Everything You Need to Know About Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

I’m sure you’ve seen photos of hot air balloons flying over the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia. Maybe you are hoping to do this, perhaps you’re a bit afraid, or you might wonder if it’s worth the cost.

Wind and Whim to the rescue. Here is everything you need to know about hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.

A Little Background

When Steve and I spent six nights in Cappadocia in September 2022, taking a hot air balloon ride was at the top of our list of things to do.

Well, it was at the top of my list. Steve was apprehensive because he avoids anything that could be dangerous and is unnecessary, like carnival rides. After giving it some thought, he decided to do it. I was surprised and pleased.

Until the minute Steve got on the balloon, I wasn’t sure he would go through with it, but he was glad he did. He will be the first to tell you it wasn’t the least bit scary.

We flew with Voyager Balloons, and everything went perfectly. We didn’t book as early as we should have, so the 60-minute flight was full. We booked the 75-minute flight. 60 minutes would have been plenty. We paid $270 each for the 75-minute flight. As you will see below, the prices have increased.

a hot air balloon ready to take off at dawn
Our balloon – ready for boarding

Cappadocia Basics

What is Cappadocia?

Cappadocia is a region in Central Turkey full of valleys, caves, and unique towers and cones called fairy chimneys. Its towns include Goreme, Avanos, Urgup, Kayseri, Uchisar, and Derinkuyu.

a collage of Cappadocia landscapes
Cappadocia landscapes

Where should I stay in Cappadocia?

Goreme is the most popular place to stay, but many other options exist. This article by Goats on the Road can help you decide.

We chose Goreme because it is centrally located, and there were plenty of reasonably priced hotels there.

a man and woman standing on a balcony with a view of Goreme
Steve and I in Goreme

How do I get to Cappadocia?

Getting to Cappadocia takes a little while because it is not close to other popular tourist cities.

Here is a chart that shows the shortest number of hours it takes to travel from four popular cities in Turkey to Goreme. The data is from Rome2Rio.com.

Traveling byFrom IstanbulFrom AnkaraFrom AntalyaFrom Bodrum
Car8.547.512
Bus13.5 4.58.515
Train14 7NANA
Plane2.53.51.255.25

If you fly, you will fly to either Kayseri or Nevsehir. If you aren’t renting a car, you can get a shuttle to your hotel. It takes one hour to drive from Kayseri to Goreme. The drive from Nevsehir to Goreme takes twenty minutes.

We flew into Kayseri and booked a transfer with Goreme Transfer. Our driver was reckless enough that one passenger filmed the drive. I would have liked to get off, but we were driving through a rural area, so we held on and hoped for the best. We used Cappadocia Express for our trip back to the airport, and that driver was much better.

Both of these transfers cost $10 per person. A private transfer for $80 was also an option.

How do I get around Cappadocia?

The village of Goreme is small and walkable, but you will need more than your feet to see many of the Cappadocian highlights. Renting a car is an option. You can find taxis readily enough, and there are also local buses, but finding information about them is difficult.

The Balloons

Why are there so many hot air balloons in Cappadocia?

The climate in Cappadocia is dry, with hot summers and cold winters. Combined with the unique landscape, it is an ideal place for a balloon ride. The best times of year to visit are from April to June and September to October, but the balloons fly all year.

Are hot air balloons safe?

You can die in a hot air balloon accident. But you probably won’t. According to this article by BBC Travel, “Being killed by a shark, a lightning strike or even falling into the Grand Canyon (which, shockingly, leads to about 12 deaths per year) are all more likely.”

In Turkey, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the same agency that regulates airlines, regulates the balloon industry. This agency decides if it is safe to fly on a given day. Flights may be canceled as late as the morning of the flight if the weather is not conducive to safe flying.

Pilots must undergo training as described here.

An accident can happen when two balloons collide vertically, causing the lower balloon to deflate and descend to the ground too quickly. However, it is during the landing that an accident is most likely to occur.

For this reason, before your flight takes off, you will be instructed on the position to take at landing. You will crouch into a seated position with your back facing the direction of travel while holding on to ropes for balance.

How high do the balloons fly?

The balloons typically fly between 1,000 and 3,000 feet above ground level. The maximum allowed is 6,000 feet.

When do the balloons fly?

It’s romantic to ascend in a balloon as the sun breaches the horizon. But balloons in Cappadocia don’t fly at sunrise to be romantic. They do this because the winds are calmer at that time than later in the day when the sun has had a chance to warm the earth.

Which balloon company should I pick?

According to Tom Brosnahan, the travel expert behind Turkey Travel Planner, there are twenty-five balloon companies in Cappadocia. Four of the best companies according to Mr. Brosnahan are Atlas Balloons, Butterfly Balloons, Royal Balloon, and Voyager Balloons.

Here is information from Mr. Brosnahan about these companies and what to look for when chosing one.

What are the flight options?

The basket size, the maximum number of passengers, and the flight length vary. We were in a 20-person basket, but the number of passengers was capped at 16. There were five compartments on the basket. One was for the pilot and copilot. The other four had four passengers each. There was enough space to see well.

What does the experience include?

The four companies above offer similar experiences.

Your day starts long before the sun is up when you are picked up at your hotel. If you are staying far from Goreme, you should verify that your chosen company will pick you up.

You are taken to the company’s headquarters for breakfast. After that, you are driven to the launch site, where you can watch the balloons being inflated.

a group of hot air balloons at dawn
Getting the balloons ready

After the flight, there is a small ceremony that can include champagne or a non-alcoholic drink, medals or certificates, and photos. You are then driven back to your hotel.

The entire experience takes about three and a half hours.

What happens if my flight is canceled?

There is always the possibility your flight will be canceled due to rain, high winds, or stormy conditions. It may also be canceled if the weather is predicted to deteriorate.

Your company will try to reschedule you. If they can’t, they will refund your money.

How do I book a flight?

It is easy to book online. You can also book through a travel agent. Be wary of booking through a random person on the street. There are scams out there. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How much does a flight cost?

As of this writing, you should expect to pay around $300 per person for your flight. Three of the above companies, Atlas, Butterfly, and Voyager, have easy-to-use price charts on their websites.

Royal does not have a price list on their site. You must fill out a form to find out if a flight is available for your date and what it will cost.

Here are the prices and flight options for Atlas, Butterfly, and Voyager as of July 1, 2024:

AtlasButterflyVoyager StandardVoyager Ultra Comfort
Length of flight60 minutes60 minutes60 minutes75 minutes
Number of people28162016
Cost$261$326$283$337

Are children allowed to ride?

Children must be at least six years old and at least 4’6” tall so they can see over the side of the basket. Children younger than six may also have difficulty assuming the landing position.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely. This was an experience Steve and I will never forget.

a group of people sitting on a vehicle
Back on terra firma with one of our pilots

Helpful Hints

1. Book your flight as soon as you know when you will be in Cappadocia. We wanted to fly with Royal Balloons, but they were booked. Voyager was our next choice, but we were too late to get the 60-minute flight, so we had to spend more.

2. Book the flight early in your trip so you have another chance if your flight is canceled. According to the travel company Cappadocia Balloon Tours, balloons fly 280 – 300 days a year.

A honeymooning couple at our hotel booked their flight for the last day of their stay, and it was canceled. Don’t be that couple.

3. Make sure that the van that picks you up is from your balloon company. One scam involves picking up balloon riders and taking them to another company, which gives the driver a finder’s fee.

4. Check the company’s cancelation policy before you book. Butterfly and Voyager have their policies on their websites. I did not see any for Atlas or Royal.

5. To learn more about this adventure, check out Royal Balloon’s FAQs.

More About Turkey

Prepare for your trip to Cappadocia with “18 Things To Know Before Visiting Cappadocia.

Expand your horizons along the Turkish Coast in “6 Cities, 6 Vibes On the Turkish Riviera.”

Find out what to expect in Istanbul in “Visiting Istanbul: The Good, The Bad, And The Startling.”

And if you’re crazy about cats, check out “Turkey Is For Cat Lovers.”

Until Next Time

I hope this post has inspired you to visit Turkey and indulge in the wonderful experience of hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.

Happy traveling,
Linda

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Visiting Istanbul: The Good, The Bad, and The Startling

As the first step in writing this post, I thumbed through my photos of Istanbul. Steve and I sure saw a lot of beautiful things there. Despite that, it is our least favorite city. So what made us dislike Istanbul so much?

It all comes down to the extremes; beautiful neighborhoods surrounded by ghettos, decent public transportation but hard-to-find information, and a modern Airbnb in a building that caught fire.

In this post, I will share the good, the bad, and the startling things about visiting Istanbul.

All money is in U.S. dollars

A Little Background

During the summer and fall of 2022, Steve and I spent eleven weeks in Turkey. During the first six weeks, we visited six cities on the Mediterranean Coast, aka the Turkish Riviera, enjoying a side of Turkey we had no idea existed. Then we spent one week in Cappadocia. Hiking and a sunrise balloon ride were the highlights of that trip. We ended our Turkish tour with four weeks in Istanbul.

Check out our other Turkey posts:
6 Cities, 6 Vibes on the Turkish Riviera
18 Things to Know Before Visiting Cappadocia
Turkey is for Cat Lovers.”

A Little Istanbul Geography

Istanbul is divided by the Bosphorus Straight. The western side is in Europe, while the eastern side is in Asia. Most of the tourist attractions are on the European side, and this impacts the lodging costs. Airbnbs on the Asian side were more modern and lower priced, so we decided to split our four weeks between the two continents.

The Good

Incredible Museums

The Topkapi Palace Museum

Four photos at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
Four scenes from the Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace is on the European side of Istanbul on the shore of the Bosphorus Straight where it meets the Sea of Marmara. It is a large complex with much to see.

The palace served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire and the home of Ottoman sultans from the 1450s until the 1850s. At that time, the newly built Dolmabahce Palace became the home of the sultans.

Don’t miss the harem. It was the quarters for the imperial family and its servants. The word harem means forbidden or private.

You can read more about the harem here.

The Dolmabahce Palace

One of the gates at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul
A beautiful welcome to the Dolmabahce Palace

The Dolmabahce Palace is as impressive as the Topkapi Palace. It was built as a replacement for the Topkapi Palace, designed to match the luxury and style of European palaces.

The palace was completed in 1856. It was the home of six sultans until the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Like the Topkapi Palace, it is on the European side of the city on the Bosphorus Straight, but further north.

The Basilica Cistern

Inside the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul
Changing colored lights add to the cistern experience

You might not think that touring a cistern would be entertaining. Still, the stately architecture of the Basilica Cistern, highlighted by changing colored lights and sculptures, makes for an enjoyable visit with great photo ops.

This cistern was built in the 6th century. It is the largest of several hundred built beneath the city to meet the water needs of the people.

The Kucuksu Palace

Exterior of the Kucuksu Palace
Exterior of the Kucuksu Palace

Like the Dolmabahce Palace, the Kucuksu Palace was built in the mid-1850s by Sultan Abdulmecit I for use as a hunting palace.

The palace is on the Asian side of the city and quite a bit further north. There are only nine rooms and no bedrooms. Guests would only visit for the day.

An audio-guided tour takes less than one hour. Once you have seen the palace and the small garden area, you can take a ferry across the straight using the IstanbulKart, and visit the Rumeli Fortress.

Rumeli Fortress

The Rumeli Fortress in Istanbul by Yasincan Gunes on Unsplash
The Rumeli Fortress; photo by Yasincan Gunes on Unsplash.com

The 30-acre Rumeli Fortress sits along the Bosphorus Straight on the European side of Istanbul. Sultan Mehmed II built this imposing fortress before he conquered Constantinople (the name of Istanbul until 1930) in 1453.

Renovation work was going on when we visited, but the areas we could see made for a nice change from the opulence of the other sights.

Panorama 1453 Museum

Two photos from the Panorama 1453 Museum in Istanbul
Inside the dome

The Panorama 1453 Museum illustrates the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II (Mehmed the Conqueror) in 1453. Despite the limited scope of the subject, this is an interesting museum.

First, you will find a series of photos that explain the events leading up to the conquest. Then you will enter the 38-meter-wide (124-foot) panoramic dome showing scenes of the city’s conquest.

Hagia Sofia and The Blue Mosque

Hagia Sofia
The Hagia Sofia

Both of these famous mosques are in Sultanahmet. While we were visiting Istanbul, the Blue Mosque was undergoing renovations, so we could only see one small part. However, the Hagia Sofia was open.

The Hagia Sofia has a fascinating history. It was built in the 6th century as an Eastern Orthodox church. After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, it was converted into a mosque. In 1935 it became a museum, and in 2020 it returned to being a working mosque.

You can visit the Hagia Sofia anytime during opening hours, but if you go during prayer hours, you will not be allowed in the prayer section. There are five prayer times each day, and the time changes. You can get the current information here.

The Blue Mosque is a baby compared to the Hagia Sofia. It wasn’t built until the 17th century.

Its official name is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, but it is called the Blue Mosque because the inside is decorated with handpainted blue tiles.

The Balat Neighborhood

Four photos of scenes from the Balat neighborhood in Istanbul
Colorful and funky; that is Balat

If you like exploring quirky neighborhoods, don’t miss Balat. Like much of the city, there are a lot of hills. However, they seemed even steeper here. If you’re up to walking on some severe inclines, this area is sure to delight you.

The People – Individually

Taxi Driver

Taxi drivers have a reputation for ripping off tourists. We were lucky to get an honest one.

We had spent the day exploring and found ourselves far from home at rush hour. We decided to take a bus home. When we arrived at the stop, it was mobbed.

A crowd of people waiting for a bus in Istanbul
All of these people were waiting for a bus

There were hundreds of people waiting to get on the express buses that went from the European side to the Asian side. Each time a bus approached, our hope rose, only to have it dashed as the bus drove by, unable to carry any more passengers.

We decided that a taxi was a better option. At first, the driver didn’t want to drive us because of the distance and the time it would take. Luckily, he took pity on us, explained it would be a slow ride, and quoted us a fare of $20.

It was a slow ride indeed. He kept the meter running, and I watched as it climbed over the amount quoted to $48. I wasn’t nervous until it exceeded the amount of cash we were carrying.

Once we arrived home, I asked him to wait while I ran upstairs and got more cash. He said we only owed him the $20 he had quoted. We gave him the $45 we had. We could see the relief on his face.

Lesson learned: We had never needed more than a few dollars in cash, usually for a tip. That experience taught us to carry more cash.

Impromtu Crossing Guard

Another person who warmed our hearts was an older man sitting on a chair by a store. He saw us attempting to cross a busy street at a crosswalk. The cars weren’t stopping, so he got up, walked into the street, and held up his hand to stop traffic.

It worked. However, as I reached the other side of the road, I almost got hit by a driver who lacked patience. That sums up Istanbul perfectly.

The Metro

Istanbul has an extensive subway system consisting of eight lines (six on the European side and two on the Asian side). There is also a tunnel called the Marmaray that connects the European and Asian lines.

To use the metro and other forms of public transportation, you need to buy an IstanbulKart and put some money on it. Then it’s just a matter of swiping it as you enter the vehicle or the terminal.

Here is a good article about public transportation in Istanbul.

The Cost

Outside of the high cost of lodging in Sultanahmet, you get a lot for your money in Istanbul. We used public transportation extensively. Our average cost was $6 per day. We ate eighteen meals out with an average cost of $30 for the two of us. These included main dishes, drinks, and a tip.

You can see what four weeks in Istanbul cost below.

Inexpensive Medications

While we were in Istanbul, both Steve and I needed to refill a few prescriptions. I assumed this would require a trip to a doctor’s office, but one day Steve discovered that we could get all our medications without a prescription.

I bought three months’ worth of all five of my medications for less than $100. Without insurance, two of them would cost over $500 each for a one-month supply in the U.S.

The Bad

Even though there are many remarkable things to see in Istanbul, several things detracted from our enjoyment.

The Slums

Right from the start, Istanbul played tough.

Initially, we wanted to stay in the Sultanahmet area, near the main tourist attractions. We spent hours combing through Airbnb and Booking.com listings, but there weren’t any places in our price range where we would be willing to stay.

However, there was an apartment in a new building in the Beyoglu neighborhood that caught our eye. It was a little far from the tourist area, but we were willing to spend a little travel time to stay in an attractive, affordable place.

Two photos; one of clean modern buildings and one of the run-down buildings and an empty lot
Top photo: our building and a hotel; Bottom photo: the view from our apartment

The apartment was everything we expected, at least inside. What the listing didn’t show was the garbage-filled lot outside our window and the trashy buildings across the way.

That was bad enough, but our building was in a row of about eight new high-rises. Everything else, in every direction, was slums. If we wanted to go anywhere, either by foot or to catch a bus, we had to walk through some terribly run-down neighborhoods.

Despite all the negatives of the area, we never felt unsafe, and nobody bothered us.

During the last two weeks of our trip, we stayed in the Kadikoy neighborhood on the Asian side of the city. It is filled with beautiful high-rise buildings and is more upscale than Beyoglu. Our view improved this time; we looked out at another high-rise under construction.

High-rise buildings in the Kadikoy neighborhood of Istanbul
Just a few of the many high-rises in the Kadikoy neighborhood in Istanbul

Lesson learned: We now use Google Street View to check the surrounding neighborhood of any accommodations we are considering.

The Crowds

Over 15 million people live in Istanbul. Add the tens of millions who visit each year, and you have massive overcrowding. Walking around the city was often a contact sport as people going in both directions refused to give an inch.

Here is information from World Population Review about the most heavily populated cities in the world.

Lesson learned: Crowded cities are not our thing. We will either avoid them or limit our stay in the future.

The Traffic

Congestion and aggression are two constants on Istanbul streets. There is also a confounding disregard for lane markers. Twice we had long taxi rides in which the drivers seldom stayed in their lanes.

There are a lot of motorcycles, which makes things even more chaotic. Motorcycle drivers in Istanbul ignore the fact that they are motor vehicles. It is common to see them run red lights, drive down crowded streets in the wrong direction, and drive on sidewalks.

Impassable Sidewalks

While walking in the city, you often have to walk in the street because the sidewalks are impassable. Cars, restaurant tables and chairs, and any number of other things block them. Sometimes they may be so poorly constructed that the street is a safer option.

A sidewalk with many obstacles
I wish this were an extreme example of Istanbul sidewalks, but it isn’t

The Buses

Istanbul has an extensive bus network, and Google Maps did a good job providing information. However, the buses seldom arrived when they were supposed to. They could be early or late. Basically, you stand at the stop and wait for your bus to show up.

Once on board, you will probably get to know your fellow travelers better than you would like. We were on one bus that was so crowded that a few people sat on other passengers’ laps, and up to ten people had to get off the bus to let other passengers off.

Lack of Information

The entire time we were in Turkey, we noticed that it was harder to find information online than expected. We found that bits of information were often lacking. This photo sums up how we felt about Turkish websites.

Istanbul bus terminal information
This is what passes for information in Istanbul

The Startling

Apartment Fire

The crowds and the crazy traffic were bad enough, but during our last week in the city, we had a frightening experience. The building we were staying in caught on fire.

We were relaxing one evening when the fire alarms went off. We grabbed our passports, money belts, phones, and my purse and evacuated the building. 

Once outside, we saw smoke billowing from the roof and upper part of the 24-story building. Soon after, we saw flames on the side our Airbnb was on. We feared we had lost everything but what we had carried out.

It took several hours to put out the fire. It had started in an air conditioning compressor and was confined to the outside of the building. Miraculously, there was no damage to the interior of the building.

Once we were allowed to return to our apartment, we were apprehensive about going to sleep in case the fire started again. But we were exhausted and slept well. We relied on the smoke detector we travel with to keep us safe, and it was quiet all night.

The next morning, we were awakened by someone knocking on our door. The fire had started up, and we had to evacuate a second time. This time we grabbed more things, including our laptops and medicines.

This wait was shorter, but our building was left without electricity and water, so our host offered to put us up in a hotel for a few nights.

The Worst Hotel Ever

The hotel’s exterior did not impress us. Steve said, “I hope the inside is better than the outside.” I said, “It probably is,” as we have seen many ugly exteriors that housed lovely apartments and hotel rooms.

We weren’t so optimistic when we opened the elevator door, and a bucket of filthy water was sitting there. There was also a small bag of garbage spilled on the floor in front of our room. We should have turned around and left right then.

Five photos of a disgusting hotel room
This is what we found in the hotel room

A random search led us to the Buem Hotel, one of the best hotels we have stayed in. We enjoyed two days of luxury and fabulous food there. 

A Bombing on Istiklal Street

Less than a month after we left Istanbul, a bomb exploded, killing six people and injuring 81 others. This occurred on Istiklal Street, a popular pedestrian shopping street.

The threat of terrorist attacks, which this is thought to be, may keep people away from certain cities or areas. Steve and I believe this should not make people afraid to explore this amazing world. As devastating as these attacks can be, the chances of being a victim of one are small.

A Few Other Thoughts

Would we recommend visiting Istanbul? Not really. However, there are many worthwhile things to see there. If we were to do it again (we won’t), we would visit for a week or less and stay in the Sultanahmet area, near many of the sights.

You may have noticed that the Grand Bazaar is missing from the lists above. That is because we found it to be neither good nor bad. Steve and I were both disappointed in it.

We expected a market-like atmosphere. What we saw was a lot of stores, many selling souvenirs. Since it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, it was no surprise that it was wall-to-wall people.

What It Cost

Dates: Sept. 22, 2022 to Oct. 19, 2022
Number of nights: 27
Total cost for two people: $3,900
Cost per day for two people: $144

Our costs:
Lodging: $2,500
Dining: $500
Groceries: $500
Activities: $100
Transportation: $300

Our lodging included two nights at the Buem Hotel after the fire in our Airbnb. This hotel is beautiful, the staff is exceptional, and the food was the best we had in Istanbul. Two nights with breakfast and dinner was $183.

Transportation includes $146 for both of us to fly from Cappadocia.

Until Next Time

I hope you enjoyed reading about visiting Istanbul and all of the ups and downs we experienced. If you have been to Istanbul, Steve and I would love to hear what you thought about it. Just drop a comment below. And if you found this post helpful, please consider sharing it.

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured photo: a small restaurant in the Balat neighborhood

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Turkey is for Cat Lovers – With 25 Charming Cat Photos

For three months in the summer and fall of 2022, Steve and I visited eight cities in Turkey. To my delight, each town was full of cats roaming the streets.

These are not bedraggled strays. These cats are well-fed and look healthy. They are cared for and loved by the residents because, as we discovered, Turkey is for cat lovers.

A Little Background

When Steve and I arrived in the town of Cesme, the first stop on our Turkey trip, we were surprised to see hundreds of cats and dogs roaming the streets and lying everywhere. It was common to see dogs sleeping in the streets. The cars patiently drove around them. The cats, being wiser, did not sleep in the streets.

Most of the dogs looked healthy and weren’t aggressive. The dogs mostly slept. They had little interest in people, although there were plenty of people who fed them and cleaned up after them. Compared to the cats, the dogs in Turkey seemed to be an afterthought.

We saw two types of cats, those who ran away when people came near and those who were friendly. The friendly ones get all the attention they want. We soon found out cats are beloved throughout Turkey.

As we continued around Turkey, we found the same situation in other cities, except the dogs did not sleep in the streets.

Here is a quote from the website for the movie Kedi (more on that below) that describes the cat situation in Istanbul (and, from my experience, the rest of Turkey):

“Claiming no owner, the cats of Istanbul live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame – and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt.”

Here are photos of just a few of the cats that stole my heart.

The Cats of Turkey

Black and white cat sitting in front of a fence

This want-to-be model was hanging out in Cesme Harbor.

Calico cat on a concrete wall

We ran across this mellow calico while exploring Cesme.

Calico cat at the sea

And yet another Cesme cat, this one enjoying an evening by the sea.

Grey cat with green eyes looking up

This one wasn’t sure how close to get to us, but she was still sweet.

Cat hanging over a pole

This unique-looking cat was hanging out by a supermarket in Datca.

Orange and white cat on a plastic table

And this one was saving a table for her friends in the party town of Marmaris.

Orange cat lying against a wall

Also in Marmaris, this cat looks like he partied a little too hard.

Orange cat with a glass

And this one looks like he is doing just fine.

Two kittens sitting on a cushioned bench

These two kittens were part of a family that lived at the hotel we stayed at in Dalyan.

Grey and white kitten on a stone wall

This kitten was part of the same family. She was the most lovable.

Kitten on a motorcycle

It isn’t every day you see a motorcycle kitten. We saw her in Dalyan, too.

Cat lying against a wall

Steve snapped this cat’s photo while I explored rock tombs in Fethiye.

Cat and man on a lounger

We spent a lot of time relaxing by the pool at our hotel in Fethiye. This cat was happy to hang with us.

Grey cat lying down

There is nothing like walking out of a supermarket and seeing a cat looking like part of the merchandise.

Wide-eyed cat on a patio

If you visit the Riviera Restaurant in Antalya, you might meet this wide-eyed beauty.

Grey and white cat lying down

And this sleepy kitty found a purrfect spot to rest at our hotel in Goreme.

Cat lying in shrubs

I saw this cat every day when I walked past the Sheraton Hotel in Istanbul. Try as I might, I could not get her to come to me, but at least I got a photo of her gorgeous face.

Cat looking out of a window

Here is another Istanbul beauty. She is the resident cat at the Cher Hotel.

Orange and white cat sleeping on a chair

Apparently, chairs are for cats in Istanbul.

Orange and white cat on a metal bench

And so are bus stop benches.

Grey kitten looking at the camera

Steve and I were amused by this kitten and her two siblings at the Rumeli Fortress in Istanbul. They followed Steve around because he had food.

Cats on a cat tree

Some cat lovers in Istanbul set up a shelter for cats along a footpath. Here are two of the cats enjoying the cat tree.

A man surrounded by cats

These cats are residents of the cat shelter. They were curious to see what was in the bag. It was baklava, and no, they didn’t get any.

A cat in a clothing store

I don’t know how this cat managed to get into H&M at the Akasya Mall in Istanbul, but he loved the fuzzy ear muffs.

Cat sitting in front of a pink wall

We met this pensive cat in the quirky Istanbul neighborhood of Balat.

Why So Many Cats?

Cats have been revered in Turkey from the time of Ottoman rule (from 1300 to 1922) for two reasons.

The first reason was practical. Cats kept the population of mice and rats in check, which not only protected food but also kept books, which were rare and precious, safe from nibbling rodents.

The second reason was spiritual. In the Islamic religion, cats are admired for their cleanliness and hunting ability. The Ottomans were Muslim, and Islam remains the main religion in Turkey.

You can read more about why there are so many cats in Turkey in these two articles:

Meowza! Why Are There so Many Cats in Istanbul?” by Travel Atelier and “Stray Cats in Turkey: All There is to Know About Felines” by JTG Travel.

You can read about Jenny Sandiford’s experience with cats in Istanbul and see more cute kitty photos in her article “Cats of Istanbul.”

Daily Interaction

As you travel through Turkey, you can see several examples of how the residents care for and enjoy the cats.

If you look closely, you can see many places where food and shelter have been provided for the street cats. One group took this further when they set up a cat condo community along a footpath in Istanbul. There is plenty of food and water, and one day I saw a couple treating some of the condo kittens with medicine.

Multiple cat shelters in Istanbul

This cat shelter in Istanbul is extreme compared to most.

Occasionally, you will see someone dining outdoors with a cat nestled next to them or in their lap. This happened to me one day when a cat spent most of my meal curled up on my purse. As you would expect, some cats beg for food at the outdoor tables, but most are content to lie around.

Many people, including yours truly, take pleasure in talking to and petting the cats. I saw several instances of workers on their breaks enjoying a little feline fellowship.

Kedi

Kedi is the Turkish word for cat. It is also the name of a 2016 documentary that showcased the daily lives of seven of Istanbul’s street cats. It was directed by Ceyda Torun and was listed as one of the top ten films of 2017 by Time Magazine.

Click here to learn more about the movie and see a trailer.

Read More About Turkey

Check out our other posts about Turkey: “6 Cities, 6 Vibes on the Turkish Riviera” and “18 Things to Know Before Visiting Capadoccia.”

Until Next Time

I hope you enjoyed meeting a few of Turkey’s cats as much as Steve and I did.

If you’ve been to Turkey, we would love to hear your impressions of the stray dogs and cats. Just drop us a note in the comment section below.

Happy traveling,
Linda

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18 Things to Know Before Visiting Cappadocia

Thanks to Instagram, we all know about the enchanting Cappadocian landscape and the epic balloon rides. Like many places that are presented as ideal, there is more to the area than you see on the Internet. To help you plan your trip to this magical region, here are 18 things to know before visiting Cappadocia.

All costs are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted.

Our Experience

Steve and I spent six nights in Cappadocia in September 2022. We enjoyed our time there and had a great balloon experience because we researched the area and planned ahead.

We stayed in Goreme and did not have a car, which somewhat limited our travel around the area. Despite not having a car, we were able to do most of the items on our list.

If you choose to drive, you will find it easier to reach the outlying attractions. Be warned that driving in Goreme can be difficult due to poor road conditions, heavy traffic, and hilly, narrow roads.

What to Know

1. Cappadocia is a region, not a city

The region of Cappadocia is in the center of Turkey. Cappadocia includes the towns of Urgup and Avanos and the villages of Goreme and Uchisar.

The Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Goreme is the most touristy of the towns and is best for travelers without cars.

Like 97% of Turkey, Cappadocia is in Asia.

2. Cappadocia is not close to anything

If you are traveling in Turkey, adding Cappadocia to your itinerary seems like a no-brainer. But be aware that it is not close to other cities that are popular with tourists.

This chart shows the shortest number of hours it takes to travel from four popular cities in Turkey to Goreme. Data is from Rome2Rio.com.

Traveling byFrom IstanbulFrom AnkaraFrom AntalyaFrom Bodrum
Car8.547.512
Bus13.5 4.58.515
Train14 7NANA
Plane2.53.51.255.25

3. You will not fly into Goreme

If you choose to fly, you will fly to either Kayseri or Nevsehir. It takes one hour to drive from Kayseri to Goreme. The drive from Nevsehir to Goreme takes twenty minutes.

We were heading to Goreme from Antalya and did not want to spend eight hours on a bus, so we decided to fly. We wanted a direct flight. This meant flying to Kayseri.

The flight itself was fine. Unfortunately, our shuttle ride from the airport to Goreme was horrible. We had booked our transfer with Goreme Transfer through our hotel. Our driver was careless. If we had been near a town, I would have gotten off and found other transportation. Any company could have a bad driver, but I recommend avoiding this company.

When we headed back to the airport at the end of our trip, we used a shuttle service through Cappadocia Express. This was a better experience, but the shuttle didn’t leave as early as we would have liked since we like to be at the airport with plenty of time to spare.

Both of these transfers cost $10 per person. A private transfer for $80 was also an option.

4. Goreme is not a particularly pretty village

The village of Goreme, Turkey, at dusk

Goreme at dusk

Goreme is a study in contrasts. The town is built around the other-worldly beauty of the rock formations yet has a decidedly unattractive side.

Many of the streets were only partially paved, which caused a lot of dust. The dust was so bad that trucks drove around spraying water on the streets to keep the dust down.

A street in Goreme, Turkey

How most of the streets in Goreme looked when we visited

We found out that the roads were in bad shape because the town was laying gas pipes underground. According to the woman who told us this, the work had been going on for two years, but she didn’t know when it would be finished.

5. Many of the attractions and activities are easy to reach from Goreme

The village of Goreme is small and walkable. However, you will need more than your feet to see many of the highlights. You can find taxis readily enough. There are also local buses, but finding information about them is not easy.

From Goreme, it is easy to visit several stunning valleys full of fairy chimneys:
Love Valley – where you will see phallic rock formations.
Monk’s Valley – also called Pasabag Valley, great for hiking
Red Valley and Rose Valley – for ATV and horseback riding tours
Pigeon Valley – a great place to take an easy hike (see #12)
DerventValley – also called Imagination Valley because of the rock formations that resemble animal and human figures.

The “Camel” in Dervent Valley, Cappadocia

“The Camel” in Dervent Valley

You will also be close to the two open-air museums, the Zelve Open Air Museum and the Goreme Open Air Museum. See #14 to learn which one is worth your time.

A short taxi ride or a bus ride and walk can get you to Uchisar Castle. It is interesting, but in my opinion, not a must-see.

The balloon companies provide transportation to and from your hotel. If you stay far from Goreme, you might want to verify that they are willing to pick you up at your hotel.

Our ATV tour included hotel pick-up, but since the storefront was just a five-minute walk from our hotel, we decided to skip the pick-up. I assume the Jeep and horseback riding companies provide the same service, but of course, you should verify this.

6. A few of the attractions are further away

If you love exploring underground, there are two underground cities you can visit: the Derinkuyu Underground City and the Kaymakli Underground City. This article from Hello Jetlag does a good job of comparing the two.

Both underground cities are around a half-hour drive south of Goreme. It is recommended that you either drive there or visit with a tour as they are difficult to reach by public transportation.

Visiting the tunnels of these cities may be challenging for the taller among us and are probably not a good choice for the claustrophobic.

The Soganli Valley is a one-hour drive south of Goreme. Learn about visiting the Soganli Valley in this article from Cappadocia History.

The Ihlara Valley is a one-hour drive southwest of Goreme. It has been referred to as a green Grand Canyon. Learn more about the Ihlara Valley in the article from the Venere Travel Agency.

Also southwest of Goreme, not far from the Ihlara Valley, you will find the Selime Monastery. Here you can marvel at the largest religious building in Cappadocia and learn about its more than 1,000-year history. Here is more information about the Selime Monastery.

We chose to skip these attractions since we had plenty to do closer to Goreme.

7. You probably won’t want to drink the tap water

Goreme was the seventh city we visited during our three months in Turkey, and we were advised not to drink the tap water in each of them. Here is an overview of the tap water situation in Turkey by sipsafer.ca.

Bottled water is inexpensive, but the waste caused by all the people drinking bottled water is concerning.

8. You should book your balloon flight early, really early

If you have researched Cappadocia hot air balloon flights, you have probably seen advice to book your flight as early as possible. Heed this advice!

If you are worried about booking early and losing money should your plans change, check the FAQs for your chosen company. We flew with Voyager Balloons, and they allow cancellations without a fee up to one week ahead of the flight date.

We booked our flight two weeks ahead and couldn’t get our first or second choice. Our first choice was Royal Balloon, but they were fully booked for the entire duration of our trip. We then looked at Voyager Balloons. Our first choice here was the 60-minute flight. This was fully booked for our dates, so we chose the 75-minute flight. Our flight cost $270 per person, compared to $220 for the 60-minute flight.

9. You should schedule your balloon flight early in your trip

The second piece of advice is to book your flight early in your trip. Since the balloons can only fly when conditions are right, trips can be canceled up to flight time. By booking to fly early in your trip, should your balloon flight be canceled, you may have a chance to do it another day.

There was a honeymooning couple at our hotel who didn’t follow this advice. They booked their flight for the last day of their stay, and it was canceled.

10. Cappadocia balloon flights are safe and not scary at all

Steve and I loved our hot air balloon experience. Even for non-daredevils like us, there was nothing scary about it. We had two pilots, as one was still in training. We felt safe for the entire ride and were amazed at the pilots’ skills. When it was time to land, our pilot gently placed the balloon on a trailer bed the same size as the basket.

Three people sitting in front of a hot air balloon basket

Steve and me with one of our pilots after our flight

Regardless of who you fly with, the industry is highly regulated. Here is information about hot-air balloon safety in Turkey from Turkey Travel Planner.

11. Information about the balloon flights is readily available

Sailing over Cappadocia’s jaw-dropping landscape is a bucket list item for many travelers. Between the time spent to get to Cappadocia, the price of the balloon flights, and the effort to get the flight you want, it surprised me that many flyers had no idea what to expect.

If you check Voyager Balloons’ website, it does a great job of explaining what to expect.

Royal Balloon’s website isn’t quite as user friendly, but they do a nice job with their FAQs.

I mention this because of comments Steve and I heard from other flyers while having breakfast at the Voyager Balloon headquarters (the Voyager service includes hotel pick-up, drop-off, and breakfast).

One woman wanted to know if we would be sitting or standing in the balloon (standing).

Another woman wanted to know if there were restrooms on the balloon (there are not).

A third woman wondered if they would be serving cocktails (they do not).

I can’t imagine spending so much on an activity and not knowing what will occur, but maybe that’s just me.

12. Hiking in Pigeon Valley is easy and picturesque

There are a lot of places to hike near Goreme. Steve and I had gone to the Uchisar Castle and then walked to the Pigeon Valley Overlook. The overlook was teaming with tourists taking selfies. Only a few people were walking in the valley. We found a staircase to a lower level. From there, we were able to get to the valley floor.

We walked the trail back toward the castle. It was an easy walk on which we saw several caves and many fruit trees and bushes. Steve loved picking and eating the grapes.

Once we got closer to the castle, we headed back to our starting point.

We spent around two hours in the valley, with plenty of photo stops.

Pigeon Valley trail in Cappadocia

The start of our Pigeon Valley hike

Here is information about hiking Pigeon Valley (of course, you should double-check the information, as things may change).

13. Hiking in Love Valley is more challenging but equally amazing

Steve and I also hiked Love Valley, so called because of the many phallic-shaped rock formations.

Three photos of Love Valley in Cappadocia

Love Valley views

This hike goes from Goreme to Uchisar. We started from the Goreme end and enjoyed an easy walk for most of the trail. We found the Uchisar end of the trail a bit challenging with its steep inclines and parts of the trail laying on the edges of high rocks.

We each used a hiking pole, which helped a little, but the hard ground, which was often covered with gravel, made this hike more challenging than our Dales Way walk in England.

14. The Zelve Open Air Museum is worth your time; the Goreme Open Air Museum is not

There are two open-air museums in Cappadocia, the Zelve Open Air Museum and the Goreme Open Air Museum. The Zelve museum is in Avanos, a town next to Goreme and the Goreme museum is in Goreme.

The Zelve Open Air Museum is four times as large as Goreme’s. We visited it first and enjoyed exploring the homes and churches that had been carved into the rocks. Some of them date back to the 6th century. We highly recommend you spend a few hours there.

On our last day in Goreme, we decided to check out the Goreme Open Air Museum. It was a disappointment. Not only is it small, but there are several areas where repairs have been made in the past and need additional maintenance.

The side of a rock formation in the Goreme Open Air Museum

One of the rock formations in the Goreme Open Air Museum

Check out this article about the museum by kapadokyadayim.com. The article has several photos of the church frescos. Photos weren’t allowed in the churches when we visited.

In addition to being better kept and larger, the Zelve museum was also a better value at about $3.50 per person. The Goreme museum cost us over $8.00 per person.

15. You may want to rethink the ATV tour

ATV tours through the Red and Rose Valleys are popular. You can book this tour for about $30 per person.

Steve and I took a sunset tour. I was looking forward to it since it was my first time on an ATV. Steve had taken a private ATV tour in Jaco, Costa Rica, and loved it. Because this was a group tour, it was a much different experience.

If you decide to do this, know that you will be one of many people riding through the valleys. Our group had about sixteen ATVs that traveled in tandem, and our group was one of several.

The upside is that we got to see some lovely dusk views when we stopped to enjoy the scenery as the sun set.

Four photos of ATV riding in Cappadocia

Four photos from our ATV tour

This is one of those things I’m glad I did but wouldn’t do again. Several things took away from the enjoyment.

First, because we were in a large group, we had to stop frequently because of problems some riders in our group had or to let other groups pass.

Second, it was hard to enjoy the scenery while riding. It was everything I could do to keep up with the group, although the frequent stops gave me a chance to catch up.

And third, it was very dusty. A mask and sunglasses are a good idea. I took my sunglasses off near the end of the ride so I could see the trail at dusk, and regretted that move.

Two better options are hiking and horseback riding. Both allow you to enjoy the scenery and not be a pain in the butt to other people because of the dust and noise you are creating.

16. Dervish shows aren’t exciting or cheap

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “whirling dervish.” For many of us, this is used to describe frantic activity. But the whirling dervishes are real and are not frantic.

The dervishes follow a branch of Islam called Sufism. You can read about the beliefs of Sufism in this article by The Threshold Society.

The dervish ceremony, also called sema, symbolizes “… the rising of the human soul by releasing the ego to become enlightened, and thus to become united with God…” (from the article “Ancient Sufi Dance: Rumi’s Whirling Dervishes by Culture Trip).

Steve and I made arrangements through our hotel. The $40 per person fee included transportation to and from the show.

This is not an actual religious event but a show for tourists. Even so, it was solemn and, to my ignorant eye, appeared authentic. Since it isn’t a religious event, women do not have to cover their hair.

The show begins with music and prayer. Knowing nothing about Islam, this held little meaning for us. Then the dervishes come out and partake in a ritual of bowing and walking slowly in a circle for quite a while. After this, the whirling begins.

The show lasted about 45 minutes, during which photos were prohibited. There was a chance to take photos after the show.

The Dervishes are a-whirling

17. You may be asked to pay in cash or euro

During our travels along the Turkish coast, we used our Visa card for everything except tips, which we paid with lira. Then we arrived in Cappadocia.

Our hotel arranged the airport transfer and the Dervish show for us. In both cases, they would only accept cash and preferred euro. Since we were in Turkey, we had Turkish lira, not euro.

The manager did agree to accept the payment in lira, but that meant we had to go to an ATM to get more lira. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but the cost of 100 euro converted to 1,850 lira. We had to pay a $9 fee to get 2,000 lira from the ATM.

The hotel lost our business for the ATV ride and the transfer back to the airport because of this policy.

18. ATMs in Cappadocia charge hefty fees.

The best one we found to use with our U.S. credit union was QNB bank. If you take the cash in lira and don’t choose the bank’s conversion, you will only pay $5.

Until Next Time

Even though Cappadocia isn’t perfect, it is a magical place and is well worth visiting.

As always, Steve and I love to hear from our readers. Drop us a comment below with your thoughts and experiences in Cappadocia.

Happy traveling,
Linda

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6 Cities, 6 Vibes on the Turkish Riviera

When you think of visiting Turkey, you probably think of Istanbul or Cappadocia. But did you know that there are many seaside cities and towns that also make for great trips?

Steve and I spent six weeks in the summer of 2022 in six cities, one on the Aegean coast and five on the Mediterranean coast. We loved a few, liked a few, and disliked one, but each had something different to offer.

In this post, I will share our experiences in these six cities on the Turkish Riviera so you can decide which are best for your next trip.

All money is in U.S. dollars.

The Aegean Coast

There are several towns on the western coast of Turkey that make for wonderful seaside vacations. We visited Cesme for one week and Alacanti for a day. Other popular destinations include Kusadasi, Guzelcamli, and Bodrum.

Cesme

Pronounced: CHESH meh
Population: 20,000
Vibe: Small town

Cesme is a seaside resort town on the Cesme Peninsula. It is 54 miles (87 km) from Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city.

The marina and the surrounding area are beautiful. The marina opened in 2010 and has room for hundreds of yachts. There are many shops and restaurants around it.

Don’t miss the Cesme Castle, a 16th-century Ottoman castle that overlooks the marina.

4 photos at Cesme Castle

Scenes of Cesme Castle

Cesme Old Town is adjacent to the castle. It is not large, but it is charming with its strong Greek vibe.

There is a small beach and a beach club near the seafront. There are other beaches in the area, but I would not consider this a beach town.

3 photos of Cesme, Turkey

Old Town, the marina, and Tekke Beach

One of the things you will notice right away is the large number of cats and dogs on the streets. Many of the cats are friendly. The dogs wish to be left alone but are not aggressive.

Not since we visited Paracas, Peru, have we seen so many free-range dogs. I cannot call them strays, as they appear well cared for. They are fed, and there is surprisingly little dog waste on the streets. They lie wherever they want, including in the street, and the residents respect their choices.

Just a 5-mile (8.8 km) drive away is the town of Alacati (Alaçatı in Turkish, pronounced ah LA cha tuh). Like Cesme, Alacati is not a beach town per se, but there are beaches to the north and south. The main part of town is in the center of the peninsula.

The two best things to do in Alacati are to wander the picturesque streets of Old Town or spend time at one of the spas.

2 photos of Alacati, Turkey

Fun sights in Alacati

Steve and I had difficulty deciding whether to visit Cesme or Alacati. Cesme won because it is on the sea. Even after staying in Cesme and spending a few hours in Alacati, it would still be a tough choice.

The Mediterranean Coast

As you turn along the coast and start traveling along the southern edge of Turkey, you will be on the Mediterranean Sea. This area has been nicknamed The Turquoise Coast.

Here, you will find many towns offering diverse experiences. In addition to the towns we saw, popular vacation places include Oludeniz, Kas, Finike, Kemer, Belek, Side, and Alanya.

Datca

Pronounced: Rhymes with cha cha
Population: 25,000
Vibe: Low-key resort town

The second town we visited was Datca (Datça in Turkish). It lies on a peninsula of the same name. The peninsula has the Aegean Sea to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Datca is on the Mediterranean.

Visiting Datca is all about the waterfront. The beach is not very wide and was always full of people. There were also many windsurfers. The marina is large and lovely, as are the waterfront restaurants near it. If you head along the beach away from the marina, you can find a short hiking trail with some great views, too.

Four photos of Datca, Turkey

Scenes from Datca’s waterfront

There is a long seaside promenade with some resort-style hotels and many reasonably priced hotels. I tend not to make hotel and restaurant recommendations because business quality can change over time, and people have different tastes, but sometimes a place is so good that I want to share it with you. That is the case with the hotel we stayed at in Datca. The Datca Beyaz Ev Otel. And yes, that is the correct spelling. The Turkish word for hotel is otel. You will see both options throughout Turkey.

Datca Beyaz Ev Otel is a small, family-run hotel with exceptional service. The rooms are spacious, the pool is perfect, and there are several places around the property in which to relax. My favorite place was the dining area, which is covered but open to the pool. Besides being a comfortable spot for the daily breakfast buffet, it is a great place to relax out of the sun and perhaps have a drink.

Like Cesme, Datca isn’t full of sights, and it isn’t a party town, but it is a good place to chill near the sea.

Marmaris

Pronounced: MAA muh ruhs
Population: 28,000
Vibe: Party town

If you want to lie on the beach all day and party at night, Marmaris is the place for you. Its 6-mile long (10 km) beach curls around Marmaris bay and is surrounded by mountains.

The seafront promenade runs the length of the beach and is lined with one hi-rise after another and many restaurants. Much of the beach is commandeered by hotels or restaurants that fill them with sun loungers, umbrellas, and cabanas. You either pay to use them or use them for free, provided you buy food or drinks. There are a few public beaches without amenities.

In the evening, the beaches close, bright lights fill the seafront, and music pumps out of many restaurants. A little later in the evening, you can see shows at some restaurants, with drag shows appearing to be popular judging from the number of advertisements for them.

There are three marinas in Marmaris. One, the Albatros Marina, is chock full of charter boats with annoying touts trying to lure in customers. You can take different types of day trips or an evening cruise.

Four photos of Marmaris, Turkey

Marmaris views

Don’t make the same mistake we did. We were tempted by a moonlight cruise around the bay. The vendor said it was “romantic.” It wasn’t.

Our ship was chock full of people, and music blared on two of the three decks. I can’t call it a cruise because the ship sailed into the bay and then dropped anchor for a few hours. During this time, guests could buy drinks. A light dinner was served towards the end of the evening.

Steve and I were on the middle deck. When the music got to be too much, we went to the lower deck, where it was quiet. At least it was until a few people there started dancing and someone turned up the music. There was no escape!

Perhaps we should have expected what we got on a ship called the Davy Jones. Next time we want a cruise, we will ask a lot of questions.

Besides taking cruises, you can stroll through the Grand Bazaar. It is a large covered area filled with stores selling souvenirs and clothing you could buy anywhere. I didn’t live up to our image of a bazaar.

We ate at two restaurants that we recommend. The first is Deniz Cafe & Restaurant. It is on the waterfront overlooking the Nestel Marina. You can enjoy flavorful food and excellent service while admiring some beautiful yachts.

On our first visit, Steve had fajitas (very Turkish, no?). He said they were fantastic, so I had them on our second visit, and yes, they were great. Steve had a lamb and tomato dish that he also enjoyed.

We didn’t find this other gem until the end of our stay. If we had found it earlier, we would have paid it several visits. The restaurant is part of the Yeshill Beach Hotel & Restaurant, and quite frankly, we chose it because we were hungry and it looked inviting.

After we ordered our food, our waiter brought a tableful of meses (Turkish appetizers). Steve and I told the waiter we hadn’t ordered them, and he replied that they were on the house. We were confused, as we had been to restaurants where appetizers were placed on the table. If you ate them, you had to pay for them. Even so, we enjoyed the tasty treats, figuring that the price of food in Turkey is low enough that even if we were charged, it would not be a big deal.

After the meses, we ate our main dishes and asked for the check. Instead, our waiter arrived with a large plate of fresh fruit. Again, we were unsure about what was going on, but we went with it. After that, two plates of dessert arrived, but we were too full to enjoy them. Then we were offered coffee or tea, which we also declined.

By this time, we had no idea what our bill would be and were blown away when all this food, along with fabulous service, only cost $21.

Since we are not lie-on-the-beach or party people, Marmaris isn’t a place we would revisit, but it was a nice change of pace from the quiet towns of Cesme and Datca.

Dalyan

Pronounced: Like it looks
Population: 8,000
Vibe: Laid-back river town

Dalyan was an unexpected delight. It lies on the Dalyan River, 7 miles (12 km) inland from the Mediterranean Sea. Rocky hills and mountains run along the western side of the river, and the town lies to the east.

Four photos of rock formations in Dalyan, Turkey

Dalyan has amazing views wherever you are.

We stayed north of town in a quiet area lined with riverfront hotels. Many of the hotels had waterfront restaurants that were open to the public. It was a short walk along a stone-paved path to get to town.

We spent much of our week there relaxing at our hotel pool but ventured into town to eat at some of the many waterfront restaurants.

The riverfront in town is chock full of boats offering tours to local attractions, including visits to the mud baths and Turtle Beach (also called Iztuzu Beach), a protected breeding ground for loggerhead sea turtles.

You can visit Turtle Beach by taking a public water taxi for the bargain price of $3.30 per person round trip. We thoroughly enjoyed both forty-minute rides as each turn revealed more stunning beauty.

Our visit to Dalyan was the first time we had seen rock tombs. These are tombs the Lycians ( 15-14th centuries BC to 546 BC) carved into rock. Here is a bit of information about the rock tombs. Unfortunately, you can not get up close to the tombs, but they are an impressive sight.

Dalyan rock tombs at dusk

Dalyan rock tombs at dusk

There are a few other things to do in the Dalyan area, including visiting the Ancient City of Kaunos, taking a mud bath, hiking, and learning about loggerhead turtle conservation at the Kaptan June Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation.

Dalyan’s unexpected beauty made this one of our favorite stops on the Turkish coast.

Fethiye

Pronounced: FEH tee uh
Population: 70,000
Vibe: Poor man’s beach town

Our next stop was the town of Fethiye. It was our least favorite of the six places we visited.

Calis Beach is the big tourist draw in Fethiye, although it didn’t impress us. The beach is long but not very wide. However, we did have some of the best food we’ve had since arriving in Turkey. We particularly liked the moussaka at Hotel Idee and the pizza with slices of filet mignon and bearnaise sauce at Bella Mamma’s. Steve and I thought the pizza sounded unappealing, but we trusted our waiter, who said it was great. He was right!

Calis Beach, Fethiye, Turkey at dusk

Calis Beach at sunset

We spent much of our time relaxing by our hotel pool, but one day we took a water taxi from Calis Beach to the Ece Marina. From there, we walked around Old Town, which was not very impressive. One exception was the Paspatur Market. This market was smaller but more authentic than the Grand Bazaar in Marmaris.

Spices at the Paspatur Market in Fethiye, Turkey

So many spices at the Paspatur Market

Like Dalyan, Fethiye has Lycian rock tombs, but here you can go inside one, the Tomb of Amyntas. There are about 200 steps up the cliff, but before you reach the tomb, you have to navigate some rocks and three high stairs. Once you’ve managed all that, you can step inside a plain, small space, which is anticlimatic compared to the tomb’s exterior.

Three photos of rock tombs in Fethiye, Turkey

The Fethiye rock tombs

Antalya

Pronounced: Like it’s spelled
Population: 1.3 million
Vibe: Upscale (yet affordable) resort town

Hands down, this was our favorite stop on the Turquoise Coast. We stayed in the tourist area of Konyaalti, which has many hotels, resorts, and apartments overlooking Konyaalti Beach and the Mediterranean Sea.

Three photos of the sea and beach in Antalya, Turkey

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea

Steve and I knew this was a more upscale city when we arrived at the bus terminal. I didn’t get photos of it since we had to get to our Airbnb, but you can see it here. We also saw many gorgeous modern buildings in Konyaalti.

Four photos of modern buildings in Antalya, Turkey

Modern buildings in Konyaalti

To get an idea of how big the city is, take a ride on the cable car (Tünektepe Teleferik Tesisleri). You will be treated to wonderful city, mountain, and sea views.

Antalya has the largest Old Town of the six places we visited. We didn’t spend as long as we would have liked there because it was a hot and particularly humid day. However, we did spot several hotels that would make for a lovely stay if you choose not to stay seaside.

Two photos from Old Town Antalya

Two sights in Old Town Antalya

Antalya is home to the Antalya Aquarium. Not only is it one of the largest aquariums in Europe, but it also has one of the longest aquarium tunnels. The tunnel is 429-foot (131 m) long.

Despite the size, the aquarium was a disappointment given the price of $40 per person. While it had some well-done displays, the photos and names of the sea life on the signs didn’t always correspond to what was in the tanks. In addition, the tunnel was full of interesting undersea objects but lacking in sea life. There were some sharks and rays, but far from the number of sea creatures one usually sees in a sea tunnel.

On the plus side, the descriptions of the environments that were represented were informative and presented in English as well as Turkish and Russian.

Transportation in Antalya was surprisingly easy. Buses are easy to find using Google Maps, and once on board, you pay with a bank card. Each ride cost us 45 cents.

Unfortunately, Uber is not available in Antalya, but the taxis are inexpensive. The meter is in the rearview mirror. If you don’t see it, remind the driver to turn it on. To make it even easier to get around, there are call buttons on major streets that allow you to call a taxi. Just push the button, and a taxi will come for you.

Why Turkey?

Turkey wasn’t even on our radar until the spring of 2022. We were getting ready to leave Budapest, our home for two years because of the pandemic. We had taken advantage of our location to visit Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Lake Bled, and Ljubljana. We also had an eight-day walk in northern England in July. You can read all about that experience in “Walking the Dales Way: 81 Miles of Beauty and Charm.”

Between our side trips to the cities mentioned above and our Dales Way walk, we were spending a lot, so we wanted to pick an inexpensive place.

Because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we wanted to avoid countries too close to Ukraine. And to complicate matters further, we wanted a country that isn’t in the Schengen Area since we are planning to spend three months in Greece in early 2023. As U.S. citizens, we can only spend 90 days out of every 180 days in the Schengen Area.

Nobody said travel planning was easy, but we worked through it and decided that Turkey filled the bill.

Getting to Cesme

Since our first stop was Cesme, we flew to Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city. We did not land until after midnight and spent the night at the TAV Airport Hotel Izmir. The hotel is in the airport, just a short walk from the baggage claim area.

Our room was spacious and modern, and a buffet breakfast was included. We used it to get some rest before heading to the coast, but I wish we had more time there to enjoy it.

Havas has a shuttle from Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport to Cesme many times every day. Here is information about that route. The bus stops in Alacati. It is best to pick up the bus at the domestic terminal, as it will not stop for pick up at the international terminal if it is full.

When riding this and other shuttle buses, you don’t buy tickets in advance. You simply get on the bus and pay the fare, which is surprisingly inexpensive.

Getting Around the Turkish Riviera

We used buses to move from city to city. All the buses we rode on were modern and comfortable, if not spacious. Using the buses was easy, even though there isn’t much information online. Locals are quick to answer any questions. Be aware that many people who work in the bus stations (otogar in Turkish) don’t speak English.

Our transfer from Cesme to Datca was the longest, with more than six hours of driving time. First, we took a shuttle bus from Cesme to the Izmir bus station. From there we took a long-distance bus to Datca.

The long-distance buses do not run as frequently as the shuttle buses and require you to have a ticket before you board the bus. Obilet.com is a good website for getting information about long-distance bus routes.

Steve and I were amazed when we arrived at the Izmir bus station. It was huge. There were over seventy buses lined up. Once we had tickets, we needed to find bay number 9. None of the bays we saw had numbers that low. I went searching for our bay while Steve watched the luggage. That’s when I discovered there was a second level of bays with another seventy or so buses.

The rest of our travel between cities was by intercity buses, which run frequently (every half hour or every hour). You just show up at the bus station, look on the windshields of the buses for the destination you want, get on board, and pay.

Drivers will stop for short restroom and smoke breaks on longer journeys. On the drive from Izmir to Datca, we had one twenty-minute break. The following three transfers were all a little over an hour long, so there weren’t any breaks. The drive from Fethiye to Antalya had a driving time of two and a half hours. That driver also stopped for a twenty-minute break, so be sure to factor that in on longer drives.

What Did Six Weeks Cost?

ItemCost in USD
Lodging$4,300
Flight from Manchester to Izmir$700
Local transportation$300
Food$2,000
Activites$200
Visas$100
Total$7,600
Number of days45
Cost per day$169

Until Next Time

I hope you have enjoyed learning about this lesser-known part of Turkey as much as Steve and I enjoyed discovering it. Drop a comment below and let us know your thoughts about the Turkish Riviera.

Happy traveling,
Linda

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