Feeling like adventurous, in the mood of exploring nature, culture, history and food; ever thought of being in two different continents in one single country?
Any age is adequate to have a great experience while venturing into the unknown, the mysterious and the amazing surprises that traveling can give you while exploring new places. Turkey is an amazing country that holds one of the most ancient cultures of the world, along with all its story and traditions. And 2 weeks around it is not enough to get to know it, but at least enough to have a taste of the wonders of this Europe-Asian country.
Arriving by train, boat, bus or plane, Istanbul is the key. The airport around is destination of many international Low Cost Airlines, cheap flights are always there.
First thing to do is to check if you need a visa prior to arrival, as it depends from country to country whether you can get it on the border or you need to request it on an embassy before travelling. Once inside, you have the choice of having everything planned, booking hostels, hotels and tours, or you could simply go with the flow and enjoy where it takes you. And although it could be more tiring, it offers more adventure for the wanderer.
There is train tracks, but not to all destinations, so bus is the easiest and cheapest and safest way to move around, there are always night rides which can save you a hotel night. And considering the distances between places are a bit long (7-12 hours) it’s not such a bad option.
It’s important two things: Turkey is a relatively safe country and people in touristic places are open for foreigners, many of them speaking English, but in any case, you need to be careful to take the necessary and take care of your belongings. The second point is that even though it is not way up north, winter can be treacherous for backpackers, especially if you would venture around searching a hostel or walking on the city with few bags during this season; so if you plan to do a roadtrip, it’s better to do it in a warm weather (not my case though).
Moving around an entire country with only in mind that you need to be at a certain date in a certain place to take the plane back home is something that can be quite relaxing or stressful. An advice is to enjoy the place you are at and not look forward to what is coming up next. There are a hundred places where one would like to be, and thinking about them will only reduce the experience at the current place. If you feel like staying one more day in one place, do so; better to enjoy the best of two places, than quickly pass by the whole world.
There are many recommended places where you can move around. Depending on the kind of traveler you are, some can interest you more than others. Visiting either one or all, depends entirely on you. If time is about to run out, consider 1 day to get back to your city of departure, being Ankara or Istanbul. The good thing is that any of the destinations has direct transportation back to any of this two cities, though it will take from 7-12 hours to get there, so just consider some extra time so you don’t have to run or worry.
Formerly known as Constantinople, capital of the Bizantine Empire and modern economic and cultural center, the city houses a large amount of things to do. You can learn from Topkapi palace and amazing museums of history and art, or magnificent mosques of great size such as Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. You can wander around the great bazaar and bargain for beautiful handcrafts and miscellaneous objects or go deep underground to the Turkish baths for a relaxing time. Not forgetting to taste the kebab at its home country or various exquisite dishes such as the delicious Iskender (in honour of Aleksander the great).
Ceȿme (stop over at Izmir)
Going by Bus it will take almost 7 hours to arrive at Izmir, an industrial city with not so much to see, but a Cruise port. But here is where you can get the connecting bus and finally arrive (2 hours) at Ceȿme, so it’s recommended to travel by night. This little town offers typical downtown with a long coastal line with crystalline water and an ancient castle with the view of all the city, and across the sea Chios, a greek island which you can visit (if your Turkish visa allows multiple entries to the country). There are many small restaurants to try local food which, if you don’t know the meaning, it’s worth the try.
Ephesus (Selçuk with a stopover in Şirince)
Arriving at Selçuk won’t take more than 2 hours from Izmir. You can either pick a cheap taxi or get a quick bus tour around the place. Moving from location to location can be a bit tedious, so a tour is recommended, and it will take you to the main attractions on the area. Paying a visit to the sacred shrine where Virgin Mary stayed part of her life will ease your spirit, and arriving to the ruins of Ephesus to admire the temples, theaters and the astounding architecture of the library calm your mind. Lastly, if you are up for the challenge, locals will take you to the pintoresque village of Şirince we you can delight yourself with handcrafted sweet and exquisite wine from the region and have a walk around the small houses that offer many different kinds of food and handcrafts.
This is one of the most marvelous places on earth, so it’s worth a whole day or even more. Getting here from Selçuk is a long way by bus, so night travelling is advised. Upon arrival at Denizli, you can get a bus or cab for less than 15 minutes to the top of Pamukkale, where you will come across Hierapolis, a magnificent greek city, at which entrance rests one of the biggest Necropolis in the world (greek cemetery).
Many locals know about the legends of this place, but if not, try to take a peek at the nearby hills where you will find a small entrance with a deteriorated frontispiece away from town, allegedly considered as the former entrance to the greek underworld which holds many disappearances and supernatural phenomenon stories.
After a long walk around the city of the living and the dead, for a few Liras you can take a swim on some Turkish baths whose water lay above part of the ruins! This is a must, and water is as warm as one would wish. You can skip it and have a swim directly at Pamukkale, but if you can do both, why not?
After you are done, you will follow the mineral canals which let the water flow from the water shrine downhill to the amazing natural wonder. Depending on the time of the year you can get a warm water bath and watch the sunset, but even if level is low, you can take a walk barefooted downhill which will make Wonderland seem real.
Capadoccia (Nevşehir with a stopover at Konya)
You can either travel at night directly to Nevşehir or do a day travel with a stop at Konya, one of the typical Turkish cities which holds the Mausoleum of Melvana, leader of the mystic Mevlevi order and a breathtaking muslim cemetery. After a stroll on the city, you can pick a bus and head to Capadoccia region. Being one of the most famous tourist spots in Turkey, you will find an accommodation at any time of day or night without trouble. Best of all, some of them are rock hotels!
Even though there are many places admire, Nevşehir is probably the best to move around. Rather than booking a tour or getting a taxi cab, you can bargain a real cheap tour from locals on the hotels which will take you around.
Don’t miss the surreal Turkish eye trees that look out for the whole region while going to the canyons where you will visit the runaway Christian houses and churches disguised as merchant lodges inside the rocks. After a side river walk upstream you will reach Uchisar castle, a monumental city/fortress embedded in the rock where you can explore and live the surreal experience of the place.
Always look around for the many viewpoints that will offer breathtaking views of the rock hills near Göreme town that will make the trip worth it.
You can spend a whole week here and not finish to admire the doings of men and nature and the work of them together. So when time is over, you can easily get a nightbus to Ankara, capital of Turkey, where you can get your flight back home directly or via Istanbul. Going to Istanbul directly takes twice the time, so a stopover in Ankara is recommended.
Finally, you have come to the end of the travel, and when you return to your home you will think it all has been a dream, places that hold such a history and surreal landscapes can easily be confused and forgotten. But after living the experience to the fullest, and looking back at the pictures you will think the dream is not Turkey, but your daily life. You will want to wake up and embark on another travel of similar sublime.