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Honeymooning in Turkey!

Hi!
My fiance and I are honeymooning in Turkey beginning in July for 3 weeks. We'd love any and all tips and advice on the area. We'll be starting in Istanbul for 5 days and then flying to Izmir and the continuing down the coast for 2 1/2 weeks. We're planning on renting a car in Izmir and driving down to Efes, Cesme, Didim, Bodrum, Kos, FEthiye, & Antalya. Thoughts? We're also BIG foodies and food LOVE restaurant suggestions. Thanks for all the help :)

Posted by
338 posts

Congrats on your wedding. I've got a few suggestions. Stay in Sultanahmet when you're in Istanbul. All of the top historic sites are in that area and it has a bit more atmosphere. A nice honeymoon hotel might be the Empress Zoe. Its got a lot of charm and depending on your budget, it has a nice top floor suite with its own private rooftop terrance. One caveat - there is a mosque right across the street and you will hear the loudspeakers announcing the calls to prayer. There are some decent restaurants located near it as well. However, better food is located around the Galata bridge and along Istiklal Street. Definitely get a car and drive from Izmir. It will give you the flexibility to visit sites along the way to your destinations (e.g. Priene, Miletus and Didyma to the south of Selcuk). Depending on what you like to do, you may want to detour to Bergama to the north of Izmir for one day. There are some very interesting ruins from Pergamum. Unless a beach is important to you, I recommend that you stay in Selcuk to see Ephesus and surrounding sites. Sirince village is nearby and makes a pleasant half day trip for lunch and a walk around a nice but somewhat touristy village. You may want to consider driving one way from Izmir and flying out of Antalya. There aren't a lot of multi-lane highways, so driving tends to take longer then you might expect. I'll let people who have been to the southwest coast more recently suggest hotels and resturants there. Good luck.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for the quick reply, this is amazing! I'm glad to hear that you think renting a car will be ok. My fiance was a bit worried about that being that we don't speak the language but have driven in Europe quite a bit. A beach is definitely important to us seeing as we'd like to take in the sites and visit important historical locations but we'd also like to relax at the beach. Do you know if the beaches are better closer to Didim and Bodrum as opposed to Antalya? I found a flight from Bodrum to Antalya but there's only one a week so I've been trying to arrange our itinerary around it, however I'm not so sure how keen I am on spending 5 days in Antalya. Thoughts? Also what are your feelings on taking day trips to the Greek islands and Cyprus? We liked the idea of doing the day trips, possibly an overnight at one of them as well. Thanks so much for your advice, we will definitely take it into consideration! Best!

Posted by
338 posts

You should not have a problem driving. Road signs for all of the tourist areas and towns are decent enough. In western Turkey you'll find many people who know some English. When I've driven I've always brought a road map and bring a compass just in case. Then you can stop at a gas station and point to where you want to go. Since you're looking for a more relaxing trip, I suggest that perhaps you drop Antalya if it will require a difficult flight from Bodrum to meet your itinerary. If you want to go, perhaps you can drive there over several days and fly home from there via a connection in Istanbul?
One other thought - If you want to fly, have you checked Turkish Air for flights? I would be surprised if they only have one flight per week in July. I don't really have an opinion on the beaches. I did not spend much time at them. I have not been to all of the towns on your list, but my sense is that the entire area you're interested in has nice beaches. If you want to go to Greece for a short visit, you should be able to get to Samos from Izmir or Kusadasi. It is just off of the Turkish coast. I have not been, so I can't suggest the best route.

Posted by
223 posts

Hi Stephanie We spent a month in Turkey this past September and had a car for 25 days. You should have no problems driving. Since you are on your honeymoon you should not miss going to Cappadocia to see the fairy chimneys, great rock formations and the underground cities. We found Cappodocia magical. To make your honeymoon special, splurge for an early morning baloon ride. Turkish airlines has inexpensive flights to Kayseri and you can rent a car at the airport and base yourself in Goreme. Three days would be sufficient. We stayed at the Sultanhill Cave Suites, reasonable prices and a great restaurant. We drove from Goreme to Antalya with an overnight stop in Side. Antalya is beautiful. There is a beautiful beach there. While in Antalya you can have a couples turkish bath that includes a steam room, scrub down and massage. It was a fantastic experience. Two days is sufficient. There are historic sites all around there. For beaches in that area there is Olympos at Cirali plus the ruins of Olympos. By far the best beach is in Patera further up the coast. 14 kilometers of sand. We spent two days at each place. From there as the previous poster mentioned you can drive to Pamukkale to see the tavertines and Hieropolis. I would only overnight there and then drive to Selcuk for 2 or 3 nights. Besides the historical sights you can go sailing and there is a beach in the area as well as interesting smaller towns. You can off the car at Izmir airport and hop a cheap flight to Istanbul. Atlas Jet had very cheap flights last Sept. Initially we had planned on staying in Fethiye but another board suggested we bypass it. If you wish I can provide you more detail on accomodations and restaurants. We found this site helpful http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/index.html
as well as the Lonely Planet Travel Forum If you wish I can provide you more detail on accomodations and restaurants.

Posted by
2 posts

When I rented a car in Ankara last year I ran into a minor problem: the rental company forgot to reprogram the vehicle so that the dashboard display gave warnings and other messages in English rather than Turkish. If you get a car with this feature (it came with the economy car we chose) you will find it much more useful in English! We found that driving through Anatolia and Cappadocia was a great way to see the country but I would recommend doing as little big-city driving as possible. Get a good road map, and do NOT rely upon the maps contained in Lonely Planet Guides. (We tried to use one in Ankara to find the Ethnographic Museum, and neither we nor the policeman we asked could make any sense of it. Finally in desperation the policeman motioned us into his car and took us to the museum!) It's a great country, with friendly people. We found the Rick Steves guide to Istanbul to be extremely useful.

Posted by
1217 posts

Steve - Don't mean to highack your question Stephanie, but we're planning a similar trip in September. Steve, how long did it take you to drive from Goreme to Side? Also, how long did it take from Kayseri to Goreme? We were planning on the reverse direction, starting in Selcuk and ending in Goreme with most of the stops you indicated. Do you think one way would work better? Did you carry a cell phone in the car and if so did you buy it at the Istanbul airport?

Posted by
338 posts

To reply to Carol's question. It will probably take you about 7-8 hours to get from Side to Goreme depending on how fast you drive and stop for gas/food. If you want to break up the trip, consider spending an afternoon and an evening in Konya. Its about half way and has some interesting Dervish sites. Kayseri is less than an hour's drive from Goreme. If you're going into downtown Istanbul and want to buy one, I'd wait and pick a cell phone there. Istiklal street has prominent stores for all of the major Turkish companies if you're looking for new. There is also likely a cell phone district where a used phone can be obtained. Good luck.

Posted by
34 posts

Hi Stephanie, You'll have a great time! A few summers ago, I sailed down the Aegean coast then drove from Bodrum to Antalya. You should have no problems driving. You may want to add Dalyan to your list of places to go. I loved Saklikent Gorge (between Fethiye and Kas) Make sure to go to Phaelis (ruins) near Olympos. (We stayed in Cirali ... from there you can walk to see the Olympos ruins ... feels very Indiana Jonesish because the ruins are really overgrown.) But Phaeselis is gorgeous and romantic ... on the water, the ancient town lies between 2 beautiful bays. We also really liked Arykanda (ruins).
One of my favorite stops: Bezirgan. It's a farming community up the hill from Kalkan. (In my opinion, Kalkan can be skipped.) In Bezirgan, it was if we were the first tourists they had seen in a long time. When we were there, it was very sleepy. A couple of kids walked us around. Then we met a woman who invited us into her home for tea. We chatted with her and her parents - she translated as her parents didn't speak English. It was a marvelous experience. There is a small B&B there (3 rooms, I think) that I would love to go back and stay at. Owlsland We never saw it when we were there, but it looks very nice from the website. http://www.owlsland.com/bed&breakfast.htm I don't know what day it is on, but it was cool to be in Kas on their Market Day.

Posted by
34 posts

We are going back to Turkey this summer. I really like the "back door" experiences ... I love to meet and chat with locals, see life as it really is. So, I found this one town that we're going to stop at (near Izmir): http://www.tour-turkey.com/birgi-cinaralti-pension.htm
I've also heard that the market in Tire (Tuesdays) is fabulous. My Turkish friend says it's one of his favorites. (He's a guide so he travels all over the country.) Make sure to be at the gates at Ephesus before they even open. The first 30 minutes - hour are the best time. After that, it's like Disneyland- people everywhere.

Posted by
223 posts

Carol
I think Rob answered your questions. I don't think it matters much which direction you travel. We had our cell from home but didn't have to use it. When renting a car make sure to check the tires very closely. We arrived in Cirali from Antalya with a flat tire. Luckily we were at our accomodations when our host noticed it. They offered to replace the tire and when they tired the spare was flat also and they noticed it had been plugged before. The drive from Side is up through the mountains. Two lane roads and lots of three lanes for passing. Once you get up to near Konya you arrive a flat plateau for an easy drive to Goreme. There is a bypass for Konya to avoid having to drive through the city. In Selcuk we stayed at Hotel Bella an excellent place, reasonable rates and a great three course Turkish dinner on their rooftop patio. They will transport you to and pick you up from the sites. In Side we used Onur Pensiyon www.onur-pensiyon. In Antalya we stayed at Hadrianus Hotel in the old part of Antalya called Kaleici. At Ciralli we used Canada House, great place, excellent accomodations, outdoor pool and patio. Carrie and her husband were wonderful hosts and took everyone up at night to the Chimera. She is a frequent contributor to the Lonely Planet Travel Forum. One thing we found about driving in Turkey is that though there are street names they are not always posted or easy to find while you are driving. Instead of wasting time driving around we would get as close as we could to our destination and then find it on foot. This was especially useful in Eastern Turkey. If staying in Patera,we used Golden Pensiyon, basic but good and their own restaurant. For Pamukkale we stayed at Artemis Yorek. Again it was clean, private bath and cheap and OK for a night. Have a wonderful time.

Posted by
223 posts

Laura
To answer your question on Tire. We did the market but it is busy busy and we couldn't find a place to park. It is not the sleeply little market town we saw described in an earlier guide book. Getting there early would be best. If you are looking for Turkey 'backdoors' you might look at Eastern Turkey and the Black Sea area. Very few tourists. Wonderful people, scenery and historic sites.

Posted by
4 posts

A great big thank you to all of you for your very helpful and insightful responses! I have been doing A LOT of research for this yet still feel that I haven't come to a point where I'm secure with the itinerary. Since the flight from Bodrum to Antalya only occurs on Friday, I think we may have to fore go Antalya :( In lieu, we still plan to begin our journey in Istanbul for 5 days, then fly to Izmir explore that area (possibly Cesme and Chiros island as well) then drive from there to Ephesus and Kusadasi and then make our way down the coastline hitting Didim, Samos Island, Bodrum, Kos, & Rhodes in between and then finally flying back to Istanbul from Bodrum to make the trek home to JFK. If anyone has any suggestions for towns in between Izmir and Bodrum, I would be oh so grateful! Also, if there are any hotel/resort suggestions as well, that would be great. Being that we are on our honeymoon we'd like to take in the Turkish culture but at the same time enjoy and relax on the beach and be pampered (just a bit!). Many thanks! Cheers!

Posted by
49 posts

Hi Stephanie - Congrats on your wedding! You will love Turkey. My husband and I just returned home on Friday after visiting Istanbul and Selcuk. We, too, had 5 days in IST, but failed to allow a day to relax - there is SO much to see! - so please make sure you leave some R&R time. As for food in IST, we had a difficult time finding good traditional food. In Selcuk/Efes, though, the food was amazing! I highly suggest a meal at Ejder Restaurant. (We liked it so much we ate there 3 times!) The Old House Restaurant was very good too. Try the mixed mezze and the House Kebab. Oh! And make sure you stop by the Pink Bar. Mesut will make you feel right at home. (Make sure he shows you a magic trick or two.)

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you everyone! Has anyone ever done a Blue Cruise? We've now altered our itinerary a bit. Here is the revised version: 5 days in Istanbul Fly to Izmir - 3 days there, possibly Cesme and Greek Island, Chiros? Drive to Ephesus and Kusadasi Drive to Bodrum, drop car at airport spend 5 days in Bodrum Possible Blue Cruise? Travel to Antalya?
Back to Istanbul for flight home? Thoughts? Suggestions? Only one month left to plan! :*(

Posted by
281 posts

If you have questions regarding restaurants, etc. there is a guy who corresponds on fodors.com who lives in IST and gives great information. He loves giving information and can tweek your itinerary and suggest alternatives. I enjoy the RS site but always enjoy
reading the Fodors Turkey forum too.

Posted by
354 posts

A couple of more items to think about as you drive in Turkey: 1) Know the major city you are headed toward, because your destination city is not always listed on road signs. For instance, exiting the Izmir airport, a traveler would drive toward Aydin if they wanted to visit Ephesus.
2) Be prepared for the very, very high cost of fuel in Turkey. 3) You don't just give cash to an attendant for the toll roads. You either have to purchase a card before entering a toll road, and then add cash value to the card. Or your vehicle needs an automatic device. Important info because the highway from Izmir to Ephesus is a toll road