Greece + Turkey travel advice?
April 21, 2008 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Travel advice: 15 days in Greece and Turkey?

Hi AskMeFi! You gave me some great advice for my trip to Mexico in February, so I'm coming back for more.

Here is the general route of where my gf and I want to go in Greece + Turkey during the second half of May:

I'm looking for general advice and anecdotes, plus answers to the following:

1. Are we trying to cover too much ground?
2. How can we get around? Is renting a car difficult? Is public transit available and quick enough?
3. is getting between Greece + Turkey difficult? (Do we need to go through one of a few immigration points at the major cities?)
4. Are there any places that we definitely, 100% should not miss? (And places we should avoid?)
5. Is going east into Turkey a good idea, right now? (Considering we are still dropping bombs 400 miles away :-/ )
6. my gf is veggie + fish... will she be able to find stuff to eat?

I would post on, but it doesn't look very active.
Thanks for your help + time!
posted by cgs to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Public transit in Turkey is ridiculously well-advanced. Buses go basically everywhere. If you want to go somewhere a bus doesn't go, then you probably shouldn't be going there at all.

It's difficult to say if you're trying to see too much, since that sort of depends on your travel style. I, personally, think you're pushing it a bit. Then again, I'm slow.

Getting between Greece & Turkey is reasonably trivial, although I'm utterly unfamiliar with the ferry routes to Crete. So perhaps I should re-phrase: getting from Turkey via Kusadasi to Vathy, and thence onwards was trivial.

Your gf should be able to find food without significant difficulty. Worst-case, it seems to me, would be buying some mezze and then not eating the sucuk despite having effectively paid for it.
posted by aramaic at 11:09 AM on April 21, 2008

I was ok as a veg in Turkey several years ago. A lot of bread+cheese and that sort of thing. Salty yogurt is good.

Buses in Turkey are good, little apparently freelance vans that connect easily to hostels. (everyone is eager to connect you to "their cousin" who drives a van, or runs a hostel or a rug shop etc. You will never be lonely.) On the bus, a guy will come around and give you a hot towel to wash your hands on the journey.

I would give yourself at least 2 days in Istanbul, it's a hell of a place and you will want to look around. If you have to pick just one thing to see in Turkey it should be the Hagia Sophia. Topkapi is very cool, the Blue Mosque is beautiful, the bazaar is pleasing, but just exploring the city is really great. The drivers are insane so watch yourself.

(I did not get to see Cappadocia, though wish I had)

Two other places I went:
Ephesus - worth it to me. Cool ruins. If you are Australian it's a natural pairing with Gallipoli. Other people feel that Ephesus is overrated though; I guess it depends how much ruin you've seen and how interesting you find it.

The flame at Olympos isn't worth it. The hostel with tree houses is fun and has a very lovely beach, but I'm not a huge beach person so could have skipped this stop. It's a big backpacker spot if you want to connect with other travelers, but a lot of the tourist route seems to be this way - lots of gap-year Australians when I went.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:33 AM on April 21, 2008

I went by train through Greece to Turkey. No problems, except some stink eye from a border guard because my friend looked like some sort of arabic soldier (his family's Syrian, he'd recently shaved his head).
The coolest place I went to on the Greek mainland was Meteora. Well worth the trip, especially if you trade for less days in Athens.
The Beach at Ölüdeniz (a bit north and west of Kalkan) was amazing. Some locals said it's where they shot "The Blue Lagoon", which is bullshit, but believable bullshit.
posted by signal at 12:42 PM on April 21, 2008

...just popping back in to say ++ to Meteora. It's especially nice to compare/contrast with Cappadocia.
posted by aramaic at 1:03 PM on April 21, 2008

Plan out your time in Athens well. There are some excellent museums and not much else. If you're interested in antiquities or Byzantine art check them out and then move on. The Acropolis is pretty much a must see although I wonder if it's really all that significant to those without much interest in the classical world. The tour guides that hang around the site are generally pretty informed and, in my opinion, worth it. At the base of the hill is Old Athens which is a good place to take a walk, lots of narrow twisty streets and the neo-colonial houses have some character. The National Cemetery is another good place to go for a walk but it isn't a must. And then keep going.

Even if you have minimal interest in Byzantine iconography, Meteora is definitely worth a visit. It won't take more than a day. Delphi is also worth a stop. It's a beautiful site but it's the sort of place I'd recommend to those who have some historical interest and of course, not everyone who goes to Greece does. I really enjoyed hanging out in Iannina on the west coast. It's a small, very relaxed city with a few local sites of interest, including a huge cave, some of the most gruesome murals portraying the martyrdoms of the early Christians that I've ever seen and a very corny wax museum. Also, the bus ride out goes through some beautiful country.

I have not yet gone, but I've been told by many that Nafplio is well worth the visit. It isn't far from Athens.

I don't know about Turkey but a vegetarian + fish diet won't be a problem in Greece. Many households eat a lot less red meat than we do in the States. Of course, in restaurants it's much more common, but she'll be able to find plenty of alternatives.
posted by BigSky at 1:25 PM on April 21, 2008

cgs, my sister, my boyfriend and I are taking a very similar trip from May 22nd to June 4th, however, my sister has been charged with arranging all travel and accommodation plans. Here is what I know at this point:

2. Driving in Turkey (especially around Istanbul) and Greece is a complete nightmare. Insane traffic in Turkey in combination with poorly maintained roads means we'll be taking a four-star, air-conditioned bus for the four hour ride from my town to Istanbul (about 40€).
3. To get to Greece once we're in Turkey, we bought flights from Istanbul to Athens for $250 each. I can ask my sister for details if you'd like to know.
6. Turkey really is a place for culinary indulgence, and it seems that my part of the world doesn't think that vegetarian dishes are something one would want to order when eating out. However, your girlfriend will be fine: most restaurants will have a menu which includes a limited vegetarian section, although the veggie fare might be rather bland and plain. In any case, definitely try the simit sold in the streets, it's to die for. Also, she can always ask for döner with just the veggie fillings (lettuce, potatoes, rice, sauces) and no meat, as that is pretty common.
posted by halogen at 1:26 PM on April 21, 2008

Greece is one of the easiest places ever to be a vegetarian - meat is usually served as its own course, and it's easy to have a large taverna meal that spans several hours without ever eating any meat at all. And the ferry and train system between Greece and Turkey is pretty solid, especially for the time of year you'll be travelling. is a great site for checking updated schedules, but to order tickets I would contact the ferry line directly. Greek transit goes on strike about every five minutes and schedules have an interesting way of moving around a bit, but that's part of the fun of travelling (I say that as someone who has not had to set foot on a Greek ferry in over a year). I went to school in Greece and loads of students went to Turkey every break and enjoyed themselves enormously, regardless of the war to the East, but it always pays to be aware of the current climate at your destination, politically speaking.

Have fun! You picked a great list of destinations for a vacation. I enjoyed my time in Greece immensely.
posted by annathea at 1:33 PM on April 21, 2008

1. Yeah, I'd say you're pushing it quite a bit, especially with the island travel -- ferry scheduling may cause you some problems (though my visit was in very much the midwinter off-season, so maybe the delays I found won't affect you.)
2. I never considered renting a car, but trains in Greece and buses in Turkey were simple enough.
3. Pretty much like any other border crossing; I don't remember any particular hassles or delays.
4. I would rate Pamukkale as another must-see, and it's in fairly easy range of your route. And I third Meteora; it's mind-boggling. Personally I found Athens very underwhelming; I had a lot more fun wandering through the huge, nearly-empty ruins at Ephesus than pushing through the crowds at the (relatively tiny) Acropolis. But I'm a misanthrope.
5. My trip was long pre-war, so I don't know if the current situation has changed things, but I found Turkey to be extraordinarily welcoming and friendly; I wouldn't expect any problems (other than having to fend off offers to sell you a carpet.) The farther east you go, the more "eastern" and foreign it feels; it's pretty gradual so it's pretty easy to find your comfort level.
6. She'll be ok, but I know she'll be jealous of the blissful look on your face while you scarf down one delicious doner kebab after another.
posted by ook at 2:04 PM on April 21, 2008

To echo the above, Ephesus is worth it, Cappadocia is absolutely worth it, Ölüdeniz is the best beach ever, and has great tandem paragliding. I found the treehouse hostel over-rated - but then, I'm not a party person. I was in Turkey during the start of the war (late 2003) and never had any problems, so it's probably not too much different now. Photos and travel diaries from my trip are on my website (link in profile), if you're interested.
posted by Paragon at 4:37 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I haven't been to Turkey (my Armenian relatives would die of horror) so I can't say much about it, but:

-I had no trouble being a fish-eating veg in Greece.
-If you want to go anywhere outside of Iraklio while you're in Crete, you'll probably find renting a car is the only viable option. We ended up driving down the middle, staying in a place called Studios Keramos in a tiny town called Zaros. While it was out of the way and a little intimidating, since the proprietor didn't speak a word of English and all we could say in Greek was thank-you, it was definitely an incredible experience. You should know how to drive manual transmission or be prepared to pay a high premium for a car with a crappy hacked-on automatic transmission.
-Also, on the southern shore of Crete there is a great beach where hippies carved caves into the hills...totally amazing. I really liked Crete a lot.
-You don't need a car in Athens, they put in great transit in preparation for the Olympics in '04.
-Sigh, I loved Santorini too much not to recommend you go there.
posted by crinklebat at 7:59 PM on April 21, 2008

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