Where else should we go? (To Hell not an option.)
January 18, 2011 7:25 AM   Subscribe

What goes well with Turkey? (Or would you rather I hold the cheese?)

Looking for trip advice. Am planning to go to Istanbul in early August with the missus. In addition to some day trips, I think I would like us to go somewhere else as well. We like cities, mostly for walking around and looking at churches/buildings/monuments/ruins/any natural wonders/similar attractions, and eating. I'm wondering whether there's a place that fits that description within a couple hours of Istanbul by plane where we might spend two or three days. For example, I'd love to do Munich or Frankfurt with a day trip, except the flight's longer than I'd like. My best idea right now is doing parts of Greece. I think I was hoping not to pair Greece with Turkey because I'd like to visit someplace more different from Istanbul, but probably Greek islands/etc. (if not necessarily cuisine) are plenty different.

Also, any tips for Istanbul day trips? If we're not going to spend too too much time shopping, and none in museums, how much time should we allot for Istanbul? Are Ephesus and Pamukkale doable in one day? Would 24 hours be plenty for Cappadocia? If we're getting there by plane, do we want more time, so we can spend some in Ankara? Are any of those places not worth the trip? Are other places better?

I've read some of the other threads looking for Turkey/Greece travel advice, and will research some of what I've found there, but would still love recommendations of places people are vouching for; the arguments are always so compelling.

Thanks very much for any feedback.
posted by troywestfield to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'd suggest two days in Cappadocia. Also, make sure you budget ample time for the Topkapi Palace museum and the bazaars. Both are overwhelmingly large and dense and full of cool stuff.

If possible, I suggest visiting another city on your way in or out in the form of an extended layover or nested flights (often times you can find better deals on a US to Europe flight plus a Europe to Istanbul flight than directly US to istanbul).
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:56 AM on January 18, 2011

I just came back from Istanbul where I very briefly visited (4 days) on a side trip from a holiday to Budapest. Sort of a non-traditional pairing but I like the business of Istanbul and the laid back seemingly smallness of Budapest (in comparison).

You can try wizzair (wizzair.com) for serious budget flights out of Istanbul. Also by train, you can get to Belgrade overnight from Istanbul which was part of my original itinerary. Have heard great things about Belgrade but rescheduled that stop.

Have also heard great things about the other parts of Turkey -- in the east. You can take the orient express to the border (or as near to the border as you'd like to go -- it's either Iraq or Iran -- not sure of train route). Turkey outside of Istanbul is supposed to be more laid back and a bit less westernized. Also there are hollowed out volcanic mounds which can be booked as guest houses that sound very neat.

Have hostel rec & travel Istanbul suggestions if you'd like.
posted by countrymod at 8:00 AM on January 18, 2011

I holidayed in Turkey in September. Istanbul is great for wandering around, but if you're not visiting museums, three or four days will likely be enough. If you like boats, you should take one of the tours up the Bosphorus. They're easy to book from your hotel and it's a nice wee trip. More Istanbul tips in this previous AskMe. I would definitely second the suggestion in that thread to have a sundowner at the Ceylan InterContinental at Taksim Square to enjoy the view over the old city.

As far as Ephesus is concerned, I would not recommend trying to combine it with Pamukkale. We had a day trip to Ephesus (from Bodrum) which was really good, but I strongly suspect that trying to combine it with Pamukkale in a single day would results in a rushed and unsatisfying experience.
posted by Jakey at 8:03 AM on January 18, 2011

For staying within Turkey: I spent 3 days in Istanbul with (Turkish) friends who knew the city well, and with a hired guide, and I felt like we barely scratched the surface. We did the major sites - Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Grand Bazaar - and those between them already filled up most of that time (Topkapi Palace can be most of a day by itself). We weren't in a hurry and could probably have done some of it faster, though. (Turkish meals can take hours. You eat several courses, have two or three cups of tea, say, "We should probably get going now," and then order another cup of tea. It's amazing.)

I loved, loved, loved Cappadocia and would recommend more than 24 hours there. If you're looking for "different from Istanbul" you'll certainly get it. We stayed in Nevsehir and traveled around from there. Nearby are Avanos, which is a lovely old town and the historical center of the pottery industry, and the underground city at Ozkonak - you can wander around inside it and imagine what it would have been like to live there. You'll also have good access to all the major fairy chimney locations. It will be really, really hot in August though.

I'm not sure if this would fit into your travel plans, as it's a bit out of the way, but I'll suggest it anyway: the salt lake, Lake Tuz, is extremely impressive. There isn't a ton to do there, though - it's the kind of place that's worth stopping at if it's on your way to something else.

Ankara can be done in a day and I'd recommend extra time in Cappadocia over a visit to Ankara, especially if you're not particularly interested in museums.
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 8:10 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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