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Planning for a 3 week Greece-Turkey-Israel in 2014. What's your experience?

We'd like to budget three weeks Greece-Turkey-Israel in 2014. Any good ideas, besides of the WONDERFUL help from Rick?

Posted by
11261 posts

Since you have asked a very general question, posters here can only give very general answers.

Start by looking at guidebooks and videos, to learn where you might want to go. Three weeks may sound like a reasonable amount of time, but for three countries, that means only about six days in each (you will lose a day getting between countries). That means you will have to be brutally selective about you choose to see - and what you accept you will not have time for. If it were me, I'd cut a country; if you don't want to do that, accept now that you will only get a "tasting platter" of each place.

You will need to use other sources besides Rick. I think that's always a good idea in any case, but his books only cover Istanbul and a small part of Greece; he doesn't cover Israel at all. His videos, however, do cover some more of these countries, and they are available on Hulu.

Next, start thinking about transportation, both within each country and between countries. Will you rent a car? If not, each country has buses, there are ferries to the Greek islands (if you have the time), and internal flights work well for Turkey and the Greek islands. The rail systems in these countries, in general, don't work well for tourists, but of course there are exceptions. Between Greece and Turkey, there are some ferries; to get between any other pair of countries, you'll need to fly.

For Israel, one consideration is religion; are your particularly interested in Christian or Jewish sights?

A good source for Turkey information is the Turkey Travel Planner. The busiest information spot for Israel seems to be TripAdvisor's Israel Forum, but again, you'll need to ask much more specific questions to get useful answers (you can certainly browse the trip reports there to get ideas, though).

Posted by
34 posts

Thank you for those responding. We appreciate that!

Posted by
14267 posts

Hi John,

I just came back from a trip to Turkey, but I haven't been to Greece yet.

Harold has given you some good advice. 3 weeks for those 3 countries is very ambitious. In a week in Israel you will only be able to see some of the highlights and you will be rushed. Distances in Turkey are considerable and transportation is not the fastest. If you fly, you lose hours getting to/from airports and waiting in line for security checks, check-in, baggage claim, even for domestic flights. Our tour ended in Kusadasi (for a visit to Ephesus). We had our chartered tour bus from there to the Izmir airport, were bumped from later flights to the very next flight leaving for Istanbul, and took a taxi to a hotel in Old Town. It was about 5 hours door-to-door. If you want to see more of Turkey than just the marvels of Istanbul, you need much more than 6 days.

For travel to Israel, you need to take the Jewish holidays into consideration too. During the week of Passover/Easter, there are huge crowds of tourists and pilgrims, in addition to the locals (schools are closed and half the country is on vacation). Then again during the 3-week fall holiday period schools and many business close and there are multitudes of tourists - more than during the summer months.

Posted by
1437 posts

First of all, 3 weeks isn't long to spend if you want to cover these 3 sightseeing-rich countries. Secondly, that's a lot of getting around from place-to-place -- figure on several flights for moving between and in each country (this can be costly and will chew up a fair bit of your time).

Here is what I would do:

I would start shopping for a Med cruise that focuses on "Ancient Civilizations". These will get you an easy way to deal with the logistics of hitting the major sights for all 3 countries. It might even give you the incentive to go back another trip and spend longer concentrating in one area that you would have liked the best.

Once I have a cruise chosen, then I would plan an extension of several days close by to where the cruise would end.

For 3 weeks, cut Israel out of the plan if you do only a land-based trip. It's fairly easy to combine Greece & Turkey, from a logistical point-of-view.

Posted by
34 posts

We agree with you guys. Thank you for the great advise! We just dropped Israel from the list. We are concentrating in Greece/Turkey. Main reason is that we would like to take our time in Israel (a small wonder!) and probably do 2015 (if we get there God Willing!). So it will not be "next year in Jerusalem" but 2015 in Jerusalem. In any case. We are getting all the "t" together. Planning is a must!. Thank you and keep your advise coming. This year with did Croatia-Slovenia-Austria-Hungary and the Czech Republic and was wonderful (with RS in tow of course, in our Kindle. We are exchanging information in the forum!

Posted by
67 posts

Sir, I spend years as a traveling sales rep. Packing, unpacking, and checking into hotel is not my idea of a good time. We will be in Istanbul two weeks this November and December. Just Istanbul. Just one hotel. We have slowed down to smell the roses. I could see half your time in Istanbul and half in Athems. But that is our taste.

Posted by
650 posts

John, I have been to Israel twice. Both were 10 day tours. And we were in every area of the country: Caesarea, the Galilee area, Masada and the Dead Sea, Eilat (day trip to Petra in Jordan) and of course Jerusalem. Israel is a fascinating and beautiful country so unless you were to s pend most time in Jerusalem I agree to save it for a trip of it's own. You would regret not seeing all the different sites. As Israel is a tiny country you could well do that on an organized tour. Any hotel I have stayed in always included buffet breakfasts and dinners and they are amazing. The food is great, the people are great! It is a visit of a lifetime. I would definately recommend an organized tour that includes Petra.
Does anyone else have advice that I may have missed?

Posted by
34 posts

Thanks again. By the way (now really thinking Israel 2015) did you rent a car in Israel? Can you across borders to visit Petra-Egypt (Valley of the Kings etc.)?

Posted by
14267 posts

you wrote: By the way (now really thinking Israel 2015) did you rent a car in Israel? Can you across borders to visit Petra-Egypt (Valley of the Kings etc.)?

If you'd like Douglas Duckett's guide to Israel, send me a PM with your email address and I'll send it to you (pdf file). But Douglas was just here (got home 2 days ago) so I anticipate that he will be updating his guide (free, noncommericial) in the coming weeks, and will include his first-ever trip to Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan.

The two areas where you probably need a car are the north (Galilee and Golan) and the south (Negev and Dead Sea). In the cities, especially Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, they are just trouble - difficult to drive, too much traffic, too little (and very expensive) parking, while public transportation is quite good and most areas are walkable.

You cannot take a rental car across the Israel-Jordan border. It's common to include a day trip to Petra or even better a 2-day trip to Petra and Wadi Rum with a small tour group or private driver. You use most of one day traveling to/from and crossing the border. To see the highlights of Israel, you'll want at least 10 days, preferable 14. You could consider flying round-trip to Amman, spending a few days seeing more of Jordan than just Petra, and a couple of weeks in Israel. You could cross into Israel from Aqaba to Eilat, then fly from Tel Aviv to Amman and home. Best times of year are spring (April/May) and fall (October/November).. . better weather, fewer tourists, somewhat lower hotel and airline prices.

The only reasonable way to get to Egypt is by flying into Cairo. The Valley of Kings is quite far from everywhere.

I do hope you'll come to see our tiny but fascinating corner of the world.