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Self-driving vs private tour for Ephesus & Pamukkale areaa

Hello all, we will be traveling to Turkey for our first visit this upcoming late September, early October. We will disembark our Blue Cruise in Fethiye in the early afternoon and then travel to Pamukkale, where we will spend the night.

The next day, we will visit Aphrodisias, Hierapolis, and Pamukkale, and then make our way to Selcuk to our hotel there. The following day, we will visit the sights in Ephesus and surrounds, and then fly out either that late afternoon, early evening (flight not booked yet), to Istanbul.

My husband, who does the driving on our trips and has driven a car in several other countries (Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Belgium, and Italy so far), has some trepidations about driving in Turkey. I think it’s partially because it’s in a geographically new-to-us part of the world. Also, he simply wants the experience to be more relaxing on this trip and driving in a new place can be stressful at times, no matter where you’re at in the world. So, at first I thought hiring a private driver and guide might be the way to go, to avoid the stressors of having to drive/navigate ourselves. But then I worry about losing that intimacy of sharing incredible sights between just the two of us…there is definitely some magic in those moments. I don’t know if we will feel “peopled-out” after spending a few days on a cruise and then seeing all these wonderful sights with another person. I also don’t know if we will feel pressured to move at a certain pace with a guide versus moving exactly at our own pace. We’ve never had an experience of hiring a guide/driver for anything longer than a day’s excursions on our past trips.

The flip side is that I know a guide will bring so much knowledge and expertise to what we are seeing, know exactly where to navigate, and simply take the stresses out of transportation.

So, I’m looking for insight from those of you who have traveled these parts of Türkiye. Did you use a private guide? Or have you driven yourselves? What would you do if you were to do it again with the knowledge that you have of being there before? I appreciate any insight you can give me. Thank you!

Posted by
146 posts

Turkey is like driving anywhere else, further these are mostly rural areas without a ton of traffic. October is the edge of low season too. IMO you should drive yourself.

Posted by
482 posts

I have not driven in Turkey but the roads are very good even in rural areas, which I understand is due to its president's connections to the big construction companies whom he rewards with fat contracts. Also the rest stops/gas stations have excellent food, clean bathrooms, and often local products for sale such as honey. You should be fine driving yourselves. It's a beautiful country.

Posted by
614 posts

I rented a car in Antalya last month and made a loop to Aphrodisias, Pamukkale, Sagalassos, and back. It was pretty much the same as driving in the US. It was a little slow getting out of busy Antalya, and downtown Burdur (about 30 miles from Sagalassos) was a bit chaotic. Otherwise, though, it was fine. The roads and the signage are good everywhere. Getting from Aphrodisias to Pamukkale was easy-peasy. I just turned on the navigation on my phone.

The audio guide at Aphrodisias was excellent, and I kinda wished I had rented the audio guide at Pamukkale/Heriapolis. I don't know that you need a private guide.

I would rent a car in western Turkey again in a heartbeat (and I am the sort who usually really hates driving).

Edit: Blue cruises are the best! You are going to love it!

Edit 2: I think that the RS tours do Pamukkale/Hierapolis and Aphrodisias in a single day. It's doable, but it's a lot for a single day.

Edit 3: You will probably have to cross some mountains to get from Fethiye to Pamukkale. I didn't have any problems whatsoever, but I thought I would give you a heads up. The E87, which I assume you will be on part of the time, is a beautiful drive.

Posted by
674 posts

Thank you all for your responses! We have decided to drive ourselves.

Suki, Pergamon looks amazing. I wish we had time to see it. Unfortunately, my husband only gets a very limited amount of time off so we can only see so much each trip. I'm already saving away ideas for a return trip :)

Ponygirl813, thanks for the tips on the service stations. Those sound great!

Marie, thank you for the tips on the audio guides. We will definitely want to make use of those in lieu of having a guide. And we are very much looking forward to the blue cruise! The only other time we've done anything similar was sailing on a schooner in Maine and it was an incredible experience. Hoping we have a great time on this one, as well. And yes, that's what I was seeing for a typical itinerary - having Pamukkale/Hierapolis/Aphrodisias in one day. I'm hoping we can get into Pamukkale early enough that we might be able to see some of it around sunset time that evening? We will see. And yes, it looks like the most logical route is on E87. I just searched the route again on both Google Maps and ViaMichelin. Google has the route at 2hr 48m whereas Michelin has it at 3hr 40m. Quite the difference!

Posted by
614 posts

I used Google Maps for planning and Apple Maps for the actual driving, and the estimated times were spot on.

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Julie, I am currently in Cappadocia driving a rental car and it's a breeze. Roads are excellent (potholes in rural areas, but just like at home) and highway signage is very good. My adult son does the navigating (with Google maps) and it's easy as can be. I used to live in Scotland and have visited the UK many times; that driving was much more stressful--remembering to turn out to the other side of the road, narrow town roads, and numerous roundabouts. If your husband can drive in that, he'll be fine in Turkey!