Where to go in Turkey
August 27, 2012 7:11 AM   Subscribe

I am going to Turkey for two weeks next spring -- the last week of April and the first week of May. Other than Istanbul, where should I consider going?

I like walking. I like museums. I like sitting in pretty locations and reading. I don't care for night life, and I tend not to go to restaurants when I am on vacation. (I am going with people, so I am rather hoping that their lunch and dinner times can be my Yay All Alone time. We do not intend to do everything together, or at least I intend to do what I feel like doing.)

Cappadocia is almost certainly on the list. I don't want to spend too much time travelling internally. Money isn't a huge issue.

Specific suggestions in Istanbul would be nice, too, though I am also checking out earlier threads.
posted by jeather to Travel & Transportation around Turkey (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't want to spend too much time travelling internally

Turkey is a very large country, so spending time traveling internally is an occupational hazard.

Bursa is supposed to be a great resort town. Ephesus/Seljuk is sort of a must-see. Safranbolu , on the Black Sea Coast is supposed to be great. The treehouse backpacker's resort in Olympos is supposed to be pretty cool.

While in Istanbul, take a ferry to see all of the Princes Islands. The Kariye Kilisi is a must-see.

Because you're going to be there in April, there will be a lot of Australians and New Zealanders coming to the country for Anzac Day.
posted by deanc at 7:18 AM on August 27, 2012

There's plenty to see in Turkey without visiting another country!

In Istanbul I was super impressed by the cisterns (wiki link) and Hagia Sofia (wiki link); also we took up boat up to visit Eyup (Mosque, Pierre Loti's cafe) (wiki link) which was fascinating.

In Cappadocia, we stayed in Guzelyurt (Rick Steves link) which was fantastic. Quiet, friendly, amazing scenery. We stayed in a converted monastery, which was pretty much empty apart from us.
posted by handee at 7:26 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Very much off the beaten track: Kayaköy near Fethiye. A deserted settlement in the middle of nowhere. You can still see peeling paint on the walls and the small church has some very pretty frescos. It is a strange and unsettling place.

And you get great potato pancakes from the old lady near the cow sheds.

Fethiye is a Mediterranean town and often frequented by tourists (package deal resorts are rife in the area), but Kayaköy remains one of those little secret places the tourist busses don't really go. I guess semi-recent genocide isn't really how they want to market themselves.
posted by kariebookish at 7:31 AM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Selçuk is great. Ephesus is really cool, but the archaeological museum and the St. John ruins way up on Ayasoluk Hill are fantastic as well (and way less crowded). Bring bug spray if you go to the Artemision.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:46 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

A couple of years ago, I drove along the Black Sea coast starting north of Ankara and ending just beyond Trabzon. The road to Sinop is stunning, like Switzerland by the sea and dotted with pretty little towns but not far after that they built a highway on the beach which is rather sad. Anyway, if you want to see a completely different side of Turkey - very green, so few tourists that people thought I was a Russian sailor - the Black Sea region us worth visiting. The Sumela monastery is very nice too.

That said, they're nowhere Cappadocia (which is also very interesting) and Turkey is a big country.
posted by rhymer at 8:23 AM on August 27, 2012

So, do you just like city walking or is country walking/hiking good too? Cappadocia has some amazing scenery and good easy walks/hikes. Since you say money isn't an issue, I'd recommend flying there if you go. I stayed in Goreme in Cappadocia, which is the backpackeriest of the towns, but there are good places to stay all over. I loved the Aynali ("Mirror") cave church, which is outside of the main Open-Air Museum area, because it's so quiet and dark and tucked away (and there was a friendly caretaker who made me tea and lent me a flashlight). Oh, and if you do the balloon ride be aware that pretty much all of the tour companies really pack you into those balloons.

I also really enjoyed Kas, on the Mediterranean coast. Very touristy, but very pretty, and you can take a day trip to the incredibly sleepy Greek island of Kastellorizo (also known as Meis or Megisti).

I felt like Ankara was kind of a bust, but I only spent one day there and I slept poorly the night before so that may have colored my impression.

I was not hugely into Ephesus either - I think partly the problem was I got there too late in the day and it was already overrun with cruise ship tour groups.

I only spent about four days in Istanbul and I wish I had spent at least a week - I barely got out of the old town. Of course you're going to go to Aya Sofya, but seriously, it's amazing - I was much more impressed than I expected. The cisterns were also great. Topkapi is great. All the obvious places are great!

And Istanbul is such a good place for walking (so long as you don't get too spooked when you get lost). I remember wandering around and suddenly finding myself in a street where all the shops seemed to sell nothing but zippers.

Definitely take the ferry somewhere, it's worth it just for the views and the tea service.

Next time I go to Turkey I will spend more money on guides and tours. There's sometimes not much in the way of signs and interpretation at sites.
posted by mskyle at 8:37 AM on August 27, 2012

West and south for off the beaten track travels: Canaccale, near the site of Troy, Dardanelles, The Gallipoli Campaign. Bergama, site of Pergamom, charming, friendly, great ruins, quiet.

In Istanbul, get thee to a hamam. Don't miss the cisterns. And don't be stupid like I was, buy the most beautiful rug that you can afford - (maybe learn a little about rugs before you go...)

Istanbul in spring smells so good. Lucky you.
posted by lois1950 at 10:36 AM on August 27, 2012

I spent about 3 weeks in Turkey a couple years ago, traveling alone in early May. I did a lot of research on Thorn Tree forums for places to go and things to see. My route was: Istanbul->Bursa->Izmir->Seljuk/Ephesus->Pammukale/Denizli->Antalya->Olympos->Cappadocia->Istanbul.

The highlights:
Olympos was my favorite place by far. I stayed in one of the log cabin-y hostel places there. The beaches and mountains were beautiful, and the other people staying at the hostel were a mix of friendly backpackers and Turkish teenagers (it was a school holiday on the weekend I was in Olympos). I felt that it was a great deal, experience and expense wise. There are ruins around there to explore as well, and lots of beautiful places to sit and read.

Pamukkale was my second favorite. Climbing the travertines (carbonate terraces) was super fun, and there are Roman ruins at the top, as well as hot springs that you can swim in. The top of the terraces was a great place to wander and read.

Seljuk and Ephesus were also really nice. Seljuk definitely had a small-town atmosphere that was pretty relaxing after some of the bigger cities. Others will probably have more interesting things to say about Istanbul and Cappadocia. I didn't spend as much time wandering around those places, in Istanbul because I felt less safe as a lone woman, and Cappadocia because I was pretty exhausted by that point. Good luck! Turkey is my favorite country that I have traveled so far.
posted by permiechickie at 12:23 PM on August 27, 2012

Two weeks isn't a huge amount of time, so I'd suggest limiting where you plan to go.

Istanbul should take up at least 4-5 days to begin with, then ideally you'd want to be back 2 days before your flight out (spending just one night then flying the next day just feels like wasted time; you can't use those part-days effectively).

That leaves about a week, of which maybe 3-4 days would be spent on Cappadocia, which from memory is around 8-10 hours from Istanbul by bus, so you lose a little time getting there & away (unless you fly).

Considering that you'll be close to ANZAC day, I strongly suggest you DON'T go down the coast between Istanbul & Canakkale. I've been caught up in crowds of drunken Aussies & Kiwis & it's not pretty. They also crowd out all the available accommodation. Bursa should hopefully be safe, and it's a pleasant enough small city with some interesting historical sites. It's also more or less directly on a route from Istanbul to Cappadocia via the Princes Islands. Bergama gets another tick from me, but would take you closer to the ANZAC crowds.

I tend not to go to restaurants when I am on vacation

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! Turkish food is some of the very best in the world, and you can eat for only a handful of dollars. Do not even THINK of self-catering. Actually, once you smell the delicious aromas emanating from every restaurant, you won't be able to help yourself. Just ditch your group & eat alone if you need to.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:53 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are the obvious things in Istanbul--Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Cisterns, Topkapi. All worth visiting.

I agree with the above who say 1. Turkey is large so anywhere else you go will involve some internal travel. Turkish Airlines does have pretty cheap flights in between; and 2. 2 weeks could easily be spent in Istanbul and not cover anything else; and 3. EAT IN RESTAURANTS. Turkey is amazing and I've never met anyone who didn't love visiting, but even though it has some of the most amazing art & architecture & history, the thing people always talk about is the food. And it's cheap. You can give a man essentially $2US and he will pay a man with a fishing line to catch a fish and make a sandwich right in front of you. It doesn't get any fresher.

I highly recommend Goreme/Cappadocia. I "splurged" on the hotel there and stayed at the Kelebek, which I can't recommend more highly. They opened a restaurant too and it's great.

Everyone says to take boats places in Turkey, and though I went in Jan/Feb, I took the Bosphorus Cruise and it was well worth it.

If you like modern art, Istanbul's is fantastic. See here.

It sounds like you probably wouldn't LOVE Taksim--it's very young & hip and modern and a good place for nightlife, though it has a lot of tea/coffeeplaces for reading. Also, Sark Coffee in the Bazaar is an amazing calm in the middle of absolute craziness.

Drink tea. Drink coffee. Eat Turkish Delight. Buy me some spices! Walk around and just look at the cool old architecture.

My main suggestion would be not to stay SUPER near the Blue Mosque/Hagia Sofia. it's super touristy and you'll get continuously hassled if you appear to be anything but Turkish. I stayed around Sirkeci right by Hodgapasha street, which has all the street food that real Turks eat. It was amazing. Get an Iskender Kebab. I also stayed in Beyoglu and it was fine (and interesting) but almost NO ONE spoke english. If you can get around that, it's a bit more "authentic."

More info than you'll ever need is free here: Turkey Travel Planner
posted by jennybento at 10:15 PM on August 27, 2012

oh and i'd suggest dervishes too!

and here's a better explanation of hodgapasha.
posted by jennybento at 10:18 PM on August 27, 2012

Get an Iskender Kebab.

Bursa is the home of the Iskender Kebab; where it was invented. Another reason to visit.

(Each town seemingly has its own kebab, if not some other food specialty. Adana kebabs, for example, are unsurprisingly from Adana. Tracking down the local specialty just adds to the culinary delight. +1 for the fresh fish rolls down by the bridges across the Golden Horn in Istanbul).
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:49 AM on August 28, 2012

I am so jealous that you have two weeks - I only had 8 days. I loved Turkey and the friendly people. We spent half of that time in Istanbul, and half on what we called "the whirlwind" tour - we flew to Cappadocia for two nights, took an overnight bus to Selcuk (that was a unique experience with locals) and spent a night in Selcuk. From Selcuk, we visited Pamukkale one day and Ephesus another.

I can't say enough good about Cappadocia, it's definitely a place we wished we had more time, a great place to walk around... we stayed in Goreme at the Sultan Cave Suites, which shares some facilities with the Kelebek which jennybento mentioned - fabulous, magical place with great staff.
There are so many places to walk - or you can horseback ride or rent bikes. I loved walking to and around the Open Air Museum area (imagine seeing 12 century frescoes in a warren of cave shurches) also Pigeon Valley. We went to the Saruhan Caravanserai (near Avanos in Cappadocia) to Sema (a Whirling Dervish ceremony) and I loved that experience.

The people in Gorme were so friendly - we had many local encounters, it's a very laid back place. One of my friends got invited into a home for tea. Try to make time for a visit to one of the Underground cities.

We almost skipped Pamukkale and Hieropolis and I am so glad we didn't - it is beautiful and amazing, and so well worth exploring the travartines and ruins.

I loved Selcuk - we stayed in the centrally located Hotel Akay where the proprietress was amazingly wonderful - another place we would like to have stayed longer. One of our favorite experiences was sampling pastry from a little shop late one evening and the proprietress came and sat at a table with us. We had a magical hour of coffee with her despite the language barriers. She was astounded that she was sitting with three women who had no husbands and no children. She had a beaded scarf and pantomimed how she had made it - she was also interested in our clothes, hair and jewelry. Amazing what a great exchange we had with such a paltry few words of language between us.

In Istanbul, we loved the Cisterns, Hagia Sophia, the Bazaars and just wandering around. If you do want to be central in Istanbul, I would recommend the small Hotel Sebnem, which is reasonably priced, on a nifty little side street in the Sutanahmet, and a 5 minute walk from the main sites. It has a great terrace overlooking the river, offers an amazingly good breakfasts (all breakfasts we had were wonderful) and good wifi.

This travel agent in Goreme helped us with arranging some of our in-country logistics - they were great and also offer a lot of Cappadocia info and day trips on their site.

Here's a great view of the Grand Bazaar from mefite ig.

I have a collection of links on Delicious and also some photos on Flickr.

I am so bookmarking this thread because I would love to go back and venture further afield - there are some great suggestions here.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:53 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The two towns I fell in love with in Turkey were Fethiye and Amasya. I thought Fethiye was a picture perfect Mediterranean town replete with winding streets, boats in the bay, wonderful food and lovely weather. Amasya felt absolutely Turkish. There were very few tourists and one of my favourite memories was strolling along the river at night where the entire city seemed to have gathered to enjoy the cool night air. Iirc Amasya also had the best hamam I visited in Turkey. I can't remember the name of it but it had a really cool domed roof. Massage, clean, steam, cool, steam, wrap, eat, relax all for $6. One of the best experiences I had.

Honorable mention goes to Goreme. I ran into some really cool folks there and we just wandered the landscape endlessly, poking around the weird landscape and eating freshly picked plums.
posted by talkingmuffin at 2:13 PM on August 28, 2012

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