Turkey Travel Guide

Kas town, Turkey

Kas, coastal Turkey

Why travel in Turkey?

This huge country scattered with stunning ancient artefacts and natural wonders is populated by friendly folk and – in season – the sun shines endlessly, flowers burst from every crevice, and transport systems work well.
Scenery ranges from dull to mind-boggling, beaches are pretty good, prices are low and shopping is superb, especially leather goods and silks. Accommodation options range right across the board from backpacker dorms  through to luxury resorts.
Driving around Turkey is surprisingly safe and pleasant, apart from Istanbul and night driving, both of which should be avoided.

Downsides

– There have been a few Islamic fundamentalist incidents though they are rare.
– The language is a difficult Asiatic tongue and many Turks outside tourist areas don’t speak a lingua franca like English so communication can be a problem.
– The ubiquitous pine trees and profuse flowers are not going to be enjoyed by hay fever sufferers.
– Local people are generally pleasant but can be ‘economical’ with the truth.
– Small sites of big interest such as Ephesus (photo at top), cannot contain the seething herds of package tourists.
– Distances between major sights are considerable.
– Turkish wine is a disaster, though the beer is excellent and readily available.

Turkey Weather

Best: April- June, September- October. For beaches June – September. Temperatures in the eastern part of the country can reach 45C (113F) in mid summer or -12C (10F) in mid winter. The Black Sea coast is notoriously rainy and mild.
Worst: December-March (cool and wet in the west or freezing and snowy in the east). Also Ramadan fasting time, see below

Main attractions

***Istanbul. A relaxed, interesting and comfortable city bounded by water with spectacular sights, mostly in the core of old Constantinople known as Sultanahmet. See Istanbul Travel, Istanbul Map, Istanbul Pictures.

***Cappadocia. A seriously weird and wonderful area of fairy chimneys. Calm, pastoral, inexpensive and spectacular, but some distance from anywhere.

**Nemrut Dagi. Mt Nemrut (aka Nimrod) is a spectacular mountain top scattered with huge decapitated heads (in stone, need we say? ), but it’s a long way east of Cappadocia, high altitude and cold so best visited during mid summer.

**Bursa. A 2, 000 year old city still in use, housing many fine Ottoman buildings, both mosques and houses and famous natural mineral hot springs.

*Pergamon. Also over 2, 000 years old, but only ruins now, in the usual Greco-Roman style. Nice and less crowded than Ephesus, but missable unless you’re that way inclined. The same goes for Aphrodisias, Didyma and Priene.

*Pamukkale is a bit of a hike from anywhere, and is a shadow of its former glory but being improved. Don’t believe the fantastic tour operator pictures or postcards in Istanbul.

**Ephesus is an extensive, very well-preserved typically Roman ruin complex about 3km from the agreeable little town of Selcuk, but VERY overcrowded.

**The Aegean/Mediterranean coast. Lots of beaches and ruins between Izmir and Alanya, tho’ package tours are spreading like the plague. See Turkey Beaches and Turkey Beach Pictures.

***Bodrum is crowded but still attractive, especially the Kumbahce Bay side. Lots of pedestrian streets and good restaurants. Good base for boat trips. Small beach, big discos.

*Dalyan, by the river, is small, relaxed and quiet, with great views over the water to some Lycian tombs and pleasant boat trips to Turtle beach or the nearby mud baths. Too many bugs but the birdlife is terrific.

***Olu Deniz. Great (shingle) beach, lively town, beautiful setting but far, far too many parasols bagging the beach.

**Patara. Small town, superb sandy beach, dunes, some old ruins.

*Kalkan. Hill/harbour town, quaint but unfocussed, unlike Kas, further down the road. Small beach and marina.

**Kas. Uncrowded, pretty and tranquil, with nice little beaches nearby. The coastal road there is gorgeous and it’s also a good base for boat trips.

**Antalya. On the central Mediterranean coast, Antalya is large, historic, beautifully located and lined by large beaches even if they are a bit stony. It’s not far from the dedicated beach towns of Side and Alanya.

Thanks, but no thanks

Ankara. Turkey’s capital has nothing much to recommend it, except perhaps the Museum of Anatolian Civilization.

*Fethiye. Good access to surrounding beaches and ancient sites but the town is very short of character.

*Marmaris, Kusadasi. Beach resorts of the package kind that are mainly good for bad tattoos, good chip butties and cafés showing soccer replays, but if that’s your scene then this will do you fine.

Activities

Walking/hiking: particularly good in Cappadocia and the Kackar Mountains near the Black Sea. A famous long distance walk is the Lycian Way, a 312 mile (500km) walk following the coast of southern Turkey. The Way winds through ruined Lycian villages and cool pine forests, with Mediterranean views and comfortable guest houses en route. It’s clearly signposted from Olu Deniz to near Antalya with red-white piant flashes every 100m or so and can take up to a month.
Other long-distance hikes are the St Paul Trail, also 312 miles long and way-marked and a couple of Kackar Trails that are frequently snow-covered and not marked.

Mountain biking: bikes are widely for rent, and are especially sensational in Cappadocia.

Motorcycling: scooters often for rent, but don’t hesitate to bring your own bike. There are lovely coast and Cappadocia roads in reasonable condition, with acceptably safe drivers – though not at night. Petrol is expensive.

Boat trips: long and short trips with varying qualities of guide. particularly famous are the ‘Blue Voyages’ sailing from ports like Bodrum, Marmaris, Alanya ++.

Watersports: skiing, scuba diving from Marmaris, Bodrum ++.

Hangliding/Paragliding: especially at Olu Deniz.

Hot Air Ballooning: especially over the magnificent pointy scenery of Cappadocia, this is one of the best commercial rides in the world, IMHO.

Troy/Gallipoli Peninsula:
Seen the film Troy? Well don’t make a special effort to see the site unless you are a very keen archeologist. There’s little visible save for a pathetic replica of a wooden horse and a lot of rocks.
The adjacent site of Gallipoli strikes an emotional chord with Anzacs (Australians and New Zealanders) whose troops fought the Turkish there in the 1st World War, and, under the definitely misguided and probably moronic British command, died in their thousands. Anzac Day is April 25th and the Peninsula is likely to be crowded.

Festivals:
Kurban Bayrami: a four day religious festival during which many facilities will be closed and resorts crowded. Sometime between February and April.
Kirkpinar Oiled Wrestling, mid-June, Edirne.
Istanbul International Festival of Arts, late June – mid July, world class music, dance++
Republic Day, October, speeches and parades

Ramadan

During Ramadan many if not most Muslims will neither eat nor drink during the daytime and consequently many cafes, restaurants and even shops will open only after sunset; public eating, drinking and smoking by tourists may upset the locals. In one Muslim country the only alcohol served to us during our visit was from a teapot  into tea cups in a first class hotel.

Furthermore service personnel may be missing, careless or irritable during the daytime.
The last day of Ramadan, known as Idd al Fitr, can be a wild time with much celebrating, depending on location.

Dates depend on the full moon rising in your location so they may differ by one day depending on where you plan to be.

In 2017 Ramadan will start on the 27 May and will continue for 30 days until the 25 of June.
In 2018 Ramadan will start on the 16 May and will continue for 30 days until the 14 of June.
In 2019 Ramadan will start on the 6 May and will continue for 30 days until the 4 of June.