Turkey – The Ultimate Travel Guide

It was never a planned trip; my girlfriend and I wanted to go for a vacation in the summers to beat the Delhi heat. We were very confused about where to travel and decided to make a list of destinations, both within India and abroad that would fit our budget (we weren’t looking to splurge). While browsing through the last minute deals on the Internet, we came across options like Bali, Far East, Middle East, and Sri Lanka, but nothing really appealed to us. Turkey- Turkish Delight!

It took me some time trying to convince my girlfriend who isn’t much of a history or culture enthusiast, but I didn’t lose hope. I showed her pictures of the Blue Mosque, Cotton Castle, the Hot Air Balloon ride, and before I knew it she was sold for the idea! We selected the 6 nights’ Best of Turkey group tour package, chose our date of travel, and made all necessary payments.

Turkey | The Holiday Begins

The itinerary for our holiday in Turkey included Kusadasi, Ephesus city, Pamukkale, Konya, Cappadocia, and Istanbul. We made sure to pack some Indian snacks, just in case we felt homesick. A piece of advice: If you are vegetarian, it is advisable to carry packets of ready-made Indian food and snacks since you will only find it in Istanbul and Cappadocia. Upon arrival in Izmir, we met our tour representative. It took us an hour to reach our hotel in Kusadasi. Our room had a lovely balcony and overlooked the gorgeous Aegean Sea. After freshening up, we headed for an early dinner and then to the promenade to get a taste of Kusadasi’s nightlife. Despite having stuffed ourselves at dinner we couldn’t resist the local food of seashells with lemon, available at a street-side restaurant. We ended our meal with Turkish ice cream and coffee at a local bistro.

Visiting an Ancient City and the Cotton Castle

The next day, after enjoying breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Ephesus, a city now in ruins and dating back to the Roman era. We spent about 3 hours while our guide told us more about the city, its people and their lifestyle. We also saw the statue of Hercules, Goddess Nike, the Library of Ephesus, and a huge amphitheater that could seat more than 5000 people at any given point in time. Afterward, we went to the coffee shop outside for fresh juice of farm oranges and other fruits- absolutely refreshing!

Pamukkale was the next destination on our itinerary. This World Heritage Site is known for its hot springs and travertine pools. Make sure to carry your swimsuits along to enjoy the hot springs. We could have easily spent hours soaking in the mineral-rich water of these pools while enjoying the scenic beauty. Pamukkale has another attraction known as Cleopatra’s Pool (entrance fee involved) but to be honest, you can skip this and spend more time in the natural springs. While exiting you may encounter a man selling an instrument to call upon birds. I personally liked it and bought one for myself. Later we checked into our hotel in Pamukkale, which was in the middle of a farm, freshened up, and headed for a swim in the heated pool in the hotel. Dinner consisted of mostly local cuisine, with good options for desserts. Post dinner, there was Turkish Belly Dancing organized by the hotel in the lobby which caught us all by surprise. It was fun to see many guests participating in the act. The next day was going to be the longest (approximately 8 hours) but the most scenic drive of our trip, as we were headed to Cappadocia, a valley known for its unique landscape.

A Stopover in the Town of the Whirling Dervishes

We woke up early the next morning, all excited about visiting Cappadocia, a place many of us had heard so much about. The long drive was also a great opportunity to get acquainted with the rest of the folks on the coach. En route, we saw flowering cherry trees, olive groves, pomegranate trees, and orange trees. On our way, we stopped in a small town called Konya, “Town of the Whirling Dervishes”, and more famously Rumi. The Mevlana Museum in Konya’s top attraction and even though it wasn’t included in the itinerary the coach stopped for 30 minutes for those interested in going inside. My girlfriend and I chose to admire the facade from outside and clicked lots of pictures.

Fairy Chimneys, Underground Cities and Hot Air Balloon Rides

We reached Cappadocia in the evening and checked into our hotel. The hotel was tucked away from the hustle-bustle of the city, the rooms were cozy and the view was that of the hills and the city. The dinner served in the hotel was a delight for vegetarians and non-vegetarians and included potatoes (Cappadocia is best known for its potatoes, fruits, and wine), a corn dish and rice, and many other options. Exhausted after the long day we decided to call it a night. Tomorrow we were going on the Hot Air Balloon ride! At around 4:30 am we got a wake-up call from the reception. Sleepy eyed, but excited nonetheless we waited for the escort to come to take us to the balloon company office.  After making the payment we had a light breakfast of tea and biscuits and waited our turn. We were taken in a jeep to the spot where the flight would take off. There were innumerable colored balloons and the site gave us goosebumps. As our flight took off we looked down to see the scenery and it reminded me of a canvas by Vinci. It was nothing like we’d ever seen before. After the magical experience, we returned to our hotel for breakfast, freshened up, and were all set for the rest of the day. We started off with Pigeon Valley, then made our way to Mushroom Valley and finally to Kaymakli Underground City.

The experience at Mushroom valley and Kaymakli underground city were out of the world. The views from here are exceptional. At Kaymakli we learned how people used to survive the cold weather and battles by hiding in these cities (Cappadocia has 36 of them!) for years. They even had ventilation ducts to provide fresh air deep within the underground city. By the end of all the sightseeing, we were really tired and went for lunch and then back to our hotel to relax for a while. The plan for the evening was to enjoy a traditional Turkish Night in a cave restaurant, which included an extravagant cultural show of folk performances and of course belly dancing.

Soaking in Turkey’s Rich Culture and Dynamic History

The next day we checked out of our hotel and boarded the flight to Istanbul. We arrived around noon and headed directly to our hotel. After check-in and freshening up, my girlfriend and I along with another couple from our group decided to explore this bustling city. Our first stop was going to be the famous Taksim Square, Turkey. Our guide suggested we use the metro to get there. We walked around the square, a famous spot for demonstrations and protests, before wandering off to Istiklal Street. The agenda was simple: To eat Turkish Doner rolls, Chi Kebabs, and of course enjoy Turkish sheesha with tea and traditional ice cream. We roamed around for a couple of hours soaking in the local culture and sights of Istanbul. For dinner, we decided to go to Musafir (an Indian restaurant in Taksim Square). A favorite with Indian tourists, the food here is delicious and I would highly recommend their Dal Makhani and Paneer Do Pyaaza. All dishes are served in a  traditional way with accompaniments like pickle, chutney, onion, and green chilies.

The next day we went for the Bosphorous Cruise and saw many places of interest including ancient wooden mansions, palaces, and small fishing villages. Later, we visited the Spice Market where you will find not only spices and dry fruits but also souvenirs, Turkish tea, Itr (perfume oil), replica watches, shoes, and branded clothes. Be sure to bargain while you shop here. Here’s another suggestion: If you are looking to buy gifts for friends and family, do all your shopping here as the prices in Grand Bazaar will be more expensive. Afterward, we went to Sultanahmet to visit Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Hagia Sofia, and Grand Bazaar. Having worked up quite an appetite from all the sightseeing, we decided to go for lunch to yet another Indian restaurant called Dubb.

When in Turkey don’t miss out on Hammam or the Turkish bath, which is still a major part of the local culture. I must admit the experience is once in a lifetime and is highly recommended.

Another Great Holiday Comes to an End

The next day, after breakfast, my girlfriend and I headed to a local market near the hotel for shopping. To our surprise, we ended up shopping for 10 handbags, all together for 100 liras only! Since we still had some time before heading to the airport for our flight back home, a few of us decided to visit Topkapi Palace. Not many people know, that it is the largest and oldest palace in the world to survive to our day.
As we sat on the plane back home, my girlfriend and I couldn’t help but smile about our week in Turkey. We were not only taking back memories from Turkey but also new friendships to last a lifetime.

More from Author – JORDAN

Frequently Asked Questions About Places To Visit In Turkey

Q. Is Turkey safe for tourists amidst coronavirus outbreak?

A. So far, there has been no report of any coronavirus cases in the country. Among many other countries, Turkey has taken strict measures to keep the situation under control. People who have recently visited or taken a transit through China are not allowed to enter the country. Other tourists have no cause to worry.

Q. Which cities should I visit in Turkey?

A. Ankara, Izmir, Istanbul, and Antalya are some of the cities that you must visit in Turkey. However, there are many other things to do in Turkey too that you shouldn’t miss out on.

Q. What can you see in Turkey in 7 days?

A. There is so much to see in Turkey that you would be mesmerized. You can visit the Blue Mosque, take a natural Sauna at the Pamukkale Thermal Pools, see the beautiful Hagia Sophia and learn about Turkey’s history, check out Ankara Castle, explore the Ruins of Ephesus and much more.

Q. What is the most beautiful place in Turkey?

A. It is difficult to pinpoint one beautiful destination in Turkey but one must explore Ankara, Patara, Temple of Hadrian, and Antalya as they are some of the most beautiful best places to visit in Turkey which one cannot miss to explore.

Q. Is Turkey expensive to visit?

A. No, Turkey is not a place where you will have to splurge and you can explore, stay and eat there on a shoestring budget.

Q. Do I need a visa for Turkey?

A. Yes, a visa is important for traveling to Turkey. However, you must take care of the fact that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your arrival date and at least 3 months during leaving the country.

Q. How do you dress in Turkey?

A. You will find that people wear whatever they want in this country. There are no restrictions on wearing anything that you like. But you must wear full clothes while going to a mosque as that is a prayer place for Muslims.

Q. How dangerous is Turkey?

A. Turkey is just like any other country and there is no danger visiting it. However, you must stay a bit cautious in a new country.

Q. Where do couples go in Turkey?

A. All couples must explore these places in Turkey – Istanbul, Antalya, Pamukkale, Kusadasi, and Marmaris.

Q. What is Turkey famous for?

A. Turkey is popular for its beautiful mosques, splendid natural attractions, food, textiles, and its culture that is a fusion of European and Asian influences.

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