Turkey is such a fantastic country with a little bit for everyone! Sitting between the Asia and European continent Turkey is rich in history, amazing nature and sea, culture and food!
To begin with Turkey is a huge country. We spent 10 days on road traveling the West part of Turkey in spring, and still it was barely enough!
Istanbul a city with skyline of domes ,minarets reflected on the Bosporus is truly romantic and enchanting. So many things to do you, that you can waste 3-4 days away without feeling it! Our highlight wasn't Istanbul and with only 10 days, we did a Touch & Go 2 days and tried our best to absorb as much as we could and was off to discover the other parts of Western Turkey.
Istanbul to Bandırma to Selçuk
We took a fast car ferry travelled on the Sea of Marmara from Istanbul (150km) to port town of Bandirma, drove to the town of Selcuk, stayed the night there. It was approximately 100km form Bandirma to Selcuk.
Selcuk is a small quiet town with the ruins of Ephesus at its doorstep.
There is noting much here, Basilica of St. John, Ephesus Museum........I was so tired after the drive from Istanbul to here I I skipped most of them and headed straight for the Hamam after I checked into Nazhan!
Indulging in a trip to the local Hamam in Turkey is a MUST!! Selcuk Hamam is nothing fancy but it is in the traditional dome building with marble slap inside the bath.
In the Hamam you have the option to wash yourself or let the attendant do it for you! I chose the latter and it was one of those time travel experience that evokes bath time memory when your parents use to bathe you! The attendant could be a male sometimes, if you are uncomfortable you can put on your bikini. I left my knickers on, laid on the marble slap in the heated bath...... waited for my turn to be bathed.
The attendant has a thin cloth that he skillfully use to make a whole load of bubbles and he starts scrubbing your back your limbs....your chest without physically touching you!
All your dirt, lint scrubs off like a layer of dead skin through the exfoliation....you feel so squeaky clean like a baby after the experience.
Tips: Turkey has huge lavender, rose plantations and the bar soap made in Turkey is good and value for money. I bought back a bag of bar soaps for a fraction of the price I would pay in France.
The ruins of Ephesus (breif history of Ephesus) is remarkably preserved, dating back to 117 AD, I think the place deserves a day just to immerse yourself in what life was like in the Roman times. If not, I think half a day is plenty of time!
If you come in high summer it can get very hot and not many trees to offer much shade. Bring water, umbrellas, hat and snack! Early morning is the best to avoid crowds!
Revised entry ticket costs (Admission fees) for Ephesus and nearby sites are as follows:
Ephesus: 12 euro per person (72 Turkish Lira)
House of Mary: 6 Euro per person (35 Turkish Lira)
Temple of Artemis: Free of Charge
Sirince Village: Free of charge
Isa Bey Mosque: Free of Charge
Terrace Houses: 6 Euro per person (36 Turkish Lira)
Basilica of St. John: 3 Euro per person (18 TL)
Museum of Ephesus: 3 Euro per person (18 TL) * There are never long lines at the sites. But if you would like to purchase your tickets in advance please click the following link: https://www.muze.gov.tr/tr/purchase?t=5
As we approached Pamukkale, from Denizli, from afar we could see the conspicious white calcium formations perched on the hill of the ridge, as they name it Cotton Castle.
Staying over the night in Pamukkale is advisable as many tourists stop here on a day trip. In the late afternoons or early mornings, the pools are rather deserted, and you can just snap away, dip for hours, have the whole pool to yourself and watch the sunset!
There are a wide variety of pensions around the village and best to choose one tucked away in a quiet location.
There are three different entrances; Pamukkale town entrance, North entrance and South entrance are the main entrances. These entrances grant you access to the travertine thermal pools and Hierapolis ancient city.
From the national park ticket kiosk, you will need to walk up 250m barefoot to the plateau on calcium-covered path. The calcification on the calcium can be sharp and painful for tender feet! But it is part of the journey to feel pain just before a the water world adventure! Otherwise, you can take the southern entrance, 3km journey uphill on bitumen.
Opening times are between 06:30 to 21:00 in the summer for an entrance fee of 50 Turkish Lira TRY, about 9USD.
If I had only one day in Western Anatolia region, I would surely chose to come here above sigh-seeing at the relic of Ephesus! Being here is feels surreal and nothing less than of a scene in a fairytale book! Being here with children was especially delightful as they had unbridled fun dipping from one pool to the next! Especially towards the late afternoon when the hoards of tourist leave the site, you can have the area all to yourself and it leaves your mind to expand to this strange dimension!
There are so much relics around this area that I think you should choose wisely if you only have a day or two to spare. The area is rather big and the roads are narrow and winding, it takes time to travel from one place to another.
Dalyan to Sultaniye Hot Spring
After some long hours of driving we took a break, parked at Dalyan and took a boat to around the lake and to the hot spring.
The Sultaniye Hot Spring lies in the southwest of Lake Koycegiz. The natural minerals are supposed to be good for your skin! So don't hesitate to slap it on every part of your body! It has a rather unpleasant smell of sulphur (rotten eggs) but as they say, all that is good for your body never taste nice!
Wash them off in the sulphur pool and just rest and relax around the pools! Surprisingly not many tourists make it here perhaps due to the distance but it was a refreshing break after hours of long driving.
The boat journey to the hot spring took more time than expected and since we had the whole boat to ourselves it was quite costly approximately Euro100.
Kekova and Ucagiz from Kas
This area on the Western Mediterranean Sea is so rich with history, you could easily spend 5 days here. There are many ancient Lycian relics and ruins scattered around and is best seen on a boat. Lycia ruled over a large region of modern-day Turkey and fought with the Persian Empire in the Greco-Persian Wars of ‘300...... WE ARE SPARTIANS’ movie. This was, for a time, a flourishing civilization, until Roman Empire took over.
The boat excursion normally brings you to the Sunken City from the Byzantine era, passing sunken Lycian tombs and normally about an hour to explore Kalekoy and a climb to the castle. There are some villages who live around the area and it is a chance to take a peek at their simple lives, around the ruins, picking fruits of the season and catching fish from the sea.
It is surreal to imagine all these ruins beneath the waves use to be a sprawling city but was destroyed by an earthquake in the 2th century. Turkey still sit on active faults lines and have experienced countless earthquakes since the beginning of time!
From here we head to Side a small Turkish village with sandy beach on either side of it.
This town is an option from Altanya which is so overly run by huge monster tourism. Although small, you can still feel traditional village life here! There are some ruins here and if you have not had enough of it...... you could spend a good day just frolicking around the Hellenistic Ruins. There is a huge theatre a and a museum in the area too.
We left early that morning to head to Goreme. It was a long drive, about 350km but once you arrive, it seem that you have landed in a fairy-tale land.
As you approach East of Nevsehir after a 3 hour drive from Side , you would have pass through the sea, some snowy mountainous, grassy plains, hamlets, lakes, negotiated with sheep, cow herds........finally dry, arid, desert awaits you ahead.
The strange foreign land starts to unfold..... our fist stop was
Kaymakli Underground City
19km south of Nevsehir, this place is famous for its underground city and handful of old stone houses. Ozluce, Mazikoy and Derinkuyu too are famous too. Kaymakli and Derinkuyu is especially popular with tours groups, unless you visit during the off peak times, late in the afternoon just before closing! Get a guide and let him blow your imagination away just thinking how his ancestors dug and sculpt these amazing underground city!!
It is said that 10 of thousand of people could have lived here for months on ends, deep within the earth! It reminds me very much of the dwarfs dwellings in the Lord of the Rings! It can get quite cool under the earth, deep in the tunnels, best to bring a light jacket or fleece with you. Some of the less popular site, like Ozluce and Mazikoy can be quite deserted and you can feel the cold drafts blow through, with a high eerie sound as they flow through narrow tunnels from the air wells.
Note: If you have made your way to Cappadocia, you simply must pay a visit to any of the underground city, so fascinating and mysterious!
We based ourselves in
One of Turkey's wold heritage sites, the open air museum is a cluster of rock-cut churches, monastery and chapels.
The village is surrounded by the magnificent Goreme National Park, with an enchanting scenery of ancient pigeon houses, fairy chimneys and more ancient rock cut churches.
Valleys to explore
Gulludere, Rose Valley
Guvercinlik, Pigeon Valley
Ballidere , Honey Valley
Kiliclar Vadisi, Swords Valley
Zemi, Love Valley
All these valleys are not exactly close to each other and requires some driving, so best to either hire a guide with driver or a taxi.
Place to stay
There are few boutique hotels that provide you with a panoramic view of the fairy chimneys. It is truly amazing to wake up to it every morning. Have breakfast overlooking the panoramic view and the hot air ballon that sails in the morning sky.
You can spend 2-3 days here just exploring the whole area, adding horseback riding, hot air ballooning or just hiking all around the national park, exploring and discovering the ancient sites. The local food here I found was exceptionally delicious, wood oven baked bread with mutton or beef stew.
Cappadocia is such an amazing place and must surely deserve 2-3 days of your visit here! Be mesmerized with the enthralling fairy chimneys and underground cities and ponder how life use to be in the area!
It was especially beautiful in spring too with all the apricot, peach blossoms, adding hues of pink in the background.
From here we made a long journey home, breaking our journey in an obscure town in Bolu........and back to Sofia in Bulgaria.
Date Visited: Fist week April 2013