If you’re wanting to travel somewhere a little different this year, we wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Turkey should be at the top of your contender list. Both European and Asian, this mysterious country is packed full of dramatic landscapes, ancient history and legendary architecture, with deliciously unique food and genuinely welcoming people. We loved visiting Turkey, and can’t wait to return, but in the meantime here are our top five favourite experiences we think you shouldn’t miss.
Go Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia
Hot air ballooning over the incredible other-worldly landscapes of Cappadocia is right up there with the best travel experiences we’ve ever had. Yes, it was an early start to the day, being dragged out of bed whilst it was still dark, but once we were on board listening to the comforting roar of the burners, the excitement of everyone on board was palpable.
We didn’t even notice when we left the ground, the take-off was so smooth, and before we knew it our balloon was soaring above the valleys alongside a host of other colourful balloons. We’d rise and fall with the thermals, sometimes almost skimming the tops of trees, and floating low down below the valley sides which was thrilling. Hot air ballooning really is the best way to get a good perspective of the surreal landscape in this part of Turkey, and your efforts will be rewarded with a glass of champagne and a certificate on landing. What a start to the day!
Read More: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia
Visit the Blue Mosque in Istanbul
We’ve visited a lot of historical monuments on our travels, but none have stood out quite so spectacularly as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It’s one of the few mosques that non-Muslims are able to visit, and to be able to have a glimpse inside this beautiful 17th century building was pure privilege.
Although it’s called the ‘blue’ mosque, we think ‘technicolour’ mosque would have been more apt, the colours inside were mesmerising in the afternoon light and the enormous hanging lights gave it an enchanting feel. Definitely our favourite sight to visit in Istanbul. Just remember that women have to cover their hair (so take a scarf or pashmina with you), and legs need to be covered too, so dress sensibly before heading out.
Soak in the Hot Springs at Pamukkale
Famous for its striking blue travertine thermal pools, Pamukkale is a series of naturally formed white limestone terraces near Denizli, where travellers can soak their weary limbs in the mineral springs and enjoy the views out over the valley. ‘Pamukkale’ means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, and a spa town has existed here since Roman times!
There’s also an ancient holy Roman city here called Hierapolis, perched on top of the terraces, but it’s often overlooked in favour of the incredible pools down below. Since your ticket to the travertine pools includes entrance to Hierapolis it would be a shame to miss it! There are a number of structures still standing after all this time, including an enormous amphitheatre higher up the hillside.
Go Back in Time at Ephesus
The ancient city of Ephesus is often included on a tour along with Istanbul, Pamukkale and Cappadocia, and the contrasting locations make for a great holiday in Turkey. Ephesus, or Efes as it’s also known, was once the centre of the Roman Asia Minor, and today it’s once of the most impressive historical sites in all of Europe. The top places you shouldn’t miss include the Celsus Library (pictured below), the Hadrian Temple, and the famous view of Curetes Street. There’s also a dramatic theatre built into the hillside, which was used for both entertainment and preaching. The city is vast, and popular, so we suggest you try and avoid busy times and visit first thing in the morning, or later in the afternoon. Just make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen to try and combat the heat if you’re here during summer!
Sleep in a Cave Hotel in Goreme
We love spending the night in quirky and unusual places, and nowhere fits the bill better than the cave hotels in Cappadocia. We stayed in the Kelebek Cave Hotel in Goreme, before moving on to the Taskonaklar Boutique Cave Hotel in Uchisar. Both were incredible experiences, and although we visited in the middle of winter, the rooms were surprisingly cosy, and we even had a private hot tub on our own little terrace at the latter. Goreme is the centre of activity in Cappadocia, and makes a great base for your stay here, although the walking trails are easy to reach from both locations, and if you’re going hot air ballooning, you’ll often be picked up from your hotel so it doesn’t really matter where you sleep. Breakfast is often taken up on the hotel terraces during the summer, where you’ll have front row seats to watch the balloons floating over the incredible maze of valleys.
Read More: Sleeping in a Cave Hotel in Goreme
Planning Your Trip to Turkey
Before you book your flights to Turkey, there are a few things you need to consider first.
All British citizens require a visa in order to enter the country, and it’s much easier to arrange your Turkey Visa online before you travel, so do make sure you factor this into your travel preparations. Tourist visas are valid for multiple visits up to a maximum of 90 days over a 180 day period. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel date, and as with many countries, there needs to be one full blank page for the stamps. If you are not a British Citizen, please do check the advice from the Turkish Consulate before you go on holiday to ensure you have the correct documentation in place.
Best Time to Visit
Think about the weather, which follows a similar seasonal pattern to most of Europe, and work out what the best time to travel is depending on what you want to do. Personally we love the Spring and Autumn, as the major sites like the Blue Mosque, Cappadocia and Ephesus are less busy than during the summer, whilst Pamukkale is somewhere you can visit all year round. Summers can be sweltering, and winters freezing, so make sure you pack accordingly!
Try and learn a few phrases of Turkish, since outside the major tourist centres, English is often not spoken. Locals appreciate visitors making an effort to converse in their language, and you never know, you might make a few new friends as you try and navigate your way through the words.