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Wanderlynn International Travel Information By Country

Turkey Travel Tips 

Visited:  May/June 2013

Hello:  Merhaba/Selam

Thank you:  Sagol (pronounced Saul)

Bon appetite:  Afiyet olsun

Currency:  Turkish Lira (1 equals $0.51); ATMs are very accessible in larger cities.

I was fascinated with the diversity of extremes in Turkey.  In a day, you can go from Istanbul, rich in history and architecture adorned with a kaleidoscope of tiles to the fairy castle rock formations of Cappadocia.  Leaving the dry interior landscape of Cappadocia, you can drive south to the coast and dine on fresh fish while sitting by the turquoise waters of a sun saturated Mediterranean.  Next stop, the uniquely beautiful white calcium formations at Pamukkale contrasted with the soft blue waters gently pooled on a hillside.  And your trip is not complete without a visit to Ephesus, a fabulous ruin of a once great Roman city.

What to see: 

  • Istanbul:  Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace and the Harem, the Spice Bazaar, Blue Mosque, and the Basilica Cistern.
  • Ankara:  Anitkabir, the tomb of Ataturk, the founder of the republic of Turkey.  A good place to catch up on the history of the country.
  • Cappadocia: Unique rock formations known as the fairy chimneys (and also resembling an obvious part of the male anatomy).
  • Antalya:  A large city and tourist destination on the coast.  Don’t miss the Antalya Museum and its fabulous sculptures.
  • Kas:  A beautiful little city on the coast with eclectic shops and an overall relaxed atmosphere. We stayed at the Hotel Kekova (great little place!).
  • Pamukkale:  “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, is a site with unique and beautiful hillside terraces formed by carbonate minerals and supporting pools of water from hot springs.   
  • Ephesus:  One of the most spectacular Roman ruins in Europe and the Mediterranean.    
  • Sirince:   Picturesque village on a hill featuring local wine and crafts.  A great place to spend an afternoon shopping and relaxing.
  • Gallipoli:  Site of the famous battle.
  • Troy:  Site of the ancient city best know as the site of the Trojan War. 

How I traveled: I booked the “Absolute Turkey” trip through G Adventures to see as much as possible in two weeks.  We had a small group of eight in a private minibus and a fabulous Turkish woman as our guide.  It also gave us an opportunity for a deep understanding of the culture through the eyes of a native.

Memorable Moment:  One night we stayed with a local family and after our delicious home cooked dinner, we walked down to the small village cafe to play a traditional Turkish game called “Okey”.  Our home stay father, his son, and son-in-laws sat with us and provided strategic direction through sign language so we could learn the game and understand which tiles to play for the winning board.  There was lots of laughter and good natured teasing despite all of our differences as we drank tea and clicked the plastic tiles on our way to victory.  This characterized Turkey for me - community, tradition and laughter.

Must do:

  • Learn some Turkish:  Our guide encouraged our full experience of the Turkish culture as we traveled and even taught us some Turkish with constant “practicums”.   This knowledge gave us more freedom on a daily basis as we interacted with local people.  However, language will not be an issue if you stick to the more popular tourist areas. 
  • Food:  Try every traditional Turkish dish you can as they tend to vary by region. Our guide was quick to advise us on what to try and where.  Some of these foods included the “gozleme”, a crepe like sandwich, lentil soup, and kebabs.  The fresh fish, popular on the coast, is delicious and usually prepared whole.  In the markets, you will see endless barrels of Turkish delight (lokum), which is a gel made from starch and sugar and usually fortified with nuts of some variety.   A traditional Turkish breakfast will consist of several varieties of olives, breads, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheeses.  Don’t forget to try the national yogurt drink called ayran. My only bad experience - the Turkish version of a sub sandwich which was a cholesterol crasher between two pieces of bread.  Excellent Eats:  Imbat Restaurant in Istanbul - an excellent dining experience overlooking the water.  
  • If you can experience connecting with a local family, do it!  This is one reason that traveling with a organized group can be a bonus.  I found the home cooked meals to be fantastic and dining with a local family to provide a warm connection as we all shared in their hospitality.  Our trip also included a home stay in a small village where our host led us on an afternoon excursion to a ripe strawberry field and turned us loose to indulge.
  • Swim in the Mediterranean sea.  It’s beautiful and refreshing!  We had an excursion and an overnight on a boat sleeping under the stars after a game of okey and a grilled fish dinner prepared by the captain and his mate.
  • Even if you feel like you cannot look at one more mosque, be sure to go inside every one you encounter as each is a little different and each is beautiful.  Remember to dress modestly and if you are a woman, bring a scarf that you can use to cover your head if required.
  • Tipping in Turkey:  Generally, a small tip is left for good service.
  • Visit a haman, a Turkish bath house where you will be scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed until you can be nothing but clean.  It is a great pampering opportunity and another way to experience the Turkish culture.
  • The Whirling Dervishes:  This is not a performance but rather a religious ceremony that has become a tourist attraction.  If you attend a ceremony, be sure to be respectful.​​