We had booked a 2-day tour of Ephesus and Pamukkale with Road Runner Travel. They picked us up at our hotel at 5AM to drop us off at the Ataturk Airport to catch our flight to Izmir. A short 45 minute flight with Turkish Airlines with a meal included!
When we arrived, we had a driver waiting for us with my name on a piece of paper. We also had a family of 3 from Argentina and a family of 3 from Philippines joins us. The driver dropped us off at the tour office and we moved to another van to take us around for the next 2 days. For the day, we also had an Indian couple who live in Washington DC and a pair from Korea.
We became good friends with the young Filipino couple and their daughter. They have lived in China for a year and moved to Istanbul 6 month’s prior. Danee is originally from Saudi Arabia (speaks Arabic, Tagalog, Turkish and English). She is currently volunteering to work with Syrian refugees – more specifically working with women coming from abusive environments. Her husband Paolo is also originally from Philippines. He is a Journalist and a director and moved from China to Turkey for his work that is written and produced in English. Their daughter Allegra is 2 years old and has her lovely stuffed Ikea dog name Zaza.
Fact – There are tons of Tangerine trees around but people don’t really eat it off the tree as they are too bitter. The use the tangerines to make it into juice and marmalade.
Our tour guide was Guray. Our first stop was House of the Virgin Mary – The House of the Virgin Mary is a Catholic and Muslim shrine located on Mt. Koressos in the vicinity of Ephesus, 7 kilometres from Selçuk in Turkey.
We continued to the Ancient Greek city of Asia Minor known as Ephesus (Efes). The city still features a 25,000 seat amphitheatre, the Celsius Library (my absolute favourite spot. You can pay an extra fee to see the Terraced Houses. You can also see one of the world’s oldest advertisments. The carving features an image of a cross, a woman, a heart, a foot, a money purse, and a library, plus a hole dug into the rock.
One interpretation of the carvings is as follows: up at the crossroads, on the left, you’ll find women whose love can be purchased. But please, only stop in if your foot is at least this big, young men, and you have enough coins to fill this hole. Otherwise, we kindly direct you to the library on the right. At least they suggested a more enriching experience for those who were too young to enter the brothel. Ephesus use to be a port town however the port has dried up and now only has a small pond.
One of our guides was asking if Amanda and I were best friends and we both looked at each other and hesitated and said acquaintances. But considering the furthest we’ve been apart is Hotspot distance for the entirety of this trip I would have to say we’re pretty good friends now. But not best friends.
We stopped for lunch at a buffet then onto a Leather goods factory. They had an elaborate setup with a fashion show. We walked through but the salesman where surrounding you anytime you touched a jacket or item and would follow you everywhere. Turkey is known for their leather goods and the products seemed nice but the minimum for a jacket at this place was $250USD.
After the leather factory, we had the option of going to a carpet factory or stop for figs and nuts – the figs and nuts were also a store where we could buy souvenirs. We took a break at St John’s church but hung out in the park with some ancient ruins that was littered with garbage in the aquaduct.
Back into the van and to a mosque we went to learn a little more about the culture.
Our final stop for the Ephesus tour was to the UNESCO site – Temple of Artemis. There is only 1 column left standing. The land is swamp land and so they laid layers of coal on the bottom as their foundation to help with the shifting and moisture. They built the roof out of wood and as a donation to the gods, the people would give olive oil which was stored in the building. One day, the temple caught on fire and it was the perfect storm.
Afterwards we drove to Kuşadası (beach town) where we would stay the night. We stayed at the Istankoy Hotel. Glorious 15°C along the coast with such a lovely view and even lovelier people. We sat on the rocks to soak in some sun when a mother and her 3 children sitting beside us offered us sunflower seeds. When we left the rocks and started walking to the fish market, we bumped into the family again. The mother asked me if I was from Kazakhstan but with a language barrier I was able to tell her I was Canadian and the rest of the conversation was just interpreted in smiles and hand signals. We walked into the Kusadasi Bazaar and that is where you will find some decent knock offs of designer goods. We ate some half bread chicken doner for dinner. We had enough time to walk back to the pier to watch the sunset with beautiful hues in the sky along with a partial red moon that was so large. And finished the night off with some Dondurma (5TL).
I discovered a great flight deal that had multiple countries in which you could pick to travel to for only $390CAD roundtrip.
I originally wanted to go to Kazakhstan but no one wanted to go with me. The only person who was interested and had time to go was my friend Amanda but she said “Why don’t we go to Turkey instead” and that was it. We booked for 10 days.
We booked this flight deal back in Oct/Nov 2018 and by mid-November, the itinerary was set and pretty much everything was booked and confirmed. To make the most of the short timing we had, we booked a few tours so we could cover 4 cities.
I made a very ambitious itinerary but I have to say that we did almost everything and then some. The only thing we missed was visiting Suleymaniye Mosque and we went quickly past the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Also, we were expecting the weather to rain the whole way through but it was perfect and only rained the day we left and then snowed the day after.
Before I get to my itinerary (at the bottom if you scroll) here are some helpful information and brief facts of Turkey.
As a Canadian, we required a Visa to enter Turkey. You can purchase your Turkey Visa online – $61.50USD – Official website for Visa
Communication / Data
If you don’t have to purchase a sim card right away, purchase outside of the airport as the price is steep. Remember to have your passport with you. We got in really late so Vodafone was the only place open and the cheapest price was 280TL ($70.50CAD) for 100 minutes calling, 100 SMS & 7GB Data. We purchased 1 sim card and hot spotted. We did get a free battery charger but it wasn’t compatible with my Google Pixel 3. BRING A BATTERY CHARGER IF YOU ARE USING YOUR PHONE FOR NAVIGATION.
The outlet is the regular European 2 circle prong.
$1CAD = 4TL (as of Feb 2019)
-The currency for Turkey is Turkish Lira – TL – ₺. Many places also accept Euro – € or credit card.
-For 10 days, I exchanged $300CAD worth of Lira ₺ in Toronto. I went to Roscoe Trading, as the rates are similar to the XE.com rates. I also pre-booked all my flights and hotels prior to the trip.
Book in Advanced
-Pre-book your Hot Air Balloon if you are planning on doing it in Cappadocia.
-Tours – The easiest way for us to add Ephesus and Pamukkale was to book a tour that would pick up and drop us off at our hotel in Istanbul (45 min flights to Izmir and back from Denizli)
It is not safe to drink the tap water in Turkey. Safe for cleaning purposes.
Unlike North America, you will need to purchase water or drinks as they will not be provided at meals. One tip is to visit a store or places such as the Grand Bazaar and store owners will offer you some tea or apple tea.
-If you are entering any metro system, malls, museums, and Bazaars etc – there are security checkpoints. You must go through a metal detector and also have your bags scanned. There are also armed police officers at many of these places.
-At Airports, you must pass through security and screening before you can even get into the airport then must do another check before you can get to the gates.
Cabs – ALWAYS ASK PRICE BEFORE YOU HOP IN.
Apps – Uber is technically ILLEGAL in Turkey however, you can still use it (there are few drivers) BUT Turkey/Istanbul does have their own version called BiTaksi where you can request a yellow or blue taxi and the prices are consistent.
Public Transit – The Istanbulkart is also a very reliable transportation with a card costing 6TL ($1.50CAD) – Bus, Metro, Tram and ferry. You can reload at multiple places besides the metro stations. When you take multiple trips at once, the fare is discounted. Unlike what Toronto has with the metro card, you can tap multiple times right after each other to use the card for multiple people if need be.
NOTE: The Metro (train system) hours are 6AM-Midnight.
If you are sure that you will visit more than 5 museums included in the pass, it makes sense to buy the Museum Pass Istanbul. For us, we booked other tours which included many of the attraction entry fees.
Try to learn a few words here and there. Knowing numbers helps in less touristy areas. For the most part, majority of people can speak English but there are cases where they don’t so try your best to learn.
Hello – Merhaba! (Mare-ha-ba)
Goodbye – Hoşçakal (Hosh-cha-kal)
Goodbye – Güle güle! (guu-leh guu-leh)
How much does it cost? – Ne Kadar? (Nay Kad-ar)
Thank you – Teşekkür ederim (Te-Sh-qu-err ed-err-im)
Yes – Evet (Ev-et)
No – Hayir (Hi-ear)
Ç – sounds like ch as in “chipper”
0 – sıfır
1 – bir
2 – iki
3 – üç
4 – dört
5 – beş
6 – altı
7 – yedi
8 – sekiz
9 – dokuz
10 – on (11 – on bir)
20 – yirmi (21 – yirmi bir)
30 – otuz (31 – otuz bir)
40 – kırk (41 – kırk bir)
50 – elli (51- elli bir)
60 – altmış (61 – altmış bir)
70 – yetmiş (71 – yetmiş bir)
80 – seksen (81 – seksen bir)
90 – doksan (91 – doksan bir)
100 – yüz (200 – iki yüz)
I travelled through February, which is considered down season. The weather varies but the temperature ranged from 15°C to a low of -2°C depending on where you are in Turkey. We found that in Cappadocia, the weather ranged from -4°C to 6°C. In Istanbul, we had a low of 2°C to a high of 11°C. In Ephesus and Pamukkale, we had a low of 3°C to a high of 16°C. Each place, it started off cold in the morning but all warmed up during the day. This time of year calls for more rain and a little but of snow so be prepared!
If you like the service provided, 10TL is suffice. Remember if you are doing a tour, to tip the driver and guide. For the most part, you don’t need to tip.
-Almost everyone smokes. Unlike Canada, you will see some people smoking indoors at certain restaurants and cafe/bars.
-Cappadocia in particular smells like fumes (from all the tour vans, buses) and also smoke from wood fires and people smoking.
-The road rules are for the most part just a opinion and aren’t always followed so be careful! People J-walk all the time.
-There are loads of Mainland China tourists everywhere. I guess China is so close and cheap to fly so they are plenty. Or there are many European travellers. We only heard a handful of Americans around. Turkey went through some economical turmoil in recent years so they are rebuilding.
-The Turkish people in general, have such strong facial features. They are also a mix of ethnicities originating from the invasion of Ghengis Khan so many Turks are of Mongolian descent so they also have a unique look. Many have very symmetrical faces and strong facial features such as cheekbones and jawlines.
-Streets in Istanbul are mainly cobblestone especially not main Street. The streets in Sultanahmet are all narrow and not built for normal 2 lane driving. The streets are also slanted similar to San Francisco. It may seem like they are 1 way streets but they aren’t. There is no true order to the chaos but no one yells and they help each other out to get through. On the main streets, the trams run super close to the sidewalks but had little barrier/cones. I love when streets split into 3 and have the homes that also are shaped to it.
-Turkey is a country that is located in the crossroads of Europe and Asia – The Silk Road and because of that, it was sought after land.
-Turkey is known to produce potatoes and pumpkin seeds.
-Turkish food is deliciously scrumptious. They are most famous for their kebabs and seafood. But you can’t forget about their coffee or tea or desserts such as baklava.
-Did you know Turkish people are descendants of Ghengis Khan and are part Mongolian. Ghengis Khan’s sons invaded many places and one of the places was Turkey when it was known as Anatolia.
-Turkey has been invaded 3 times in less than 1000 years and had to rebuild over and over. They conquered East to West originally but then were conquered themselves. The Persian invaded and brought camels with them then left and one of the persons in higher power left the empire to the Romans after his death. And of course the Mongrels followed them and conquered them.
-The Persians claim that the land Turkey resides was their ancestral land such as Troy, Ephesus etc.
-In 1923 President Mustafa declared this land to be the Republic of Turkey.
-There was a population exchange that was proposed by the Greek that sent Turkish Muslims to Turkey and Orthodox Christians to Greece and Armenia – forced relocation.
-The turkish people are very patriotic respectful and are against disrespecting anything with the Turkey flag on it – thus you will never see a coin with the flag on the ground ever. President Mustafa once had a meeting/presentation with a general from Greece who before stepping on stage, wiped his feet on the Turkey flag. In retaliation, the soldiers of President Mustafa laid Greece, Italy, France flags on the floor for him to wipe his feet on before going on stage but Mustafa yelled at them to pick those flags off the ground to show respect.
-Carpets are very important in Turkish culture. Seen as religious symbols, they are used in mosques. Each person has a carpet and when they passed away, that carpet is donated to the mosque.
Now, onto the itinerary. This was my original itinerary with some places doubled in case we needed another day as an option.