Sea, Sand and Cityscape – Turkey Itinerary
Andrew and I visited Turkey for our honeymoon in July 2013, and to date it was one of my favorite trips. It is a transcontinental country separating Asia and Europe, leaving it rich with culture, history and a beautiful landscape. There is plenty to do, see and eat. Here is our sea, sand and cityscape Turkey itinerary.
First stop Çeşme (pronounced chesh-meh).
Çeşme is a sea-side town on the Aegean coast filled with resorts and spas which lies on the most western tip of Turkey. It’s just a short ferry ride away from the Greek island of Chios. It is a 60 minute drive from the Izmir airport.
We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel Resort & Spa, and spend the first afternoon sitting by the pool and enjoying our lunch al fresco. In the evening, we headed to Alaçatı, (pronounced aa-LAA-chaa-tuh) a small town about a 15 minute drive from Çeşme.
The narrow streets and alleys are filled with so much color, small local shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. It is truly picturesque. We had dinner at Beso. The food and wine were excellent and the service was great.
After the sun goes down, the town is pumping with people and music. We stopped by a bar to try the Turkish national drink, Raki. This drink is made from twice-distilled grapes and aniseed.
It was by far the strongest alcohol I have ever tried. They served it with melon and feta, which came free. A great way to end the night and needless to say we slept like babies.
**Helpful Tip** The waiter will ask you if you want Raki with water, if its your first time trying it the answer is YES.
About a two hour drive from Çeşme, is the Ancient Greek City of Ephesus. It’s famous for its Temple of Artemis, which was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
We walked through the ruins on our own, but there are plenty of tours available. It took us about 2 hours to see the whole thing. The structures were epic and it is definitely a must-see if you are in the area.
**Helpful tip** It was sweltering hot with barely any shade. We applied sunscreen twice during our walk through the city. If your sensitive to the sun, I highly recommend a hat or umbrella, and a gallon of 50 proof sunscreen.
That night, we headed to the Marina in Çeşme. It was filled with high end stores and small seafood restaurants. We had a great dinner on the water at Köprü Bistro.
Afterwards, we strolled around for a bit and ended up in a outdoor bar called Hayal Kahvesi Çeşme Marina. We ate pistachios, drank martinis and listened to a cover band singing American music. It was great!
We headed back to the marina for lunch and then to Çeşme Castle a few blocks away. It was built in 1508 and represents typical Ottoman Sultan Bayezid architecture.
It’s about 2 bucks to get in and it had the most amazing views of the Çeşme. Totally worth it. Plan to spend a little over an hour doing the walk-through. After, we went back to the marina for some shopping and ice cream.
Next Stop Cappadoccia
We stayed at Argos In Cappadoccia and above is the view from our room. It is the absolute most amazing hotel right smack in the middle of the most interesting landscape in the world.
Cappadoccia is situated in central Turkey and is covered by eroded volcanic ash from approximately 3 million years ago.
Erosion from the wind and water have left an unusual landscape of cones, pillars and fairy-tale chimneys. Some of which are very phallic. In these formations, there are homes and places of worship.
It’s a must to stay in a cave hotel. We splurged a bit because it was our honeymoon but, most hotels are budget prices for great quality.
We woke up at 3:45 am to catch our ride to the hot air balloon tour. What a fabulous experience! I was a bit nervous to be flying in basket attached to a flaming balloon with 8 strangers. It was so relaxing!
We flew with Butterfly Balloons with Mike as our operator. He was experienced and fantastic. I highly recommend flying with them. Best part is it ends with a champagne toast!
**Helpful Hint** We told them It was our honeymoon and got upgraded to a less crowed basket for free :)
We arrived back at the hotel had some breakfast. After a nap, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring our hotel’s underground tunnels and caves. There are many guided tours throughout the area that take you into cave systems that go as far as 8 stories below the ground.
For dinner, we took a short cab ride to Göreme (pronounced guh-reh-meh) which is a small town in the center of the region and ate at Alaturka Restaurant. So good!
We headed back down to the town of Göreme and visited the Göreme Open Air Muesum. Although the museum was very crowded, we got to see some of the oldest frescoes and churches carved into stone. It was worth the $10 entrance fee.
After fending off a rug salesman who was trying to take us to his factory, we had an afternoon beer at Goreme Panorama Cafe. It had a real hippy feel and was super cheap. We had lunch afterwards where we enjoyed a huge Pide – local eats made in clay pots.
Last Stop Istanbul
Istanbul is so full of history and culture. There is so much to see and do, it could take weeks. We wanted to take in all the main sights as well as doing a little exploring on our own. Here’s how we planned out days.
We arrived at the Swissôtel in the morning, so were able to get to the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Museum all in one day.
They are a walkable distance from each other and you must see them all! So much wonderful architecture and gorgeous mosaics. We stopped and tried some street grilled cheese thing that was so delicious.
That night, we went down to the water and hung out in a great area with tons of bars restaurants and shops. We ate at the The House Hotel Bosphorus. Food was EXCELLENT and so was the atmosphere.
**Helpful Hint** When you go to the Hagia Sophia, wear socks, cover your knees and shoulders. I had to walk barefoot, gross. Ladies, take a scarf with you as well because you will need to cover your head. They do provide some clothes to cover up but a million people use them.
We started out day at the Dolmabahçe, the newer palace that was at the main center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922. It was beautiful inside and out. It will take a few hours to do the whole tour of the rooms and grounds.
We spent the rest of the day chilling at the hotel lounge and had some dinner there. The heat and walking got the best of us.
Off to the Grand Bazaar! It was such a great experience. It is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Filled with 3,000 shops, it attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.
It is pretty intense and you NEED to practice your negotiation skills. Whatever the original price is, you can probably get it down to less than half the cost. We were pretty terrible at this, but we still got some really cool stuff.
Some shop owners will offer you tea, take it. A Turkish friend told us before we went that it is customary and sort of an insult if you don’t accept it. We spent most of the day there and in the surrounding area.
My favorite part of the whole trip was the food. For dinner, we went to a really awesome meze (tapas) restaurant called Giritli. So fresh and full of flavor. The food was amazing It was a great way to end an amazing trip
I think we ate for 3 hours straight. We got 15 of the small plates (above) and a basket of bread just as an appetizer. It was really cheap for the quality and amount of food. Also, unlimited wine. Yes, I said unlimited wine.
If you are planning on going to Turkey for your next trip and have any questions, please email me. I would love to help you plan. It was a wonderful place and I hope to visit again one day!