Turkey’s unique geographical location, straddled between Europe and Asia, almost guarantees its cosmopolitan and diverse nature. Its rich history charms and excites while its modernity ensures utmost comfort. Once a part of the Silk Road, the mercantile character of the country remains. However, the stunning landscapes of the countryside also beckon. So, imagine yourself as a Ottoman trader as you meander through the streets of bustling Istanbul. Be transported to an alien landscape as you traverse Cappadocia, travel back in time to the ancient cities of Ephesus or take a stroll along the turquoise coast of Antalya.
Start your journey in Istanbul. As a bustling transportation hub, you should have no problems getting an international flight!
Here, don’t forget to check out the world-famous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia (also known as the Aya Sofya) and the Grand Bazaar.
You can choose to buy an Istanbul tourist pass, which includes the admission tickets for all of the attractions in Istanbul. It also comes with complimentary airport transfer, free Wi-Fi (through a portable router) and other great deals. However, it is a little pricey (609 TRY/150 EUR/160 USD for a 3 day pass for adults and 304 TRY/75 EUR/80 USD for children), so if time is not in your favour, feel free to explore on your own.
My personal favourite was the Basilica Cistern, which was recently made famous by Dan Brown’s Inferno. The spectacular views from the Galata Tower are not to be missed.
I would recommend a stay in the Sultanahmet, a neighbourhood near the old square of Istanbul, as it is within walking distance to most of the cultural and historical sites, which makes public transport unnecessary. It’s always fun to explore the city by foot as well!
After 3 (hopefully) eventful days in Istanbul, hop on a flight to Cappadocia. Home of the famous love valley (for its phallic “fairy-chimneys”) as well as other picturesque sites, Cappadocia is a haven for nature lovers. You may want to explore the various valleys by foot or by bike. For those who seek adventure, why not gallop through Cappadocia on horseback or on a gas guzzling ATV?
While here, don’t forget to take a hot-air balloon ride and watch the sunrise over Cappadocia. While understandably “mainstream”, hot-air ballooning is definitely not overrated. It’s on most people’s bucket-list for a reason — it’s a simply stunning experience like no other. Hot-air ballooning is the only way to catch a panoramic view of the entire valley (which valley depends on wind direction on the day you are flying) and unimaginable views. Of course, it comes with a hefty price tag with prices ranging from 711 TRY/175 EUR/~185 USD (for 60 mins) to 975 TRY/240 EUR/~255 USD (for 90 mins) per person but I guarantee it’s worth it! Most flights also come with a buffet breakfast and a glass of champagne too!
Other experiences to check out are the Ilhara Valley (also one of my favourites), Uchisar castle and the underground caves. If you’re a history buff, the open-air museum of Goreme, which chronicles the early churches in Cappadocia, may be a must-do for you too. Its open from 8 am until 7 pm and will set you back 25 TRY (6.15 EUR/~6.50 USD)
Here, I would recommend finding accommodation in the small town of Goreme, which is centrally located and easy to get around. Don’t forget to stay in the magical cave houses!
Now that you’ve seen some ridiculous scenery in Cappadocia and experienced the bustle of Istanbul, let’s go to the Mediterranean town of Izmir. Home of various Greek and Roman ruins, you can find famous relics such as the Temple of Artemis (although it’s really, barely there), the House of Virgin Mary and the Basilica of St. John.
The white travertines of Pamukkale are a 3-hour ride away, which makes Izmir a great hub for some day-trips as well. Fair warning though, you will not be the only one trying to snap a new profile picture with the white backdrop, and the hot springs are only lukewarm at best.
The accommodation options in Izmir are lacklustre because of its relatively recent development as a tourist attraction, so don’t expect excellent service.
You might be interested in these Airbnbs!
So there you have it!
Turkey is a wonderful place to visit and explore. It is culturally rich and diverse, which makes it an experience like no other. Cappadocia was certainly my favourite part of the trip and I know I will be back someday! I hope this itinerary and guide was useful to you and gave you some ideas for you to plan an amazing trip!
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