Quickguides - a whirlwind tour of Turkey

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UNESCO-listed ancient ruins, modern cities, hot springs, beaches, and east meets west vibes; Turkey has everything.

In fact, it's the 'spend a few months and not even scratch the surface' type of everything. If months of travel time are a luxury you're lacking, but you still want to explore this vast and beautiful country we have good news for you! 

We’ve put together a quick guide of Turkey ‘must do’s’; think of this as your cheat-sheet to a whirlwind tour of Turkey!


a quick guide to Turkey


1. Istanbul

Ready for some serious sightseeing? Istanbul is literally teeming with famous attractions waiting to be explored. The only city in the world to be located on two continents - Europe and Asia - Istanbul is an otherworldly mix of culture, history, architecture and atmosphere.

Get your walking shoes on, strap on your fitbit (multitasking!) and explore on foot. Although the city is expansive, you can tick off the ‘big ticket’ attractions in two to four days.

Start your exploration in the old city; home to impressive historic sites including Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii), Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace. Words cannot prepare you for the architectural beauty of Hagia Sophia, nor will you believe your eyes over the intricate interior of the Blue Mosque. We know time is precious here, but remember to take a moment and soak it all in.

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A short walk away  is the famous Grand Bazaar (the largest covered bazaar in the world) and the Spice Bazaar.

Although they do cater almost exclusively to tourists, the Bazaars are still a wonderful experience and the perfect place to find a gift. Oh, and if Turkish Delight floats your boat, you'll be adrift on a sea of deliciousness here. The. Best. We've. Ever. Eaten!

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For the best view in Istanbul, head to Galata Tower, located over Galata Bridge in Beyoglu. Here, you can get the perfect instagram photo, with 360 degree views overlooking Sultanahmet, the Bosphorus and Beyoglu.

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Istiklal Avenue is an elegant, cosmopolitan pedestrian street home to historical and politically significant buildings, boutiques, bars and restaurants. Trust us, you will want to spend time exploring this picturesque avenue and surrounds.

Keen to see Istanbul from another angle? Take a Bosphorus boat tour from Galata Bridge and admire the picturesque skyline splashed with the Galata Tower, the Blue Mosque and the Princes’ Islands.

How long is long enough? Well, forever would be perfect, but we recommend staying in Istanbul for at least four days so you can explore the key attractions properly; and staying centrally, in Beyoglu or surrounds.


2. Cappadocia

If a balloon flight is on your bucket list, make sure you do it in Cappadocia. There's a reason the area is famous for it! Watching the sun rise over the intricate rock formations is reason enough to visit Turkey and totally worth the 3:30am wake up.  

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Not too keen on a balloon flight? There's plenty more to explore in the region, including the town of Goreme, nestled amongst the ‘fairy chimneys’; the underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu; and the Goreme open air museum. If you're staying in Goreme, make sure you book a cave hotel for a really unique experience.

We recommend flying to Kayseri and catching a taxi to Goreme. It is cheap, will save you some time and your bum a long, uncomfortable bus ride!

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3. Ephesus

A visit to Turkey without visiting Ephesus is doing it wrong; there, we said it. Why? Because Ephesus is home to Europe’s most complete classical metropolis, according to Lonely Planet. 82% of this ancient Greco Roman city is yet to be unearthed,  leaving 18% for you to get lost in. While this doesn't sound like much, the site is massive! The highlights include the incredibly well preserved facade of Celsus Library and the Ephesus Amphitheatre, where you can play out your gladiator fantasies.

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Ephesus may not get the same recognition as the ancient Roman sites of Greece or Italy, but in our opinion it's actually much better.

Be sure to also visit the ancient temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, located nearby just outside the town of Selcuk.

Ephesus is best visited outside of the peak tourism seasons as it can get very busy when the large cruise ships arrive.  We recommend basing yourself in a Kusadasi and taking a day trip from there.

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4. Pamukkale

Pamukkale means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish; you'll get why the minute you first glimpse the gleaming white travertines overrunning with warm, mineral-rich waters. It is other worldly and precisely the reason to visit.

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Pamukkale isn't all mineral springs though; just above lies the ancient Roman and Byzantine spa city of Hierapolis, full of wonderfully preserved ruins waiting to be explored.  

Arrive early to avoid the crowds as the thermal pools get seriously overrun with selfie stick wielding tourists. We recommend visiting on a day trip from Kusadasi.


Been to Turkey yourself? Love it? Hate it? Share your story with us in the comments below!


 

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