please mention our names.
Nuri Ezer Driver (and culture guide and, previously, DJ) Phone: +90 (554) 885 45 41 email@example.com dj_noureeeAThotmailDOTcom www.ertur.com
The first two nights on the coast we stayed in the hills above Ephesus, in the village of Sirince. With Sirince as a base, we visited Pergamum and Ephesus. I didn't care much for Sirince (it's touristy and the food was mediocre) and I found the Kirkinca House rooms to be uncomfortable. If I was to do it again, I'd likely try Selcuk instead.
On the way from Sirince to Bodrum (third day) we visited Priene. Then Nuri suggested another stop, at a small, roadside temple site covered in Lonely Planet, but not heavily visited. It's called Euromos, and it was one of my favorite stops of the trip. The temple has columns on two sides and sits in a quiet, forest setting. We were the only people there (even the ticket office was empty). It was fun to explore, and to imagine folks like us coming here in the past to pray or for a festival. Euromos was just one of Nuri's great suggestions.
For us Bodrum is overpriced and overdeveloped but it has a world class underwater archeology museum set in an old Byzantine fort. Don't miss the museum if you are at all interested in the classical world. And there are great views of the twin harbors of Bodrum from the castle walls.
We stayed in the Su (water) Hotel. It was bright, quiet and an easy, 10 minute walk to the marina and restaurants. No TV in the rooms, but they have free wifi and a pool. The hotel is owned by Mr. R. Zafer Kustu, who [INVALID]d the interesting collages in the rooms and hallways.
We had an Asian dinner in Bodrum, at the Hong Kong restaurant on the marina. While a bit expensive, the dishes were well-prepared and very tasty. The chef is from Xian, China (home of the terra cotta warriors).
Su Otel Cad.1201 48400 Bodrum +90 (252) 316 6906 firstname.lastname@example.org suotelATsuperonlineDOTcom www.suhotel.net/eng/default.asp
Next stop was Fethiye. At this point we had entered the Mediterranean (not Aegean) seacoast and were in the heart of ancient Lycia. The Lycians carved elaborate tombs into the cliff faces, and we saw a lot of those. The first were in Dalyan, on the way to Fethiye. In Dalyan you can hire a boat for a two hour tour to see the tombs and the local turtles. But you also can get an excellent view of the tombs from the public park and sidewalk by the river.
Fethiye: we liked Fethiye better than Bodrum[INVALID]it felt more natural and manageable. Note: King Amyntos' tomb in Fethiye looks better from the road than up close where you can see the graffiti.
One thing you must do in Fethiye is have dinner at the fish market. You buy your (very fresh!) fish or shellfish from the market stalls in the center of the square, then carry the raw, cleaned fish a few steps to one of the surrounding restaurants. For TL 5 each person, they cook the fish to order and provide bread and salad. You can buy additional mezes if you need them (the fava bean paste is great) and musicians serenade tables who invite them (for a tip). Our meal at the Fethiye fish market was one of the best of the trip.
In his quest to learn about the area, Nuri gleaned local recommendations for visiting Lycian tombs and other ruins. He drove us to a site in the mountains called Pinara. It was fun hiking over the mountain to see the tombs and well-preserved theater. Again, we were nearly the only people there. Take water with you as there are no services at this slightly remote site (4 km of bad roads).
From our Fethiye base we also hiked in the picturesque "ghost city" of Karakoi, deserted at the time of the great population shift in 1924, when Greeks were forced out of Turkey and Turks out of Greece. The walls remain, but no one has lived there since.
We also visited Xanthos (Lycian, Greek and Roman ruins) where they are discovering new roads and new mosaics every year. As at Ephesus, they have uncovered only a fraction of the site.
Turkey is great, safe and easy. You need to go!
Seattle, WA USA Mon 11/15/2010
Ephesus (Kusadasi port)
If you're cruising into Kusadasi, a guided tour of the Ephesus site is a must. In late October, our half-day van tour for four with an excellent guide and driver cost $200 US plus tip through New Faces Travel, operated by Yasar Karadag (recommended by another traveler). A guided van tour arranged by the cruise ship company would have cost $500. Be sure to see the beautiful mosaics of the Terrace Houses, under the tents next to the Ephesus site. The tour cost covered all admission costs to the sites.
Lakewood, OH USA Sun 11/14/2010
Private tour of Ephesus
My husband and I recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise, during which we stopped in Kusadasi, Turkey where we visited Ephesus. I highly recommend a private tour if you are visiting Ephesus. The site is very large and can seem to just be a jumble of ruins without a guide's explanation. I also highly recommend that you tour the Terrace Houses excavation site in Ephesus. We both considered this the highlight of our tour.
We were very pleased with our tour agency (EKOL Travel) and guide.
Spring, TX USA Tue 11/02/2010
Akbil transit passes
Just got back from a week on Rick Steves' City Tour of Istanbul with Alp, a wonderful guide. One thing he did on our tour's first day was distribute an Akbil transit pass to each of us, loaded up with roughly 20 lira each. If you're planning on spending more than a day or two in Istanbul (read: not descending on Istanbul off of a cruise ship), get an Akbil right away! They're like a key-sized keyfob and you can just pin it to your jacket or pocket and you will never have to stand in line to buy a jeton (token) to ride a tram. Probably the single most convenient thing we found.
Dublin, CA USA Wed 09/29/2010
@Barbara re: rug salesmen
Barbara, our guide told us it is perfectly fine to say "No thanks" (or I guess "Hayir, te?ekkürler") when they talk to you. If they choose to continue to bug you, then it's perfectly fine to ignore them. That way you don't have to feel like you have to avoid their gaze. One guy got me good. We were walking past the Blue Mosque taking a shortcut back to our hotel, when a guy behind us said, "Ma'am, you dropped something!" I turned around and looked at him, and he said, "Your smile!" That made all of us laugh. It's probably the oldest sales pitch in the world but it was still amusing. We just told him "Thank you, but no" and kept walking and it was fine. My husband got approached by rug salesmen constantly because the one splurge in his life was his nice Movado watch, and I guess the guys just honed in on that and assumed we had money. He took it all in stride, though, and would have a conversation with them as they approached him... but he would never stop walking, and after a few back-and-forths he would finally say, "So what are you selling?" and they would tell him, at which point he would say "No thank you." They would all, to a T, tell hubby to have a nice day and they would part amiably.
Dublin, CA USA Wed 09/29/2010
private istanbul tours
We have just returned from our first trip to Turkey. we asked Erkan from www.privateistanbultours.com to organize a private tour for us . He did so and we were more than pleased. We had 4 nights in Istanbul, 2 in Cappadocia, 2 in Kusadasi and 1 night in Gallipoli. Our transfers, tours, hotels and internal flights were all efficient and well coordinated. Our drivers and guides were excellent.. knowledgeable and very accommodating. An excellent company and very cost efficient as well.
Melbourne, Australia Sat 09/25/2010
Eastern Turkey on my own
Last year I traveled to Eastern Turkey. I loved it. The Kurdish people are so generous and kind. My favorite city is Van but I enjoyed Kars as well. While based in Kars I took a side trip out to Ani. Ani is the beautiful ruins of the great Armenian capital. I visited in May and the area was covered in wild flowers. One tip for finding hotels in the East of Turkey. Use the Lonley Planet book to find the general area but do NOT stay in any of the hotels they recommend. Maybe when they recommeded the hotels they were OK but I found them to be dirty and double or triple the cost of hotels across the street or next door. Use the book as a general gide to where hotels are located but then find your own lodgings. Also look at the room first and if you stay more then one night ask for a 20 or 30 percent discount. I found Eastern Turkey to be very safe and a wonderful experience! I traveled alone. I am a woman i my 40s
houston, tx USA Thu 08/26/2010
Izmir Shore Excursion
We took a fantastic Izmir, Turkey shore excursion provided by Izmir's Piramit Tour Travel www.ephesusruins.com www.izmirshoreexcursions.com Staff were efficient, had the best price, and the itinerary was great. Showed us the hightlights of Izmir. Since we had an early start, we were ahead of the big bus crowds and this made for pleasant sight seeing. We finished the tour early, and in addition to the itinerary, they drove us around beautiful Selcuk and we took the scenic coastal route on the way back to the cruise ship.
Pierce County, WA USA Thu 07/08/2010
Turkey Trip Report
Turkey is one of the most wonderful countries to travel to - I made a solo trip there in 2007 and found it to be not only incredibly beautiful and diverse, but the people were friendly and the food absolutely wonderful (and very inexpensive!). I kept a blog of my 2 week trip there if anyone is interested in reading it. It has lots of travel tips and photos - just go to http://mardeeinturkey.wordpress.com
Cincinnati, OH USA Sun 07/04/2010
Istanbul Hotel recommendation
Istanbul with my husband and adult daughter: Stayed at the Ada Hotel in Old Sultanahmet: http://www.adaistanbul.com/ Luxurious boutique hotel, so close to the Blue Mosque and major sites, yet on a quiet little street. We splurged for the full view of the Marmara Sea and it was worth every Turkish Lira. Thick white towels, spacious room, comfortable bed with gorgeous linens. Dr. S encouraged us to visit sites that he felt we would appreciate and he was right. He steered us to good restaurants and helped us navigate local transportation, including the ferry up the Bosphorous. His wife welcomed us every morning, along with her staff for a bountiful breakfast: French pressed coffee, Turkish teas, elegant egg, potato & cheese dishes with lots of fresh fruit; all overlooking the sea. The calls to prayer at the mosques in front of the hotel were beautiful and magical.. the seagulls flew around the night-lit minarets. We highly recommend this lovely hotel. A lot of people write about the aggressive sales people. Our experience was that the first day were were agog at all the sites and got approached. The next days we were more purposeful and didn't get the same response at all. It became fun and we got into lots of good discussions with sales people and restaurant people. Must see: Baptistry Cisterns.
Los Altos, CA USA Wed 06/16/2010
Just returned from 13 day Turkey tour. Fantastic in every way. Really, really aggressive and annoyeing rug salesmen will start with the question, "Can I ask you a question", then move on to tell you about their cousin in your town, and then to give you tea, and then to the HARD sell of a rug, (Also applies to pottery, etc., etc.) When first in Istanbul I was really annoyed and angry about the constant barrage. Returning to Istanbul after the tour, I had learned enough Turkish, and rid myself of my attitude, and just laughed it off. One tactic I learned, never utter. out loud a positive comment on a window display, or they will be on you! Hope you also learn to say no effectively.
Seattle, WA USA Mon 05/03/2010
I just returned from a one month vacation in Europe. I wish I had taken a Rick Steves tour. Here's the best advice I can give anyone: 1) Don't ever trust anyone else to plan your trip, especially your mom's aunt. 2) Make sure YOU book a tour IN ENGLISH -- my crazy psychotic aunt booked a 7 day tour of Turkey where everyone spoke GERMAN. I could not understand a single word!!!! 3) Make sure you travel with normal human beings, NOT an escapee from a mental institution (my psychotic aunt in Germany). I will never ever allow anyone else to make travel arrangements for me.
Los Angeles, CA USA Tue 04/06/2010
This is to say thank you very much for all your support during our trip Gallipoli- Troy and Ephesus. We spent a wonderful time in your country, and we were able to know a lot about your people, culture, places and ways of life. I think we can recommend your ( http://www.allistanbultours.com ) to our friends. Our best regards Waterman and family.
New York, USA Wed 03/17/2010
All that male attention!
I ADORE TURKEY....ESPECIALLY ISTANBUL!!!! My tips are to the women planning to go to TUrkey...
I traveled solo (28 year old female) and I had the time of my life! I felt safe and happy the whole time. Yes, its true, the men were VERY attentive...I had more offers for dates, marriage and romance in one walk past the Blue Mosque than I have had my entire life ;) The most common intro was "Can I ask you just one question?...." To which I would smile and shake my head "no." Honestly, it was a blast! Lots of women talk about this attention like its a bad and scary or even "harassment" kind of thing. Thats SO not what it is! Its just a fun and different cultural thing. I just smiled or laughed and walked on. Its all in your attitude. With a smile and no thanks, they left me alone. And the fun part is, some of these guys are drop dead gorgeous...models.....the kind of guys that you would never think would approach you back home :) Single, married, whatever - it can be flattering if you chose to let it be....and both funny and fun at the same time. My tip is to just enjoy it for what it is...don't feel stressed about it.... and then you'll be able to truly enjoy the amazing cultural and historical beauty in this fabulous country!
claremont, ca USA Mon 03/15/2010
I loved the our Turkey trip, have never done a group tour before and really enjoyed the group atmosphere! We have been in istanbul, gallipoli, ephesus, cappadocia, pamukkale and troy. Our tour operator was new deal travel agency in istanbul and I booked on their web www.newdealtravel.net We enjoyed every went of our stay, and we will definitly go back.
Sydney, AUST Wed 02/17/2010
Christmas in Constantinople
I have always wanted to visit Constantinople and could manage to go there during Xmas holiday .What can I say,,amazing place..I was expecting snow but it was sunny for almost all the time I was there.Since I had just two days I used a guide to do sightseeing and I am impressed with the knowledge of that young fella.So I want to recommend him to anyone going to Constantinople.His name is Oskan and his web address is constantinopleguide.com thanks again Oskan
New York, NY Turkey Tue 01/19/2010
Turkey tourist Guides
We very much enjoyed our visit to Istanbul. Hotel was good and tour pick ups were all right on time. Thank you for your great attention to detail which made for a very enjoyable and stress free trip. Would recommend http://www.turkeytouristguides.com and especially mr.can for anyone thinking about a trip to Turkey..
New Jersey, NJ USA Wed 01/06/2010