Turkey in Two Weeks
Guide for the best of Turkey
Turkey is full of historical and natural treasures and these are just a few cities and locations to include. Two weeks is the minimum time to spend in Turkey but if you can have more days, you can spend more time in each city.
Suggested Time: 1-3 days
Cappadocia is the highlight of many trips to Turkey, for the landscape, people and of course, the hot air balloon ride.
1. Stay: There are no shortage of cave hotels in Goreme, and make sure to look for one that offers views of the hot air balloons in the morning.
2. Tour Guide: We had the best experience with Woop Woop Travel (excuse their name) on both visits. They can help you with accommodations, tours, hot air balloon rides and anything else you need (including helping me with getting a credit card delivered after mine was stolen.) They can even help with accommodations and tours for the rest of the Turkey trip.
3. Hot Air Balloon. I added more time to Cappadocia to make sure there was time to a) ride a hot air balloon, and b) watch the balloons from the ground. Both are amazing experiences and can't be missed. Keep in mind that occasionally, flights are cancelled due to weather conditions, so you may want to buffer in more time.
4. Turkish Night. Yes, this is shamelessly touristy but it's also a lot of fun and a full compilation of the dances and cultural variations in Turkey. It's an array of food and various dance performances and made for an entertaining evening.
5. Valleys. Love Valley, Imaginary Valley, Monks Valley, there are no shortage of tours to explore the rock formations, preserved churches and frescos.
6. Underground Cities. There are about 36 underground cities and you can select which to tour but keep in mind, the spaces are narrow, you'll be climbing underground, and while there is good ventilation, there are also dozens of other tourists.
7. Ceramics, Carpet making, and markets. There's a lot of workshops to experience and some of the best shopping options in Turkey.
8. Konya. A trip to Konya is a few hours journey away by car and if time permits, highly recommended. See the tomb of Rumi and also experience a different side of Turkey, a family oriented city with few tourists. Keep in mind, few people speak English in Konya and the residents are fairly conservative. If interested, Konya can be an overnight trip and you can also visit Çatalhöyük, one of the earliest human settlements. Konya is also a great place to watch the Whirling Dervishes.
Suggested Time: 1-2 days
A visit to Ephesus can be as short as you'd like, most stop for a day on their way to the coast or Pammukale.
1. Temple of Artemis, Roman City, Celsus Library. Home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, you'll encounter many tour groups and tour buses, but the ruins are worth it. You can hire a tour guide and that makes transportation easier, but it's also navigable on your own.
2. Home of the Virgin Mary. Said to be the home of the Virgin Mary, this little house attracts many pilgrims.
3. The Seven Sleepers/People of the Cave. Said to be the site of the Biblical and Quranic story. Note: In small "cruise ship" cities like Ephesus and Pamukkale (below), the best food you'll find is in your hotel. Often, the hotel cook is a local and they prepare home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients and for a good price.
Suggested Time: 1-2 days
Pamukkale, Turkish for "cotton castle," can easily be paired with Ephesus and be a quick trip.
1. Hot Springs. Assemble a picnic from the market in nearby Korkuteli and spend half a day enjoying the amazing calcified cliffs and mineral waters.
Some tips on visiting the hot springs:
-ask the locals or travel agencies when the tour busses will arrive and avoid those times,
-enter from the gate closest to the village so you can enjoy the views as you walk up,
-it's bright and the glare is strong (the locals will warn you about this if you don't have sunglasses, and one insisted we take his),
-watch out for sharp edges and be careful not to slip on the surface,
-there weren't changing areas or lockers when we went, so plan accordingly,
-do not miss the sunset over the pools
2. Hierapolis. These ruins are located a short walk from the hot springs and are overlooked by tourists who stay soaked in the waters nearby.
3. Cleopatra's Pool. Swim in the warm antique pool, among ancient blocks and marble columns, resulting from an earthquake. This is a separate ticket and includes a locker room.
Suggested Time: 2-3 days
Depending on time, this may need to be tabled for a second trip to Turkey, but if time allows, there are plenty of coastal towns to chose from, some of my favorites:
1. Antalya. A popular destination and often crowded but for good reason. Antalya has Roman ruins, beautiful coasts, yacht-filled harbors, and amazing waterfalls.
2. Fethiye. Known for it's rock tombs, blue waters, and butterfly reserve.
3. Alaçatı. Gaining popularity among tourists, this town is known for windsurfing, pretty old stone houses and their winemaking tradition.
4. Çeşme. A smaller resort town with a castle.
5. Other stops to consider: Kaş, Bodrum, Alanya, and Marmaris.
Suggested Time: 3-4 days
Istanbul is a fascinating city, full of contradictions, at once crowded and also quiet, historic but new, and a city of many cultures. For a guide for the best of Istanbul, see Istanbul in Five Days.