I Have Been To Turkey 6 Times And This Is The Only Itinerary You Will Ever Need

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Photo of I Have Been To Turkey 6 Times And This Is The Only Itinerary You Will Ever Need by Rohan Sood

I have made several trips around the world over the last several years. I love exploring new countries and experiencing their unique vibe. After having traveled to 22 countries, my favorite remains Turkey. It may sound like a cliché but there really is no country like it. It is spread over two continents – Asia and Europe and presents a unique assortment of culture, food, art and architecture. With the best time to visit Turkey coming up, I highly suggest you pack your bags and experience one of the most vibrant cultures in the world!

Things to do

I have made several trips around the world over the last several years. I love exploring new countries and experiencing their unique vibe. After having traveled to 22 countries, my favorite remains Turkey. It may sound like a cliché but there really is no country like it. It is spread over two continents – Asia and Europe and presents a unique assortment of culture, food, art and architecture. With the best time to visit Turkey coming up, I highly suggest you pack your bags and experience one of the most vibrant cultures in the world!

Day 1

Istanbul is one of my most favorite places in the world and there is no better venue to soak in this city’s unique history and culture than the Grand Bazaar. Dating back to the 15th century, this 5000-shop market will give any modern-day shopping mall a run for its money! The shops here sell everything from perfumes to spices and you will wish you had more arms to carry all those bags filled with goodies! You should also take a moment to grab a tea at one of the several tea-shops and soak in the vibe of this cultural marvel. The Bazaar is a maze so make sure you remember where you entered from.

Photo of Beyazıt Mahallesi, Grand Bazaar, Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey by Rohan Sood
Photo of Beyazıt Mahallesi, Grand Bazaar, Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey by Rohan Sood

One of the world’s greatest architectural achievements, Hagia Sophia was first built as a church and was later converted to a mosque following Sultan Mehmet’s conquest. Finally, in 1935 it was converted in to the mosque that it is today. Standing under it world famous 43-meter-wide dome, 65 meters above your head defies belief and physics! Glittered with intricate carvings and gold mosaics, this destination is perfect for history and art buffs. Once you get done checking out the museum, make sure you spend time at the gardens located right outside.

Photo of Hagia Sophia Church, ulitsa Paris, Sofia, Bulgaria by Rohan Sood
Photo of Hagia Sophia Church, ulitsa Paris, Sofia, Bulgaria by Rohan Sood
Day 2

After having been to Istanbul six times, I’ve concluded that experiencing this city from the river is just as exciting as it is from land. The Bosphorus river cuts across the city, diving it in to its continental halves – the European side that looks historical and the Asian side that defines Istanbul’s modern lifestyle. There are several cruises that you can take, a short one (to the suspension bridge and back), a long one (all the way to the Black Sea and back), and a sunset tour during the summer.

Photo of Bosphorus, Turkey by Rohan Sood
Photo of Bosphorus, Turkey by Rohan Sood

Possibly one of the most magnificent buildings I’ve seen in my life, the Blue Mosque is an architectural marvel and a sight to behold. This grand mosque was built to rival the Hagia Sophia and has five main domes and six tall minarets. The mosque’s interior gleams with the more than 20,000 famous blue Iznik tiles from which its name is derived. The Blue Mosque is still in use as a place of worship and you may enter provided you are fully clothed and women cover their heads.

Photo of Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Atmeydanı Caddesi, Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey by Rohan Sood
Photo of Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Atmeydanı Caddesi, Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey by Rohan Sood
Day 3

Istanbul is as magnificent under ground as it is above it and the Basilica Cistern is the crown jewel of Istanbul’s underbelly. Built several centuries ago, this engineering marvel brought water in to Istanbul from as far as Bulgaria. With dim lights and the sound of dripping water, this place brings about an experience that is spooky for some and romantic for others!

Photo by Lonely Planet

Photo of Alemdar Mahallesi, Basilica Cistern, Yerebatan Caddesi, Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey by Rohan Sood

Located in the Beyoglu district, Taksim is a vibrant and modern area filled with shops, restaurants and cafes. The square is also home to one of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks – The Taksim Republic Monument that commemorates the creation on Turkey in 1923. Full of life, Taksim is where locals and tourists let loose and celebrate Istanbul’s night life. If that is not your cup of tea, don’t be disappointed, there is plenty to do here. You can sit back and enjoy a coffee, walk along İstiklal Caddesi, or explore the Independence Avenue.

A stone’s throw away from the Taksim Square area, Galata Tower is one of Istanbul’s iconic structures. The tower was built to spot fires in the year 1348 and was the tallest structure in the city at the time. Ironically, Galata Tower itself was destroyed in a raging fire several years later. Climbing up this 60mt tall tower to see a 360-degree panoramic view of Istanbul is the perfect way to bid farewell to this city!

Photo of Bereketzade Mahallesi, Galata Tower, Galata Kulesi Sok, Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey by Rohan Sood
Day 4

Now that you’ve absorbed Istanbul’s rich culture and history, it is time to hop over to Antalya to experience Turkey’s unique Mediterranean coast and its laidback vibe. While Antalya is home to ruins and heritage that are several centuries old, it is also a popular hotspot for beach bums and hamam lovers.

Antalya has several beaches but the best according to most locals in the Cirali beach. Although it is located an hour from downtown, its empty and pristine shoreline will more than make up for the long ride. Another reason to love Cirali is its down-to-earth vibe that is entirely due to its setting that is far from the hustle and bustle of civilization. One can spend hours here, gazing at distant ships and mountains.

Photo of Çıralı, Ulupınar Mahallesi, Kemer/Antalya, Turkey by Rohan Sood

Old Harbour, Antalya

After spending time at the beach, ride over to Antalya’s Old Harbour to see its magnificent assortment of cafes, shops and yachts. I must warn you, it is hard to not fall in love with a quaint coastal town overlooking the Mediterranean, with several cafes dotting the sea-side. I spent hours wandering the cobblestone streets, admiring the unique architecture as well as crafts from around the country. Once you are done strolling around the market, you could also visit a local mosque or just grab a Turkish coffee and soak in the setting sun.

Photo of I Have Been To Turkey 6 Times And This Is The Only Itinerary You Will Ever Need by Rohan Sood
Day 5

If you are a history buff, you can not miss this museum. Antalya Museum is home to some of the most rare and exquisite finds from excavations along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. The museum does an excellent job of telling Turkey’s story in a way that is easy for everyone to understand. If you're short on time, make sure you check out specific galleries containing the mosaics from Seleukeia, silver hoard display from Aspendos, and divinity statues from Perge.

Photo of Bahçelievler Mahallesi, Antalya Museum, Konyaaltı Caddesi, Muratpaşa/Antalya, Turkey by Rohan Sood

Antalya's most popular traditional market is conveniently located in the Kazım Caddesi area. The market that was once Antalya’s only destination for everyday shopping, remains a classic Turkish riot of chaos. Spending time in this market gives you a great sense of what it is like to live as a local in Antalya. Don’t be shocked to see fresh produce, jeans and shades being sold from the same stall!

Best Time to Travel

Turkey is a Mediterranean country and sees warm summers and harsh winters. Ideal time to visit between April and June when the spring is at its peak. Alternatively, you could also visit between September and October when the summer heat gives way to a pleasant autumn. Avoid July and August since they are peak tourist periods and you will find all major attractions to be over- crowded.

Getting There and Around

If you’re traveling from India, you will need to fly to the Ataturk International Airport, located about 30 minutes from the heart of the city. There are direct flights to Istanbul from both Mumbai and New Delhi. Upon arrival, avoid the hecklers and go straight to the taxi queue outside the airport. However, Istanbul is famous for its mind-bending traffic and you shouldn’t be surprised if this 30 min drive snowballs in to a three-hour marathon! Fortunately, Antalya also has an airport and you can take one of several daily flights from Istanbul.

Photo of Kışla Mah., Selek Bazaar, Gülük Cad., Muratpaşa/Antalya, Turkey by Rohan Sood

While in Istanbul and Antalya, the best way to experience the city is on foot. You may also use Istanbul’s famous old-world street cars to travel short distances on the European side.

Indian nationals need to apply for a tourist visa. However, if one has a valid Schengen, USA, UK, Ireland visa or residence permit, they may get a single-entry e-Visa valid for one month. I used my US visa to enter Turkey. The process was smooth, and I was not asked any questions at immigration.

What to Eat

Cuisine is one of Turkey’s most valuable exports to the world. The fare is delicious, wholesome and pocket friendly. When you dine in Istanbul, it is hard to escape the unique blend of Arabic flavours and Mediterranean influence. You will be surprised to know that ‘Kebabs’ and ‘Chai’ – two seemingly home-grown items are originally Turkish! Turkey is also big on coffee and you must try some while you’re here. Be sure to try the Hamdi Restaurant located close to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. They serve excellent kebabs with amazing views of the Bosphorus. You could also try one of the several restaurants under the bridge, they’re famous for their fresh sea-food.

Photo of I Have Been To Turkey 6 Times And This Is The Only Itinerary You Will Ever Need by Rohan Sood
Photo of I Have Been To Turkey 6 Times And This Is The Only Itinerary You Will Ever Need by Rohan Sood
Photo of I Have Been To Turkey 6 Times And This Is The Only Itinerary You Will Ever Need by Rohan Sood

Where to Stay

I stayed at Hotel Fraser Anthill in Istanbul. Ideally located close to Istanbul’s popular destinations on the European side, Fraser Anthill is usually a short 25-minute drive from the airport. The hotel welcomes you in its stylish setting embellished with a charming modern touch and breathtaking views. I would suggest for you to book ahead of time since most decent hotels in Istanbul get taken during peak season. Alternatively, you could stay at the Holiday Inn Express if you wanted to experience the Asian side of Istanbul.

Photo of I Have Been To Turkey 6 Times And This Is The Only Itinerary You Will Ever Need by Rohan Sood

While in Antalya, I stayed at the luxurious Ramada Plaza. The hotel is a few minutes’ walk from downtown and is yet located on one of Antalya’s quieter beaches. Make sure you take time to take a dip in to the Mediterranean Sea while you’re here.

A traveler at heart, I have been to 22 countries on 6 continents. My favorite experiences are plunging in to sub-zero Antarctic waters, renovating a Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka and hiking Borneon jungles. I am also an engineer, a public speaker, a sustainability believer and a polar explorer. Follow my misadventures on www.passportuncontrol.com and Instagram @geeknextdoor

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