Turkey is one of the tours we are considering taking for 2020, along with Loire to the South of France. We are vigorously debating each tours merits and drawbacks. That is part of the fun, right? The huge amount of bus time on the Turkey tour is giving me some major pause. (Not to mention the long flight) For those of you who have gone on the tour, how did you find the bus time? Hard to handle? It was a lot but worth it? Also, I see the tour is rated at a high activity level. What do you do on the tour that you would say merits that rating? We would have my MIL with us and while she is fairly spry, I wouldn't want to overwhelm her either. And, 3 one night stays seems like a lot of one night stays. Too many of those? Also, any other tidbits you could give me about the tour that might help us decide which tour we want to go on would be appreciated. Thanks!
I haven't done the RS Turkey Tour, but I did one with Smithsonian a few years ago. There are enough similarities so that I may be able to contribute a few observations. Our tour was the most active tour I have taken, with a lot of hills and uneven surfaces. I recall having to duck walk for a good while in one of the underground cities in Cappadocia because the ceilings were not high enough to stand up straight. Even though I am in pretty good shape, my muscles would complain occasionally. From the itinerary, however, it appears that there are options for opting out of the more strenuous sections.
Istanbul is similar to Rome in terms of physical activity. If you can do Rome, you can do Istanbul. There is a lot of walking and standing, but it's all quite doable.
There are a few long bus rides, most notably between Ankara and Cappadocia, and and between Cappadocia and Antalya. The ride from Ankara to Cappadocia is pretty boring. I did the bus ride in the opposite direction, from Cappadocia to Ankara, at the end of a three week trip, and I was so tired that I didn't especially care that the scenery wasn't spectacular. The ride from Cappadocia to Antalya is longer but more interesting. The Sarahan Caravanserei, between Cappadocia and Konya, was fascinating. The mausoleum of the Rumi in Konya itself is wonderful, and the Taurus mountains, between Konya and Antalya, are beautiful. Overall, I welcomed the long bus rides because it gave me a chance to rest a little between the more active days.
Turkey -- with its mixture of ancient and modern, east and west -- is one of the most interesting places I have visited, and I learned a lot on the trip. The people are friendly, and the food is delicious. It is European enough to be comfortable, and yet exotic enough to expand one's horizons. When I got to the end of the tour, I wanted to do repeat the whole thing ... immediately. In fact, nowadays I try to book flights on Turkish Airlines, at least in part so that I can enjoy a long layover Istanbul.
I would vote for the Turkey Tour. Other people who have take the RS Turkey may be able to give you more specifics.
Thanks so much for the info Marie!
There are some long bus rides on the tour but you stop every couple of hours for a bathroom break, a snack or lunch. Our guide talked a little bit during the bus ride but then gave us all a break to rest/nap. I enjoyed just looking out the window and watching the scenery go by. If that doesn’t appeal to you bring a book or take a nap. I didn’t consider the walks strenuous except for the day in Cappadocia where we took the hike and went to the underground city. We had also gotten up at zero dark thirty to do the balloon ride. By the time we got to the underground city after lunch I was exhausted and opted to sit it out at the little cafe at the site. Will this tour by ok for your mil? I can’t answer that as I don’t know her fitness level or her age. The nice thing about the RS tours is you can opt out of the activities if you wish. I loved Turkey and am so glad we went.
Good to know how the many long bus rides are broken up. No book reading or staring out side windows for me, I get motion sickness. Naps sound good 😴 as hubby and I tend to be up early and out late when we travel. Thanks Mary!
I went on a former tour that's no longer operational - it was called Village Turkey and covered the southwest portion of the country. I can't say it was strenuous, but that's relative - I was 40 at the time and in good shape. The long bus rides are directly related to the vast landscapes these Turkey tours cover - you can't have one without the other. I loved looking out the window, the landscapes were beautiful and changing (and outside the cities, no real traffic). I think the decision should come down to whether you're interested in Turkey as a country in general, including its history, culture, landscapes, archeological treasures, etc. For me, transport (things like bus time) or number of nights in one hotel are too low in importance to keep me from deciding to go there or not. Comparing Turkey and another country like France is like apples and oranges - they each have their own relative strengths and weaknesses. The one beauty of a tour is to take one to a place where you may not feel as comfortable traveling on your own, due to logistics, language, etc. France seems like a piece of cake, as is the rest of Europe. Turkey is a bit more challenging and it's much more exotic, for lack of better terms. Your money will go far there, it's very inexpensive. I do think that this will be a busy, energetic tour because of distances involved, full days, having to get up early, traipsing on rocky/uneven terrain at archeological sites, etc. But it will be time well spent, that's for sure. If you can fly Turkish Air there, that is a major plus. It's a great airline.
Agnes, I want to see everything Turkey has to offer. You make a very good point about the long bus trips just being a part of it because of the vastness of Turkey. I will admit the other part giving me pause is the long flights. I hate flying. I am thinking I have plenty of time to just get over it. Thanks!
Where are you flying from? Yes, the flights from the US to Turkey are long, but if you can fly Turkish Air, it's notably nicer than other many airlines (even in coach, where I was). The food quality and amount of legroom are definitely better than I was expecting.
Harold, we would be leaving from O'Hare. Glad to hear you liked Turkish airlines as I've never used them and they are who we will probably fly with.
You should definitely fly with Turkish Air. Great prices (never paid more than about $760 round-trip), food and service. From where I live, I take the red eye direct flight to Istanbul and it doesn't feel too long at all.
Agnes, we will probably take the red eye too as I find that I can at least get a little bit of sleep and it makes it go faster. Not as bad of jet lag either.
From where we live (Reno, NV), everywhere is a long flight. But we are so used to it now that it doesn’t bother us. My philosophy is you could spend 16 hours of your day eating meals, watching tv, taking a nap, etc. at home and at the end of that time you are still at home. Or you could do all the same things on a plane and at the end of 16 hours be someplace amazing. For me it’s a no brainer.
From Chicago, all of your options will involve a red eye to Europe, except if you take the morning BA flight which gets to Heathrow in the evening. That would give you a night in a hotel before you take your next flight to Istanbul.
If you're not going to do that (I never have, but some swear by this method), then take the nonstop on Turkish Air. As Agnes said, it's not only faster than making a connection in Europe, but often cheaper as well.
Yup, non-stop is the plan.
I took the RS Turkey tour in 1991. To this day, it remains my all-time favorite. I do recall some long bus rides, but it was totally worth it.
Another big thumbs up here for Turkish Airlines. Even though I live in Atlanta, home town to Delta, I fly Turkish any time I can. Turkish gives attention to little details that make the flight so much more pleasant: foot rests, real blankets, good food (the only airline where I get excited about the meal), and a nice amenities package with lip balm, socks, slippers, and such. Children get little goodie bags with coloring books and little inflatable airplanes. I always get the impression with other airlines that there is some bean counter behind the scenes trying to figure out the least amount of service they can provide before passengers jump ship to another airlines. With Turkish, I get the impression that the company policy is to figure out the most service they can provide for a reasonable price. And if you are traveling with a handicapped person, Turkish is amazing. When I traveled with a friend who had some mobility issues, they got us off the plane and stayed with us through passport control, customs, and baggage claim. It was a night and day difference from our experience with other airlines.
I don't notice the flight to Istanbul as being much longer than to any other city to Europe. I suppose it's a couple of hours longer, but I am sleeping most of time.
I went on the Turkey tour this past October. My friend, Ruth, submitted a winning scrapbook for 2018 - 3rd place. You will have a very good idea of what Turkey offers from her pictures and narrative.
Bus time: it’s a lot of hours but there is no other way to cover the vast distances of this country. You do stop every two hours for rest room breaks or for lunch which helps. My 6th RS tour and I think it had the most variety of any other I’ve taken. So, yes, I say the bus time is worth it.
Activity level: I didn’t find it to be as active as some of the others I have taken. However, there are places with uneven terrain and an underground city which I opted out of doing because I get claustrophobic. I’m sure you know you can opt out of activities anytime you wish. But the number of miles walked everyday was not as much as I usually rack up on a RS tour. I think your MIL will be fine. It’s a good idea to start or increase a walking program at home before you go on the trip.
Btw, we flew Turkish Air direct to Istanbul. 11 or 12 hours in the air, $1127 per person, including extra leg room on both flights! I thought that was a decent price.
Go, if you are interested in ancient civilizations and their culture, history and ruins, you will love Turkey!
Turkey is a fascinating country, I’m really glad I took the plunge and went to the most exotic destination I had ever been. And I just returned 2 weeks ago from a tour of Israel, a Holy Land Tour - Israel was not as exotic as Turkey!
Turkish Air is very good. I have flown it 3-4 times to ORD. Note that they are strict on baggage limits. I flew out of ORD this past August and they were weighing carry-on bags. There was more than one family reorganizing their checked luggage near the check-in counter. Turkish has a really good entertainment menu - lots of movies, including new releases, and some popular TV programs.
I took the RS tour about 5 years ago, that started around Oct. 25. The weather was very pleasant, never really hot and some days, a light jacket was useful. I mention it because when the weather's hot, walking is more strenuous. I developed a knee problem on the second day of the tour so I was well aware of the difficulties. While I opted for the balloon ride (and so glad I did - it was worth every penny), I skipped the optional hike later in the morning and the underground city visit. Most of the walking on the tour was on pretty level ground. The hardest day for me was Ephesus, mostly because the sight is huge and walking on uneven surfaces was hard on my knee, so I didn't explore as much of it as the rest of the group - especially the parts with stairs.
I don't remember being unhappy with the length of the bus rides. As someone already mentioned, The drives were only a couple of hours at a time, with stops for toilets, snacks, meals, or a backdoor experience. The guide used bus time for long talks and Q&A sessions about the country - daily life, history, geography, cultural, religion and more. Bus time on RS tours also means time to get to know the other tour members and bond with the group. There is always lots of extra seating, so you can spread out and/or move around to chat with different folks. Much of the driving is through scenic areas. If you get motion sickness, take an MP3 player and listen to music or an audio book. That's what I do.
Thanks so much everyone! You have allayed my concerns about the bus time.