There’s something truly mystical about Turkey.
The metropolis that has spanned continents, empires, religions and cultures for thousands of years has an undeniable tenacity to it and an almost mythical allure, hence it is no wonder that it is attracting tourists from all around the world today!
Read also: Amsterdam Food Guide!
Istanbul (2 days)
Although it is the most popular city in Turkey, Istanbul is actually not the capital of the city, as many people thought. This dynamic and brilliant city straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait and was historically known as Constantinople.
Day 1: Sultanahmet District
First, we will visit the iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia. With an admission fee of approximately just SGD 15, we immerse ourselves in a true architectural masterpiece. This place served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral then converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire then converted again to a mosque. Now a museum, some traces of Christianity and Islam remains.
Then, we will visit the Blue Mosque, which is just opposite. There are six minarets that can be spotted from afar. There is no extra entrance fees so if you do have the time, do go in and take a look at famous coloured tiles for which the mosque was named after.
Next up, we will move on to the third mosque of the day, the New mosque, also known ads Yeni Mosque.
Another of the famous architecture landmarks of Istanbul, its beauty is surely a breathtaking one.
Enough of mosques for now, let’s go shopping! We will visit the one of the largest, oldest and most popular markets in the city, the Grand Bazaar!
Enter the 19th century Turkey as you step into the market and take in all the vibrant colours and unique fragrances.
From affordable pashmina fabrics to striking lamps, antiques and more, this market has more than 40,000 shops and 66 streets.
Note: Be careful of your belongings and check out the map before you enter, though, as finding your way out may get a little overwhelming!
To end the day off, we will experience the busy nightlife at shopping and dining district, Taksim Square. Vintage trams trundle along Istiklal Caddesi, the city’s main pedestrian boulevard, which is lined with 19th-century buildings housing international shopping chains, movie theaters and cafes.
Read also: Khao Yai Ultimate Travel Guide
Day 2: Fatih District
On our second day, we shall explore a different part of Istanbul. Just a quarter way up the Golden Horn, is the colourful neighbourhood of Fener Balat. The streets in the area are full of historic wooden mansions, churches, and synagogues dating from the Byzantine and Ottoman eras.
This neighbourhood is off-the-beaten-path and gives an insight into the contemporary lives of locals living in a city rich with history. The old-style houses all feature a myriad colours and interesting architecture. It is truly a walk into the past, as we see the remains of Jewish architecture (from back in the day where the Jews settled).
Just can’t get enough of mosques? We will be looking at more impressive and exquisite ones again! Located on a hillside overlooking the Golden Horn, Zeyrek Mosque is the second largest religious structure built by the Byzantines still standing in Istanbul.
Next, we will visit the Fatih Mosque. The original mosque on the site was constructed between 1463 and 1470 on the site of the Church of the Holy Apostles.
These architecture treasures are truly a sight to behold! While photos can capture every nook and cranny, the edges and design, one has to be there in person to really experience the place in all its majestic glory.
Let’s now explore the rest of the Galata district for being a social and cultural hub that boasts an array of ancient monuments, experiences, and sights to make your time in the area exceptional.
The Galata Tower is one of Istanbul’s most striking monuments. The medieval tower has a phenomenal observation gallery upon which you can marvel at the entire city and the coast.
Don’t forget to try out the Döner, which literally means “rotating roast”, it is made of chicken, lamb or beef, roasted to perfection on a vertical rotisserie (basically kebab), and stuffed into a crusty roll.
It is super cheap and can be found at nearly every corner of Istanbul.
Cappadocia (3 days)
Turkey is shrouded in history, mystique and legend, and Cappadocia is the jewel in its crown.
To get to Cappadocia, hop on the overnight bus (the cheapest form of transport) from the harem bus terminal, it only costs around 90TL (around S$20) Do you remember to book your tickets beforehand though!
Day 3: Hot Air Balloon
Seeing the unique scenery of Cappadocia from the vantage point of a hot air balloon is an unforgettable experience. The feeling of slowly drifting over the sculpted canyons of the Cappadocian landscape in the early morning light is one we won’t forget in a hurry.
Prepare yourself for the best sunrise you will ever experience in your life.
Next, we will hike at Red and Rose Valleys, among spires are pink, red and white. It takes approximately 2 hours and ends in the town of Cavusin.
Cavusin is most known for this 5th century Church of St. John the Baptist, the oldest and largest in Cappadocia.
Admission for the most unique and mystical adventure of your life is free.
Day 4: More Hikes
The rock castle at Uchisar is the highest point in Cappadocia, giving visitors the best views over the area. Climbing up through the castle gives you your first chance of many to explore the many caves in the area.
Next, we can take a look at Goreme Open Air Museum. It contains some of the world’s oldest Churches in history, carved into the side of the mountains.
Then, we take another casual hike down Love Valley, which is mostly flat and contain few gentle climbs. The hike is named for the phallic-shaped rock formations nearing the end of the hike. As such it is a comical experience for adults (LOL!) Again, a funny exciting expedition like this, is also free of charge! So hike away now!
Day 5: Explore the undergrounds
First off, we will start the day by hiking down our last valley of Cappadocia, the Ilhara Valley. The hike involves few climbs and obstacles so it is fairly easy. A river flows next to you, frogs croak from the mud, birds chirp overhead, churches scar the canyon walls and cafés serve you delicious tea (MUST TRY!)
Now for the highlight of the day, we will explore the undergrounds of the ancient Cappadocia, Kaymakli. Due to its soft volcanic rock, Kaymaklı people built this splendid underground city around their homes for the security reasons.
It was used by earliest Christians living in the region from 4th century to guard them from religious tortures by building caves and elaborate labyrinth of narrow tunnels and traps for enemies.
An interesting cultural value of Cappadocia, it includes sitting places, stables, storages areas, cellars, marvellous ground stones, churches, wineries, kitchens, storage rooms for the state of any emergency.
At Turkish Heritage Travel, we organize private tours to Kaymakli Underground City. The rate of the tour is 70 Euro per person based on minimum 2 people including transfer to/from your hotel in Goreme, entrance fee and professional guide. The tour takes around 2 hours.
Izmir (3 days)
To get to. Izmir from Cappadocia, you can take the bus (approximately S$25) which is a 12 hour ride.
Day 6: Agora
The reconstructed Corinthian colonnade and Faustina Gate are conspicuous, but the vaulted chambers and cisterns in the basements of the two stoas are even more interesting, giving us a good idea of how this rectangular-shaped, multilevel marketplace would have looked in its heyday.
For the later half of the day, we can visit one of the liveliest part if Izmir, historically rich market Kemeralti Market.
Kemeraltı dates back to the 17th century and is home to shops, eateries, artisans’ workshops, mosques, coffeehouses, tea gardens and synagogues.
Day 7: Ephesus
Ephesus was one of the most important commercial centres as it held great strategic position as a port in ancient times.
Now let’s take a walk down the charming backstreets of Bergama. A modern town of Izmir, it houses many one-of-a-kind shops.
Be in awe when you view the famous Temple of Trajan at Pergamon Acropolis up close and personal!
It is so massive!
For our last sightseeing destination of the day, we can head to the Pergamon Theatre, which is equally as impressive, with its steep incline due to its position on the side of the hills.
Read also: Seoul Ultimate Travel Guide
Day 8: Sirince
Greek used to settle in the village and this is evident in the styling of the architecture that remains till today. Do not miss out on some wine-tasting goodness!
There are tours for the area (includes wine-tasting) at a cost of approximately S$30.
Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes for a good grip on the cobbled stones.
Denizli (1 day)
Day 9: Pamukkale
Ever heard of the famous “Cotton Castle”? Well here it is!
The surreal, brilliant white travertine terraces and warm pools of Pamukkale hang, like the cascade of a mighty waterfall, from the rim of a steep picturesque valley.
Truly spectacular in its own right, the geological phenomenon that is Pamukkale is a unique combination of natural and man-made wonders. It’s little wonder that Pamukkale-Hierapolis has been made a Unesco World Heritage site.
Tip: To save costs, bring a picnic lunch!
Tip: Wear flip-flops and bring a bag to contain them as you will have to remove your footwear when you are there!
Edirne (1 day)
Day 10: Streets of Edirne
Lastly, we shall end of our trip with a simple walk around the streets of Edirne and fully immerse ourselves in the sights and sounds of a Turkish town. Catch sight of the colourful storefronts and old-fashioned kiosks!
If you still have some cash left to splurge, experience the authentic Ottoman cuisine at Tulipa Cafe and Restaurant.
And lastly, if you still have time to spare, make a trip down to the Grand Synagogue of Edirne to marvel at its elegance!
And that about wraps up your Turkey adventure!
Read also: Finland Top 5
Turkey is a country that is full of surprises. From its delicious unique cuisines to its rich historical monuments and marvellous sightseeing destinations (The HOT AIR BALLOONS, like wow) and mind-blowing hikes, it’s no wonder that Turkey remains a popular destination for tourists all around the world!
Furthermore, Turkey is a rather affordable place to visit, thanks to its extensive public transportation systems and plenty of street foods in its villages and towns (Remember to avoid the fancy restaurants and cafes if you are on a budget!)