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Turkey with kids

My wife and I are considering booking a trip to Turkey around Thanksgiving with our 2 kids (13,11). We've never been to Turkey before, but our kids are well travelled, having been throughout Europe and Central America.

I was wondering if someone could :

  1. Give me some ideas for an 8 day itinerary in Turkey
  2. Give me some opinions about traveling outside of Istanbul with family . e.g.( safety, rent a car?, distances, .....)
  3. Give some ideas about "must sees" that can be accomplished in a week, with out spending entire days traveling in a car or bus

Thanks in advance for you ideas!


Posted by
16883 posts

Destinations that I would cut from Rick's 13-day tour itinerary would tend to be some in the middle, even though they're all good. For instance, you can fly from Istanbul to Kayseri or Nevshehir, then pick up a car to explore Cappadocia. You could also fly from there to Izmir to visit Ephesus. See and Turkish Airlines.

Posted by
338 posts

For 8 days I suggest one of two options:
A. 4 days in Istanbul and 4 days along the western coast. The 4 days along the coast can be dictated by your interests. For example, if you like military history there are WWI battlefield sites in the northwest. If you like ancient history you could see sites north and south of Izmir (e.g. Bergama/Pergamon, Selcuck/Ephesus, sites further to the south such as Priene. If you like natural resources, you could visit Dilek, Pamukkale and some of the beaches in the southwest. Under this option you'd want to fly to Izmir or Bodrum.

B. 4-5 days in Istanbul and 3-4 days in Cappadocia. Cappadocia is my favorite part of Turkey. It has a mix of ancient history and landscape unique in the world. There are fairly chimnies (hoodoos), rock cut churches, underground cities and some nice hiking (e.g. Ihlara Valley). Under this option you'd probably fly to Nevsehir.

I have found Turkey to be quite safe for travel. I think as long as you avoid the far southeastern part of Turkey and the area along the Syrian border (south of Gaziantep and Iskenderun) you should be OK safety-wise. If your budget allows, you'll save a tremendous amount of time flying from Istanbul to whatever area you decide to visit and renting a car. If you do rent a car, be aware that most cars are manual transmission unless you specfically reserve an automatic in advance. You should also research potential toll roads along your routes (e.g. between Izmir and Selcuk, south of Pozanti). If you want to use buses I'd get a copy of the Lonely Planet guidebook. It has good information on transportation and is also quite useful for siteseeing.

The must sees will be dictated by your interests. Most guidebooks will give you the key sites in Istanbul. Lonely Planet has pretty comprehensive coverage for the entire country. I'd be happy to share my thoughts there and for other areas once you have your itinerary roughed out a bit more.

Posted by
813 posts

I suggest you split your time between Istanbul and a resort on the SW coast. Olu Deniz or to the east of Antalya have awesome resorts the kids will love. Some times it's a bit cool by Thanksgiving to swim in the sea, but most of our friends' kids go in nonetheless and many resort pools are heated as well. The latest we've been is late September and the sea was still quite pleasant. There's also plenty of local sights to see in those areas, but basing in a resort will be awesome.

Posted by
6 posts

I just returned from eight days in Turkey with my two kids 16 and 13. They are also frequent travellers and Turkey was the end of a 3.5 week trip to six countries.
Istanbul is great - we saw the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Tokapi Palace but our favourite was the underground Cistern. We also went up the Galata Tower and walked across the Galata Bridge (nice restaurants underneath). We liked the Spice Market better than the Grand Bazaar - not as big - but they were both neat. We spent three full days and could have done a fourth to get to more sites, but the heat and humidity in early August is tough. You'll do better in the fall. Use the Rick Steves book and try to stay in the Sultanahmet (we stayed at Grand Peninsula). The biggies are just a five minute walk and the local tram/streetcar is easy and cheap.

We spent two days/nights in Cappadocia and loved it - probably one of our favourites. If you can swallow the expense, go hot air ballooning at sunrise (110 Euros each). We stayed at the Flintstones Cave Hotel the second night, which is not as hokey as it seems, in fact very elegant, but the best thing - it has a beautiful pool. The kids convinced me to spend a morning just hanging in the pool and it was lovely - wonderful views as well. I rented a car at the Nevsehir airport and had zero issues driving around Cappadocia - signage is good and lots in English and the car also had a GPS. I don't drive a stick, but asked for the smallest possible automatic, as parking spots and many smaller roads are very narrow. We flew in and out of Cappadocia from Istanbul - rates are decent and worth the time as it would be a 12 drive one way.

We also flew to Izmir and stayed in Selcuk to see Ephesus (Bella Hotel, very nice rooftop terrace). Ephesus is great and worth the morning, but not a lot more to do in Selcuk other than the local castle for an hour. In retrospect, I would have just stayed one night and moved on (instead of two). If you are thinking of going down the coast, perhaps rent a car at the Izmir airport (also a 12 hour drive from Istanbul, so fly if you can), and then travel down the coast of Turkey.

Check out Turkish Airlines for the flights - it's now my favourite airline in the world! Super nice people, good rates, free checked bag and a very decent lunch for a 1 hour flight - you don't get that in North America!

Safety-wise - as a single mom travelling with two teenagers, I felt safe at all times - never a single issue. I did have one man ask where my father was or my husband was (!), but everyone was very kind, especially in the smaller towns. Lots of English speakers and even French. Ignore the vendors in Istanbul who hassle you with every step.