A plug for Turkey -- Istanbul and beyond!
Just got back from an independent trip to Turkey and loved it!
Good hotels for 60-70 euros in the Sirkeci neighborhood, 10 minutes in either direction from the Galata Bridge and Hagia Sophia/Blue Mosque.
Didn't drink the tap water but did eat the street food, and never got sick. Loved Rick's Old Town Backstreets Walk for a less-touristy view of Istanbul.
Amazing area, much like the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland in terms of natural beauty, culture, and tourist-friendliness. Stay in Goreme to be near all the action. Definitely spring for a hot air balloon flight. Goreme Inn Hotel was a great place to stay.
Consider taking a tour with pickup from airport or port, but know that any tour will include stops at carpet and ceramic workshops, whether or not it's in their printed itinerary. We liked Ephesus Deluxe. Used the dolmus (minibus) system to get to the airport in Izmir, and it couldn't have been simpler or cheaper.
Indredibly friendly people, low prices and delicious food. Hope more folks consider adding Turkey to their itineraries!
Northern California 6/28/12
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