Turkey offers a wealth of destinations varieties for travellers. From the magical dome-and-minaret filled skyline of Istanbul to the Roman ruins along the western and southern coasts; from heavily inundated coastlines against a mountainous backdrop of Lycia and the wide and sunny beaches of Pamphylia to cold and snow mountains of the East; from crazy “foam parties” of Bodrum to the dramatic landscape of Cappadocia.
3 Reasons to go
- Natural and manmade wonders: Not only does Turkey boast architectural wonders, its one-of-a-kind natural landscapes will take your breath away as well.
- Turkish Food: A flavourful blend of Middle Eastern, European, Asian and African influences, Turkey is a gastronomical paradise of mouth-watering dishes and delicacies.
- World-class hospitality: One of the best parts about travelling is meeting the locals, and no one plays host better than the Turks. Warm smiles will greet you as you stroll down the streets, accompanied by a medley of shopkeepers’ voices welcoming you into their stores.
Destination A: Istanbul
Istanbul has it all: over 2500 years of history, culture, and traditions, amazing landmarks, vibrant nightlife, and breathtaking views. This transcontinental metropolis is a fast-paced cultural melting pot you can’t afford to miss.
Destination B: Ephesus and Selҫuk
Selҫuk is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey. With its charming village atmosphere, excellent museum and proximity to Ephesus it is not hard to see why.
Destination C: Cappadocia
No trip to Turkey is complete without visiting Cappadocia. This otherworldly landscape of dramatic mountain caves is a natural wonder to explore.
How to book your vacation?
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Day 1: Arriving in Istanbul
Day 2 – 4: Istanbul
Begin your Istanbul adventure by basing yourself in Beyoglu, the city’s main entertainment district, located near Taksim Square. Many Travellers will opt to stay in Sultanahmet, which is near all of the sights in Old Istanbul.The nightlife here is quiet, touristy and inauthentic. In Beyoglu, you’ll be within walking distance of many of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and nightlife.
Spend day one sightseeing around Sultanahmet. Visit the stunning sights of the Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque before heading to the underground chambers of the Basilica Cistern just across the road.
After lunch, visit Topkapi Palace, the lavishly decorated Eastern pleasure dome that served as the command center of the Ottoman Empire for over three centuries. Finish your day shopping at the Grand Bazaar.
Begin day two with a bath in a Turkish hammam. The most beautiful ones include the historic Çemberlitas, Cagaloglu and Galatasaray hammams. After your bath, spend your day exploring modern Istanbul in the area around Taksim Square. Take a stroll through Cihangir, a relaxed neighborhood with a European ambience made famous by Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk. Have lunch at one of the neighborhood’s many eclectic cafes. Afterwards, spend an hour or so digesting at a narghile (hooka) cafe, making sure to accompany your fruity smoke with a hot salep — a sweet, delicious milky drink made of orchid flour. Bring the afternoon to its conclusion by wandering the streets of Galata, the neighborhood surrounding Galata Tower. End the evening chowing down on mezes and drinking raki (an unsweetened, anise-flavored Turkish alcoholic drink) at a meyhane (traditional restaurant) on Nevizade Street.
Spend your third day exploring the Bosphorus. Take one of the half-hourly commuter ferry services from Eminönü, stopping in Besiktas, Ortaköy and Bebek along the way to admire the beautiful parks, palaces and waterside mansions. Later in the day take a flight from Istanbul to Izmir. From Izmir, take a one hour bus, operated by KamilKoc, to Selҫuk/Ephesus. You can also opt to take an overnight bus from Istanbul to Selҫuk/Ephesus, which takes 11-12 hours, also operated by KamilKoc.
Day 5-6: Selҫuk and Ephesus
Selҫuk serves as a gateway for excursions to the surrounding region and offers a number of attraction in itself, including The House of the Virgin Mary (where Mary is claimed to have spent her final days), and the Isa Bey mosque, a superb example of Seljuk Turkish architecture. Assuming that you took the overnight bus, you can explore these the morning of your arrival, before heading over to the spectacular ruins of Ephesus, one of the best preserved ancient Roman cities in the world. It is full of ancient architectural splendors, including the Fountains of Trojan, The Temples of Hadrian and Domition, the Library of Celsius and the Great Theatre.
Spend the following day relaxing in Şirince, nestled in the hills a short ride from Selҫuk. This charming little village is well-known for its fruity wines, restored Ottoman-era homes and boutique hotels, making it a great place to unwind.
Start your day with a few hours’ exploration of the Goreme Open Air Museum. It is a fascinating complex of caves and fairy chimneys with small, fresco-filled churches carved into the rocks. From there, head to one of the underground cities like Kaymakli or Derinkuyu to crawl through narrow tunnels down eight stories below the surface, visiting ancient homes and underground churches along the way. Finish the day in Goreme at a dinner and dance show.
Wake early the next morning for the experience of a lifetime: a Cappadocia hot air balloon tour over the otherworldly landscape that surrounds Goreme. Balloons lift off at sunrise and typically last an hour, lifting high into the atmosphere for panoramic views, then dipping low into the valleys for up close encounters with the fairy chimneys.
Day 8: Make your way back to Istanbul then home
Tips & advice
- Understand the culture. Turkey is often misunderstood by the West as a moderate Muslim state, but, in fact, it has always been a secular state with a Muslim population. That means religion and state are separate, and that most cities in Turkey are very liberal and give people a choice on how they decide to practice Islam.
- Don’t drink tap water. Drink bottled water, and in restaurants make sure the bottle is unopened when it is brought to the table. Refuse it if it isn’t.
- Learn the language. Learn a few words of the Turkish language, such as “Hello”, “Thank you.” Turkish people appreciate this very much.
Valerie Fidan is the author and creator of Let’s Regale. In 2014, this yoga loving Californian and her husband sold their things, packed their bags to travel the world indefinitely, along with their two dogs. Valerie’s unique insights into the digital nomad life, provide a resource for Millennial travellers to help inspire and plan their next adventure. Follow her on:
Photo credit: Valerie Fidan