Reasons to go
1. Ruins of Ancient Greece
- Ephesus is my favourite - an atmospheric site with gems like the ancient theatre with 24,000 people capacity and the Library of Celsus. Nearby town Selçuk still retains its charm; people park tractors in their driveways in the middle of the town.
- The Temple of Apollo at Didyma is where you’ll find the biggest and most impressive stone columns.
- All of the archeological sites and archeological museums are shown on the Museum Pass map. I’ve been to many and each of them had something unique, so dont’ think that visiting a couple of sites is enough.
2. Unique natural formations
- Mount Chimaera natural fires which have been burning for at least 2500 years. A good way to see them is to do a part of Lycian Way - hiking from Ulupinar to Çirali.
- Pamukkale is more than just carbonate mineral formations, it is also an impressive archeological site. A good way to visit is to enter through Pamukkale Town Entrance at the bottom early in the morning before it gets crowded, and walk all the way up to the archeological site. Bring a bag for your shoes, so you don’t have to hold them in your hands the whole time.
- If you are in the area, Salda Gölü and Yarışlı Gölü are spektakular lakes to see. Yarışlı Gölü lake has dry mud shores which are really fun to explore. From afar, surrounding mines look like futuristic cities. Nobody ever visits this lake, so you are likely to have it all to yourself. There is a beautiful mountain drive from Kemer, 07580 Kaş/Antalya, Turkey (not Kemer, Antalya on the seaside) to Hacımusalar, 07700 Elmalı/Antalya, Turkey. It offers great views of Uyluk Tepe.
- The canyon in Saklikent National Park is a unique experience. First, you cross an ice cold river to get into the mouth of the canyon. Next, it’s an exciting hike through a narrow canyon filled with warm muddy water, until you reach a muddy waterfall that is taller than you. It is essential to wear some sort of water shoes (abundantly for sale on location), as the whole hike is through muddy water, alternating from ankle deep all the way to chest deep. As you can’t see anything through the muddy water, you’ll repeatedly kick your toes on sharp rocks; better to destroy the shoes than your toes. There are no picnicking areas inside the canyon and everything you bring with you will become wet and muddy.
- Cappadocia is a hiking paradise. There are many hikes starting right from Göreme, which has a lot of accomodation options.
- Kaymakli underground city is mindblowing.
- Colourful hot air balloons dominate the skies in the mornings, whether you are watching from the ground or floating in one of them. We had a great experience with Royal Balloon.
- St. John the Baptist Chapel carved into the rock in Çavuşin is an interesting site to explore.
Derinkuyu underground city is still on my to-visit list.
4. Aegean coastline
- Loads of ruins of Ancient Greece.
- My favourite beaches are Patara plaji (with amazing sand dunes), Çirali plaji, Kabak plaji, Çayağzı plaji.
- Kayaköy - an abandoned village 8 km south of Fethiye. After exploring the village you can hike over the hills and down to little bays with pristine beaches. You might have the whole beach to yourself, but you’ll hear loud music from the party boats that frequent this area. Heading back, I enjoyed dinner at the Antik family owned restaurant.
- Caunos Tombs observed from Kaunos Çay Bahçesi cafe from another side of the river. No need to take a pricey boat, as you can’t get any closer to the tombs that are high on the cliff face.
- Sidyma Ancient City (Dodurga, 48360 Seydikemer/Muğla, Turkey) is a set of ruins and tombs scattered around farmers’ fields. It’s a beautiful drive to get there and you get to explore the ruins by yourself.
- Izmir. The best area to stay in is around Arpège Patisserie - between Alsancak neighbourhood, Kültürpark that has a good 2km running track, and Kemeraltı Çarşısı market area. I enjoyed visiting Ataturk Museum (free) and walking down Anafartalar Caddesi - the real market street where locals shop. Unlike in Kemeraltı Çarşısı, you’ll see piles of sheep brains for sale, not souvenirs. In Kemeraltı Çarşısı I enjoyed visiting the second floor of Kızlarağası Hani, trying şambala (a traditional dessert made of baked semolina and almonds, served with clotted cream) in Meşhur Hisarönü Şambalicisi, and topping it with a traditional Turkish coffee at Karga Cafe. My other happy memories are boyoz (traditional pastries) at Alsancak Dostlar Fırını, fancy modern pastries at Arpège Patisserie, and drinks at Improvement. To explore more of Izmir, head to Tarihi Asansör Binası and Fatih Camii. Activate your Izmirim Kart here and explore.
- Kaş - a holiday town located far away from airports, with a relaxed atmosphere. An amazing farmers market (pazar yeri) takes place on Fridays up the Uğur Mumcu Caddesi from Bostan Greengrocer. I enjoyed yanik dondurma at Nur Pastaneleri and innovative meze (like okra with sour cherries) at Bahçe restaurant.
6. Turkish food and drinks
- Most meze (cold starters) are vegetarian, and there is usually a great variety of them.
- Deserts in Turkey are extremely sweet. You can find candied everything - pumpkin, green unripe walnuts, tomatoes. Tavuk göğsü is a dessert, but made from chicken meat.
- Yanik dondurma, burnt ice-cream made from local goat’s milk, is amazing.
- Traditional Turkish breakfast (sometimes called Village breakfast) is an experience. Another way to start your day is heading to a börek place where these traditional savoury pastries can be enjoyed with ayran.
- Öküzgözü red wine is my new favourite.
- Try tahin pekmez (a sweet spread made from tahini and grape molasses) and you’ll never think of buying Nutella again.
- Autumn is perhaps the best time to visit, when the variety of fruits and vegetables in season is the highest.
- Turkcell sim cards have good coverage across the country. Dial *101# to find out your number, and *159# to find out your remaining balance.
- Some VPNs are blocked in Turkey. If you depend on a VPN, make sure you have backup VPNs that you can use to login into your VPN.
- Airbnb is not legal in Turkey. If you do book through AirBnB, tell everyone that you are an Erasmus friend, your host will be infinitely grateful for not getting them in trouble.
- ATMs I’ve tried (including YapiKredi) didn’t charge me for withdrawals.
- You can access yellow taxis through the Uber app, but it doesn’t work that well as drivers prefer other methods of engagement. All yellow taxis are on the meter and prices per ride are slightly cheaper than through the Uber app; works great at the airports too.
- Museum Pass is a great way to skip queues for buying tickets at each archeological site/museum you visit, it will save you a lot of time. Check on the map how many of the places you plan to visit are included (probably all of them) to see if it will save you money. Some archeological sites/museums have areas that cost extra to visit, Museum Pass covers them too.