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Old 15th June 2019, 15:20   #1
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Default A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey

Turkey is one of the few places that checks most of the tick boxes when you have to backpack a country.
  1. Rich history and heritage.
  2. Amazing country side and landscapes.
  3. Developed tourism and transport facilities.
  4. Fresh bread and food.
Turkey is one of the countries that is gateway for Europe and an ancient land where great armies of Alexander trudged along to conquer Asia. Also called Asia Minor, this land has lot of civilisation settled upon itself before the modern Turkey shaped itself around 1920’s after world war one due to modernisation carried out by Kemal Atatürk, the first president of modern Turkey.

I had unique opportunity to visit Turkey in the month of Ramzan, that means some lip smacking food and festivities in the air. Observations about Turkey will be reserved at the end of the travelogue. I had roughly 8 days to cover Turkey which is really less compared to the size of the country and places of interest it offers to the visitors. I visited the country between 18th May to 25th May of 2019. Below is itinerary I followed after researching a lot about the country on web and places to cover in 8 days.
  1. 18th May: Istanbul
  2. 19th May: Istanbul
  3. 20th May: Istanbul
  4. 21st May: Istanbul
  5. 22nd May: Göreme, Cappadocia
  6. 23rd May: Cappadocia region
  7. 24th May: Selcuk and Şirince, Izmir Province
  8. 25th May: Selcuk, Izmir Province
Turkish visa requirements for Indian citizens:
If you have a USA, UK/Ireland, Schengen valid visa or valid residence permit of any of the listed countries, then it is a easy job for applying visa and the electronic visa lands in your inbox in 5 minutes after paying 43$. It is single entry visa and valid for 30 days and I took this route as it is most convenient option.
More details can be obtained for individual nationalities in this link

If you don’t fall into above criteria, the process to obtain Turkish tourist visa can get lengthy as you have to collect same set of documents that you use to apply for Schengen visa through VFS global offices. I would recommend if you get Schengen visa when you plan to visit Europe, use same visa to at least get E visa for visiting Istanbul by planning a layover in this city.

All pics are shot using my phone OnePlus 3T which did a good job during day time but was felt lacking when I visited the subterranean city of Derinkuyu. Also against conventional wisdom, I used Vodafone international roaming for seven days at 2999 INR. The internet and connectivity of Vodafone Turkey is good and it served me well for seven days and on the eight day, I had to abstain from using the good services provided by them.

I also carried some USD forex in cash as it didn’t make sense to load money in my forex card and again pay conversion fees to get liras, the currency of Turkey. Depending upon hotel/hostels, they do accept the accommodation charges in Dollars or Euros, but they do have their own exchange rate which is again competitive.

So let us start with the travelogue. I hope to provide some decent information using it so that you can plan on your own without relying on third party services.

Day One in Istanbul:

After completing office on Friday in Pune, and a short pit stop at my relatives places in Chembur, started at 0400h to CSIA, Mumbai for a flight at 0645h on 18th May. I had booked tickets on board Gulf air with one stop at Bahrain. I got a good deal from Gulf Air, part of it can be attributed to luck because I booked before Jet Airways shut shop that sent international fares to sky roof. It was pleasant journey onboard Gulf Air but they lost the support rods and back structure of my five year old back pack.

Views of central Turkey onboard Gulf Air
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Snow covered mountains of central Turkey
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I arrived at the new Istanbul airport around 1350h. The new airport is huge. Taxing itself takes around 15 minutes and there is a long walk of about 15 minutes to the passport control. If you planning to transit the new Istanbul airport, please consider this buffer time between the flights as even the international transfer desks are near passport control. It will be like a never ending walk if you are tired.

Istanbul new airport as I reach passport control
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As I was waiting for my luggage to arrive, I casually glanced at the pillars and they had direction where you are right now and where to go for boarding the buses that go to various parts of Istanbul.
Below picture should be useful to anyone who wants to use the bus to reach any part of Istanbul

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You need to board Havaist buses at particular platform which is clearly marked. And good news is Istanbul Kart works on these buses. There are self vending machines where you can get the Istanbul Kart or get it from service kiosks. I had to withdraw some liras from ATM for bus fare and emergency till I reach my hostel because of my thumb rule to never exchange money at airport.

I boarded the comfortable buses to Sultanahmet area where I will be staying after swiping by Istanbul card and we started towards the city of Istanbul. We covered distances quickly before we got stuck in dreaded traffic as we entered the city. It took lot of time before we were dropped in front of Hagia Sophia. The tram line T1 station of Sultanahmet is also close by the bus stop if you want to go further and it is very convenient to take this bus and save some money.

The bus stop at Sultanahmet welcomes you with these views of Hagia Sophia.
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I had booked Cheers hostel which is in those up and down alleys of Sultanahmet. A short walk and five minutes later I reached the hostel. This hostel has great views of Hagia Sophia and the guys managing the hostel are friendly and give you good advice of places to roam in Istanbul.

Istanbul has lots of up and down gradients. If you plan to explore by foot like me, be prepared with strong legs and loads of stamina because google maps never shows gradients while navigating with walking mode. It will show the shortest route and I learnt that shortest routes on Istanbul while walking are always steep with a fleet of stairs welcoming you.

Since it was late Spring, the weather was really good. I suggest exploring Turkey during spring months of April-May or in fall months of September/October. In this way, you will avoid the summer vacation crowd.

After check in formalities and getting a little bit freshened up, I filled up my stomach at a nearby Kebab joint and tasted Turkish tea for first time. I never drink black tea in India but here I developed a love for Turkish Tea and that became by staple drink for next 7 days. It will cost max one to one and a half liras anywhere you are in Turkey.

Here is a map of showing main areas of Istanbul and the T1 tram line that I was going to use heavily in coming days in Istanbul.

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I loaded my Istanbul Kart with some 20 odd Liras and set off to explore the city around 1830h. I boarded the T1 line to Karaköy after crossing the Galata bridge by tram. I planned to see some neighbourhood of Karaköy. I reached Galata Bridge. Going to the top of Galata tower is paid affair and sunlight was fading, hence dropped the idea of going to the top.

Close up of Galata tower for which you have to walk a small hill
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Walked down from Galata tower and covered the entire Galata Bridge walking. Fishing looks to me a favourite pastime of lot of people here as I saw lots of fishing rods hanging from Galata Bridge. I walked all the way to Eminönü tram station.

Views from Galata Bridge of SultanAhmet area.
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I took the tram from Eminonu to Grand Bazaar on T1 line to get some USD exchanged in favour of Liras. There are lot of shops to exchange dollars in Istanbul but if you have good healthy USD to change, the difference will be at least 15 to 20 Liras per 100 USD compared to exchanging money in other parts of city. As per the advice of the hostel guy, the money exchange was seamless unlike India where we have to submit two to three documents to prove that we are not indulging in any shady business.

The entrance to Grand Bazaar
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After roaming Grand bazaar, I came back to my hostel pub, spent time marvelling at amazing views of Hagia Sophia. Little did I know that Hagia Sophia was open free that night due to Ramzan which I got to know next day on a Facebook Turkey travel group.

Day Two in Istanbul

After a fulfilling and heavy breakfast in the hostel, I was all set to explore Istanbul. I got company from hostel itself with a girl who was also visiting Hagia Sophia. People pronounce it as Aya Sophia with ‘H’ and ‘G’ silent. I took the Istanbul museum pass for 185 Liras which unfortunately I was not able to utilise properly due to some impromptu decisions that I took during my stay here. The advantage of the Istanbul museum pass is that you can skip lines if they start building up as Istanbul attracts most number of tourists in Turkey. Since we visited in Morning, the queue was less and so was the crowd. The crowd started to build up as we roamed the Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia used to be a cathedral converted to a mosque and now welcomes us as a museum.

Some portions about Hagia Sophia are undergoing restorations and it was amazing seeing the huge dome of Hagia Sophia.

The huge central portion of Hagia Sophia
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The famous painting of the christ which was restored by removing plaster.
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The blue mosque as seen from Hagia Sophia
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One more shot of the Hagia Sophia
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I also visited the Basilica cistern which is near Hagia Sophia and it acted as a place to store water during the era of Byzantine empire. Basilica Cistern is not included in Istanbul museum pass.

This portion of the cistern is cold with adequate lighting.
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The Medusa, the monster from Greek mythology was used as a foundation for a pillar here.
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Then I visited the Istanbul Archaeology Museum which had beautiful artefacts from all around Turkey with great descriptions of eras in which they were found. They are well preserved here and museum is covered under the Istanbul museum pass.

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I parted ways with the hostel girl and took a small walk to Blue Mosque/Sultan Ahmet mosque.

The view of Blue mosque as you walk towards it.
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Hagia sophia on a clear and beautiful day.
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While entering the mosque you have to follow etiquettes of Islam religion. The entry to this mosque is free and there is separate entry for tourists and muslims who want to pray.

The mosque looks huge from inside with prominent Ottoman architecture followed while constructing it.

Inside of the blue mosque
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After I completed this visit around 1300h, I again took the tram to reach Eminönü and wander a little bit for lunch. I had a fish sandwich near the Galata bridge and contemplating whether to climb Galata tower or I can have the same view for free. As I was eating near the Galata Bridge, saw an mosque prominently on Istanbul skyline. A quick google search revealed it was Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque and directions to reach the mosque with help of bus. You also need to swipe the same Istanbul card in the bus. After a bus ride, little did I realise it will be a steep walk to the mosque through a quiet neighbourhood as it is situated on a hill. But the walk was worth it as I got fantastic views of the city from top.

The insides of mosque are again huge and there is also a tomb of sultan nearby.
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Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque from outside
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Facing the Sultanahemt area
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Facing the Taksim and Asian side area
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I planned to cover Fethiye church (Pammakaristos Church) by walking from here but halfway I realised it is closed for renovation recently. Decided to come back to hostel as I was tired due to all walking and took a bus-tram combo to reach hostel.

All my hostel roommates had arrived and plan was hatched to visit Taksim square. One strange thing I observed while I was googling the places on 19th May was timings can get affected by Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day. Also my Istanbul Travel card balance was stuck at 15.5 Liras since morning. After speaking with hostel mates, they said the public transport in Istanbul was free today.

We four of different nationalities got into again the public transport of Istanbul, used the funicular railway line to reach the famous Taksim square.

Follow the crowd and you will hit the İstiklal Street on the right.
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We then started walking İstiklal Street which has many avenues for shopping. The French guy from among four of us did shopping here. There is lot of security in this area with may riot gear vehicles stationed here. Then due to hunger pangs, we discovered a highly rated restaurant and entered it at the end of Istikal Street. We choose Bilice Kebab and we were not at all disappointed. Our server was a Pakistani guy and then conversation got so easier that I had to play role of translator for all of us. The food came in a very large plate with lot of slides to eat which was relishing with Kebabs and chicken wings.

Then started the long walk back to the hostel when we suddenly swarmed Istanbul Galatasaray fans celebrating their victory over a local club. They celebrated like true fans by filling the İstiklal street end to end and celebrating with their huge flag.
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We again took same combination of public transport to reach the hostel and crashed on the bed after a really long day and lots of walking.

Last edited by rst89 : 16th June 2019 at 12:45.
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Old 15th June 2019, 16:01   #2
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Day three: Istanbul

Today was a day I reserved for Bosphorus cruise. A tip, don’t fall for agents selling you an overpriced Bosphorus cruise and that also half day one! While getting down from Galata Bridge, on the left side there are offices of Şehir Hatları, the government company running the full day cruises. For only 25 Liras, you get to and fro ticket and it is worth every penny.

The ticket booking is just near to the left of this place as we start the cruise
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The cruise ship is big with cafe and toilets. The cruise starts at 1035h and be sure to be on time and go to upper deck. I also had company of a French guy from my hostel room who also wanted to do the full day cruise. The cruise stops at many small places to drop and pick local passengers and you can see the sprawling city of Istanbul as you navigate the Bosphorus strait. You can view famous landmarks of Istanbul like Büyük Mecidiye Mosque and Rumelihisarı, a hilltop 15th Century fortress and cross the two massive suspension bridges and will see the strait open to the vast black sea. The highlight of this cruise was dolphins giving us company as we were heading to the end of first leg of cruise. It drops us around 1300h to Anadolukavağı where we need to do a hike to explore the Yoros castle. Anadolukavağı falls on the Asian side of Turkey

Galata bridge visible from the cruise ship
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Sultanahmet area in back ground
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The first suspension bridge as we traverse the strait
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Büyük Mecidiye Mosque on the left near the base of suspension bridge
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The asian side of Istanbul
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We arrive at one more stop
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The second suspension bridge shows up as we head north
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Rumelihisarı fort
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The Third suspension bridge and opening to the black sea becomes visible.
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Some dolphins giving us a free show
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Yoros castle where we will do a hike becomes visible on the left. This is Asian side.
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Istanbul towards South
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We are dropped at the Anadolukavağı village and after a small but steep hike, we reach Yoros castle. The castle is more or less in derelict condition but once you pass the doors, you will see some awesome views of strait, the opening of strait into back sea and towering city of Istanbul.

The hike starts with a road with 10% gradient and then becomes a trail.
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The Bosphorus strait as it snakes its way down to Istanbul and sea of Marmara
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The opening of black sea and third suspension bridge
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The way down back to the ferry terminal
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After clicking some awesome views from castle and we started downhill to the small village, ate lunch which consisted of fish from the strait and came back to our cruise ship in time for departure. We just rested in lower deck on some comfortable chairs and in 1.75 odd hours we were back to bustling city of Istanbul. The evening was spent gorging some delicious Ramzan food at a nearby restaurant. Decided to take rest in hostel late in evening by chilling in the hostel pub with again the same awe inspiring views of Hagia Sophia.

Day Four: Istanbul

It was decided yesterday evening to indulge in luxury by taking a Turkish bath in the morning at a well known place known as Cağaloğlu Hamam. I doubt locals visit hamam as it is now a days more geared towards tourists. The other day in the pub, got some mixed reviews of other hamams and other graphic description how they beat the shit out of you during the massage. One of the critical aspects you need to take care while visiting any Hamam is cleanliness and Cağaloğlu Hamam scored high on it and five star service they offer. There is one more hamam near Hagia Sophia which is Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam which is just next to Hagia Sophia but this is costly and more royal. I took a tip to toe package for around 65 Euros here in Cağaloğlu Hamam and got 10% discount from the hostel.

And the service was like five star. You are assigned a personal assistant right from start and cabin to change and lock your valuables in a room. The packet contains all accessories, slippers and a towel to wrap around you.
The experience starts when they usher you to sauna room with a soda drink where you to sip the drink on a marble bench for 15 minutes. Then the attendant call you from the Sauna room, lays you down on the huge marble platform. Since, I was first in the morning, people had started to trickle in I was given a body scrub and whole body massage, then a foam bath and then a proper hot water bath with strategic turning of towels every now and then.

Then I was directed back to my cabin with Turkish tea, the Turkish delights and sherbet kept on the table. It took a little bit more than one hour for whole process to complete and I walked back with this once in lifetime experience.

And feeling refreshed, set out on the local ferry to Kadıköy, the Asian neighbourhood of Istanbul.

Start from the ferry terminal, you can pay for the ferry using the Istanbul card.
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The boat speeds up with Sultanahmet in back ground
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Topkapi castle and its boundary
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Roamed the local markets, brought some mulberries and settled at Ciya Kebap. I wanted to eat their Doner but ended eating their awesome Kebaps.

I again took a ferry back to European side and visited the Chora church in a distant part of Istanbul. Chora museum is also under renovation but the part that is not under renovation has some beautiful frescoes on the ceilings.

Remnants of city fortifications
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Interiors of Chora museum
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I took a bus to Spice bazaar and bought some Turkish delights and then started walking back to my hostel to collect luggage. Spice Bazaar looks recently refurbished.
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I had a flight to Kayseri, a city in central Turkey around 1945h from the other airport of Istanbul, Sabiha Gokcen International Airport which is on the Asian side aboard Turkish airlines. I started around 1620h from my hostel thinking I have more than sufficient time to catch the flight. I had to take tram line T1, funicular railway and then reach Taksim square for the bus stop to the airport. The bus service to this airport is provided by Havabus. I just reached for 1700h bus and boy I got the last seat as there were a pair that was denied entry as only one seat left. The bus left at 1710h after a ticket for 18 Liras was purchased on board.

And then navigating the slow moving traffic, I saw a huge line of vehicles waiting to cross the first suspension bridge on the Bosphorus strait. It was literally standstill traffic and reason was a burning car on opposite lane. Clock was ticking by and I thought the ordeal is over when we crossed the burning car point but upon checking google maps with traffic mode on, I saw again the thick red lines on the map ahead. Again a broken down car on the fast lane resulted in merging traffic. I reached the airport at 1845h and I had to undergo two security checks, and baggage drop before I reached the distant gate of the airport to board among the last bus to the plane. That was a dramatic end to the ride.

The Turkish Airlines plane landed on time at Kayseri, and then we proceeded to Goreme town in Cappadocia region of turkey by a shuttle van that I had pre booked. I checked in to my hostel Terra Vista and crashed on to my bed.

Distance between Istanbul and main region of Cappadocia.
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About Istanbul museum card, I was not able to Top kapi Palace though I went very near to it on my second day. I planned to visit on Tuesday not knowing it is closed that day. Similarly, the Fethiye church is also closed which is covered in Istanbul museum card. Hence, I was not able to fully utilise the card. If I had covered TopKapi palace, then my cost would have got recovered of buying it.

Last edited by rst89 : 16th June 2019 at 12:50. Reason: Added more details
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Old 15th June 2019, 16:11   #3
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Day Five: Goreme

The lure of free and tasty breakfast lure me to wake up from my deep sleep and when I reached the roof top cafe of the hostel, the view were simply breath taking. The landscape was simply unbelievable.

Views of landscapes as I have breakfast.
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Goreme has a unique landscape due to volcanic eruptions which have eroded over course of time. Those sweeping valleys and caves are unique to the world and are UNESCO world heritage sites and a major tourist attraction.

After a hearty breakfast, visited the Goreme open air museum which is like 1.5 km away from the hostel walking. You have to buy a ticket worth 45 TL to enter museum and 15 TL extra if you want to visit the dark church which in my opinion has beautiful frescoes of Jesus and his disciples.

Unfortunately bus loads of tourists had arrived by the time I entered the museum. Started my tour anti clockwise and dark church was indeed beautiful.

Hermits used to live in these caves
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The farthest you can see on a clear day
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After I exited the tourist trodden path and the museum, I went roaming around the landscapes near Goreme museum which has very less people on them. The views were mesmerising, though it involved lot of hiking near the road to Ürgüp. After a lot of walking, started the long way back to hostel, luckily it was downhill. I visited one more church, Tokalı Church which again had beautiful frescoes of Jesus and the Apostles, and the crucification of Jesus which are painted in blue colour.

I had a amazing pasta late lunch at a local restaurant before crashing in the bed for a late afternoon nap. I woke up around evening and roamed the town of Goreme on foot and took some takeaway done for 10 TL and came back to hostel roof top cafe.

I joined a group of ladies also from my hostel having dinner. I was actually little hesitant to join them because of age gap between us but joining them and hearing their stories and love with which they fed me their countries delicacies was worth the experience. They were of different nationalities, but we bonded over travel. The ladies of Belarus were here for some Yoga excursion with their leader while the conversing with the British woman, I learned that she followed the hippie trail way back in 70s to reach India. We had fun conversations that night. Generally hostels are crowded with youth but this exception over here broadens your views about the world.

Day Six: Green tour of Cappadocia.

Yesterday, while browsing through various brochures kept in hostel, I glanced upon Green tour. Generally I am against the tour concept, but the distances were so huge that green tour made sense. In all, we were driving 150 plus kilometres that day and it made sense covering by a tour with guide. I feel for 205 Liras, the tour was worth it. Also tours in Turkey cover even food at a particular restaurant. The tour starts at 0930h and ends around 1730h dropping us back at the hostel.

We boarded the Mercedes van around 0930h and met the guide at first stop where he had arrived with bunch of people. Here is a short map of all places that are covered in green tour.
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The list of places covered during the tour:
  1. Pigeon valley: Our guide gave us short history about this region and about the role of pigeons in fertilising farms in this whole area of Cappadocia. We introduced other members in the bus who were from Japan, China and Canada. And then we covered around 60 kms to reach a Nar Gölü.
  2. Nar Gölü: A cater lake in from of pomegranate seed. The lake spews out hot sulphurous water and there is small place where locals come to dip in the mud of this lake
  3. Ihlara Valley: Before going over here, we took some time off near a lush wheat fields with Mount Hasan in the backdrop. Mount Hasan is is an inactive stratovolcano in Aksaray province, Turkey. We left our van and trekked around 3 kilometres through the valley to our lunch point. The walk through the valley was peaceful along side a river and had wild wheat growing the small trail we prodded upon. We had a nice lunch besides the river which had cold water coming.
  4. Selime: A small village which is well know for its monastery in the mountains. It was inhabited till 1954 before the government moved them away. Our guide explored the monastery with us and we spent a lot of time over there.
  5. Derinkuyu Underground City: After driving 50 odd kilometres through the beautiful countryside, we visited the underground city. The tour includes the ticket visiting the city. This is a subterranean city with around 6 levels of underground layers. All the bus loads of people had left leaving the city to explored without the rush. We didn’t heed the advice of our guide to take warm clothes and it was really cold inside. Our guide explained a lot of things about this city and showed us communication system, a church, animal shelters and how paths were blocked in this city in case of invasion. There is adequate lighting below. But be prepared to walk with lots of crunching as the height at some places is really less. Also climbing up from six levels below can lead you gasping for breath.

Pigeon valley where we met our guide
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Posing here was dangerous due to loose sand but seeing some other tourists do it makes rationality go for a toss
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Nar Gölü crater lake
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Mount Hasan with wheat fields in backdrop
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Ihlara valley where we descend down for a 3 km trek.
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Trek path which gets constricted and we walk besides a river
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We had our lunch here besides a river
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Selime monastery with no tourists
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A small village near the Selime Monastery
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The chimneys near the monastery
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Derinkuyu Underground City: Due to poor light I was able to capture one pic worth posting here. Here is a circular rock that will block path in the tunnel incase of invasion.
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In all our guide was a nice experienced fellow who quickly told the Chinese woman from our group that she was kind of mixed race which was confirmed that her grandmother was Russian. Apart from all this, the Chinese lady provided us with ample entertainment to the group along with her husband who kept the tour lively. We were like seven people only in the tour and the guide did end up making some political statements with the Chinese lady upon hearing which I kept quiet. The guide was driving a VW Beatle which was al least 20 years old but well maintained. Apart from that, the tour ended at place which at Onyx workshop where we were showed the local jewellery which was unique to the region and then we were dropped to our hostel.

Generally you can’t book bus tickets online in Turkey as they ask for Turkish national ID for booking the same. Hence I booked a bus ticket at a bus ticketing counter in Goreme and I had booked a bus to Izmir from Goreme. 100 Turkish Liras for 850 odd kilometres bus ride is not bad deal given it has a comfortable 2 by 1 seating.

A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-goreme-selcuk.png

I had booked a bus at around 2000h from Goreme and the bus had live tracking and it arrived on time. We were given luggage tags and the bus was indeed comfortable with video screens like an aeroplane. Also like in aeroplane, we were served various beverages on board which was included in ticket which is impressive.

Last edited by rst89 : 16th June 2019 at 12:53.
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Old 15th June 2019, 16:18   #4
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Day Seven: Selcuk and Şirince.

This was a day where the bus left me at Aydin, a small city 120 east of Izmir around 0915h at a bathroom break at main bus station. Luckily I had the passport and money with me in my carry bag. After explaining my situation to the bus office at the bus station of Aydin, they put me in next bus at 1045 at Aydin to Izmir. We were just 120 odd kilometres short of Izmir when this incident happened to me. Reached the main bus station at Izmir, explained my situation to the officials over there, I was surprised to find my luggage stored in their office along with my jacket. The only loss was my water bottle for which I had no energy left to track the bus and get the water bottle from front pouch. Apart from all this the roads in Turkey are good and depending upon situation, you will get a good sleep. The buses are clean and air conditioned.

I again had to travel 60 odd kilometres to Selcuk where I was staying one night by local vans called Dolmus. At 15 Liras, it dropped me to Selcuk. The total journey was 16 odd hours as I reached my hostel at around 1400h. It would have taken 14 hours if you lessen the time due to bus leaving me in Aydin. If you can’t endure this type of long journey, I suggest you to take flight which will be tad expensive as the flights are one stop ones.

I stayed in Selcuk as this was a small town and wanted to avoid the coastal city of Kusadasi which has cruise ships off loading lots of people in the city. In contrast, Selcuk retains it’s small town peaceful character.

I had booked the ANZ guest house and which has dorm facility. It is owned and managed by a sweet couple who again fed me Turkish food and coffee seeing a long journey I had endured after my bus fiasco. I returned the favour when I left the hotel next day by giving them ready to eat packets of Indian food that I hadn’t touched since I arrived in Turkey. The lady of the hostel suggested me to visit the wine making village of Şirince and gave me sufficient tips to reach the village. I started around 1600h and took a dolmus for 4 liras and reached this village.

The distance from Selcuk to Şirince
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-sirince.png
Şirince is a Greek village with cobbled streets located on a hill famous for fruit wines and some local olive produce. After world war one, this village which had Greek Turkish population was exchanged for Greek Muslim population along with few area and islands. I visited this town is evening, hence the village was quiet with no tourists and some shops were getting folded.

Isn't it photographers delight?
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You again need strong legs to walk this village
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-85.jpg

Restaurants offer such type of views
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-86.jpg

I climbed a small hill to the top of the village and got some awesome views of the topography of the area. There was lot of cold wind blowing at the top and I could see the sparkling blue water of Aegean Sea. After getting down, tasted some local wine and had some local juices and surprisingly did shopping in this village. I purchased some olive based cologne and some hand made olive oil based soaps.

A small hike gives you such type of views of this area.
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-87.jpg

A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-88.jpg

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I came back to Dolmus stop as the last one leaves around 2020h. I came back to Selcuk and had dinner at one of the local restaurants. I also booked a tour of Ephesus, for around 290 Liras after I got a little bit discount of around 5 Euros from the hostel. I again did a tour here because I was again running short on time and needed some quick transport and guided tour to know some historical facts about this area on the last day here.

Roaming Selcuk after dinner
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-90.jpg

Day Eight: Ephesus

After again having a very good breakfast in my hostel, my van with a guided tour arrived at my hostel to pick me up around 0915h. I loaded my backpack in the van as the tour was going to leave me at Selcuk railway station.

Selcuk town from roof top of guesthouse
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-91.jpg

Our tour guide was an jolly Turkish fellow with a brown umbrella who provided wholesome facts about the places we would be touring along with keeping us entertained whole time by getting in duel with other guides and keeping us together. My van this time was full of Indians and a couple of Indian origin people from South Africa.

The guide started the tour by showing us video of ‘Konjam Neram’, a Tamil song featuring Rajnikanth and Nayanthara from movie Chandramukhi. He said that Rajnikanth showed the three historical places of Turkey in a span of five seconds namely Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Ephesus.

The tour started with a brief history of this area how this area developed under the Greeks, Romans and then the Byzantine empire before getting abandoned due to earthquakes.

We first visited the House of Virgin Mary which had a beautiful setting among the hills of the coats overlooking the Aegean sea. Like many folklore, many claim there are may House of Mary spread across the world. This house of Mary has a story that Saint John had taken Mother Mary to this house after Jesus was crucified.

Anyways after a quick visit, lots of buses as part of cruise ship started arriving as we left this spot. We then proceeded to Ephesus.

Our guide gave us a lot of information about this place before we proceeded to the ruins of Ephesus. Like all tours the entry ticket was included here. We were given lot of information right from history to architecture of artefacts like the Temple of Hadrian, Hercules Gate, Celsus Library and the Ancient Theatre. The ancient theatre is partially open for renovation and houses roughly 25000 people with excellent acoustics. We were shown public Roman toilets and house of love with directions to reach for sailors arriving at the port of Ephesus.

The ruins of Ephesus
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A good view of Ephesus
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Temple of Hadrian
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-100.jpg

The Library of Celsus was actually a tomb as a sarcophagus was found here near the entrance. The current structure is centre of attraction in whole of Ephesus and was re-erected by the archaeologists.

A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-101.jpg

A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-102.jpg

It is said only 20% of the city is excavated and large parts of Ephesus are in museum of Vienna as Ottomans allowed the Vienna to take lot of structures which they considered ‘Haram’ in the
late 1800s. This city is really huge and will take 2.5 hours to see and complete everything.

The directions to House of love for the sailors with donation circle for coins
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-103.jpg

A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-104.jpg

Amphitheatre of Ephesus with 25000 sitting capacity
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-105.jpg

The road to the port in Ephesus
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-106.jpg

The scale of great theatre of Ephesus
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-107.jpg

A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-1.jpg

Next we proceeded to temple of Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the Moon, and chastity. Our guide had already warned that there is only one pillar left and nothing left as this is ancient wonder of the world.

A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-108.jpg

Next we had a good lunch in town of Selcuk which was included in the tour and then we proceeded to carpet making centre in Turkey. We were shown how silk yarn is made from cocoons live along with beautiful carpets weaved with hand composed of threads from silk and cotton. They were expensive starting from 100 USD for a small carpet of cotton to 8000 USD ones with good levels of embroidery. After spending some time here, it was time to big good bye to everyone as I had train to Izmir around 1607h. The tour dropped me at Selcuk station around 1545h and with a heavy heart, I realised the tour in Turkey has come to end.

Selcuk railway station and long journey starts back home.
A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-order-109.jpg

Boarded the train with a ticket that cost only 6 liras, and started my journey to the Izmir Airport. If you land at Izmir airport, take this train to reach Selcuk instead of cabs and if you want to reach Kusadasi, better reach Selcuk and then take local transport to reach Kusadasi. This will save a lot of money if you are traveling with family or even solo as both places are far from Izmir airport.

The first level security check happens at the station itself and then I checked in my luggage with Turkish Airlines and choose the window seat in left side of the plane as I wanted to see the magnificent coast line. The flight was full and left at 1945h from Izmir. It took some one hour to land in Istanbul and then we had to taxi to our gate for around 20 minutes!

If you are interested in layout of new Turkey airport check Flightradar24 website, you will understand why it takes so much time to taxi here. So again take this into your mind when you are using connecting flights.

My Gulf air flight was around 0200h on 26th May. So I had to kill time at new Istanbul airport for little more than four hours. There is free internet of only 45 minutes here and you can’t even buy here WIFi data packs here. Immersed myself in the book, ‘The remains of the day’ patiently waiting for check in counters of Gulf air to open. Completed the Check in and immigration before realising there is no drinking water here in this new airport!

My flight was on time again it involved long walk to my gate. My connecting flight was also on time and I was out of Mumbai airport around 1800h. I reached Pune around 2200h, it was really a long journey.

Observations about Turkey:
  1. It is more tourist based economy and agriculture dominates the rural parts here. It is now more or less service based economy.
  2. Developed infrastructure like airports, roads and railways.
  3. Lot of Turkish flags hoisted at many corners of the country, nationalism deeps run here.
  4. Turkish people outside Tourism sector can’t converse much in English.
  5. Announcements in Turkish inside a bus, the main reason the bus left me stranded at Aydin. The bus was taking breaks regularly and we halted long durations at places like Konya. Hence a false bias was set in my mind that bus will halt for standard 10 minutes even at Aydin.
  6. Toilets at bus station are paid will charge anywhere between one to two Liras.
  7. The whiff of Cigarette smoke which hits you as soon as you exit the airport shares it commonality with European airports. Too much smoking here even walking on streets.
  8. Public transport in cities like Istanbul is well developed and I suggest to stay in Sultanahemt area for first timers. No need to take taxis in this city. Invest in good data plan and follow the bus routes, tram and metro routes in Google maps.
  9. Turkish economy has got bad battering. Example: Compare the graph of Lira versus Indian rupees from past 5 years and it has become cheap for Indians to travel Turkey lately from past two years. Somewhere this has been compensated by Turkish tourism services quoting most of the prices in Euros.
  10. Food: As I said, the food was fresh and so tasty that I didn’t touch my ready to eat food packets as I am not fuzzy about food. Even juices are fresh and Turkish tea has become my favourite.

Cost:
An Eight day tour including flight tickets, visa charges and other costs was around 70k to 75k INR.

Last edited by rst89 : 16th June 2019 at 12:36. Reason: Added more details
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Old 16th June 2019, 14:15   #5
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 16th June 2019, 22:23   #6
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Thank you for this beautiful & detailed travelogue. Solo trips like these are truly a different experience. Liked the photographs as well. Hope you had a good time, rst89.

Just a quick question - would you recommend Turkey as an ideal first visit place in Europe ?
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Old 17th June 2019, 09:16   #7
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Thank you for all those beautiful photos and the detailed essay. Brought back memories of my trip over ten years ago when my children were still children! Those underground cities simply blow your mind out and show us the strength of human survival instinct. Great thread.
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Old 17th June 2019, 10:41   #8
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Brilliant travelogue, I did the same circuit in 2016 although I did not backpack (can't get my wife around that idea) its amazing how richer ones perspective is when one is slightly of the tourist circuit.

Istanbul needs more than a week to see properly. We spent quality time at Hagya Sofia, Topkapi etc. Never went to the Asian side but we dispensed with all tours and went around Istanbul on our own.

We stayed in Kusadaci before the cruise ships arrived. It was quite pleasant during the low season. Capadoccia was interesting, we took the tours but the visit to the carpet/onyx stuff gets wearing when you know that the stuff is overpriced. I would do Capadoccia again at leisure with my own transport.

Overall, Turkey is a beautiful place and the culture changes from place to place.
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Old 17th June 2019, 11:38   #9
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Amazing travelogue. Your write-up has alleviated my desire to visit Turkey. You have beautifully captured the archeological richness of the region.

Turkey was the confluence point of major trade routes of ancient days, especially the silk road, it was a mecca of trade, it bridged civilizations from Mesopotamia, Arabian peninsula, Europe, Africa, China and India. No wonder this place is hard fought in history for the strategic advantage.

The geographical diversity in short distance is another wonder, turquoise beaches, snow capped mountains, incredible rock formations, spellbinding beauty of Pamukkale or the towering volcanoes from the plains. Another fascinating aspect that draws me is the food. Did you happen to taste and capture local cuisine, the kebaps and street food. Did you also try their signature Hammam in hot springs...

Thanks for sharing, would appreciate if you could share cost break up, would be much helpful for backpackers following you.

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Old 17th June 2019, 12:11   #10
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Amazing travelogue and an excellent narration all through out. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your travelouge and your trip brought back memories of mine. I had the fortune of living in Istanbul for over 5 months in 2006-07 and during this time I explored a lot of places in Turkey. As Ajmat stated, exploring Istanbul itself will need more than a week. I lived in a Hotel on the Asian Side which was near Kadikoy and every weekend I used to take the ferry to go Eminonu and then go to Taksim to attend the Sunday Mass Service.

Buyukada (Big Islands) is another great place to visit when you are in Istanbul. Its a one hour Ferry ride and the place has clean beaches that are usually crowded during summers. And if you are a football fan, watching one of the matches in those stadiums is terrific. Pamukkale is another must visit place in Turkey. I remember covering Ephesus, Pamukkale over a single weekend.

More than the places, two things that I will always remember Turkey for:
- Great food and culture. The variety of food that they offer and their yummy deserts. The rich culture that they have and you can just soak in that culture and enjoy it.
- The people and their genuine love for tourists. I have had amazing memories with people at work and many whom I met during my stay there. They really believe in Athididevobhava (Guest is God).

Thank you again for taking time to pen this travelogue. It made my day.

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Old 17th June 2019, 22:48   #11
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Thanks for the appreciation of the travelogue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jailbird_fynix View Post
Just a quick question - would you recommend Turkey as an ideal first visit place in Europe ?
Yes, as some one also has quoted in the thread, you can stay in half the price compared to Europe and get the same experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ajmat View Post
Istanbul needs more than a week to see properly. We spent quality time at Hagya Sofia, Topkapi etc. Never went to the Asian side but we dispensed with all tours and went around Istanbul on our own.

We stayed in Kusadaci before the cruise ships arrived. It was quite pleasant during the low season. Capadoccia was interesting, we took the tours but the visit to the carpet/onyx stuff gets wearing when you know that the stuff is overpriced. I would do Capadoccia again at leisure with my own transport.

Overall, Turkey is a beautiful place and the culture changes from place to place.
Yes, Istanbul needs more time to fully appreciate the city.
About the tours, I think that is a trade off for which you sign up. In the end, you know you will not buy it but there is no harm in doing it. The other thought process is that you can see another new place in tour instead of carpet stuff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thermodynamics View Post
The geographical diversity in short distance is another wonder, turquoise beaches, snow capped mountains, incredible rock formations, spellbinding beauty of Pamukkale or the towering volcanoes from the plains. Another fascinating aspect that draws me is the food. Did you happen to taste and capture local cuisine, the kebaps and street food. Did you also try their signature Hammam in hot springs...

Thanks for sharing, would appreciate if you could share cost break up, would be much helpful for backpackers following you.
Hamam in hot springs was not tried due to time constraints.
Yes, Turkey has a rich history and local cuisine was tasted all the 8 days, be it Kebaps, pilaf or the sweets.

You can PM me. If I get time, I will try to give you exact breakup of costs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by samabhi View Post
Amazing travelogue and an excellent narration all through out. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your travelouge and your trip brought back memories of mine. I had the fortune of living in Istanbul for over 5 months in 2006-07 and during this time I explored a lot of places in Turkey. As Ajmat stated, exploring Istanbul itself will need more than a week. I lived in a Hotel on the Asian Side which was near Kadikoy and every weekend I used to take the ferry to go Eminonu and then go to Taksim to attend the Sunday Mass Service.

Buyukada (Big Islands) is another great place to visit when you are in Istanbul. Its a one hour Ferry ride and the place has clean beaches that are usually crowded during summers. And if you are a football fan, watching one of the matches in those stadiums is terrific. Pamukkale is another must visit place in Turkey. I remember covering Ephesus, Pamukkale over a single weekend.
I had option to go either to Buyukada islands or the Bosphorus cruise on third day. I chose the later. I also though to cover Pamukkale but in my opinion it has become more touristy. There is even a water park near it! I thought to take things slow and spend two days in Selcuk and surrounding areas.

Kadikoy is a nice neighbourhood. I liked it and produce was fresh over there in the markets

Last edited by rst89 : 17th June 2019 at 22:52. Reason: Spelling mistakes corrected
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Old 18th June 2019, 13:41   #12
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Amazing write up! Thanks for all the tips and tricks. We have been planning a Turkey trip for sometime. Your piece will be of great value.

Also, can you provide a break up of the costs (in %)?

Last edited by feluda86 : 18th June 2019 at 13:42. Reason: Added material
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Old 19th June 2019, 12:35   #13
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That is an excellent report.You have actually covered the place rather than the usual touristy way.This will help in planning a turkey trip immensely.
The thing that fascinates me the most is the level of casual trips u did, especially with people you just met.The concept of staying with new people in a hostel is still yet to catch up in India.
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Old 19th June 2019, 15:07   #14
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Really amazing and detailed description of the trip rst89. Turkey has been on my radar since quite time after having a look at the Istanbul and Cappadocia pictures. Your travelogue would be really helpful in planning. How Family friendly is Turkey? Also is the public transport reliable or would I have to book a private taxi? I would be travelling with my Wife and 2 kids (under 5 years).
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Old 19th June 2019, 19:56   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunrock View Post
The concept of staying with new people in a hostel is still yet to catch up in India.
There are lot of hostels even in India. And when I stayed in hostels in India, I have travelled with people whom I just met a fortnight ago. In the end, everyone looks for company but always be prepared to explore a plane on your own. You make better decisions for self.

Quote:
Originally Posted by adi.mariner View Post
Really amazing and detailed description of the trip rst89. Turkey has been on my radar since quite time after having a look at the Istanbul and Cappadocia pictures. Your travelogue would be really helpful in planning. How Family friendly is Turkey? Also is the public transport reliable or would I have to book a private taxi? I would be travelling with my Wife and 2 kids (under 5 years).
1. Turkey is family friendly.
2. Public transport is reliable and on time. Taxis are costly.
3. On the last day tour in Selcuk, we had a couple traveling with 2.5 years old girl. They were able to use stroller in places like Ephesus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by feluda86 View Post
Amazing write up! Thanks for all the tips and tricks. We have been planning a Turkey trip for sometime. Your piece will be of great value.

Also, can you provide a break up of the costs (in %)?
Please find below summary of costs associated of major items consumed during the tour.

A solo Backpacker's guide to Turkey-snap_shot_payment.png

Last edited by rst89 : 19th June 2019 at 20:18. Reason: Sentence composition
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