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Posted by Jessica on Jul 29, 2009
Must See Locations in Turkey

From time to time we're lucky to receive friendly emails with questions about traveling or queries about the places we've visited. We replied to the following email a few months ago, but I'm hopeful it might be helpful to other folks planning a trip to Turkey too. And if you have a question you'd like us to answer, just shoot us an email at jessica_and_timothy@hedgehogswithoutborders.com and we'll be happy to help!


Hi Rob and Andrianne! This is Jessica from HedgehogsWithoutBorders.com.

Congratulations on your upcoming round-the-world trip! I spent some time peeking around on your travel blog and I can't wait to read your stories when you hit the road. And thank you so much for the kind words about HedgehogsWithoutBorders. We love providing information and inspiration to fellow travelers!

I can't tell you how excited we were to read you've added Turkey to your itinerary based on our stories. I don't think you'll be disappointed: Turkey is the friendliest country we traveled in (beating out Cambodia by just a hair!), it's super easy to get around, and there are so many amazing sites to see. The 10 weeks we spent there were simply incredible. I hope it's the same for you guys too.

Even though we spent 10 weeks there, we actually only saw a handful of sites, traveling clockwise around the country: Istanbul, Göreme (in Cappadaocia), Patara, Fethiye, Marmaris, Selcuk (to see Ephesus), and Istanbul again. Since you guys will be starting in Istanbul and ending on the west coast (before heading to the Greek islands), I think a similar approach could work quite well for you too.

(We had also intended to hit the Greek islands, but by the time we were in the region the off-season schedule made it a bit more difficult for us to get out to the islands. But hopefully one day!)

Based on the places we visited and the amount of time you'll have, we would choose the following four places as must sees. (They're listed in the order you could travel between them too.)

1) Istanbul – Luckily this one is already on your list! But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it as one of our absolute must sees for Turkey. It is a stunningly beautiful city filled with amazing architecture and spectacular museums and mosques. You can easily spend hours walking around and getting lost amongst all the beauty. And the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, and the Basilica Cistern are all within a short walking distance of one another. If you have time while you're there, I'd also suggest a boat ride out to one of the Princess Islands (if for no other reason than to see the sunset over Istanbul on your boat trip back).

2) Göreme (in Cappadocia) – Our second most recommended place in Turkey falls easily to Cappadocia (located in the center of the country) and specifically to the little village called Göreme. More folks are making their way out to Cappadocia, but most people (particularly when they come on a tour) can only stay for one or two days. If you're able to, consider staying for a few days longer. It's well worth it. We were lucky to spend 17 days in Göreme and we still left wanting more! Almost every single day we went for a walk in one of the dozens and dozens of valleys that surround the village. (And almost every day we were the only people there too.) It was nothing short of magical to be hiking among ancient rock structures that, a thousand or so years ago, were then carved into homes and churches. And while Göreme has no shortage of fabulous walks, it also has some great restaurants and you can take a balloon ride over the fairy chimneys too. The Open Air Museum (where some of the most beautiful frescoes within fairy chimneys are found) is also located in Göreme. And, just a short bus ride away, are a few of the underground cities as well (like Kaymaklı).

3) Fethiye – Fethiye is a gorgeous little town located on the Mediterranean. It's particularly popular with people from the UK in the high season, but it sounds like you'll be in Turkey during the low season (when we were too) so you'll be able to enjoy all the nearby sites Fethiye has to offer without the crowds. Although – I should admit – we didn't see any of the sites in the nearly three weeks we where there! (We had been traveling for around nine months when we reached Fethiye, so we enjoyed taking time for a bit of a recharge and the hotel we stayed at had an awesome library. And Fethiye is where we got engaged too!) Some of the things you can see within or from Fethiye include Lycian tombs, Kayaköy (a town made obsolete in the 1920s, now abandoned it serves only as a museum), the beaches of Ölüdeniz, Butterfly Valley, Saklikent Gorge, and the 12-island yacht cruises. I definitely think Fethiye is not only a great base to explore a bit of the area from, but it's also a picturesque town on the water too.

4) Selçuk (to see Ephesus) – In this case, it's not really Selçuk that's the "must see" but rather the nearby amazing archaeological ruins called Ephesus (or Efses). (Although I should mention that Selçuk was a cute enough Turkish town in and of itself too.) Ephesus was a powerful port city that sat at the crossroads of history. According to TurkeyTravelPlanner.com: "In terms of ruins, it's better than Rome itself." It's a massive site and well worth a full day's visit, even if you're not a history buff. Also located nearby Selçuk are the hill town of Sirince and the (smaller) ancient sites of Didyma, Priene, and Miletus. You can see all of these sites from the port city of Kusadasi too; though the advantage of Selçuk is you'll be able to walk to Ephesus. That said, you may find yourself in Kusadasi anyway – it's one of the departure ports for the boats to the Greek Islands.

An interesting runner-up (but one we haven't personally visited) might be the Bodrum Peninsula. We ended up not having time to get out there, but we've heard some great accounts online from folks who rented mopeds and drove around the peninsula for several days on their own. There are a variety of villages along the peninsula, many with their own distinct flavors, and it sounds like they might have something for everyone. (A bonus: Some of the ferries for the Greek islands leave from the city of Bodrum.)

Well I've probably babbled long enough! I hope some of the above suggestions have been helpful and just let us know if you have any questions. We're always happy to help fellow travelers.

And stay in touch as your trip draws closer. We'll definitely keep an eye on your travel blog too!

Happy travels,

Jessica (and Tim too)

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July 29, 2009 at 3:17pm
This was invaluable advice and a true measure of how helpful you guys are! I am excited to share our own experiences with you guys in the coming months.
Jessica the hedgehog
August 3, 2009 at 1:56pm
Awww, thanks Rob! We're so happy we were able to help. We can't wait to read about your adventures when your trip begins. And our fingers are crossed we might run into one another when we're all in India later this year. :)
August 4, 2009 at 7:11pm
Ephesus is definitely worth seeing, that area is rich with things to do.
Jessica the hedgehog
August 13, 2009 at 8:56am
We couldn't agree with you more. Actually, we feel that way about all of Turkey! :)

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