Alternative to Istanbul in Turkey?
April 3, 2016 1:15 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend are I were going to vacation in Istanbul in May. The recent terrorist attacks have given us second thoughts. We're looking for ideas of where to tour in alternate areas in Turkey.

First let me say that I'm aware the overall risk is still probably low. However, I don't know what's going to happen over the next couple of months, and I would just feel more comfortable avoiding the tourist-crowded areas in Istanbul since that seems to be targeted right now.

Since our tickets to Istanbul are non-refundable, I'd still like to spend some time in Turkey. I'm looking for ideas of places that are easy/quick to get to via Istanbul. Right now I'm looking at places like Oludeniz/Karakoy/Fethiye, or Epheseus. I'm open to pretty much anything, but I don't want to rent a car so it needs to be easy to get to via plane/train/bus. Obviously anything in the south-east of Turkey or nearby is also out - for instance, we were originally going to visit Cappadocia as well, but I'm not sure about that now.

Thanks for your feedback, ideas and suggestions.
posted by ohsnapdragon to Travel & Transportation around Turkey (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you looking to just chill on a beach or do stuff?
posted by k8t at 1:20 PM on April 3, 2016

We would like to do things, but maybe chill on a beach for a couple of the days (9 total.)
posted by ohsnapdragon at 1:24 PM on April 3, 2016

For a couple of days on the beach, I really liked Kas, which is not far from Fethiye. Pretty sure I got there via bus from Izmir, but it's also very accessible from Antalya etc. I found Ephesus/Selcuk kind of boring. Istanbul and Cappadocia were definitely the highlights of my trip to Turkey.

If you really want to avoid Istanbul, what about just flying out to another European city of your choosing? Does it have to be Turkey? I don't really think there's anything else in Turkey (or anywhere else, I suppose) remotely like Istanbul.
posted by mskyle at 1:37 PM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was just there in early March! I toured Istanbul. The way I see it--technically, the rate of crime in the city where I currently live (Philadelphia) is higher than in Istanbul, and the terrorist attacks don't change that.

But, here are the non-Istanbul places I went:
  • Epheseus - The ruins were very spectacular. Though unless you are a big history buff I think you could do the whole thing (including the Seven Sleepers and the Temple of Athena) in a day.
  • Cappadocia - Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Cappadocia is nowhere near any of the fighting--Turkey is a huge country. I spent three days here alone and could've spent more. Great for hiking and exploring and a ton to do.
  • Gallipoli Peninsula/Çanakkale - I wish I'd spent a whole day at Gallipoli. Definitely worth hiring a tour guide. Çanakkale is not a big city, but fine for an overnight while you travel to other areas.
  • I've heard great things about the beaches in the south and west, though I didn't visit any since I'm not a big beach person myself. I found the Lonely Planet travel guide to be tremendously helpful. I also had Rick Steves, and I wasn't so much into it. I literally planned my trip on the way to Istanbul, and I was really happy with all my choices.

posted by schroedinger at 1:38 PM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also: there are multiple airlines that fly just within Turkey. That's how I got to and from the different areas, and the tickets were about as cheap as a bus and didn't require an overnight bus trip. The one thing I wish I did differently was take a bus to Çanakkale, take a whole day in Gallipoli and stay in Çanakkale, then a bus down to Selcek (outside Epheseus). Instead I took a day trip to Gallipoli, went back to Istanbul, and then a flight to Izmir. I didn't realize the trip from Çanakkale to Selcek was only six hours.
posted by schroedinger at 1:44 PM on April 3, 2016

swimming in the Roman pool at Hieropolis was AMAZING, a life highlight, but be sure you get there like maybe an hour before closing... and if it's cold or misty so much the better... at peak hours it looks like human chowder, it's so crowded and gross. (Although now with the tensions between Russia and Turkey, perhaps that tourism has died down enough that this is no longer the case.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:11 PM on April 3, 2016

I would take a blue cruise from Fethiye. These are nothing like large commercial cruises; there are 20 or so people on each boat including 2-3 crew, and you cruise along the turkish coast, stopping at a different village each day. The scenery is amazing. This was a highlight of Turkey for me (along with Istanbul and Cappadocia). If you decide to do this, prices are much better if you wait until arriving in Fethiye to book rather than buying tickets ahead of time.
posted by btkuhn at 4:08 PM on April 3, 2016

Kas! Kas! We did our honeymoon in Istanbul and Kas. We stayed at Club Hotel Barbarossa and would happily, happily return. Beautiful mountain views over an inlet, a dock where you can dive right off into the sea, kayaks and snorkel gear to rent, very quiet and not as overrun as Antalya and similar "lay on a beach" spots.
posted by olinerd at 5:46 PM on April 3, 2016

I am an American living in Turkey. Last month I hosted a friend in Izmir and toured Istanbul; I am hosting more people in Izmir literally this very second. You are right that the overall threat is low, but your approach of finding non-Istanbul places to visit is not unreasonable. Turkey has a lot of natural beauty and flat-out stunning historical sites, so you shouldn't want for alternatives.

All the recommendations below are based on my travel preferences, which tend towards self-guided exploration and away from tour guides, group travel, and bus tours. I prioritize ruins over nightlife, and like Turkish food more than Turkish attempts at non-Turkish food. If you are not me then my recommendations might not fit.

Cappadocia is a fine choice. It's not far southeast enough to be dangerous. The rock formations are amazing and extremely explorable. If you're athletic, consider renting a beater bike to ride around the open-air museum at Göreme. Climb a bit there, and make sure you see at least one underground city. I recommend renting a car, but the area can be done without one—you'll just be at the whim of bus and dolmuş schedules. The only "downside" is that I might find 9 days a bit long for Cappadocia.

Ephesus can easily be done without a car, but is only a one-day visit. I have not been to Oludeniz or Karakoy or Fethiye.

Honestly the biggest obstacle in a non-Istanbul-based self-run Turkish adventure is the lack of a rental car. Outside of Istanbul, that will slow you down. But you could still do something like Cappadocia for four days (plus one for travel), then either Antalya or Izmir region for the rest. In Antalya you could arrange transport first to Termessos (one of my favorite ancient ruins in the entire country, with a spectacular view, great stonework, and lots to explore) and then to Olympos for an awesome beach with seaside ruins (!!!) and the Chimera (a mountainside with eternal flames). In Izmir you should take the ferry just for the ride, wander the Kemeralti bazaar (leave a few hours to get lost), and arrange day trips to Bergama (great explorable ruins) and Ephesus (famous and well-preserved ruins). I find Pamukkale and Hieropolis (ruins and natural beauty at the same site!) AMAZING and while they can be done in a day trip from Izmir, it's a brutal schedule—I recommend staying the night instead. If it's warm enough in May you can take a bus from Izmir out to Çeşme for a day tour on a gulet to a bunch of Turkish islands. If you're based in Izmir you could also hop over to Chios, Greece for a couple days.

Warning: I have not focused on beaches in these recommendations, due to lack of personal experience. If that's your thing, and if May looks warm enough to you, then doing the aforementioned Izmir day trips for 3-5 days then taking a bus south to Kuşadası or further would be awesome too. If instead you want to do some trekking, consider the Kaçkar mountains (you'll need to arrange travel by bus or something from the Trabzon airport), Kapıkırı in Muğla (same; from Bodrum airport, or a bit further from Izmir), or Karaburun (same, from Izmir). You'll need a trekking guide.
posted by daveliepmann at 10:10 AM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

We were just in Istanbul this past week and went to Athens for about 48 hours (it's only a 60-90 minute flight away) for the Acropolis/Archaeological Museum (and moussaka!) and were very happy. It's closer to Istanbul than parts of Turkey and the weather was warmer, too...
posted by mdonley at 5:04 AM on April 5, 2016

« Older What is a "MUST BUY" in London?   |   Are any women's groups calling for state boycotts? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.