Bergama Theatre Bergama Trajan Temple Dalyan Lycian Tombs Kaprulu Kanyon Afrodisias Tetrapylon Demre Beach Ortahisar Volcanic Plug Goreme Sunset View Yoruk Turquoise Treasures and Volcanic Vistas draw Travellers to Turkey
All photos copyright © 2014 Terra Encounters All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 30 May 2015

West Turkey Itinerary

Terra Encounters Turkey Trip 31 days

Overall, this was one of our best-ever vacation trips.  This is because of the friendliness and hospitality of the people and not just the sights.  Our trip summary gives the best places to go, in our opinion, for a 31-day trip.  We have also attached stars to each destination to give a sense of what is most worthwhile seeing.  Our ratings take into account the many places we have seen around the world.
Because this trip report is very long, we have split our itinerary into two segments so that those of you who only have a couple of weeks can use one or the other.  Do not ask which is better: all the places we visited in Turkey were good choices.  But first, we will cover some of the logistics. 


Every traveller goes to hotels at the standard of living s/he desires and the budget they have.  We prefer places that provide good value.  We did not go to the cheapest places like when we backpacked around the world.  We chose to stay in family-run or small hotels (sometimes called pansiyon in Turkish).  In the off-season, we could go to places that in high season would be much more costly.  Istanbul and Bursa are more expensive: we averaged TRY 192/day in low season.  In the rest of the country, we averaged TRY 128/day for a double.

Travel Pace

Once you decide on your primary destination, you should assign at least three nights and preferably four to it.  In our case, we chose four nights in Istanbul and Göreme.  Then with the remaining days, you can determine the number of additional stopovers by using our rule of thumb of a minimum of two nights for each destination since at least half a day of that is required for travel.  Even though we had 31 days, there are always choices to be made.  Turkey is the size of Britain and France combined. 

Each place listed below is described in more detail along with photos in our posts on the Terra Encounters blog.  All underlined text below are hyperlinks that will take you directly to the most relevant post.  

For shorter trips, it is recommended that you focus on one geographic area reducing the number of places as well as travel time.  On the other hand, you may be able to add some of the other places we considered on our More Places page. 

Travel Mode

For this 3700 km trip, we rented a car.  Yes, that is very expensive, especially with the TRY 4.60/liter gas.  Some Aussie travellers had a neat idea.  They travelled between major destinations by public transport.  Then they rented a car to do side trips to national parks and more remote places.

West Turkey Itinerary

For a visual overview of the first part of our trip, see Itinerary Map 1.  

Istanbul **** 4 nights

Spent 8 nights in IST altogether: Yes, there is that much to see but on a shorter trip, you can spend less time here by reducing what you do. The following is what we saw in the first stay there. 
Sirkeci Mansion
AIRPORT: very inefficient, very long lineups to go through security and immigration.  Allow sufficient time.

HOTEL: Hotel Ilkay upgraded to Sirkeci Mansion **** great location, fabulous staff, like having personal travel advisors, unbelievable breakfasts.  Book directly to get free airport shuttle for a long (4 day) stay.
Live Like a Sultan
Topkapi Palace Paradise – definitely worth a day.  There is a separate ticket the Harem.  We would highly recommend it if you have the time.  Here you will see close up the beautiful Iznik tiles and carved wood decorations where the Sultan's family lived.  It is also useful to go there when everywhere else is so busy and then go to the jewel and weapon rooms (the most congested areas) at the end of the day.  

Hagia Sophia Dome-ination
Dome of Dreams 
the most significant dome and building of the Byzantine era that influenced Ottoman and thus Islamic architecture

Istanbul Archaeology Museums – meet Alexander the Great, Iznik tiles, and other important artefacts that talk about the impact of Turkey on the world

St. Peter

Chora Church Mosaics – magnificent Byzantine gold mosaics

Süleymaniye Mosque Dome-ination – incredible domes of this Ottoman masterpiece

Spice Market – buy delicious Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi kahve (coffee), Turkish Delight, and hazelnuts

We did all the museumsat one time because the weather was cold and dreary and we bought the Museum Card.  We do not recommend the card.  You are limited to five days, can only go to each museum once, and must visit all museums at one time.  Not many tourists want to spend all their time indoors.  Secondly, there is no discount if you only go to the top three places.  Any National Park card gives unlimited visits over a significant timeframe at a significant discount.

Bursa ** 2 nights

HOTEL: Hampton by Hilton very modern, business like, north of downtown, free parking, VG self-serve breakfast
Emerald Wonder

Green Mosque & Tomb *** – it is really Yeşil Türbe (Green Tomb)  opposite the mosque that blew us away and is the must-see with its unbelievable shades of green, so do not miss it!


Cumalikizik, Bursa – Ottoman Delight ** – the first is a small, old Ottoman village (do not expect incredible architecture like the wealthier Safranbolu but it was pleasant walk in the off-season when there were very few tourists) and the second is the old walled district of Bursa with nice views from the ramparts near the Türbe.

Acrophobics Avoid!
Bergama ** 1 night

HOTEL: Red Basilica very nice manager, E breakfast, good location

Pergamum Acropolis ** – loved the spectacular setting and the precipitous theatre

Selçuk *** 3 nights

HOTEL: Homeros Pension – great place, location, decor, and breakfast; can easily meet other travellers in dining/living room; we even ate supper here just for that reason

Famous building was a library
Ephesus *** – the top archaeological site of Turkey but overrun with tourists; spent all day here; actually is busiest from the opening until lunch then much less people the rest of the day

Şirince * – old Greek town famous for white-washed houses, wine, et al.; spent afternoon of our arrival day here
Ionic Columns are from Ionia
Priene – Connection to Architecture? *,
Miletus – What is a Vomitorium? *,
Didyma and the God Apollo – these ancient ruins are all close together but require a car or a tour; we spent all day and did not have enough time to visit Lake Bafu.

What's a Tetrapylon?

Afrodisias – Archaeology Aphrodisiac ***

If you have a car, you can visit nearby Afrodisias, on the way to Pamukkale.  However, it is very difficult to get to by dolmuş.  Rent a car or take a tour.  It is one of the nicest archaeological sites in Turkey with some actual buildings still standing or reconstructed!  Itsfairly compact size gives a very good idea what an Ancient Roman city looked like.  Needs a half day.

Pamukkale – 2 nights

First day was Afrodisias and travel time; so we really had only one day here. 

HOTEL: Melrose House Hotel very warm owners, good conversations, E breakfasts and suppers
Where has all the water gone?
Pamukkale Terraces notice no stars.  Only a few places in Turkey were disappointing.  The Pamukkale Terraces were very disheartening with hardly any water in the "thermal pools".  They are not worth the price of admission. 
Most of the water goes into pools that visitors can walk into.  I am sure this appeals to many tourists but it is not what a thermal area should look like.  If you want to see thermal areas go to Whakarewarewa (Rotorua), Orakei Korako (New Zealand) or Yellowstone National Park (USA). 
Theatre Stage

Hierapolis Ruins ** especially the theatre ***

However, Pamukkale admission also includes the Hierapolis Ruins, which were a pleasant surprise.  The theatre made the price of admission.

Dalyan ** 1 night

Lycian Tombs

Dalyan was one place that deserved more time – not for the laid-back town but for the places nearby.  This is a case where one day really is only a half day at your destination.  If it were beach weather, wouldn't you want to spend time swimming at one of the best beaches in Turkey? 

Iztuzu Beach ** –  Trip Advisor ranks it as one of the top 25 beaches in the world!

Kaunos Lycian Tombs *** –  spectacular, high up on a tall cliff.  But who are the Lycians?  Click the link to find the surprising answer. 

Kaş *** 2 nights

HOTEL: Hideaway Hotel was one of the best in TR; E breakfast with a terrace view, E coffee

On the way there: Ölüdeniz – overrated, narrow beach with the sea that is not as turquoise as in the over saturated photos in the tourist brochures

Soft Sand Patara
Patara *** – best beach we saw in Turkey, a world class beach with historically significant ruins – the site of the world's first parliament, whose constitution has influenced most democracies

Kaputaş Beach * – cute beach in a cliff-enclosed cove fringed with turquoise water; near to Kaş so probably dolmuş to get there

Off-season Kaş 
Old Kaşsmall but enjoyable with overhanging balconies and plants

Kaş Market – every Friday, be sure to eat here the gözleme

View high up from park on road going down from main highway; Çukurbağ Peninsula; Old Roman Theatre

Kekova Kaarst
Day Trips: Kekova Sound *** spectacular karst scenery but need car so you can stop for views, else book a boat trip over sunken ruins

Could easily spend more time in Kaş, a great "vacation from the vacation" spot

Kiyi Hospitality

Çıralı 1 night

HOTEL: Kiyi Pension E owners, fantastic so meals, so welcoming

Çıralı itself could be skipped but we had a great stay on a farm B&B.  Beach is pebbly and overrated.

Turquoise Treasure

On the way to Çıralı:
Demre - Turquoise Coast Treasures for perhaps the most beautiful turquoise sea views **
Next Post: Spicy Istanbul
Last Post:  Kool Kadıköy

Saturday, 23 May 2015


Kool Kadıköy

Bye Bye Beyoğlu
Kadıköy is the "real" Istanbul that resides across the busy Bosphorus in Asia.  Sultanahmet is mainly for tourists and workers in the tourist industry.  Kadıköy is where the locals work and play.  The shops and markets are for the locals.  Live music is a passion captured in a video below.  
Crowd watching us leave

Unlike Southern Turkey, Istanbul was mainly dreary if not rainy in March.  But today it was gloriously sunny and we had finished our planned day a bit early at 15:00 h.  So we decided to take our first ferry trip across the Bosphorus to Asia.  That was mistake number one.  We would have loved to spend more time in Kadıköy.  Many Turks came to see us off! 

Galata Tower

Mistake #2 was that the afternoon is not a good time to get views of the skyline of historic Istanbul.  Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque were backlit as the ferry sped away from the historic district.  Moreover, the ferry does not travel along the shore of the Sultanahmet peninsula. 
We did have great views of Beyoğlu.  The most impressive landmark is the Galata Tower.  Even today, this is still one of the most photogenic views of the otherwise overly modern and blah cityscape.  
Galata Tower
At nine stories, Galata Tower was the highest building in Ottoman times. But wait, that tower looks Italian?  The Romanesque tower was built in 1348 by Genoa, who were rewarded for their support of the Byzantine Empire vs. arch-rival Venice.  Genoa controlled this area until the Ottomans took over Constantinople in 1453.  Beyoğlu, which was outside of Istanbul in those days, was where embassies and foreigners lived even today.


Today was not for seeing sites even though Kadıköy is the location of the Ancient Greek city of Chalcedon.  It also became part of the Ottoman Empire 100 years before the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.  We never realized that 1453 marked the fall of the city of Constantinople; Anatolia had long been part of the Ottoman Empire.
Our Welcoming Ceremony


Once we got off the ferry (vapuru), we walked through the busy quay to the right.  There were young kids performing to make some money.  It was a different atmosphere.  It was not clear where we were going but we went with the other people across the busy intersection to Söğütlü Çeşme Cd (çeşme means fountain) then turned right onto a small lane and then left.



Yasa Caddesi

Boy Band

We probably walked southeast on Yasa Caddesi (Law Street).  This brought us to a junction where there was a large group of people listening to live music.  An all-male band were singing songs to the crowd.

Live from Kadıköy!

Güneşli Bahçe Sokak 

Street Music
In theory, we were heading for Ciya Sofrasi Restaurant. Make sure you bypass the Ciya Sofrasi Express (kebab) place on the right and go to the more popular and earlier place on the left.

In reality, we were immersed in the everyday life of a big city.  We went SE one more block to Güneşli Bahçe Sokak.   
Street Market
The sokak (street) was little more than a pedestrian only lane.  Güneşli Bahçe is an appropriate name since it means sunny garden. 

Suddenly we were in a dense street food market.  This is the place to get things. The colourful market had mounds of colourful spices, fresh fish and vibrant fruits and vegetables. 
Fish neatly laid out

So what's for supper?  At the fishmonger, you can buy levrek (perch) for 18 TL/kg, uskumru (mackerel) for 8 TL/kg, or Karadeniz somon (Black Sea salmon) for 14 TL/kg. 

Street Snacks
At the fruit stalls, you can purchase yeşil armut (green pears), dut (mulberry), and portakal (oranges) for 3.50 TL/kg.
Green Pears


Are these vine leaves for hakiki (real)? 
At other stalls, you can purchase cizik zeytin (green olives) for 19.80 TL/kg, biberli zeytin (olives stuffed with peppers) 16.80 TL/kg,  hakiki tokat yaprak (genuine tokat leaf) for 11.00 TL/kg, and many other fruits and vegetables. 
What is a tokat leaf anyways, anybody know?  It's seems much bigger than the stuffed vine leaves at home. 

Next Post: Istanbul