Turkey is one fascinating country! It is the link between Europe and Asia with great food and very hospitable people. I would suggest starting in Istanbul, which is not the capital. (Ankara is the capital.) Istanbul is a historic city visited by millions of tourists yearly. It is always busy but according to my experience if you want to visit Turkey’s archeological sites and have an un-rushed experience overall it is best to visit in winter.
Yes, summer is a great time to travel and that’s when most people prefer to take their time off. As mentioned above, “most people”, is by definition: higher hotel rates, rushed tours so everyone can have time to visit, a lot more tourist traps (yes, those exist everywhere), long queues and eventually a less enjoyable time.
For history lovers, Istanbul is the place to be. It is an old, majestic city connecting Europe and Asia, a place where civilizations met, empires were built and left behind phenomenal architecture and a unique culture blend.
The best way to get around Istanbul is by tram as taxis tend to be a bit over priced as the meter runs faster than a racehorse. The tram should cost 3 Turkish Liras per trip (equivalent to $1 US), clean and very reliable; they travel throughout the city and to the airport. Of course the most monumental building in Istanbul is Hagia Sofia; it is a must see. The best tip is to show up early in the morning (7:30 or 8:00 PM), as queues to visit this well admired piece of history are endless. Another good way to do it is to book an ancient city day tour as guided tours skip all the lines, as they are pre-paid.
You can find guided tour companies that suit your budget and interests, this will help grasp as much knowledge about the ancient history of the city, and some companies throw in a traditional ottoman lunch, which isn’t such a bad deal. If you want to save the money and go at your own pace, check out what those tours consist of and navigate the route yourself. The best attractions for travelers are places like Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, and the Basilica Cistern.
Shopping in Istanbul is an experience by itself, as it is one of the world’s leading garment manufacturers. You will find a huge variety of brands in Istanbul’s many shopping locations – from the unique experience of roaming around the Grand Bazaar (which can be overwhelming at times as it is a huge over-crowded maze. Best tip for bargaining in the bazaar is to throw in your price and walk away even if they initially decline it! It actually works and the shopkeeper will chase you for the sale.) to the outlet centers where you will find your favorite designer brands for discounted prices.
Istanbul at night is as interesting as it is during the day; Istanbul’s nightlife is quite enjoyable there is a large variety of bars, pubs and clubs to choose from. Alcohol is a bit on the expensive side as it is highly taxed by the government.
Are you fascinated by the stories and battles of World War I? Do you travel and check out battlefields? If you are, then in Turkey this is your spot! Located between the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles strait to the east, a little town in the Gallipoli peninsula offers a museum, trenches, barricades and a big memorial site for the thousands of Allied Forces and Turkish soldiers that fought and lost their lives there. The Battle of Gallipoli is considered one of the naval disasters that the Allied Forces suffered during WWI.
Located in the Denzili Province, it is home of the “cotton castle” in English or Pammukkale in Turkish. The fastest way to get there is catching a one-hour flight out of Istanbul. Pammukkale is a natural hot mineral spa; which has been used since the Roman Empire. Get this: it is where the GLADIATORS went to be hospitalized.
Ever heard of the Trojan horse? Who doesn’t want to see that? If you read Greek mythology about the Trojan horse (not the virus you get on your computer), or you are just a big fan of Brad Pitt movies, either way the city of Troy and its ancient fort and displays of the Trojan horse are definitely worth your time. Don’t go there with big expectations as there are not much left of the fort, the little of it that is uncovered has not been restored and the horses on display are not genuine. I thought it would be cool to just check it out and drop a check-in on Facebook along with a picture of the Trojan horse in the background. That is not my main concern during my travels but it always feels good to tease your friends back home punching in from 9 to 5 waiting for their time off to get away.
|Why wouldn’t you want this pic attached to your Facebook Check-in ?|
Ephesus was our last stop in Turkey, after a couple of weeks of traveling. Now I must agree that Ephesus is definitely a summer destination, tons of resorts and attractions for the tourists coming off the cruise ships to discover the area. But having a jacuzzi overlooking the Aegean Sea and listening to the waves crashing on the rocky beach underneath my hotel was a well-deserved treat after the hours of hiking and overnight buses – all for a quarter of the price that it would cost during summer season! Now that’s a great deal!
Ephesus is an ancient city in the south of Turkey visited by travelers since 10th century BC, as it was the Mediterranean’s main commercial center during the Greco-Roman times. It is home to an ancient city with a library, the house of the Virgin Mary and the Basilica of St. John where Mary and St. John spent their last days and finally the temple of Artemis that is a wonder of the ancient world. Now apart from that information that you can easily find online, my best experience in Ephesus as I visited in winter was having the ancient city almost exclusively for us; it was a nice unrushed tour. Can you imagine thousands of vacationers from cruise ships roaming around and taking pictures? It’s a lot of photo bombing, hundreds of annoying selfie sticks and once again, ridiculous mark-ups on prices of everything.
As you discover the ancient city make sure you walk through the gate of Hercules and take one of these:
Also look for the first attempts at road directions/advertising (on the main street up from the sea) in History !
Feel free to leave comments and questions below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. You can always follow me on Twitter for information on the spot. It’s easy following my Twitter handle @CHojeij. When you are abroad and need any advice drop me a note and I will do my best to answer straight away.