This blog is intended to speak more of the stories, experiences and learnings I treasure from our Turkey trip, with tips and reminders in between.
Without going into the details of the cost and fees as those are already discussed in my previous blog, here’s our 6 day itinerary in the land where Asia meets Europe.
DAY 1: ISTANBUL
1. From Istanbul Sabiha Gocken Airport to Sultanahmet area and the “Cruise along the Bosphorus River”
We highly suggest commuting from Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen airport going to Sultanahmet, or the area that houses most of the historical sights of Istanbul and also the most vibrant part of the capital.
While you may think that the transfers of “Airport bus- Ferry-Tram-Walk to the hotel” would be very inconvenient (the same sentiment I had but Jayvee insisted otherwise), the brighter side are:
(1) you will reduce an hour of travel by avoiding the traffic, which is not a problem when you ride the ferry;
(2) it’s cheaper, of course; and
(3) you get to cross (cruise😜) the Bosphorus river (for only 45php!) and marvel over the historical landmarks from a distance.
2. Exploring the city streets on foot and by tram
Istanbul, which was previously named as “Byzantium” when it was still a colony of Greece and later became “Constantinople” under the Ottoman Empire, is a peninsula declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Even if you will get lost in exploring the city, you will surely end up finding a tourist spot, an exquisite street, or any interesting activities by the locals.
Do not miss to experience riding their trams! Particularly the historic tram in Istiklal Caddesi.
3. Relish some authentic Turkish Kebab and the sweet Baklava
No caption needed, right?
Wherever we go, we were always offered with this kind of tea, even in markets. The merchants would always insist that we drink and finish their teas even if we say that we’re not buying. Their expressions look terrifying whenever I refuse or do not consume it entirely. Obviously, refusing is rude for them.
4. Grand Bazaar
Deemed as one of the oldest and largest markets in the world, and was regarded as the number 1 most-visited tourist attractions in 2014, Grand Bazaar is also rich in social, political, and economic history of Istanbul.
There you can find anything under the sun. Keep in mind, however, to bargain!!!!! From personal experience, I was able to haggle up to 50% discount.
BUT! You will realize when you go to other parts of Turkey that prices in Istanbul are actually expensive!!! The ref magnets for example, cost 3 pcs for 10 Lira. But when you reach Cappadocia, you can find 3 pcs for 5 Lira only!
5. Basilica Cistern
Located under the Old City, the cistern used to provide a water filtration system for the Palace of Constantinople.
Also a must-see in the cistern are the two eerie inverted Medusa heads used as bases of the pillars. It was featured in Dan Brown’s Inferno book and was also used as a location in one of the James Bond films.
6. Hagia Sofia
Regarded as a historical architectural masterpiece that dates back to 1400 years, Hagia Sophia had been a house of worship of different major religions in the world. It had been a Christian cathedral, a Greek Orthodox Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church, and an Imperial Mosque.
It is the sanctuary of the coveted Byzantine art mosaics with images of Christ, Mary, John the Baptist, Emperors Justinian and Constantine, among others.
What amazes me most about Hagia Sophia is that it shelters a column from the Temple of Artemis!!! Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!
7. Blue Mosque
Hand-painted blue and white tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes.
Blue Mosque is just across Hagia Sophia. Make sure to cover up when visiting, although conservative garments and shawls are provided for free at the entrance. No fee is needed to get inside but donation boxes lay at the entrance and exits.
8. Galata Bridge
Galata Bridge connects the Old City of Istanbul or the Sultanahmet area with the other districts in Istanbul, including Galata. This lies above the Bosphorus river.
We just walked over the bridge from Sultanahmet to Galata area. Below it is an array of restaurants. A number of fishermen and their rods is also an interesting sight.
9. Galata Tower
Used as a watchtower to defend the capital, Galata tower offers a spectacular panoramic view of the city. It is best visited during sunset.
We were able to visit the places above and do the recommended activities between lunch time to around 9pm. We flew the next morning to Izmir.
DAY 2: SELCUK
1. Sultanahmet to Istanbul Sabiha Gocken Airport
We took an hour flight from Istanbul to Izmir the next morning. At 4am the Ferry station was still closed, we rode a cab from our hotel in Sultanahmet going to Taksim Square where the Shuttle bus (Havatas) to Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen airport awaits.
2. Izmir Airport to Selcuk
Just across Izmir airport is the train station (TCDD- Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları) going to Selcuk, the town which houses one of the world’s marvelous ancient sites, Ephesus.
It takes an hour of travel. Note, however, that you have to make train transfers in between. And, be keen on the timetable of trains. Otherwise, you will have to wait an hour or so waiting for the next train, just like what we did.
Ephesus is not only an important archaeological site of the Greco-Roman world but is also a destination for Christian pilgrimages. It lies in the town which was once a home of the Virgin Mary, the Apostles John and Paul, Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, among many others.
It is like a village of ancient structures, each possessing historical significance. The most interesting ruins, for me, are the following:
The Odeon (Bouleuterion) Theatre lies near the entrance of the upper gate or where Ephesus tours usually begin. It was used for two purposes: for Senate meetings and as Concert Hall for performances.
Trajan’s fountain – This fountain is considered to be one of the three most magnificent fountains of Ephesus. It had two ornamental pools, one in the front and one at the rear. The recently renovated fountain no longer holds any of these. They have all been relocated to the Hall of Fountain Findings in the Archaeological Museum of Ephesus.
Curetes street – This street took its name from the priests who were called as Curetes later. Their names were written in Prytaneion.
Marble road –The construction of the marble road dates to the 1st century A.D, and it was rebuilt in the 5th century during the reign of Nero.
This is the Library of Celsus. It is, for me, the most impressive ruins. It is built in honour of the Roman Senator known as Celsus. The four colossal marble statues at the facade portrays Wisdom, Intelligence, Knowledge, and Virtue.
The Great Theatre is the largest theatre in the world of Greco-Roman. What struck me most about it is that it was the theatre referred in Acts 19: 23-41 where a mass riot in Ephesus by Silversmiths took place against St. Paul for his preaching against the believers of Artemis. The riot prompted Paul to leave. He ended up leaving a letter, which the bible refers to as “Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.”
4. House of Mary
After checking in at our hotel, our hotel front desk agent booked us a cab. The cab driver then offered a package of driving us to the House of Mary and then to Ephesus. For the cost, see my previous blog. 😉 You may also opt to rent a car or a motorbike; supposedly our top options if Jayvee didn’t left his driver’s license in the Philippines.🤷
The Virgin Mary is believed to have lived in this stone house until her ‘assumption.’ It was discovered when a bedridden nun from Germany, who had never been to Turkey, recounted her detailed visions of Mary’s house and its surroundings.
A number of Popes visited the house and it remains to be filled with pilgrims over the years.
5. Temple of Artemis
Listed as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, what is left now of the grandiose Temple of Artemis is a lone single pillar.
It was this very temple which was threatened by Paul’s preachings.
6. Basilica of St. John
While we stayed literally just across the Basilica and Ayasuluk Castle, we were never able to enter either because we visited them too early or too late for its opening hours.
Where the Basilica of St. John stands is believed to be the burial place of the Apostle. He stayed in Ephesus in the remaining years of his life.
7. Ayasuluk Castle
The castle was built for a ruling Ottoman family.
DAY 3: PAMUKKALE
1. Selcuk – Denizli – Pamukkale
We left Selcuk early morning and had to catch the first schedule of train to Denizli. We traveled for 3 hours and reached Denizli by lunch. Just across the train station is the city’s bus terminal. From there we rode a mini bus to Pamukkale for around 30 minutes.
2. Pamukkale Travertines
Pamukkale literally means “Cotton Castle” in Turkish. The cotton white terraces of travertines were built over the ages from limestone deposited by the abounding hot springs in the area.
(Pamukkale hacks alert!) Our experience tells us that the most strategic entrance of this picturesque natural wonder is the lower gate. If you opt to ride the tourist buses, you will most likely enter the upper gate. With that, you will miss the lovely pond beside the lower gate. Most importantly, you will unlikely discover the crowdless part of the travertines which graces just few meters from the lower gate. See photo below for reference. 😉
The crowd gets ridiculously cramped as you walk upwards, as the photo below shows. Eeeek.
BRING BAON if you intend to spend the day in the travertines and in Hierapolis. The stores’ price inside are very expensive! A woman next to me in the cashier even exclaimed ‘absurd,’ referring to the amount she paid.
The chips, corn stuff, sundae, lemonade, and water we bought already equalled to the amount of our dinner meal in Istanbul! So please don’t make the same mistake that we did. 😛
3. Cleopatra’s Ancient Pool
Just few meters above the travertines is the enchanting mineral-rich Ancient Pool where Cleopatra once swam. The antique columns submerged in it plus the visible air bubbles ascending to the water surface complete its mystic beauty.
The Hierapolis – Travertines entrance fee exclude the Ancient Pool. Although you may enter the area for free, swimming fee must be paid if you want to indulge the waters.
Pamukkale – Hierapolis is a Unesco World Heritage site.
Hierapolis is an ancient Greek-Roman city, known for its impeccable water system technology. The well-preserved ruins lie just behind the Ancient Pool.
We left Hierapolis around 6pm, we went back to Denizli for dinner and to catch our 10pm sleeper bus to Göreme Cappadocia, our ultimate bucket list destination in this country.
DAY 4: GÖREME, CAPPADOCIA
DAY 5: CAPPADOCIA
DAY 6: CAPPADOCIA
DAY 0 : MANILA – DUBAI – TURKEY
- Flight from NAIA Terminal 3 to Dubai International Airport T1
- Luggage Transfer via Marhaba Services (DXB T1 to T2 – no need to pass immigration)
- Flight from Dubai International Airport T2 to Istanbul Sabiha Gocken Airport
DAY 1 : ISTANBUL, TURKEY
- Istanbul Sabiha Gocken Airport to city center
- Money exchange and Lunch
- City Tour includes:
- Spice and Grand Bazaar
- Basilica Cistern
- Hagia Sophia
- Blue Mosque
- Hippodrome of Constantinople
- Galata Bridge and Galata Tower
- Try turkish delights and Kebab!
- Good night!
DAY 2 : SELCUK, TURKEY
- Shuttle bus to Istanbul Sabiha Gocken airport going to Izmir
- Arrival to Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport
- Train to Selcuk
- Rebetika Hotel Check-in
- Rent a cab for Ephesus Day tour that includes:
- Meryem Ana Evi (Mama Mary’s House)
- Ancient ruins of Ephesus
- Back to hotel and visit Isa Bey Mosque, Ayasuluk fortress and Basilica of St. John
- Good night!
DAY 3 : DENIZLI, TURKEY
- Hotel Check-out
- Train from Selcuk to Denizli
- Minibus from Denizli Bus station to Pamukkale
- Pamukkale Tour:
- Pamukkale Travertines
- Cleopatra’s Ancient Pool
- Minibus from Pamukkale back to Denizli Bus station
- Sleeper Bus from Denizli to Goreme
DAY 4 : CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY
- Arrival at Goreme
- Stroll in town
- Check-in to Local Cave Hotel
- Visit Goreme Open air museum and swords valley
- Good night!
DAY 5 : CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY
- Pick up from the hotel at 4am
- Hot air balloon ride
- back to Hotel for Breakfast
- Tour in Cavusin village and Rose Valley
- Free time
- Sunset viewing at sunset viewpoint (near the hotel)
- Good night!
DAY 6 : CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY
- Hot air balloon and Sunrise viewing at 4am
- Back to hotel for breakfast
- Dip in the hotel swimming pool
- Free time
- Hotel Check out
- Minibus from Goreme to Uchisar
- Visit Uchisar castle
- Souvenir shopping
- Back to hotel
- Shuttle to Kayseri airport
- Flight from Kayseri Turkey to Tbilisi Georgia