I have traveled to Turkey more than once and have loved it a little more every time I go there. Originally I had no interest in visiting Turkey as just like all the people who have never been to this country, I also wondered if it is a safe place to travel, especially for girls. It turned out that my family decided to have a short vacation there so I just sort of joined them without knowing what to expect. My first few days quickly went by and I started to grow fonder and fonder of Turkey till it became my best favorite destination to spend my holidays.
We arrived in Istanbul in the evening and went straight to the Galata Tower to watch the sunset. It was truly like what we had heard – the view was amazing; from there you can see the Golden Horn, Bosphorus Straits, Asian side and the old quarter. There is an elevated walk to go up but there are still some steps left to climb. My parents complained a little at first but the view made up for it after all. We had a great dinner at the restaurant on the top with good food and lovely shows for entertainment!
I have to say that I was amazed by the historical sites and religious places in Turkey. I have been to Greece and had thought they got the best architectural buildings in the world but for now I consider those of Turkey are no less amazing than Greece’s. There are a lot of museums and sacred sites all over the country and they are gorgeous. Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is a real treat. The building is stunning and the museum has excellent displays of Ottoman era. We rented audio guides to learn about the history and some interesting facts. Very well spent!
We went on to see Istiklal Street. Such a great area to live in! It has everything you could possibly need: restaurants, cafes, shops, mosques, churches, night clubs, museums… Istiklal is perfect to spend a nice evening shopping around, watching a movie or finding something good to eat. We had a nice long walk and bought some clothes for very reasonable prices; it was not very hard to bargain and as we were there in winter coats and jackets were cheap. We tried doner kebab at a food shop at the end of Konak Avenue and it was delicious!
We found Ankara far less exciting than Istanbul; it is more like a typical capital city which is high in politics and administration. However, that doesn’t mean Ankara is a boring place. We had a good time visiting Ataturk Mausoleum, a must see in Akara. It is well worth the reputation: nice and very well organized. It is a fascinating insight into the life of the most important person in modern Turkish history as well as the process of how modern state of Turkey was found.
We made our way up to Sengul Hamam for spa. It is very clean and renovated. The staff didn’t speak English but was very professional and helpful. We were nicely guided to a private changing room where towels are provided for you to wrap yourself in. We took the full package including bath scrub and oil massage which were both very good. We all felt refreshing and relaxing afterwards. The price there was also a plus, a lot cheaper than other hamams in Ankara and Istanbul. If you want to try traditional Turkish spa, Sengul is the best.
There were not a lot to do in Ankara so we only stayed for 1 day then left for Antalya. Here we fell so in love with the charming nature. We went river rafting at Koprulu Canyon which is absolutely picturesque. The ancient bridge, trees, waterfalls, the beautiful blue water… simply breathtaking! That is probably the reason why many travelers we met were not the first time visitors. They said that the Canyon got them so attracted that they kept coming back over and over again!
Another thing that is not to be missed in Antalya is the waterfalls. We had a good time visiting Duden waterfalls. It was like a nice change from all the monuments and historical sites. We enjoyed getting close to the water and taking photos. They are very very pretty. We also visited other ones called Kursunlu on the way to the airport. Actually it was just me checking those out as my parents refused to climb the stairs. There are quite many steps but once you get down to the falls, they are very beautiful and relaxing.
We went to an opera at a great Roman theatre called State Opera and Ballet. We saw one opera ‘The Magic Flute’ and one ballet ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ which were both very good. I’m not a big fan of opera but the excellent atmosphere brought me a memorable night. My parents (who are very fond of opera) for sure enjoyed the shows to the fullest. We would recommend bringing your own cushions or towels for additional comfort as the seats there are stone.
It was kind of cold but we finally decided to have a look at Konyaalti beach before we left. It looks very nice and clean but surely was very quiet at that time. The beach is made of pebbles so there is no sand at all. Do bring proper shoes if you fancy a walk there. Also, be careful if you want to swim, a local told us that the water gets deep close to the shore.
Goreme is a typical Turkish city with plenty of monuments, historic sites and ancient ruins to visit. We had a nice time exploring Cappadocia on horseback. We did a two hour horse ride through Red Valley and Rose Valley where we were totally blown away by the spectacular views. Goreme Ranch is highly recommended for this activity. They are very professional; they have free pick-ups and drop-offs at your hotel and provide helmets for safety while riding. We got a guide who spoke English and was very enthusiastically helpful.
The Open-Air museum is worth a visit. They have an excellent collection of cave dwellings and some old Christian churches. Our favorite one was the Dark Church with incredibly beautiful frescoes. We would say do not invest in audio guides as they are not useful. The information given is basically what you can easily find on plagues at each stop.
Next we traveled to Love Valley by hot air ballooning. The formations are incredible and it was exciting to observe them from up close. We were there in the winter so there were almost no tourists, which made it very quiet, peaceful and even a little special for us. It is a great opportunity to take pictures.
That was how Turkey stole my heart. To be honest, the whole journey was not that fantastic as there are not a lot of things to do in the winter. What actually blew me away was the hospitality of Turkish people. You may have heard stories about how over-flirty and touchy the locals are; well in fact they are but all you have to do is say NO. We found Turkish very friendly and open-minded; they are happy to do anything they could to show you their city.