The things to in Turkey
With the danger of the state of emergency past, very few visitors to Turkey and the very favourable exchange rate between the USD/AUD & the Turkish Lira there has never been a better time to visit Turkey.This is a place very close to my heart, after all I used to live there, and it was where I landed my very first tour leading job.These are some of my top recommendations.
For thousands of years Istanbul has been on the radar for tourists and with good reason.There is so much to see here.My picks are, the Basilica cistern, literally an old Roman water storage facility which now looks like an underground temple, with fish swimming among the columns, the Agia Sophia, trust me go inside it is absolutely spectacular and the only place you are likely to see Islamic and Christian symbolism together in the same religious complex and of course the Blue Mosque.Don’t forget to go for a wander down the back streets of the Sultanahmet and to shop for bargains in the Grand Bazaar – bantering with the shop keepers is one of my favourite things to do in the city.
Paddle at Pamukalle
Literally meaning “Cotton Castle”, the famous calcium terraces, now the only ones in the world after New Zealand’s were destroyed by lava flow should be on everyone’s bucket list.You can wander up and down the terraces paddling in the warm waters as you go, be warned no shoes are allowed and the rock can sometimes be a bit harsh on delicate feet.Nearby, you will also find the ancient site of Heirapolis which is also worth a wander through and Cleopatra’s pool – more on that one in a later blog.The worlds very first terminal care hospital was also at this site, including the gateway to the underworld, a temple where they took people to die as a kind of euthanasia.Archaeologists have speculated that there was a poisonous gas leak here that killed anyone who dared venture inside the temple.
Reflect on the past at Ephesus
The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ephesus should not be missed, especially now that there is no cruise ship tourism!Once upon a time on certain days of the week one couldn’t move at this site due to the hoards of cruise ship tourists who had gotten off at nearby Kusadasi for their one day in Turkey and chosen to visit Ephesus.Wandering the ancient paths un hindered by masses of people certainly makes the list and the Celsius Library is one of Turkey’s biggest draw cards.Ephesus is also home to a very well-preserved theatre and Roman bath as well as the nearby Artemesium which is closer to the nearby town of Selcuk – The Atemesuim of Ephesus was once one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.All that remains today is a single column, but still very worth a visit.
Enjoy the life of a Pirate on a Gulet
A Gulet is a traditional Turkish wooden sailing boat, they can usually accommodate around 15-20 people depending on size and you can usually book onto one for anywhere between 4-8 days.The most popular journey will take you from Fethiye to Olimpos via Kas, the underwater ruins of Kekova, the pirates cave and various beautiful swim stops and sunsets.If you’re lucky your captain may even let you steer the boat, like mine did.The cabins are small and often air-conditioning is missing, most of the time everyone just sleeps on deck and falls asleep to the sound of the water lapping around the boat.Its also fun to jump straight overboard as soon as you wake up in the morning.
Try Iskender Kebab
Ok yes, all Turkish food is awesome, but this one is my favourite.The Iskender Kebab or in English the Alexander Kebab consists of grilled flat bread drizzled in butter.Doner meat is then placed on top of the bread and a sauce of tomato infused with cumin is poured over the top.The final touch is a big fat dollop of Turkish yoghurt.Wow I’m making myself hungry just typing this!Most restaurants will have this culinary treasure and you’ll get to impress the locals by knowing what it actually is.
Try to Fly in Oludeniz
Paragliding.It’s just amazing!This is the best place in Turkey to do it, the Turquoise coast over the beautiful clear water of one of the prettiest beaches in the world.Be warned it is an early start, they pick you up from your hotel and drive you up a nearby mountain where they suit you up and strap you to someone who actually knows what they’re doing.Finally, you have to run towards the edge of the cliff and take that leap of faith over the edge!Unlike skydiving or bungy jumping, there is no falling at all with Paragliding.You leap off the edge of the cliff and just float up and away.It’s peaceful and you can just enjoy the view, you can even take your camera to get some incredible aerial shots.
Do I really need to say anymore? This place is one of, if not my favorite place on Earth.It is so chilled out and relaxing, everyone is just having a great time and friends are easily made even if you are on your own.We used to have a joke when I worked there, we’d see someone turn up and ask for one night, no one ever stays one night – sure enough I’d be back with another tour group three weeks later and that person was still there working at the bar.All around there are signs that say, “I came, I saw, I stayed and stayed and stayed and stayed….”I recommend Kadir’s treetop houses, it is an institution in Olimpos and all the houses have names from popular culture – my treehouse was called “Jack lives here” very appropriate for me.Olimpos has an amazing cove with a rocky beach that is wonderful for swimming and to get to it you have to wander through some Lycian ruins.Do be warned, Olimpos is a bit of a hippy commune and there a no ATM’s, stock up on cash before you visit.
Get your Phileas Fogg on in Goreme
Ballooning over Cappadocia, is there any sight more iconic that screams TURKEY more than this.No, I don’t think there is.Cappadocia has been named the number two spot in the world (I think it should be number 1) for hot air ballooning.Floating over the formations and fairy chimneys at dawn is an experience that everyone should have so put it on your bucket list.This is a very popular activity and it is the one experience where having thousands of other people doing it make it better.Watching the other balloons float around over the formations actually makes the viewing even more amazing.When you come down you have a celebratory glass of champagne before being taken back to your hotel.Even if you don’t like heights, get up early one morning in Goreme and watch the balloons sailing overheard.
Relax in a Hammam
One thing I always like to try in every country I go to is their spa facilities and Turkey’s hammam is one of my favourites.You can find them all over the country, my two favourites are in Istanbul and the 1200 year old hammam in Fethiye, the guy in there has magic hands!Traditionally a hammam is a bath.Firstly, you will sauna for about 10 minutes, then rinse off in the wash room.Then you are taken to another room where you lie on a marble slab while someone scrubs you down and exfoliates your skin, depending on the package you have picked you may get a massage at this point.After your scrub you will be covered in bubbles and then rinsed off – my favourite part is when they wash your hair.Do be warned different hammams have different rules, ladies try to go at ladies bathing time to avoid any embarrassment, and yes, it is customary to be naked in most hammams.