Our eager anticipation was electric in the fresh morning air. We climbed in and were soon set free. The hot air balloon floated up to the lofty heights of our excitement. Looking out, we saw hundreds of balloons gracing the morning skyline. As the Sun rose over the horizon, golden light soaked the penis shaped rock formations of Love Valley. We were in the clouds as Goreme started to come to life beneath us. The Balloon ride in Cappadocia is just one of the experiences in Turkey which I will never forget.
Recently with the Kurd’s and Isis involved in terror attacks, Russia being Russia and the overhyped western media creating a bit of hysteria to sell headlines. Tourism is roughly 80% down! All of which isn’t great for Turkey. But on the flip side makes the perfect destination for travellers to visit right now!
Turkey is a totally sweet country and with fewer tourists in the area the massive lines are gone, cheaper accommodation can be found, traders are more willing to haggle lower for the sale.
Bianca and I felt incredibly safe, surrounded by genuinely helpful, polite and friendly Turkish people, which is the norm here. Forget the media Turkey is a great place to Travel!
Tip: Hitch hiking is totally viable way of transport over the shorter distance legs of your journey in Turkey. We met loads of travellers doing it and managed to catch a few handy rides ourselves (We hitched some stops along the coast from Antalya to Fethiye). As usual, all the people we met were very friendly, often wanting to converse in English as practise. We felt entirely safe the whole time.
From the airport: We flew into Ataturk International airport, once we went through arrivals we headed to a newspaper kiosk and bought two travel cards and loaded money onto it (the cards are 8 Lira which you can also claim back when you return the card). Here we took the subway at the airport until Zeytinburnu station and transferred onto the tram to Sultan Ahmet stop (touristic centre). The journey takes approximately 1 hour.
To reach Cappadocia we flew from Istanbul to Kayseri with Pegasus air. It took 1 hour and a half and cost £16 each with 15kg of baggage included. From Kayseri you can organize with your hotel or hostel an airport transfer direct to your accommodation, this takes another hour and half.
Alternatively other travellers we met took an overnight 12hr bus from Istanbul straight to the town Goreme.
From Cappadocia to Olympos catch the Metro Bus for 50 Lira.
We took the 10pm bus arriving at 8pm in Antalya main bus terminal. From here you need to take a minibus to Olympos for 15Lira. These busses leave every hour. 2hrs later you will be dropped off at a panoramic café. Here one final 5Lira minibus ride will drop you at the doorstep of your accommodation.
The Journey to Olympos from the likes of Fethiye, Pammukale or Kas you would catch a minibus to the panoramic café.
From Olympos you again hop on a minibus to the panoramic café at the top of the hill. From here a mini bus will take you around the coast to Fethiye.
Or, hitchhike from the main road along the coast.
Tip: If you have time, make the stop in at Kas a beautiful coastal town with a Greek island in view.
You will likely arrive at the Bus Terminal of the larger town Denizili, just south of Pamukkale. From this station a mini bus takes you 15min to Pamukkale town for 3.50Lira. If you see the minibus driving past your hotel let the minibus driver know and he will pull over, otherwise make your own way from Pamukkale’s Dolmus Bus Stop.
Pamukkale to Bodrum, Firstly find the bus terminal in Pamukkale or hale a mini bus as it passes. This will return you to Denizili bus terminal where for 40Lira you can bus to Bodrum. This takes 4hrs approx. Nobody was able to share an exact bus schedule although we know there is one that leaves at 9, 10 and 11 which leads me to assume one bus per hour.
From Istanbul you can Bus south. Although we did not take this route.
We were part of the Travel Talk Tour for the ANZAC day service, so our travel was organised in the package, we were picked up from and returned by bus to Istanbul, out front of Hagia Sophia.
Alternatively you can take a day trip from Istanbul.
Avrasya hostel £8.41 pp/pn
We choose to stay in the touristic centre – Sultan Ahmet, as we had a tour arranged with a meeting point outside Hagia Sophia. Being so central it was only a short walk to all the major tourist attractions and the expat strip of bars. The hostel itself is clean, cheap and the staff are super relaxed, helpful and friendly. Breakfast was also included and that always keeps us happy. Just round the corner is a rug and ceramic store owned by Raphael- make sure you pop in and say ‘Hi’ as Turkish shop owners are really friendly and will offer you a typical Turkish tea while sharing a few stories with you. This is the norm and sure they will try to entice you to buy a rug after but they are not pushy.
Shoe string cave hotel £7.80 pp/pn
After a lot of research in order to find the best accommodation that suited us, we choose Shoestring Cave hotel. Within a short walk to Cappadocia regions main tourist centre Goreme. Making all the valley walks, balloon rides and many more excursions very accessible.
We stayed in the dormitory room which is a cave making the experience an authentic feel of Cappadocia. A delicious buffet breakfast is also included, it is clean and offers all facilities. All the staff at shoestring are warm, friendly and eager to share any helpful information and advice or they will point you in the right direction on a the map. They are always around and happy to help.
Deep green bungalows £7.74 pp/pn
The upgrade we received on arrival to a private suite made a nice first impression for us. They give out passes to the beach if any spare tickets are available, thus saving us a few extra Lira. Our bungalow was comfortable and full of character. Breakfast and Dinner is an additional extra of 30Lira and because Olympus has no real restaurant’s in the area its worth adding on. Chickens, Cats and Hedgehogs run around your feet under a shaded eating area and there is a bonfire almost every night.
Tip –Deep Green accepts volunteer workers that must complete a minimum of 5hrs work per day in exchange for free board and food. If you are short of funds this is a great option to extend your trip. Available through workaway.com
Ideal hostel pension £6.45pp/pn
This is a very basic hotel, kind of no frills. The view however is totally outstanding. Set back and up a hill slightly behind the marina in a very handy location the view spreads over the marina and harbour and across the mountain ranges in the distance. Stunning! The room was basic and comfortable. Breakfast was the standard Turkish platter of an egg, bread, cheeses, fruits and some delicious “nearly organic” (whatever that means) tomatoes. Ideal Hostel offer a very cheap dinner for 15Lira that comes with three courses, the Fish was particularly good.
Anatolia hotel £15.48 pp/pn
We thankfully stayed only one night. The room smelt like an old mans ashtray and the bathroom was certainly clean, I could tell by the head spinning chemical fumes. We both had headaches throughout the day, could be coincidence? Otherwise bed was comfortable enough and breakfast was standard. I wouldn’t recommend.
Bodrum backpackers £8.93 pp/pn
We stayed two nights here as we needed to catch our ferry from Bodrum port. It is one of the only backpackers in town and it has a really cool party atmosphere. Great location, everything thing you need is of walking distance (beach, food and clubs). Like all Turkish people the staff was so friendly and helpful, they truly made our short stay worthwhile.
- Kebab – We have all had one on the way home from a large night, but the real deal is in Turkey. Appropriate for breakfast, lunch and dinner you will never have food envy with a Turkish kebab between your chompers.
- Durum – A wrap similar to a kebab but made with slow cooked meat.
- Gozleme – Traditional savory pancake with cheese and spinach. Cheap Snack option.
- Kofte – Turkish meatballs served in sandwiches or with salads. Very yum!
- Pide – Turkish pizza, the flat bread shaped like a boat makes a very crispy base topped with all the usual pizza ingredients.
- Turkish tea – The apple tea locals call tourist water is delicious and sweet, like warm apple juice. The black tea which locals drink packs a caffeinated punch.
- Ayran – This Turkish drink is one you must acquire a taste for. Blended yoghurt, salt and water the locals swear by its refreshing properties.
- Raki – Local spirit of choice. This tastes similar to sambuca with a slight liquorish taste. Drunk in a 50/50 mix with water. When the water is added to the clear spirit the magic happens and the drink washes cloudy.
- Baklava – Time for dessert. This sticky sweet pastry is made with pistachios’ is quite moreish.
- Seven sisters restaurant, Istanbul – This restaurant has an elevated rooftop terrace smack bang between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Its views extend across the river to Asia and they play sweet soft violin music (tastefully paused during the call to prayers.) The views are sublime and the food exquisite. The seafood was fresh and cooked perfectly! Take your sweetheart on a date and you will no-doubt seel the deal
- Yirimibir restaurant, Istanbul – Found close to Taksim square, the best gourmet kebab we have ever tasted. We luckily stumbled upon this fantastic place from a friend who lives in Istanbul, it is known as the second best kebab restaurant in Istanbul and pushing hard for first. We highly recommend eating here for a delicious Turkish meal.
- Sefed kebab restaurant, Cappadocia – a local recommended this place to grab delicious kebabs. What’s great is you can dine in or take-away. We were always on the go and needed something cheap and cheerful this was perfect! Kebab costs 10 Turkish Lira.
- Silk Road cafe and restaurant, Cappadocia – offers a delicious and filing vegetarian grill along with many other authentic Turkish dishes.
Must see & do
Wow, So much to do in Turkey so this is big one, get ready…
- Admire the Blue Mosque, known for its blue tiles adorning the walls. The interior is absolutely stunning.
- Hagia Sophia – a former Greek Christian church, later an imperial mosque and now a museum in the heart of the tourist centre. So much history to see in just one grand building.
- Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi) it is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. An underground labyrinth for storing the city’s water supply. It is an amazing place and well worth the visit.
- Get lost in the many walkways within the Grand Bazaar. If you love Turkish lamps, ceramics, jewellery, rugs and art, you will find it all here and more.
- Like me you could spend a good few hours admiring all the beautiful pieces.
- Take a stroll on the Galata bridge and make sure you catch the sunset as it makes for a fantastic photo.
- Catch a ferry ride along the Bosporus River and get amazing views of the city.
- All the spices you can think of can be found here at the colourful Spices market.
- Check out the nightlife in and around Taksim Square, all bars and restaurants come to life; it is a great place to hang out which is less touristy.
Again, plenty to get through here but all is worthwhile.
- Hot air ballooning – One of the best places in the world to ride in a hot air balloon. The experience is a once in a lifetime and well worth the price. Our hotel organized our ride with Universal balloons. The excursion cost 120 euro per person and included a buffet breakfast, one hour in a hot air balloon and celebratory glass of champagne after landing, plus a totally awesome certificate of participation. It is one of those surreal pinch yourself experiences, watching the sunrise overlooking the town beneath and the floating balloons in the horizon. I highly recommend this excursion.
Other trusted companies to book it through are Urgup balloons and butterfly balloons.
- Explore the hiking trails. If we weren’t catching the sunrise with the balloons in the morning then we spent our days hiking around the Cappadocia region.
- White, honey and love valleys (3 hours) – This is Bianca’s favourite track. You weave along one path making it easy to explore alone without getting lost. You go through the white and honey valleys before reaching love valley near the end. You’ll know you have arrived as all the rock formations take the shape of giant male appendages, hence the name love valley.
- Red valley, rose valley and sunset point (5hours – included exploring and getting lost) – this is Brett’s favourite hike as there is so many pathways to choose to hike up both valleys. There are many different churches and caves on the way that makes exploring off the beaten track part of the fun. We got lost a few times but hey… that’s all part of the adventure.
- Pigeon valley – The easiest of all the hikes, named after the pigeons as the people created caves for them to use their eggs for paint and guano as fertilizer.
- Green tour (one full day) – we arranged to do this tour with the hotel as you can only get to some of the sites by car/bus. We are not usually ones for tours as we like to take our time and not be rushed. This tour we thought was good but not great. Our highlights were visiting the largest underground city – Derinkuyu and the Selime monastery. You can do this by yourself but you would need a car. The cost of the tour is 120 Turkish Lira, and includes lunch. Other places you visit are the look out point at pigeon valley, a walk through Ihlara canyon (which you can’t veer off along any of the hidden tracks because of the tour) and a jewellery shop. It is a good tour to see a lot of places in one day.
- Open air museum – 20 minute walk from Goreme town, this museum offers the regions best preserved collection of painted cave churches. The museum is open 8.30 – 7pm during the summer months and cost 25 Turkish Lira to enter.
- Other excursions available in the area are horseback riding, ATV and mountain biking.
- Go see the flaming rocks. The home of the Olympic Flame, where the torch is lit every four years. Year round natural gas seeps through the rocks and makes an eternal flame. Make sure you go at night-time for better visuals
- Climb around the rocks to the right of the beach as you look out to sea. You will pass some ruins on your way around the peninsula and if you manage to go far enough without getting too lost, you come across a beautiful cave. Climb inside and emerge in the ocean below.
- Slip, Slop, Slap, roll out your towel and relax.
Through your hotel you will be offered a range of excursions including:
- Paragliding over Oludeniz
- Boat trip to 6 different spots 9am – 6pm lunch included
- Boat trip to 12 different spots 6am – 6.30pm lunch included
Alternatively you can hire a car or take the mini bus from the Dolmus Station and do trips yourself. We recommend:
- Saklikent Canyon – Wear shoes which are okay to get wet or rent footwear on site (don’t use jandal’s or they will be lost). You start with a river cross then work your way up the canyon which gets tighter, deeper and more exiting the further you go. 11Lira Bus 6Lira entry (3Lira with Student ID)
- Don’t take anything you don’t want to get wet because everything will get
- Once you have completed the Canyon, exit and walk down the road to find a very special little café called Paradise Park with bead seats over a tranquil slow river.
- Butterfly Valley –has a beautiful walk about one km behind the beach to a waterfall. – This spot is included on the boat tours.
- There is only one real reason to make the trek inland to Pamukkale, The beautiful terraces. Enter from the south gate and walk barefooted up the white calcium deposits. A nice collaboration between man and nature lets visitors swim in designated pools on the way to the top while preserving the natural pools for photos only. I image New Zealand’s Pink and White Terraces would have been something similar before they were destroyed by the Mt Tarawera eruption in 1886.
At the top you can explore the ruins of the ancient city Hierapolis. The walk up to the theatre behind the aquatic centre is well worth the extra effort with a beautiful stage back dropped by sublime views across the plains below.
Tip: The terraces become crowded at about midday when all the tourist busses from out-of-town arrive. Stay one night in town and get a morning session in with fewer people. Gates open at 8am. 35Lira Entrance fee.
- Take a day trip to Ephesus – There is so much history to discover in this beautiful ancient Greek city. Ephesus came to fame for the temple of Artemis, one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world.
- Let your hair down, Bodrum is a party city so go enjoy the nightlife.
- Nurse your hangover at the beach!
- Something all Kiwis should do. Weather its on ANZAC day or not just make the pilgrimage out see where our troops were sent into battle. Pay respect as you see their trenches. Get a real understanding of the grit and determination it would have taken to push up the beach, climb the cliffs and capture the Chunuk Bair peak.Click here for our full ANZAC memorial service experience.
Tips & Advice
- Make sure to talk to the locals, everyone in Turkey are so welcoming and friendly
- Check out the Turkey travel planner website for more detailed information about the whole country. We used this site to research the specific places we were heading to in Turkey.
- Hotels/hostel will provide a map and great directions to follow each valley track in Cappadocia
- 5% – 10% tips for wait staff and taxi drivers
- Best weather is during April – May and September – October
- High season is June – August
- Currency = Turkish Lira
- Haggling is the norm and expected with street shops/tourist stores.
- Normal Europe 2 pin adapter
Helpful words and phrases
Goodbye Hosca Kal
Thank you Tesekkur ederim
You’re welcome Rica ederim
Pardon me Pardon
Check out our gallery to see our trip’s photos here