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Turkey Itinerary Help: Ephesus/Alcati vs. Kas/Olympos

HI! My husband and I are planning a 9-day trip to Istanbul in September, and I need some help planning our itinerary. First, I should mention that we are young (late 20s), travel internationally pretty frequently, and we're pretty high-energy - we don't mind limiting our time in each destination to several days, so we can explore more places.

Here's where I'm stuck. We'd like to spend 3 days in Istanbul, and 3 days in Cappadocia. But after that, I'm not sure where we should spend our 3 remaining days. I've read great things about Kas and Olympos, and the idea of spending a couple days on the Mediterranean sounds lovely. However, we're also intrigued by Ephesus, and Izmir seems like a pretty easy place to fly in and out of. We've seen Pompeii, the Acropolis, and some other ruins on Greek islands, so I'm curious about whether Ephesus is worth fighting the crowds, or if we're better of seeing another part of Turkey. Likewise - is Pamukkale worth the trip, or is it touristy/overrated? Where would you recommend staying to explore Ephesus, Pamukkale, and the area?

The other option would be to go to Oludeniz, Kaz, or somewhere else in Antalya and relax on the beach a couple days. I've read that paragliding near Oludeniz is really cool. But is that area less accessible? We don't want to spend too much time flying and driving.

Sorry, one more question! How is driving in Turkey? Should we rent a car in Cappadocia and Izmir (or Antalya)? We've driven in England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Italy, but wondering if the language barrier and different driving rules would make driving in Turkey exceptionally hard.


Posted by
111 posts

Driving in Turkey is very similar to driving in Italy. I have not seen Kas or Olympos, but do think that Ephesus is worth the trip. It's at least as spectacular as Pompeii, if not more so. Pamukkale was more fun when you could swim right in the white terraces; I would stop there on your drive to Kusadasi, but not make a special trip.

Posted by
30 posts

Emma, thanks for the advice! Where would you recommend staying to explore Ephesus and Pamukkale? Any other cool sites in that area to explore?

Posted by
338 posts

Here are a few of my thoughts based on your questions and itinerary:

  1. You may want to consider adding a fourth day in Istanbul and dropping a day from your non-Cappadocia site trip. There is a lot to see there.

  2. Anywhere you go will be interesting in my opinion. However, there is a reason that Ephesus is touristy. It really is a top notch site. It may also be a better option because it is easy and quick to get to (via Izmir) from Istanbul. It's much smaller than Pompeii. You can see it in 1/2 day. However, there are plenty of other interesting sites in the area you can add on - sites in Selcuk like the museum, St. John's tomb, and ruins of the temple of Artemis. The beach is maybe 20 minutes away. The ruins of Priene are maybe an hour to the south and get virtually no tourists. Sirince village is nearby. You could also spend a day in Bergama to the north of Izmir to see Pergamum then drive down to Selçuk. Selçuk is where I recommend you stay unless you want to be on the beach.

  3. By all means rent a car in Turkey if your budget allows (except for in Istanbul). It is almost a necessity in Cappadocia to see of the really interesting sites that aren't served well by public transportation. In my experience driving except for in large cities is really easy. Two caveats - be prepared for a manual transmission unless you specifically request an automatic and research toll roads in advance (there are some near Ephesus). Signage is usually pretty good and you should get by fine with a basic map.

  4. You didn't ask for it, but here are some recommendations for sites in Cappadocia. This is one of my favorite places. In no particular order here are what I consider some of the best sites: Goreme Open Air Museum and the Buckle Church just outside it (the obvious choice), hiking in the Ihlara Valley, either Derikuyu or Kaymakli underground city, Avanos village, Sarihan caravanserai (for an afternoon tea break or evening Dervish ceremony), Eskigümüş Monastery in Nigde , church of St. Jean in Gulsehir, Uchisar castle (for the view from the top), Devrent Valley and areas around Goreme to look at fairy chimnies, the underground village in Güzelyurt.

  5. My last piece of advice is to pick up the Lonely Planet guidebook. It has pretty good overall coverage for anyplace you might go.

Have fun!

Posted by
30 posts

Rob, that is so, so helpful, thanks! As far as driving with tolls, do you pay with cash? Or is there a system with stickers on the license plate, where you get billed electronically?

Posted by
110 posts

I would also recommend going to Ephesus. It is popular for a reason. I also liked how this site gave me more insight to people lived back then. I found getting to the site right when it opened was the best way to see it. It is basically a large open air museum. So much to see. Even though there were school groups visiting at the same time I was there it was easy to avoid them.

If you can get to the coast of turkey I would highly recommend it if you choose a town that is not visited by cruise ships. Very pretty area.

Driving can be a little nuts but not impossible. The rental car my family had was a manual and my sister got tired of constantly shifting gears when driving along the coast.
The road signs were generally easy to figure out their meaning. I cant remember if any had english on them.
Have a good trip

Posted by
338 posts

Here are a couple of sites with information on driving between Izmir and Selcuk, including the tolls:

Basically you need to make sure your rental car has a pass for the toll roads. Make sure to request it in advance. This is quite an improvement over the old system. I recall many years ago driving on a toll road between Adana and Pozanti and pulling the paper ticket for my starting point off of a bent paperclip hanging by the entrance to the road.